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4 ways tech is being used to replicate face-to-face education in SA

As recently reported here on, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2015 – 2016 “ranked South Africa last in terms of its quality of math and science education.

“The country also performed poorly in the quality of the education system ranking – 138th out of 140 countries.”

And if that’s not frightening enough: Owing to infrastructural constraints, only 15% of South Africa’s school-leavers were accommodated at tertiary education institutions last year.

Today, only 1.7% of our population is getting a university education – leaving a total of 2, 781 785 South Africans aged between 18 and 24 not currently enrolled in any form of tertiary education or training.

Could an online short course education be a solution to addressing the demand for skills development and play a vital role in assisting those who cannot enrol for tertiary education with building work-ready skill sets?

Online short courses are certainly not a silver bullet that can solve all of the complex challenges facing the modern education landscape.

But, if used effectively, they can have a pronounced impact on addressing some of the most critical challenges facing matriculants looking to successfully compete in today’s job market by gaining industry-relevant skills – despite getting off on a difficult foot in SA’s education.

Technology is moving education out of the classroom and disrupting established models of contact-based learning, which, traditionally, consists of the following four components:

  • Didactic instruction (content delivery)
  • Facilitation (instructors and advisors guiding and supporting the learning process)
  • Collaboration (students working with each other)
  • Assessment (including exams, homework, assignments, reflective exercises, etc.)
GetSmarter Infographic
GetSmarter Infographic

As structured and supported online learning (no, we’re not talking about MOOCs) gains momentum in SA, here are four noteworthy ways tech is being used to replicate those elements of the traditional classroom experience:

1. The Didactic tradition: Lectures

The tech solution: Video

The tech may be nothing new – but the ways we’re using it to learn are evolving.

Not only are educators recording their classes for consumption after-the-fact, they’re also streaming live to give learners around the world the opportunity to “sit in” on a lecture, as it happens.

Videos produced for the sole purpose of distance-based education offer opportunities to take it up a notch.

Here, the learning experience is purposefully enriched through the use of graphics and animation; turned into an interactive quiz or branching scenario using platforms like Interlude; or designed to encourage collaboration with sharing tools such as Movenote.

2. The Facilitation tradition: Tutors; student advisors

The tech solution: Predictive analytics

Here’s a job title that didn’t exist a few years ago: Online Learning Performance Coach.

Much like the marketing industry is leveraging the shift to digital to target, measure, and optimise their campaigns in ways never before possible, online learning providers are now utilising the latest tech to build custom learning analytics platforms.

It’s this access to real-time analytics from students’ online learning activities that’s given rise to the role of the Performance Coach: a studies-focused support structure empowered with the information needed to identify students who are at risk of falling behind with their studies, and proactively intervene to keep them on track.

3. The Collaborative tradition: Tutorial groups, project teams

The tech solution: Web conferencing.

Significant relationships are, undisputedly, the basis for significant learning.

While online, distance-based education can’t quite replicate the atmosphere of students sitting in the sun on UCT’s Jammie Stairs, for example, online community-building tools (like Adobe Connect) are successfully recreating the collaboration and interaction required for meaningful learning.

GetSmarter Online Learning
GetSmarter Online Learning

4. The Assessment tradition: Supervised exams

The tech solution: Webcams

Online exam proctoring platforms like ProctorU, Respondus, and Tegrity are fast rendering old-school invigilators obsolete.

Using only a reliable internet connection and a webcam, remote proctoring maintains the academic integrity afforded to traditional, contact-based exams in three important ways:

  • Students are required to confirm their identity by holding up their student ID and capturing a screenshot
  • For the duration of the assessment, the proctoring platform “locks down” the student’s browser so that only the academic institution’s Learner Management System (LMS) can be accessed
  • The student, and their surrounding environment, is recorded during the exam, and these recordings are available to instructors both during and after the exam has been submitted

An added bonus? Plagiarism detection tools are, of course, built into most LMS platforms and have therefore become an automatic extension of the assessment process.

This article was published in partnership with UCT and GetSmarter. GetSmarter has a proven track record of delivering an unmatched high-quality online education experience in partnership with Africa’s leading University and other reputable organisations. GetSmarter brings career advancement closer to working professionals by offering online UCT Postgraduate Diplomas throughout South Africa, and across Africa.

Click here to download their full 2015 report on The State of Online Education in SA

This article was published in partnership with GetSmarter.

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4 ways tech is being used to replicate face-to-face education in SA