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On-Line Discussion Forums: New Platforms to supplement Professional Development at Walter Sisulu University BY Z.G.Baleni RPL Manager. Topics to cover. Introduction Staff Development Online discussion Methodology Results Conclusion Recommendations. Introduction.

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On-Line Discussion Forums: New Platforms to supplement Professional Development at Walter Sisulu UniversityBYZ.G.BaleniRPL Manager


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Topics to cover

  • Introduction

  • Staff Development

  • Online discussion

  • Methodology

  • Results

  • Conclusion

  • Recommendations


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Introduction

  • Staff development is primarily an institutional responsibility and operationalised within an institutional context,

  • However, it is increasingly influenced by national policies and global trends.

  • Institutions respond to these demands and take up national policies in different ways


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  • depending on their :

    • missions,

    • contexts,

    • institutional culture,

    • resources etc.

      The WSU context is that the Centre for Learning and Teaching Development (CLTD) has been mandated with academic staff development


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CLTD mission is to “promote excellence in learning and teaching by providing integrated and specialized professional expertise and services for all faculties towards the improvement of the institutional learning and teaching culture”.

  • Goal 4 of WSU Learning and Teaching Strategy

  • WSU 2017 strategy


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  • WSU being a multi-campus institution poses a challenge to face-to-face academic staff development

    The question is:

  • How to balance academic staff development with the core business of academics being in class always?

  • How can CPDU achieve its goal of professionalising academics with least disruption of the academic programme?


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Staff Development learning environment(VLE), an option was seen as possible.

  • An umbrella term for developing the capacity of higher education staff to fulfil their professional roles effectively; this includes training, educating, capacity-building and individual consultation

    (HEQC, Learning & Teaching Resource pack, 2005)


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  • Staff development be integral part of an institution’s human resource development strategy and practice rather than an isolated, optional activity.

  • be at the centre of any attempt to respond to the challenges currently facing professionals in higher education.

  • provide opportunities for training or capacity building in teaching practice as well as information technology upgrading


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  • Provision of staff development for teaching is now critical if lecturers are to become knowledgeable about new educational theories and methods.

  • They require skills, knowledge in curriculum design, multi method delivery, teamwork, learning theories, assessment to mention a few.

  • The idea that they require no preparation as educators is fast becoming an anachronism


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Online Discussion Forum if lecturers are to become knowledgeable about new educational theories and methods.

  • Online discussions provide a perfect forum for an academic discourse which promotes:

    • increased student engagement,

    • critical analysis and reflection, and

    • the social construction of knowledge.” Warschauer(1997)


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  • They are an example of a method that could satisfy these needs in a cost-effective manner.

  • Specifically, they provide

    • freedom from time constraints (participants can participate when and if they choose);

    • time for reflection (participants decide when and if they choose to participate)


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  • Finally, learning activities that introduce participants to potentially useful learning and communications technologies provide a valuable training and exposure function.


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    Methodology needs in a cost-effective manner.

    • Workshop on “quality issues in e assessment” conducted for 3 days

    • Presentations & extra material uploaded on BB

    • 30 lecturers used

    • All lecturers registered on BB as students

    • Discussion forum created


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    • All free to post questions & comments on workshop presentations

    • Lecturers expected to share classroom practice on use of learnt/work shopped strategies

    • Observed over a period of five weeks after workshop

    • Questionnaire sent by email to check on level of participation and perception of effectiveness.


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    Discussion presentations

    • 1st week observation - only 5 lecturers logged in

    • Of the 5, two had questions , 3 had comments

    • 2nd week after I posted a few questions & email , activity increased to 25 lecturers logging on

    • 3rd week 10 lecturers shared their classroom experience


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    • 4 presentationsth week – much activity took place, 25 lecturers

    • Last week most lecturers were consistent in logging in and sharing classroom activity

    • Only 5 lecturers never participated


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    • Questionnaire – use Likert scale presentations

    • Access to internet at home?

      • Only 16% have access at home 84% only access at work

      • Computer literacy level? 70% comfortable in use of internet & computer, 25% average and 5% still have challenges in some computer applications.


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    • Attitude towards discussion forum presentations

      • 80% enjoyed interaction with colleagues

      • 15% not sure of its role

      • 5% not interested

    • Learn anything

      • 75% agree

      • 20% not sure

      • 5% disagree


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    • Would use in class presentations

      • 85% strongly agree

      • 10% agree

      • 5% disagree

    • Discussion forum as replacement to face to face workshops

      • 55% strongly agree

      • 40% not sure

      • 5% strongly disagree


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    • General comments presentations

      • BB user friendly

      • Discussion forums an opportunity to engage colleagues more

      • Less time away from class

      • Theory easily integrated into Classroom practice

      • Challenges

        - Internet access

        - No computers

        - Too much Workload


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    Conclusion presentations

    • The perceived attributes are that the perception by potential adopters that the innovation has relative advantage, is not overly complex, is compatible with existing values and customs, can be tried on a limited basis, and has observable results.

    • The findings of this study suggest that BB has a potential to become a widespread medium for continuing professional staff development.


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    Recommendations presentations

    • The online forum was found to be observable, trialable and relatively easy to use compared to face-to-face workshops but it was perceived as less satisfying.

    • It is a recommended method to supplement face-to-face staff development workshops.