Blended Learning during #FeesMustFall

Wendy Kilfoil and Fatima Rahiman

The #FeesMustFall campaign which took place in the South African higher education arena in 2016 generated crucial discourses such as the decolonisation of the curriculum, decommodified education, as well as power relations among campaign leaders. In order to complete the academic year students also sought alternative avenues to pursue their learning such as online learning while continuing their campaigning for free education. In recognition of these hybrid models of teaching and learning that were emerging during the #FeesMustFall campaign, the Carnegie Corporation of New York funded the Universities of Cape Town, the Free State, Johannesburg and Pretoria to conduct research and write up case studies related to the uptake of blended learning.

The University of Pretoria was tasked with hosting a national convening, which took place at the Birchwood Conference Centre in June 2018. All universities were invited to attend, with 18 in attendance, as well as some of the statutory higher education bodies, Saide and one independent consultant. The goals of the convening were to collaborate with other South African universities to share insights and make recommendations on the use of educational technology as well as deepen the understanding of perceptions held by both academics and students on issues related to blended learning.

In addition to four case studies delivered by the collaborating universities, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and Nelson Mandela University staff presented on their institutions experience during the campaign. The programme for the convening thus comprised of six case studies with a summation provided by Prof Wendy Kilfoil of the University of Pretoria.

The case studies made use of Cultural Historical Activity Theory as a theoretical and methodological lens to analyse the participatory unit of activity. Such an approach provided a comprehensive perspective on people and events involved in the #FeesMustFall campaign.

Prof Kilfoil's trend analysis presentation captured the essence of the four case studies presented at the convening which are available below for download:

Blended learning in challenging circumstances – the case of UCT

The Aftermath of #FeesMustFall : An Activity Theoretical Analysis of Blended learning at the UFS

One Tweak at a Time: University of Johannesburg

UP’s use of blended learning during #FeesMustFall 2016

Following the convening, the panel of lead researchers of each of the participating universities presented a joint paper at the Flexible Futures Conference at the CSIR on 4 and 5 October 2018 titled: “Achieving teaching and learning outcomes supported by technology” by Kilfoil, W. and panel participants: De Wet, T., Haupt, V., Meintjes, A. and Scheepers, D.

The panel discussed the very varied understanding of blended learning that emerged from the studies, what characterizes blended learning and also identified practices that worked and those that didn’t during the #FeesMustFall campaign. They also reported on the recommendations from the aforemention case studies, namely:

  • Accustom lecturers and students to working online some of the time as part of a 21st century approach to teaching and learning.
  • Accustom students to more self-regulated learning.
  • Design blended learning on sound online teaching principles to promote student engagement and success.
  • Capitalise on and scale practices that students found useful.
  • Be prepared and have an institutional policy structure to regulate blended learning to ensure standards are maintained.
  • Deal with digital literacy of staff and students.
  • Deal with access to devices and data for staff and students.

The panel concluded with an intent to develop guidelines/ practice guides for the optimal use of these tools/ techniques which resonated with the focus of the second year of the Carnegie Foundation grant on producing research publications as well as good practice guides.

A second national convening is planned for March 2019 to share the good practices that emerged.