Advancing 21st Century Teaching & Learning

UKZN Online Management Systems


UKZN Learning Management System - Moodle

A key goal of UKZN is to create an enabling environment for all students to prepare them for the responsibilities and challenges they will face in a world increasingly characterised by competition, change, and diversity. Access to information is an essential ingredient in an enabling learning environment.

Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) is the official eLearning management system used at UKZN to communicate with students by providing access to lecture notes, library resources, study tips and other educational resources on the site. The phasing in of Moodle began in 2016, with the expectation that by 2018, all undergraduate and postgraduate module materials would be placed on Moodle. We are happy to report that this expectation has been fulfilled and both our undergraduate and postgraduate students are utilising the system.

...Figure 4. Moodle Usage

It allows registered students and academics to view and upload lecture notes, submit assignments and access library resources. Lecturers can administer online tutorials and quizzes as well as give online assistance, while students are exposed to links that help with preparing for examinations, including exam and study tips. Moodle is also utilised for online teaching collaborations with other Universities, and training opportunities to enable academics to adopt Moodle are routinely provided by ICS and UTLO.


Plagiarism Detection - Turnitin

Plagiarism has become a significant concern for higher education. To ameliorate this problem UKZN subscribes to plagiarism detection software for postgraduate and undergraduate students. Postgraduate students use Turnitin, which not only assists students by highlighting plagiarism, but also improves their writing skills. Turnitin promotes citing and referencing of material.

Since submissions are online, it supports paperless submissions as well as online grading and feedback from instructors. Depending on how an instructor sets up an assignment on Turnitin, students may have the opportunity to submit a draft assignment before submitting their final version. A similarity report is generated each time a paper is submitted; this report indicates the percentage of material in the essay that matches other sources that are in the Turnitin database. The student can then use the similarity report as a guideline to revise their work. The student can view all matches that have been identified online and then change their work accordingly. During the assignment setup, the instructor determines what materials can be excluded, e.g. bibliographic and quoted articles or small sources.


Grammar Checker - Grammarly

Grammarly is an online grammar checking, spell checking, and plagiarism detection platform. UKZN subscribed and introduced Grammarly to students at undergraduate level to ensure and maintain integrity in writing. These students have the opportunity to create a Grammarly Premium account by subscribing to Grammarly individually, using their University email addresses.

Grammarly can be integrated into emails, messages, documents, projects and social media. It detects contextual spelling errors and checks documents for word usage in context. It also checks for standard grammar rules and looks for missing or unnecessary punctuation. In addition, it assists students with sentence structure and writing styles. Grammarly provides word enhancements and feedback regarding word choice, while the plagiarism checker ensures that material taken out of other sources is quoted and referenced.

The University Technology Enhanced Learning (UTEL) Project

Goal One of the UKZN Strategic Plan commits the UKZN to promoting excellence in teaching & learning through innovative curriculum design and development, responsive pedagogical strategies, and authentic assessment practices. UTEL was established to meet UKZN’s need for innovative and technologically advanced digital teaching solutions. It also aims to provide fully functioning production facilities to create and disseminate content through digital platforms. These facilities and studios are used to create teaching & learning materials, especially to support blended learning and eLearning initiatives.

Headed by Project Manager, Jasper Cecil and working with three other staff members, the unit, based on the Westville Campus, reports to the Director: Teaching & Learning. In addition, the unit also meets the following UKZN needs, i.e.:

  • Increased demand for technology teaching using flipped classroom and blended learning approaches.
  • Provide academic staff access to lecture capture services and fully functioning teaching/learning production facilities.
  • Under-preparedness due to disruptions and cancelled lectures, especially during protest action when students have little or no access to on-line materials to mitigate the loss of lecture time.
  • Overcrowded classrooms, time schedule conflicts and non-attendance of lectures.
  • Limited size of laboratories and practical rooms, scarcity of specimens for large class numbers, and the need for detailed visuals to demonstrate experiments and scientific concepts.
  • Students’ requirements for video materials for revision, to replay (in their own time, groups and spaces) and to assist with language barriers.
  • High cost of outsourcing.

Since its inception in 2017, UTEL has expanded its offerings to include lecture capture, production of videos of panel discussions and the creation of promotional and training videos. It has done presentations through seminars held in Schools where it strongly advocated the use of Blended, eLearning and Flipped Classroom approaches.

Lecture Capture

This function is given priority and, while users are encouraged to use blended learning approaches, academic staff also make use of the facility to replicate short lectures and explain concepts, so students have access to materials electronically. UTEL adopted the approach of “you tell us what you would like” and, although some academics use innovative ways to teach, staff are welcome to make use of the facility and are accommodated.

UTEL took a deliberate decision not to capture full lectures in classrooms as they are different to the principles of a flipped classroom approach. The videos produced by UTEL are not designed to replace the classroom lecture. Instead, UTEL creates its own unique virtual sets and places presenters into these sets using chroma key techniques, and videos are edited so that the final product contains a combination of interesting angles, animation and effects to capture students’ interest.

...Above: Example of lecture capture cover.

Other types of recordings include seminars and presentations by guest lecturers in studio; some use a studio audience. UTEL records and facilitates “live” connections between the studio and other centres, using multiple video monitors and sound feeds. Presentations are made from the studio to conferences taking place in other parts of the world.

Recorded lectures (and other videos produced) are sent to staff, some of whom distribute them through their own Dropbox account or allow their students to download. UTEL scales and uploads videos for students to access through Moodle. These free services are used by academic staff from all Colleges.


UTEL’s archives contain over 3,000 tapes, CD’s and DVD’s. Playback devices are becoming difficult to source and materials are deteriorating. In order to preserve the collection, a basic digitisation station is set up to convert analogue materials to digital formats. Recently, Professor Kriben Pillay used this to salvage valuable historical recordings of UDW theatre productions. After capturing materials, various restoration and corrective processes were applied before converting them into usable digital files. Some videos have been published on YouTube and have attracted significant interest.

Digitisation is established as a collaborative project between UTEL and the UKZN Library, where we are currently going through the existing archive, indexing and cataloguing all tapes. A digitisation technician will then be trained to create metadata and high resolution and proxy files, while adhering to digitisation standards. Archived materials will become accessible online to users and researchers. Proxy videos and key search words will be available through an interactive website where users can search for materials and watch videos. An online form will assist users to obtain a physical high-resolution copy if required. Over 700 tapes from the UKZN Library Special Collections will shortly be converted to DVD.

Production of Teaching and Promotional Videos

The large TV studio uses multiple cameras to record panel discussions, large scale teaching, student presentations, interviews, medical and technical demonstrations, international greetings, the Vice-Chancellor’s presentations and various promotions.

...Above: Promotional video cover.

These include a book-reading promotions campaign, entrepreneurship, Corporate Relations promos, and student fundraising. Some videos are published on social media. UTEL created a number of “how to” videos for some Schools, the Library, ICS and Research. UTEL also produced the annual Distinguished Teachers’ Awards video and often hosts seminars in studio. It is constantly developing new methods of post-production to incorporate animation and special effects.

Sound and Music Production

The sound studio is equipped with good-quality microphones and a professional ProTools recording system, and used for voice-over work, narration, translations and small music recordings. It is also used to create training materials for disabled students, for pre-recorded audio in presentations, and to teach sound engineering techniques and operations to media students.

Teaching and Training

UTEL conducted training sessions for third-year Media Studies students, giving them an opportunity to experience the various roles and operate and direct a live multi camera TV Studio. These large classes are broken down into three or four sessions and videos are sent to the department for student assessment.

UTEL also taught the video production module to Media Studies honours students. Over 13 weeks, students were given formal lectures, followed by demonstrations, exercises, assignments and video-related tasks. Students completed individual practical work and were continually assessed.

For their final assessment, students were placed in groups and each group submitted comprehensive production documents and produced a short movie that was screened to an invited audience. Based on the high standard, there has been very positive feedback:

  • “The production class as a whole was very exciting, however very short-lived”;
  • The experience has been wonderful. It was refreshing to learn something that could open doors for us that could not have been open prior to us doing this course”;
  • “The module was very exciting and technical. It was the best experience ever. The tutors were very well organised and took their time to teach students. I believe this module will help us to shape our future, especially those who are interest in film production”;
  • “This was the highlight of my entire four years at UKZN”;
  • “My personal experience of the video process was a dream came true; I was amazed by how Jasper has so much passion for production that he managed to teach us so much in a short period of time”.
  • It is hoped this will become a fully-fledged module in the future.

UTEL Website

With the assistance of the Teaching & Learning Office a new website was set up where users can access news items,. They can also view completed projects (videos produced), a gallery of photographs of productions undertaken, tips and technical information. The site has useful information and users can submit requests and make bookings on-line.


Production processes are often complex and can take time. UTEL’s 4 staff are involved in the studio recordings but also engaged in a range of other related activities. Many visitors are shown around the facility, view samples of past work and engage with and discuss their requirements. UTEL assists them to prepare and modify presentation styles. On the technical side, UTEL staff members do preparatory work, configure lighting, arrange sets, props and sound for recordings, design graphics and virtual sets, create camera angles and prepare slides before recording. Academic staff are guided through the process of recording and if mistakes are made, material is re-shot.

During this period, UTEL recorded and produced:

  • Over 300 lectures for the various Schools and Colleges
  • Promotional videos for Corporate Relations, Vice-Chancellor and Colleges
  • “How to” training videos for the Library, ICS, Research and Schools
  • 14 medical procedures in studio
  • Various interviews, panel discussions and seminars
  • Remote conference broadcasts
  • Editing of pre-recorded material, creating animation and graphics
  • Voice-over and presentations for PowerPoint
  • Various student presentations
  • Production of awards video

Academic staff are often nervous at first, but once they use the facility and see how simple it is, they come back and make regular bookings, encouraging their colleagues to do the same. Feedback often refers to the quality and standard of work done by UTEL as exceptional and equivalent (if not better) materials produced by expensive external professional companies. Future plans include offering similar services on the other campuses.

Development of Academics’ Capacity for Digital Teaching & Learning

Information and Communication Services (ICS) in partnership with the University’s Teaching & Learning Office (UTLO) has been seeking ways to increase the University’s footprint in digital technologies. It is cognisant that UKZN is a contact University. However, current student needs have changed and institutions of higher education need to provide a more holistic view of education. Blended learning is the ultimate goal.

UKZN, like other institutions in the country, was under-prepared for the #FeesMustFall campaign, and this was evident in the lack of blended learning offered to offset time lost during this campaign. While UKZN saw the need for a blended learning platform, it also recognised that a key element, namely, that of instructional designers, was missing. In this regard, a suitable course was sought, which would begin to empower University staff to become instructional designers.

Twenty delegates attended the Digital Teaching & Learning Certification Course, which comprises three phases. Phase 1 has been completed and plans for phase 2 are currently underway.

The Digital Teaching & Learning Skills course is aligned to UNESCO. Below is a summary of the course.

...Table 1. Summary of Digital Teaching & Learning Skills course

Contact UTLO:
2nd Floor, Francis Stock Building
Howard College Campus
University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 4041, South Africa.
Tel: +27 (0)31 260-3002
Email: UTLO