Challenging times often give birth to innovative ideas! This is what has been observed at MUT as a result of the limitations imposed by the government to deal with the spread of Coronavirus. The Department of Cooperative Education (Coop) at MUT is being innovative, given that the students and work integrated learning (WIL) coordinators are not able to work directly with prospective employers.
The Cooperative Education Department hosted a Webinar on Project-based Learning on 22 July 2020. During the webinar, Project-based Learning was presented as an alternative for students who could not be placed due limited WIL opportunities as a result of COVID-19. Dr Fundiswa Nofemela, Director of the department, indicated that they were preparing for the worse. “The impact of COVID-19 on WIL is likely to be manifested even beyond 2021. Institutions globally are exploring ways in which this impact can be mitigated,” said Dr Nofemela. She further stated that Covid-19 was likely to result in companies being unable to accommodate students in 2021 and probably a few years beyond that. Dr Nofemela said they believed that Project-based Learning, as a modality of WIL would assist in ensuring that the students complete their WIL component even if WIL placement opportunities were scarce. Through Project-based Learning, the department will re-negotiate its partnerships with industry to embark on collaborative projects with them. This will ensure that the students acquire the required experience. “This may mean that students are not at the workplaces daily but may spend a lot of time in training centres such as the Coastal TVET Tooling Centre of Excellence, Resolution Circle and Athol Munday Training Centre,” said Dr Nofemela. She added that Project-based Learning was going to necessitate that WIL co-ordinators be given the necessary training so they would be able to deal with the new reality. This novel way of giving students work experience would have a positive impact upon the University’s graduation rate.
Through Project-based Learning placements both at the Tooling Centre of Excellence in Durban and Resolution Circle in Gauteng between 2017 and 2019, over 50 students have managed to complete their qualifications. One of these students is Bonga Dlamini, now working as a Process Engineering Intern at Widney Manufacturing.
Industry seems to have warmed up to the idea of Project-based Learning. Dr Nofemela said that Sibusiso Shange, an Executive at Resolution Circle has welcomed the idea of working with MUT on projects related to Project-based Learning. Sibusiso said that was in line with the reasons why Resolution Circle had been established. Resolution Circle has hosted over 40 MUT students in the past few years.