Technology can help to broaden the student experience
As part of our University of the Future series, we spoke to leading institutions across South Africa to understand their vision for the future, and how they plan to realise these ambitions.
In this selection of interviews, we hear from our contributors about what’s on the horizon for higher education post Covid-19.
These are extended interviews that were conducted as part of the research for our University of the Future whitepaper. Read more from the University of the Future page series or download the whitepaper – What’s driving the vision for the South African University of the Future?- to explore how universities can embrace the opportunity to reimagine the university of the future.
These are extended interviews that were conducted as part of the research for our University of the Future South Africa whitepaper. Read more from the series or click here to receive a copy of the whitepaper.
Dr Dhaya Naidoo, Chief Information Officer & Executive Director: Institutional Effectiveness and Technology at Tshwane University of Technology
How did the university cope with a rapid shift to online learning?
Many of us within the sector had been advocating the need to embrace technology more, to meet the demands of digital natives. But the adoption hadn’t been as quick as we would have liked, possibly because there were no external pressures forcing it to happen. The Coronavirus pandemic changed that.
The sector had to accept change quickly, including re-examining pedagogies and acknowledging the part technology could play in supporting them.
The primary foundation of universities since their genesis has been students being classroom-based. But Covid-19 meant staff had to find new ways to engage with students when they weren’t physically there. It was a stressful time for teaching staff, but we knew that technology could help to facilitate the change.
What challenges did you face?
We are a big university, with 64k students across 11 sites. Our students come from a combination of urban and rural communities. In terms of demographic profile, most are the first generation within their family to go on to higher education. They rely on financial aid and have no access to advanced technology. There are also uneven digital literacy skills, across both students and staff. These are all significant challenges to overcome.
For students who did not have access to sufficient technology or bandwidth, we had to offer a blended model of paper-based learning, supported by tech.
What should universities look like in a post-Covid world?
The Covid-19 crisis showed us that, with will and determination, the sector can get things done at pace. We must continue to work together to re-imagine a new world for higher education. We know students won’t want to be in class all the time, for example, but we also know that they crave the campus experience and some elements of face-to-face teaching.
We can’t go backwards because the disruption of the education model has begun. Our focus should be on improving the personalised learning experience and the role of the professor will need to change to enable this to happen long-term.
We have been working with a university in Finland, for example, that runs accreditation courses in learning and teaching in higher education. One module covers using technology in the classroom – 300 of our staff have already completed this. It’s vital that academic staff feel prepared for the role that technology will play.
How can university support students as they prepare for the world of work?
South Africa is focused on delivering a more equal society so we must focus on delivering equity in education. Some of our students don’t have electricity or running water at home, let alone broadband – so university residences often provide better living and learning environments.
As well as providing the best possible learning experience, we also have a responsibility to equip students with the skills they need to enter the workplace. We have high levels of unemployment in South Africa, but many graduates’ skills are misaligned with the needs of employers. Graduates must be able to demonstrate critical thinking, not just academic thinking.
We also need to be mindful that the skills required in the workplace are evolving. The data scientists we need today won’t have the same skillset as those we’ll need in 10 years’ time. We have to make sure we’re not just fulfilling short term needs. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathering pace, it’s possible that 60% of current jobs might not exist in 15 years’ time. Universities should be educating for a life of versatility, otherwise they risk training for obsolescence.
Dr Dhaya Naidoo
Dr. Dhaya Naidoo is the Executive Director: Institutional Effectiveness and Technology and Chief Information Officer (ED & CIO) reporting to the Vice-Chancellor and Principal and a member of the Executive Management Committee of Tshwane University of Technology.
His key role is to advance the University’s vision and mission through strategy formulation, institutional intelligence and statutory reporting, digital ecosystems, reimagined library and information services as well as combined assurance.
He works with the Vice-Chancellor and the senior management team to formulate the university’s long-term strategy, develop the Institutional Strategic Plan, the Annual Performance Plans and the Student Enrolment and Efficiency Plan.
As the ED & CIO Dr Naidoo leverages the information resources within the university to provide decision support systems, performance review, combined assurance, information repositories, teaching and learning technologies and an effective information and communication technology infrastructure to support the academic enterprise and the support environment within the university.
As the Chief Information Officer (CIO) he has executive responsibility for IT strategy, IT governance, IT organisation and staffing, technology architecture, technology awareness, corporate governance, business intelligence, business transformation, customer care and Internet and e-business. He has overall responsibility for every facet of the university Information and IT infrastructure and teaching and learning technology resources.
His function extends to conducting institutional performance reviews and rendering statutory, HEMIS and Mid Term Reports to the University Council and the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation.
He has extensive experience in higher education and obtained his PhD titled External Quality Assurance and Organisation Culture from Stellenbosch University.
He oversees the directorates of Strategic Management Support, Quality Promotion, Library and Information Services, Information and Communication Technology Services, Teaching and Learning with Technology as well as the office of Risk Management and the outsourced Internal Audit functions.