Re-conceptualizing “contact” education: a case of mobile learning at the University of Cape Town
Dick talked in general about his work and HE education in South Africa. He works for the Centre for Educational Technology which has a remit to:
– ensure all students have fair access
– address educational social inclusion
– enable all to participate in a new communicative order
South African HE education context
The DoE in SA wants to transform the HE system to serve the new social order, pressing national needs, and the new ‘global’ reality. A target set by 2013 is that all teachers and learners will be able to ‘use ICT’s confidently and creatively’.
In terms of access to HE in SA, pre 1994 social policies are largely manifest along racial lines, by contrast in the UK socio-economics are the determining factor.
A key issue for SA is to balance graduate demographics input with graduate throughput. Dropout rates are high and as the recruitment net widens so does the inclusion of poorly academically prepared students. In addition, there is a diverse student population with different learning preferences. Class sizes are also large which makes offering a personalised learning experience difficult particularly the giving of meaningful feedback.
A funding change to output rather than recruitment is designed to apply pressure to address the retention at an institutional level.
Dick talked extensively on the nature of contact between students and their lecturers painting a recognisable picture for those working in HE in the UK. He made the point that contact education forces a convergence of distance and time and that it is dominated by the lecturer. However education (learning) is more naturally independent of distance and space.
This leads to a position of de-coupling learning activities, interactivity, and intended outcomes from a model of ‘contact’ education.
A student quote exemplified the ‘suffocating’ experience that HE can be with a continual diet of new ‘stuff’ to learn. Personally, I think that the assessment tail wagging the learning dog has much to contribute to this.