TEACHING AND LEARNING CONFERENCE PUT A SPOTLIGHT ON ENABLING AND ADVANCING STUDENT SUCCESS
By: Puleng Maphisa – 29 September 2023
Dr. Phethiwe Matutu, the CEO of Universities South Africa (USAF)
Education, often described as the key to empowerment, plays a pivotal role in shaping our future. The recent Vaal University of Technology’s (VUT) Teaching and Learning Conference, jointly organized by the Centre of Academic Development (CAD) and the Faculty of Human Sciences, echoed this sentiment.
The conference was held at the Emerald Resort Casino from September 27 – 29 September 2023 under the theme “Enabling and Advancing Student Success”.
This event, which has been a decade-long tradition at VUT, marked the second time that external stakeholders were invited. In 2022, the conference hosted 120 delegates, a number that grew to 200 participants, with over 50 coming from other universities, including private ones. This gathering also draws attendees from key sector stakeholders such as the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).
The heart of this conference beat for excellence in education and the empowerment of our students, with a mission to ensure that every student, regardless of their background or circumstances, can reach their full potential. The primary objective of this conference was to promote staff development and provide a platform for collaboration, learning, and inspiration. It also aimed to explore current trends and research in the field of student success.
In his opening remarks, Dr Muntuwenkosi Chili, Executive Director for CAD emphasised that in a rapidly evolving educational landscape, the commitment to nurturing the potential of every student has never been more vital. “As educators, administrators, and researchers, we understand that fostering student success extends beyond traditional classroom boundaries. It encompasses innovative pedagogies, supportive learning environments, and a profound dedication to equity and inclusion,” said Dr Chili.
The first day of the conference was dedicated to pre-conference workshops.
The conference featured distinguished keynote speakers, including Dr. Phethiwe Matutu, the CEO of Universities South Africa (USAF); Professor Dick Ngambi, a renowned expert in Education Technology at the University of Cape Town (UCT); and Professor Mirna Nel, Deputy Dean for Research at the Faculty of Humanities, North-West University (NWU). They were warmly welcomed by Professor Maggie Linington, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning, and Quality at VUT.
Dr. Matutu, a mathematician by discipline, emphasized the importance of enhancing teaching within educational institutions, stressing that teaching and learning extend beyond the classroom. She urged universities to establish clear policy guidelines and frameworks for digital learning platforms. She also highlighted the role of the USAf’s digital platform guidelines in guiding universities to implement digital teaching and learning programs while ensuring student success.
Furthermore, Dr. Matutu and Prof. Ngambi expressed concern that many universities lack a plan for incorporating technologies like ChatGPT into their assessment processes. They pointed out that ChatGPT is becoming increasingly relevant in higher education, with institutions relying on platforms such as TURNITIN to check students’ work for plagiarism and formatting issues.
During discussions with participants, including Mr. Bibin George, a Physics Lecturer from Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), it became evident that teaching and learning conferences like this one are invaluable. Participants sought innovative pedagogies and assessment approaches, emphasizing the importance of considering students’ backgrounds and the need to decolonize the curriculum.
Behind the scenes, Ms. Rodean Boysean and her team worked tirelessly to make the conference a success. Despite the challenges, they were proud of their outstanding team’s ability to overcome obstacles. Rodean expressed excitement about the conference’s growth and its potential to become a national teaching and learning conference.
Notably, the conference received generous support from sponsors, including Cengage Publishing Company, VtC, DHET’s University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP) and Blackboard+Learn.
In conclusion, it is the vision of Dr Chili that Teaching and Learning Conference at VUT becomes a national event as it stands as a beacon of hope and progress in the realm of education. With a commitment to student success, innovation in teaching, and the incorporation of emerging technologies, this conference paves the way for a brighter future in education.