The University of Botswana is making use of educational technologies such as eLearning platforms as part of mitigation strategies against the spread of the COVID-19 virus among members of the University Community. ICT infrastructure and installation of online streaming equipment as well as the use of Moodle Learning Management System are some of the initiatives the University of Botswana is driving. This has made it easier for lecturers to deliver their lessons remotely to ensure that students received their learning materials and attend lectures remotely.
It is against this background that the Centre for Academic Development as it pursues its mandate of enhancing the provision of quality education, research, innovation and engagement for sustainable national development and global impact has ventured into a partnership with Sepapane Group to create a pool of trainers within UB.
The partnership is in line with one of the UB goals to promote entrepreneurship initiatives for UB and third-stream income generating projects. Given its strategic position in the country, UB is central to the development of new knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenges of societal transformation and raising public awareness in the use of technology in schools, colleges, and government departments.
Consequently, Sepapane Group has conducted training for UB staff on Blended Course Design using Moodle (BCD) with the main aim of equipping lecturers and trainers with the skills necessary for designing good quality online courses. A total of 13 participants were awarded the Blended Learning Course Design upon completion of an intensive and interactive online course.
The future of this mode of learning is guided by the UB eLearning Strategy, as well as Botswana Vision 2036 which aims to “transform Botswana from an upper middle-income country to a high-income country by 2036, and sets out a compelling vision of what our future will look like and in the process create broad prosperity for all”.
Therefore, learning at UB is not confined to the four walls of the physical classroom. It is 24/7, flexible and gives learners a choice on when, where and how to learn. eLearning at UB advocates for blended learning approach which accords lecturers a chance to interact with their students through Moodle’s versatile tools such as email, chat, discussion forums, journals, wikis, blogs, YouTube videos, e-portfolios, as well as incorporating interactive multimedia elements such as H5P (HTML5 Package) just to name a few. The Moodle platform also assists lecturers to vary their methods of delivering course content so as to cater for students’ individual learning styles. Moving from the traditional instructor centred teaching approaches to student centred learning approaches helps academic staff to refrain from being a “sage on the stage” to being a “guide on the side”.
Thus, ICTs knowledge and skills is at the top of UB’s 12 graduate attributes of the institutional Learning and Teaching Policy. It is geared towards grooming independent and self-directed learners who will fit into the world of work which happens to be technology inclined in this 21st century. It is for the main reasons that all academic staff at the University of Botswana has to adopt the blended learning approach in the quest to help students to meet their full potential. According to Mckee (2019), “Online learning develops professionals with strengthened critical thinking and team work capabilities. Employers are seeking individuals with developed skills such as communication, technological savvy, self-motivation and time management”. This therefore suggests that educators play a significant role in what students learn bearing in mind that this technology era is here to stay hence the need to embrace it and put learners at the forefront of the eLearning space.