University of Pretoria: UP Law lecture reflects on teaching and learning using technological innovations during and post-COVID-19

Even before COVID-19 forced education online, technology played an important role in the sector and now, more than ever, it needs to become an integral part of teaching and assessment practices, said Lizelle le Roux, Lecturer in the Faculty of Law’s Department of Jurisprudence at the University of Pretoria (UP), during the faculty’s recent virtual inaugural Teaching and Learning Lecture Series. The monthly lecture series is aimed at reflecting on teaching and learning during COVID-19 using technological innovations and mapping the way forward post COVID-19.

“We have witnessed the ease with which students relate to navigating online materials on online platforms. Many of us started incorporating technology into teaching – this is called technology integration – and this can be defined as an effective use of technology in the classroom in order to reach the learning outcomes.

“We need to focus mainly on how technology can be used to enhance teaching,” said Le Roux. “Integration technology needs to do two things; it must enhance the actual learning outcomes to facilitate and improve deeper understanding of the content, and it must spark creativity in the educator to improve a transformed teaching practice.”

The lecture was moderated by UP’s Professor Charles Maimela, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law. On the panel alongside Le Roux were the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Professor Mzukisi Njotini, Vice-Dean for Teaching and Learning, Faculty of Law; and Dr Melanie Murcott, Senior Lecturer, Department of Public Law, UP Law.

According to Murcott, for her teaching during COVID-19 was an opportunity to get creative and to use technology to enhance teaching and learning. “The real challenge was not to expect too much from myself and students; it was to figure out how to get students to engage, prepare and consolidate without formal in-person lectures; it was reducing formal assessments and replacing them with incentive-based informal assessments and acknowledging students’ living realities. I had fun making the layout and design of my module more appealing to students and found YouTube videos for students to watch for lecture content which could facilitate engagements with the current social context related to the module context.”

Focusing on the theme ‘teaching under COVID-19, and if technology enhances or compromises teaching LLB curriculum going forward’, Prof Njotini said the International Astronomical Union (IAU) noted that more than 60% of global universities have had to digitise amid the disruptions and uncertainty caused by COVID-19 for both lecturers and students.

Adding to the discussion, Murcott said in her department [Public Law] staff used Instagram as a form of communication for some announcements to students because they found that the photo and video sharing social networking site was popular with students. “We made fun/informal video content to keep them engaged [Junior Tukkie, November 2020, pages 20 to 23]; we used a Gmail account for student queries, therefore tutors and student assistants were able to reply to certain queries instead of lecturers being flooded with emails. In addition, this allowed students to engage even more among themselves.

“It was not much of a crisis from our side because most learning material was already loaded on clickUP (UP’s learning management system). It was easy for students to access it and that meant we did not have to prepare a lot soon after COVID-19 hit South Africa. With some subjects, students submitted assignments online via the Turnitin programme to avoid plagiarism,” said Murcott.

Njotini further noted that the inequality between students who come from poor backgrounds and those who come from rich backgrounds in terms of access to technology had been made very apparent by COVID-19. “We need to look at the prevailing realities in South Africa – poor internet access and electricity power outages. This means that technology will only be available to a few. Therefore, as lecturers, we need to create a way in which we are going to authenticate our online teaching and learning.”

Maimela noted that it is important during this time for lecturers to take a proactive approach in teaching and finding ways to make the best use of technological innovations. It is also important that lecturers listen to their students and are aware of how receptive they are to the level of technological integration, he said. He also noted that technological advances, outside of the current crisis, have an effect on teaching and learning. “One would agree that the fourth industrial revolution contributes partly to curriculum transformation because it challenges the status quo of how we are teaching and proposes different ways of teaching practices and pedagogies.”

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