Digitally enhanced learning: the future of education with innovation in online learning

Developments in innovation bring affordable higher education solutions through the use of technology, blended learning and the connected campus concept to the masses

Johannesburg – As South Africans from all walks of life become more connected, technology is increasingly being harnessed in the field of tertiary education. It is however vital that technological innovation in higher education does not simply add a digital component, but rather that it enhances the entire learning process.

Dr Felicity Coughlan, Group Academic Director for the ADvTECH group, the holding company of SA’s largest private higher education provider The Independent Institute of Education (IIE), says rapid technological advances present a valuable opportunity to make quality education available to more South Africans.

The IIE’s connected campus concept provides a visionary new way for prospective students to access quality higher education opportunities through distance learning.

“Through our ongoing research and development, we recently launched the first of many future connected campuses, which will introduce the blending of face to face learning with technology, with this digitally enhanced learning at the core of the concept.

“We can now develop campuses that will circumvent some of the biggest obstacles students face, including overcrowding, geographic restrictions or excessive commuting. The aim is to use connected campuses to bring high-volume quality education to thousands more South Africans at an affordable price,” says Coughlan.

Studying through a connected campus introduces students to the idea of blending face to face learning with technology. Concepts are introduced during face to face lectures, while activity-based distance learning is then undertaken on the learning management system over a three day period.

Lecturers work online with the students in this period and student collaborative groups offer peer support and feedback. This is then followed by an extended face to face lecture consolidating the personalised and group learning that has taken place. This cycle is repeated throughout the course.

Lecturers are consistently provided with insights into each student through an online reporting tool, with a view of student engagement allowing them to respond and intervene accordingly.

“It is this collaboration that we believe creates a superior learning experience, allowing learners to take their education into their own hands,” says Coughlan.

It is estimated that today South Africa has 25 million active internet users, 79.1 million mobile connections and 30 million active mobile internet users, all using their various devices to consume news, weather information, traffic updates, social media, reading, and entertainment. It is within this space that the IIE plans to enhance education in South Africa through the development of these connect campuses.

“We are thrilled at the positive reception the IIE Rosebank College connected campus has received in Polokwane, and plan to continue developing this model ensuring that our campuses offer high-speed internet connectivity and Wi-Fi as well as the blended offering. We will continue to provide the opportunity of academic excellence for all who seek a tertiary qualification and degree,” says Coughlan.