While it is true that early Autumn break as a result of the CODIV-19 will disrupt the academic programme, this has also become an opportunity for academics, and administrative staff to show their mettle. On 18 March 2020, the MUT management resolved to push the Autumn break forward. Now the University will re-open on 15 April 2020, having closed on 18 March 2020. In the meantime, academics have been requested to use technology to communicate with the students to reduce the loss of contact time.
Addressing the media on 18 March 2020, after the University Management meeting, Dr Enoch Duma Malaza, the University’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, said the institution was going to use technology to ensure that teaching and learning continued. “To reduce the heavy reliance on the contact mode of teaching, the University will strengthen the use of Blackboard, which is an online tool/software to enhance teaching and learning,” said Dr Malaza.
At the coalface of this new way of teaching and learning is the Teaching, Learning and Development Centre (TLDC) headed by Dr Manyane Makua, who is the Senior Director. The TLDC has crafted a plan that will be used by academics. Cebo Nyondo, E-learning and Educational Technology Specialist at the TLDC, said the plan was to capitalise on the current expertise available at the University. These include staff members that are already familiar with Blackboard, one of the technologies that has been used as a tool for teaching and learning for a while at MUT. “Furthermore, the focus is on how the teaching and learning activities will be moved to an online environment, thereby implementing a distant learning approach. The TLDC is proposing a structure that will be followed for all courses and by way of implementation will provide training to all who require it during the recess period and will extend this initiative even after contact sessions resume,” said Nyondo. Nyondo said the proposed structure adopts “constructive alignment” devised by Professor John B. Biggs. “The use of such an alignment will help in developing courses that will mimic the nature of contact session and thereby creating an interactive learning environment,” he concluded.
MUT academics will be trained on the development of online courses. The training will be a practical hands-on training, focusing on the minimum structure. Furthermore, the TLDC will have structured two workshop sessions in a week accommodating 10-15 academics per day. The plan was presented to the Senate this week.