Teaching and Learning at UCT
25 April 2017
Teaching and Learning at UCT
Teaching and learning are the core functions of any university and UCT is constantly striving to improve the experience of teaching and learning for academic staff and students alike.
The following is a summary of the recent Teaching and Learning highlights at the university.
The 2015 Teaching and Learning Report
The report is a testimony to UCT’s commitment to excellence in teaching, alongside its commitment to research. During 2015, UCT continued its multiple interventions which are focused on renewing the curriculum, improving access and throughput, enhancing the quality of the teaching and learning experience, and supporting online provision.
The student concerns of 2015 have given added impetus and urgency to the teaching and learning interventions already in place, with intense deliberations at every level of the institution.
The 2015 Teaching and Learning Report includes inputs from across UCT and points directly to how the pace of transformation has been quickened around a range of key issues such as multilingualism, Afrocentric curricula and staff transformation.
It is clear that 2015 was an important year for honing and shaping the agenda for teaching and learning for the foreseeable future.
Distinguished Teacher Award
The Distinguished Teacher Award is the highest accolade awarded to teaching staff at all levels within the university and recognises excellent teaching.
Through the award, the University of Cape Town acknowledges the primary place of teaching and learning in the university’s work. All full-time academic staff who have taught students at the institution for at least three years are eligible.
Each year the Distinguished Teacher Award Committee considers nominations made by students and staff on behalf of a number of dedicated teachers. The committee examines each submission in accordance with a set of guidelines, terms of reference and selection criteria, including:
- reflection on teaching practice
- versatility in different teaching settings
- transformational capacities
- innovation in teaching
- influence on students’ career development
- concern and sensitivity towards the needs of students
- endorsement from colleagues and students
- intellectual vigour and communication skills in the interpretation and presentation of subject matter consistently outstanding student evaluations.
Distinguished Teacher Award winners 2016
Curriculum Change Working Group
The Curriculum Change Working Group was commissioned by the VC to facilitate a process for the UCT community to engage in critical curriculum transformation. Read the VC’s announcement...
The group has considerable experience, knowledge and expertise related to the development of contextually and socially relevant curricula. They are also well versed in the use of inclusive approaches to teaching and learning.
It is co-chaired by Associate Professor Harry Garuba (Head of the Centre for African Studies) and Associate Professor Elelwani Ramugondo (Department of Occupational Therapy). The other members are Professor Sandra Klopper (DVC: Teaching and Learning), Professor Sakhela Buhlungu (Dean of Humanities), Associate Professor Harsha Kathard (Department of Health Sciences Education), Associate Professor Denver Hendricks (Deputy Dean of Health Sciences), Dr Kasturi Behari-Leak (Academic Staff Development, CHED), Goitsione Mokou (education master’s student), Rorisang Moseli (2016 SRC President) and Brian Kamanzi (RMF and engineering master’s student). Judy Favish (Director of Institutional Planning) and Amanda Barratt (Academic Planning Officer) form the secretariat.
* Due to staff changes, some of these positions will be filled by new members in the new year.
Deans were invited to nominate up to three people from their faculties to form part of an extended group (from both formal and non-formal constituencies) that would brainstorm a methodology with the core group and student representatives and facilitate departmental workshops.
The group has developed a Preliminary Conceptual Framework and Terms of Reference.
The Terms of Reference sets out membership, reporting lines, accountability, timeframes and deliverables of the working group.
The Preliminary Conceptual Framework has been informed by the student and staff protests of 2015, which challenged and re-energised critical engagement around the purpose of a university in an unequal society, both as a site of complicity and as a potential agent for social change. The document will form the basis for identifying critical questions that will explored.
Both documents have been used as the starting points for engagements across the university. The group has adopted a generative methodology that is guided by a theory of change. They will be working with interested students, staff and community members.
The university-wide engagements on curriculum reform are scheduled for completion towards the end of 2017.
Dr Kasturi Behari-Leak, Associate Professor Elelwani Ramugondo and Associate Professor Harsha Kathard, all founding members of the Curriculum Change Working Group, contributed to an article in The Conversation. It gives a clear and practical example of the group’s work. Read the article...
The First-Year Experience
Since the appointment of Dr Danielle Fontaine-Rainen as director of the First-Year Experience (FYE), with support from the Teaching Development Grant (TDG), considerable work has gone into strengthening engagement with all faculties to identify common FYE components that can be implemented across campus, while promoting certain components in particular faculties.
UCT’s First-Year Experience is not a service or a centre; rather, it is a shared value system that prioritises the all-round wellbeing of first-years. It is a collective effort to help first-year students to adapt to university life and develop a strong sense of belonging at UCT.
Supporting students throughout their first year is crucial, but in order to achieve success, first-years need to play an active role in their own development and must access the support that is available.
These values underpin the FYE programmes, including the following:
FYE spearheads the help desk and ‘tech buddy’ service during O-Week. Orientation leaders staff the help desks at various points across campus to help with queries on services and directions. The tech buddies provide digital literacy assistance in undergraduate computer labs, including help with VULA (the UCT online learning platform), PeopleSoft (the UCT online admin system), student email accounts and using Microsoft Word.
Early Assessment allows faculties to monitor students’ early academic progress. The assessment is based on grades from mid-semester tests and assignments and signals whether students should visit the student advisors in their faculty. These advisors will consult with struggling students and offer advice about the specific support services available.
Talks and workshops
Workshops provide both academic and non-academic support, covering topics like writing skills, stress and financial management, and exam preparation. Once registered, students will be able to refer to the online learning system, Vula, for more information about these workshops, and to access further electronic resources.
Students can stay in touch with the First-Year Experience on social media:
Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching
The Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) is committed to a higher education environment that fosters transformative and reflexive practices in learning and teaching.
CILT’s main focus is to facilitate effective teaching and learning at UCT.
Following the protests and shutdown of the university this year, CILT staff developed resource guides to support UCT lecturers with online teaching. Recognising student and staff concerns around access, the team also developed a strategy guide for addressing inequity of technological access. These guides are working documents and are available to the public.
Staff development is an important aspect of CILT’s work. One example of this is the New Academics Practitioner Programme (NAPP), a holistic programme of professional development for new academics at UCT who have fewer than five years’ experience in higher education. Its key focus is to strengthen resources and practices necessary for new academics to develop as educators, researchers and members of the UCT community. Read an article about participating in NAPP...
The 2015 UCT Teaching and Learning conference, which was deferred due to fees protests, took place on 20 March 2016. The theme was Exploring our Landscape of Practice.
Unfortunately the 2016 conference also had to be deferred due to nationwide university protests. Decisions about the 2016 and 2017 conferences will be announced soon.
In November 2016 UCT co-hosted the ICED/HELTASA conference, a collaboration between the International Consortium for Educational Development (ICED) and the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA). Over 600 delegates from around the world attended the event, which focused on Ethics, Care and Quality in Educational Development.
UCT Teaching & Learning Conference: What to expect
Teaching and learning projects
Throughout the year, CILT is involved in a number of teaching and learning projects.
CILT was commissioned by the Commonwealth of Learning to develop a concept paper on Digital Education Leadership (DEL). Having completed the concept paper in 2016, the next task will be to develop a curriculum for DEL. The overarching purpose is to develop digital education leaders who demonstrate effective use of information and communication technology (ICT) for teaching and learning.
e/merge Africa is a new educational technology network directed at educational technology researchers and practitioners in African higher education. Each year it runs Facilitating Online, a course developed by CILT which provides a solid foundation for facilitating online events and courses.
UCT offers an increasing number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These free online courses have no entry requirements and do not count towards university credits. You can choose to purchase a certificate, and financial aid is available in some cases.
In 2016 UCT launched three new MOOCs.
Throughout the year unexpected uses of MOOCs have emerged: one being the launch of an offline campus where participants can take the Becoming a Changemaker MOOC with RLabs without having access to their own computer; another is that other universities have begun including materials from UCT MOOCs as part of their teaching.
Becoming a changemaker and Education for All were both winners at the MACE Excellence Awards 2016.
“A thought-provoking course that I have found to be both enlightening and uplifting. It has helped me to crystallise in my own mind what I am, and supports my view of how we fit into the rest of the natural world. Professor Solms is an engaging and enthusiastic speaker, as well as being so knowledgeable.” Paul Hughes (UK)
In-depth Review: What is a Mind? Class Central review by Margaret O’Doherty
“This course has been very interesting and has definitely shaped the way I view patients in the medical profession. I’ve now realised how distant one can be when working with people with medical conditions and through this course I have grown to love and consider the social aspect of patients as being crucial to advancing the care that they receive.” Mapitso Thaisi (South Africa)
My love of learning thrilled by some of the online courses with Futurelearn Medicine and the Arts review by Jonathan Vernon
“This was an outstanding course – particularly as I live in Cape Town and was able to apply the ideas and create examples based on the community they were often discussing (RLabs) and its impact on the Cape Town community and even further afield. I found myself considering ideas and thinking about social innovative ideas from a completely new and refreshing perspective.” Carolynn B
Personal Mobile Device Project
The main aim of the Personal Mobile Device Project (PMD) is to better understand how access to PMDs enables greater flexibility and effectiveness of teaching and learning in the higher education sector both inside and outside the classroom. At a symposium in November, the five partner universities on the project presented their findings.
Research on Open Educational Resources for Development
The Research on Open Educational Resources for Development (ROER4D) project aims to provide evidence-based research from a number of countries in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia in order to improve educational policy, practice, and research in developing countries by better understanding the use and impact of Open Educational Resources.
Unbundling Higher Education
This joint universities of Cape Town and Leeds research project has set out to investigate the opportunities that the unbundling and new provision models offer for addressing challenges in higher education in South Africa and England. Read more about the unbundled university...