Vice-Chancellor for Teaching & Learning: Professor Sandile P. Songca
The Teaching & Learning portfolio and its allied structures have continued to provide teaching and learning professional support to the four colleges, the 19 schools and to the more than 45 000 students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Given the many changes in the university, including the rise of student unrest, student population shift to lower quintile schools, rising student food insecurity, the fast pace of change of digital information and communications technology, and the demands of the fourth industrial revolution, the T&L portfolio has endeavoured to be relevant and responsive.
The Teaching & Learning Strategy Group (TLSG) has served the university teaching and learning community since 2012, providing leadership in policy development, and a functional policy environment for the past seven years. However, early signs of fatigue can be seen from the large number of policies which have not been reviewed, as well as the general proliferation of policies without sufficient integration, suggesting the urgent need for policy overlap and gap analysis. It is clear that the strategy group will have fundamental influence in the imminent development of a university strategy for Teaching & Learning as it has played a pivotal role in the teaching and learning business processes of the university. It is arguably the force behind the teaching and learning excellence awards and the accolades that the awardees have collected nationally at the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa (HELTASA).
Rising demand for the services of the flagship University Technology Enhanced Learning (UTEL) Project has made the expansion to other campuses an imperative.
Rising demand for the services of the flagship University Technology Enhanced Learning (UTEL) Project has made the expansion to other campuses an imperative. The project will embrace more recent and more user friendly technologies to enhance our teaching capacity to offer blended teaching support and off-campus learning in a context of rising demand for the development of capacity for Digital Teaching. A significant feature of UTEL is that it has been harmonised with Moodle, which remains the official Learning Management System at UKZN. The rise in uptake and usage of Moodle is further indication of the rising appetite among students and academics for technology.
As part of the T&L portfolio commitment to sustaining professional development of both academic and professional staff, the University Education Induction Programme (UEIP), funded by the University Capacity Development grant successfully contributed to enhancing teaching capacity.
Another uniquely UKZN branded learning and teaching system, is the University Academic Monitoring and Support Strategy (AMS), an institutional support response to the University Academic Monitoring support policy and procedures, which is itself supported by the tradition of the annual University Academic Monitoring and Support Colloquium which rotates among Colleges. It attracts highly influential research papers and discussions on the University Academic Monitoring and Support system. AMS has been a catalyst for developing interventions to enhance student progression and quality.
As the university continues to lead in research productivity, the T&L portfolio has in tandem, promoted and supported the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)…
As the university continues to lead in research productivity, the T&L portfolio has in tandem, promoted and supported the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), which seeks to institutionalise a scholarly and professional approach to teaching and student learning. The future of SoTL initiatives in this regard is pointing towards the emergence of more prolific researchers and scholars alike.
Quality promotion and assurance achieved impressive highlights, with more than 400 HEQSF aligned programs, new programs submitted with a handful approved by the Department of Higher Education and Training, accredited by the Council on Higher Education, with new serial numbers issued by the South African Qualifications Authority. Many of these were accredited through their respective statutory Council to which the accreditation is outsourced by the Council on Higher Education.
Through their work, University qualifications continue to enjoy high regard by various sectors of the economy. For example, our chartered accounting qualifications through the support and accreditation by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) continue to enjoy very high regard in a profession which was recently seriously questioned under the cloud caused by the corrupt practices which emerged under some of the big names in the industry. Our Bachelor of Laws was among the first to be accredited in the recent national review of the qualification. Quality promotion was already on a determined drive towards the automation of the management of the programme and qualification mix, including development, and review, a move which will take the practice to the cutting edge in the sector.
In the background of technology and innovation, language development has, and continues to present the university with national and indeed continental competitive advantage. The location of the Language Planning and Development Office (ULPDO) within the professional and academic support environment is proving to be a significant driver of multilingualism. Many of the innovations developed in the unit have been and continue to be applauded nationally, continentally and internationally, with a number of universities now benchmarking language development with the University of KwaZulu-Natal in this regard. The collaboration of the unit with the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) has placed the language development unit and the university in a unique position of advantage in language development.
At the forefront as well as the center of teaching and learning professional and academic support is the Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO), a dynamic unit that integrates with the colleges in such a way that student and academic staff support is translated to learning enhancement and professionalisation of teaching. UTLO has a wide range of standard interventions which it runs yearly, including tutorship, mentorship, staff development, academic monitoring and support, scholarship of teaching and learning, e-learning, blended learning, technology enhanced learning and a range of other support functions and on- demand solutions.
Additionally, UTLO pursues new interventions for the future; data analytics, digital migration and online automation of teaching and learning.
Additionally, UTLO pursues new interventions for the future; data analytics, digital migration and online automation of teaching and learning. The main preoccupation for the office now is how to pursue and achieve completely online learning through its existing and fundamental technologies so as to have learning without contact available on demand whenever the need arises. Such need will clearly arise much more often in the future as campus disruptions proliferate.
Disruptions in the past have come from internal sources such as student and staff unrest and violent protest. Other disruptions have come from external sources such as electric power load shedding, water restrictions, municipal and private sector protests. In recent times, there has been emergence of disease pandemic related disruptions. The collective impact of these disruptions has been to render campus based learning and teaching service delivery rather unreliable and unsustainable as the only modality, turning the academic community towards more reliable virtual approaches based on digital and automated online systems.
In pursuit of excellence in student academic performance in line with Goals 1 and 2 of the UKZN Strategic Plan 2017-2021, the University of KwaZulu-Natal selects a wide range of students who have shown excellence in their academic performance for the award of scholarships and merit awards. Once every year, the University hosts the Annual Scholarship Awards Ceremony to showcase these awards, celebrate the excellent performance of our students, and express gratitude to our funders and the community of academics who work tirelessly to assist our students to achieve such high levels of performance in their study programs. Society has changed dramatically in the recent past. Increasing job losses have led to the escalation of hardships such as poverty, ill-health, criminality, and social inequality.
Scholarships and merit awards are increasingly cognisant of these new realities and require students to also demonstrate social responsiveness through community engagement and entrepreneurship projects. This celebration is therefore also intended to develop and grow an institutional culture of excellence and nation-building through hard work, community engagement, entrepreneurship, and outreach. The total investment in student financial support through scholarships has increased to almost R200 million, awarded to nearly 5 000 students. We celebrated staff, students, funders, and community, with an overwhelming reason to celebrate UKZN as a Premier University of African Scholarship for inspiring greatness in scholarships.
As the current Deputy Vice-Chancellor responsible for teaching and learning, I acknowledge the efforts of my predecessors. Prof. Bala Pillay, who held the fort during difficult times and Prof. Renuka Vithal, the former DVC of Teaching and Learning, who is also acknowledged and celebrated for the many years she served and constructed what is today a formidable organisation for professional academic teaching and learning support. It is said that her high pitched voice still rings in the corridors of Francis Stock building where she served.
Professor Sandile P. Songca
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning