Siyaphumelela 2016 goes deeper in Durban

Balmy weather with an oceanic view ordinarily provides a fitting canvas for holiday makers but this year the Durban Golden mile served to stimulate debate and collaboration as the second Siyaphumelela Conference was held on the 29th -30th June at the Protea Hotel Edward.

Attracting more than 150 delegates, which included a cohort of students, with 28 universities represented as well as representatives of organisations such as SANRC , Sahela, Inyathelo , DHET , and CHE also in attendance, the conference  provided a rich concentration of stakeholders involved in student success initiatives utilizing learning analytics.

Building on last year’s conference theme which aimed to weave together the various strands into a national discourse, this year’s theme sought to provide a deeper understanding of the various textures in in Promising practices towards systemic interventions for student success.

The conference was preceded by three pre-conference workshops which focussed on the following key areas

  • Integrating and Building our data for effective student support
  • Effective academic advising informed by data analytics
  • Systemic approaches to student success : an institutional perspective

The workshops provided a fecund space for active participation with approximately 40 delegates in attendance at each workshop, which yielded substantive recommendations. These recommendations that emerged from the workshop were then carried through, for wider dissemination and engagement, to the actual conference in the respective sessions. Each workshop was facilitated by both an international speaker as well as a South Africa speaker, with this format retained throughout the conference, thus ensuring the profiling of our local voice in a global context.

Bill Moses from the Kresge Foundation which funds the Siyaphumelela programme opened the conference and along with Jenny Glennie from Saide, the coordinating agency for the Siyaphumelela programme welcomed the participants and provided the context for this gathering of minds in the quest for student success.

This was followed by a panel comprising representatives from DHET, the Ministerial task team on Finance, Universities of South Africa as well as a student  from the University of Venda and together  they sought to paint a canvas describing the Challenges and Responses to  Student  Success in Higher Education. Read  more about Dr. Sizwe’s Nxasana’s  presentation. i.e. Revamped aid scheme gives more support to more students;

Thereafter Dr. Tim Renick, voted recently  as one of  top 16 innovative  thinkers in Higher Education in Washington  and no stranger to the Siyaphumelela   programme having presented as keynote speaker at the previous Siyaphumelela Conference,  continued to inspire audiences with his ambassadorial message of successful  student  success initiatives. Sharing this platform, Dr Diane Grayson from the CHE, described the learnings from the Quality Enhancement Project on systemic approaches to student success. Listen to their session here .

Other keynote speakers included Dr. Shaun Harper from University of Pennsylvania, Dr Yunus Ballim from Sol Plaatje University , Dr. Allison Calhoun- Brown from Georgia state University; Prof. Franscois Strydom from UFS;  Prof Murray Leibrandt  from UCT , Dr. Mattea Madiba UP , Mrs Bridget Burns University Innovation Alliance as well as a recorded session all the way from Florida University by Dr. Consuelo Boronat.

Promising practices on student success initiatives from the partner institutions participating in the Siyaphumelela Initiative were showcased. In addition abstract presentations, submitted from various Higher Education Institutions were also profiled in a parallel sessions on the following topics

  • Extending our understanding of factors in student success.
  • Supporting success in student learning through data analytics, including early warning systems
  • Building a community of practice for student success

Ensuring that all voices were equally amplified, the VC panel - always a showstopper with the audience as leadership pronounced on their commitment to student success initiatives and implored on government to assist with much needed resources - was complemented by a panel dedicated to hearing student insights later the next day. 

This student panel which was facilitated by well-known media personality and former lecturer Dr. Angelo Fick,  comprised student  reps from the participating institutions who responded to the following questions:

  • In your view what role should students play in supporting students success initiatives in your institution?
  • What structures are in place to ensure that students’ voices are heard and how do you think they  should be improved?
  • Are there additional services you would like to see from your institution in supporting student success?
  • What are your concerns about the use of personal student data for purposes of student support?

Read more about students concerns on data mining and watch their session here.  

Closing the conference, Jenny Glennie reflected that the efforts showcased represented but “a small proportion of people in South Africa who are rooting for more and better graduates, particularly low-income students. It has become absolutely clear to us in the last year that this is essential.”

All presentations, paper and videos can be accessed on the Conference Site   or by searching for the  term “Conference 2016 Siyaphumelela” under Category in the Resources section of this site.

You can also visit our Youtube channel for the playlist of all the recorded sessions of the conference. 

Read more articles about the Conference as reported in the University World News i.e.