The research focus area TELIT-SA focusses on theory and practice of learning technologies across an array of disciplines in HE. The theory for practice, embedded in critical theory, provides a dedicated focus on the practice of TEL across an array of disciplines. Theory of practice also assists in bridging the gap between basic disciplines and theoretical underpinnings of the pedagogical use of TEL in order to create a specific formal TEL knowledge base as a legitimate, valid and crucial resource to act as change agent across disciplines. The blurred distinction between learning about (vocational) technology and learning with technology (pedagogic) becomes less and less real as TEL increasingly becomes integrated into every aspect of teaching and learning, to the advantage of students and the institution.
The focus of TELIT-SA relates to six focussed aspects, encompassing the different role players touched by the actions of this proposed research focus area:
Quality and accredited research output is important to the well-being of the institution. It is also part of the task agreement of every academic staff member. Planning and organising research output according to the institution’s strategic issues, makes double sense, as it also contributes toward the planned progress of scholars and the resulting funding towards their further development.
Strategic decisions of the institution
The optimal use of learning has been on the agenda of the NWU for some time. Much research has contributed towards the Teaching and Learning Strategy of the NWU which is still being developed. Since TEL research is focussed on the institution, the findings of research from this entity will directly speak to the further development of the strategic document of the institution, as well as the lecturers and students in their specific contexts. The institution could therefore tap into contextualised and current research findings on its doorstep.
Forefront research in the field of TEL suited to the context of the institution in an African context
Although the teaching and learning context of the NWU differs from those encountered in many international settings due to an array of contextual aspects, we aim to perform research (i) which could compare and compete theoretically and practically with research from internationally recognised contexts, and (ii) which is embedded in an African context. We also aim to become the leading research entity in Africa regarding the innovative use of TEL in higher education and training.
Developing of established researchers
When viewing the list of participants in TELIT-SA, it becomes evident that it comprises a young group of scholars, mostly at the beginning of their research careers. Yet these developing researchers show strong promises of development in order to convert the overabundance of conference output into quality journal output. However, the list of research output also indicates at least three participating scholars who, with dedicated support and focus, could reach sufficient scholarly maturity to apply for an NRF rating within the following three to five years.
Development of staff members in terms of the use of TEL in their teaching and learning
In spite of the use of established pedagogical practices in HE, students’ learning does not necessarily take place in predictable and orderly fashion, often due to unorganised and unfocussed use of TEL across disciplines. To overcome such disorganised implementation of TEL research across an array of disciplines, we elect to evaluate the aims, activities and results of the use of TEL through systematic reviewing of current literature in order to gain an understanding of how TEL influences teaching and learning elsewhere. Across all disciplines there is a need for students to develop into heutagogical learners, i.e. students who are self-determined, and who take initiative for their learning in a mature fashion. The principles of constructivist learning are known for changing professional habits of learning towards establishing the agenda of reflective practice in both students and lecturers. The principles of constructivism are firmly embedded in reflective practice, which lead to more effective learning where the ultimate goal is competent actions and improved performance. Reflective practice can be best described as an iterative learning cycle which comprises four stages, relating to experience, assessment, re-conceptualisation and experimentation of all aspects of design and development of learning, artefacts for learning, use of TEL, and evaluation of outcomes and mindful practices.
Development and preparation of NWU students for the world of work through TEL
HE increasingly demands constructivist learning, i.e. students who take on the responsibility of their own learning and who create their own knowledge structures in order to become well-rounded effective learners towards taking up their positions in the world of work. Such heutagogical learning is embedded in reflective practice, which provides opportunities for reflection on legitimacy, validity and quality of teaching and learning with technology.