Efforts to address historical inequalities and inequities at many South African universities include decolonising the curriculum initiatives and #FeesMustFall protests. Re-curriculation has thus taken centre stage, along with teaching practices that advance with the times. Importantly, “practices evolve over time and over contexts” (Boud & Brew, 2013, p.213). By implication, pedagogic practices of academics have to align with the challenges and contextual purpose of HEI. In Baijinath’s (2017, p.11) words, the influences of institutional contexts on the professional learning of academics is key. His view is that academics do not operate in neutral environments. Hence, in our role as professional development practitioners, our interventions with/for academics warrants open practices that illuminate contextual relevance.
In an attempt to heed the call for contextually relevant pedagogies and practices, the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development (CLTD) introduced a Facilitating Online Learning Course (FOLC), a University of Cape Town open educational resource (OER). This pilot project introduced a contact weekly reflection session to mimic the university’s blended learning approach, whilst using an OER as is. The second iteration involved a re-conceptualisation and repurposing as a University of Witwatersrand (Wits) version. That said, the two-fold aim is to firstly, report on participant views on the FOLC and secondly, to establish design principles.
Our argument is that in order to remain contextually relevant, an open approach that invites student agency is central in course design. The idea is to make explicit, the what, how and why of the course. In conceptualising pedagogy as a catalyst for learning and teaching we focus on how remaining open to a variety of diverse voices, could potentially enable better course design. In this way a cacophony of voices becomes visible. The realm of pedagogy is one of inquiry and observation. It needs to consider the various dimensions of educational technologies in the lives of both the student and the facilitator. The why and whether questions is not only about lesson planning, using video over text, or learning on the contact modality versus learning on the online modality. We propose that the why needs to start with questions about what happens when learning and teaching goes online, within the context of both the student and the facilitator.
Data gathering included an online survey, interviews and course site information. In design-based research mode, we planned, implemented, evaluated and redesigned FOLC. Ethical clearance was sought and granted (Protocol Number H18/10/01). Our hope is that the design principles may assist academics to improve their practice (pragmatic contribution), whilst adding to the body of knowledge on how open pedagogy (including OER) shapes and illuminates course design (theoretical contribution).
Baijnath, N. (2017). Learning to Teach in Higher Education in South Africa. Available online: https://www.che.ac.za/sites/default/files/publications/PUB_HE%20Monitor%2014_20170401.pdf Accessed 20 June 2018.
Boud, D. & Brew, A. (2013). Reconceptualising academic work as professional practice: implications for academic development, International journal for academic development, 18(3), pp. 208-221.