Is online learning the new method of teaching? 34

The landscape of higher education has changed over the past years and online learning is increasing every year.  Universities have to take into consideration what the masses wants and can online learning address these needs … it can reach more people than the traditional universities and colleges.

My first post matric qualification was done full time but thereafter I enrolled and completed two qualifications through UNISA (correspondence).  Technology was in those years not as advanced as now, it was actually almost non-existant in my world. The online qualification that I completed at the end of last year suited my needs better mainly because of the interaction online with fellow students.  The presenters identified the need for students also to interact on a less formal platform and we even had a virtual coffee shop.. So from studying through correspondence we are moving over to online learning.

We have a long way to go.  Many students and lecturers who are used to the traditional classroom based learning often measure the quality of learning by the information transmitted by a subject expert.  I thought that the bigger challenge would be to improve computer and information skills but it is actually to get students to take responsibility for their own learning.

It is exciting that online learning is bringing the classroom to you.  For many adult learners this will be the only way of how they can start or continue on a path of life-long learning. It will be interesting to hear other people’s thoughts on this.  And is there maybe somebody that can refer me to a website that has statistics on on-line learning, e.g. how it has increased over the years, the success rate, etc.

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34 thoughts on “Is online learning the new method of teaching?

  • Des Squire

    One of the big problems her is that SETAS are not equipped to verify student assessments (POE.s etc) if the training is conducted on line.

    If providers deliver on line learning then assessment would need to be off line to suit the current situation.   

  • Dr Jacqueline Baumgardt (Jax)

    I did an Executive Coaching course with GetSmarter endorsed by UCT. It was great – blended learning – practical coaching of another student via skype, youtubes, pdf files for content, etc etc. I enjoyed it and learnt a lot. I also did a UNISA online tutoring programme – also a mixture of features. Completed Hons, Masters and PhD with UNISA – more distance learning than anything else and very self-directed. Personally I enjoy the distance learning mode, but you have to be really self-motivated. 

  • Louise Sterling

    Thanks for initiating the conversation Wilma. What’s the url of your blog? I would like to follow it.

    You are correct. INTEC is a correspondence / distance college. When I last checked out Get Smarter, their courses seemed to be in PDF format but with other online elements _ the learner management system + social media. But perhaps now they are offering fully online courses. They are certainly growing exponentially.

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    I have learnt such a lot since I’ve posted the blog.

    Can INTEC be seen as offering online courses?  I might be wrong, but think they can rather be seen as a correspondence college.

    A learner of GetSmarter commented: “”The variety of learning material, like videos, quizzes and forums kept things interesting and assistance was always just a click away. The flexibility of studying online makes it the perfect choice for those who work full-time.”  When I looked at the website it gave the impression to me that they are offering online courses but if they only use social networks I got the wrong impression.

    There are so much terminology: online, blended, e-learning, gamification in e-learning, etc.   This is what makes education to exciting – always something to learn, no matter how old you are!

  • Louise Sterling

    INTEC and College SA are also accredited with various SETA’s. There is definitely a precedent to accredit FET providers for distance learning. Just a note of clarification: there is a lot of confusion about the terms elearning, online learning and distance learning. In my view, Get Smarter, INTEC and College SA are all distance education providers. Learners may register online and receive materials via computer, but the course materials are essentially books in print or digital format. Get Smarter use online social networks to support learners. Real online or elearning means interactive and multimedia courses delivered and assessed entirely online.

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    Interesting – I copied and pasted the following from GET SMARTER’s website (offering online courses in partnership with UCT):

    “We are also the first and only entirely online education company to be accredited by any SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) as a provider of education and training in South Africa (Institutional accreditation number: 3692).”

    So, the SETA’s that use SAQA as an excuse are ignorant.

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    Thanks, Joe. I tend to agree with Dr Jacqueline – ignorance is sticking its head out and it is easier to blame SAQA than trying to find out what the correct procedure is.

  • Dr Jacqueline Baumgardt (Jax)

    I agree, Wilma. The SETAs are not providers so why would they need to be accredited for e-learning? To my recollection in dealing with preparation of accreditation applications, the provider must have a teaching and learning policy, an assessment policy and a moderation policy (among others). If that includes e-learning, blended learning etc, then there should surely be no quibble from the SETA. I hate to say this, but it’s probably ignorance sticking its ugly head out again. 

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    I am still confused about the accreditation and why many providers are struggling to get accreditation if Joe Samuels (SAQA) stated that SAQA cannot be blamed.  A SETA said to a provider (Karen) that they cannot accredit the provider because they are not accredited by SAQA for e-learning.  Then it is surely the SETA’s responsibility to contact SAQA regarding this matter.

    I agree with what Louise said regarding blended learning but this option will not be suitable for most students.  There are many opportunities for e-learning and online learning.  It seems as if it is easier for Universities to offer recognised online and blended learning courses than for TVET colleges and other training providers.

  • ujala rughbeer

    Greetings every nee.  I would like to who can I contact with buying online study material with nqf levels? I own a college in Durban and I want to introduce this type of study.  It would be nice to also offer diploma and degree courses:)



  • Louise Sterling

    Hi Wilma

    Thanks for this conversation – much needed.

    We do need to understand the difference between online learning and blended learning. In my view, blended learning is a wonderful option for the FET sector in South Africa. It allows learners to benefit from a social support structure, group-based and participatory learning processes, and interaction and learning with skilled educators. When combined with online components (course components that lend themselves to this medium + online assessments) this can greatly enrich the learning experience. We also need to integrate cell phone and tablet-based learning with our blended offerings.

    Of course, where learners cannot access face-to-face colleges, online learning is a great choice. I think though, we need to really understand what it takes to offer learning in the absence of an educator. The educational methodology must be built in. It is not simply a matter of putting PDF’s online or using an automated robot voice to read our print courses and posting them on Youtube. The development costs of proper online learning are high – especially if you want to track learner assessments within the courses. 

    For your interest, here is an example of one of our online courses:

  • Evadne Brink

    Hi Wilma. Your blog has got me curious about the impact online learning would have on both the learning and teaching processes in the education sphere in future. We live in an age of instant gratification….simple,better, faster. However at times we throw the baby out with the bath water. This said, I feel that online learning has many pros but technology has snuffed out that personal touch that which I believe is an important factor in any form of education. We learn through and from others experiences and often a book and computer cannot capture the essence of that personal experience. I fully agree with you that there are various learning styles and online learning does’nt cater for all of these styles. Call me “old school” I guess….it worked well for me!

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    Thokazani, one of my concerns about online learning is that the instruction does not cater for all the learning styles.  I have read an article that said there are online tests available that will help the instructors to get to know the students and then cater more effectively for the different learning styles.

    Joe, thanks for your response and explanation.  I have so long in the training ‘game’ but still learn a lot.  My problem is that I am a facilitator in my heart and tends to focus on that.  Although my role is no longer that of a facilitator but more in an administrative position, my main passion will always be facilitation and the students.

  • Thokozani Absalom

    Dear Wilma de Villiers, Effective online instruction depends on learning experiences appropriately designed and facilitated by knowledgeable educators. Because learners have different learning stylesor a combination of styles, online educators should design activities multiple modes of learning in order to provide significant experiences for each class participant. In designing online courses, use multiple instructional strategies. Teaching models exist which apply to traditional higher education learning environments, and when designing courses for the online environment, these strategies should be adapted to the new environment.

  • Joe Samuels

    Dear Wilma

    The NQF Act spells out the responsibilities of SAQA and the Quality Councils. Quality Councils have direct quality assurance functions and therefore accredits providers directly or via a delegation (Assessment Quality Partner(AQP)). It was different under the SAQA Act where SAQA accredited ETQAs and they in turn accredited providers according to SAQA’s ETQA regulations. SAQA is still the overarching body but the QCs have direct quality assurance responsibility. SETAs presently perform quality assurance functions delegated to them by the QCTO. If there is a gap regarding accreditation of providers this should be addressed by the QCs. Anybody that says that SAQA directly accredits them or that they cannot do it because of SAQA clearly does not understand the NQF Act that was promulgated in 2008 and implemented since 1 June 2009!

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    I am a bit confused. I am not clued up with the quality assurance that is currently in place but I am sure there are many skills members that can help hear.

    Jo explained that it is not SAQA that provides the accreditation but the Quality Councils that have policies for the accreditation of providers.

    We have always applied at the ETDP SETA for accreditation/ programme approval.  Isn’t the SETA’s under SAQA’s jurisdiction?

    Our College is planning to implement an online NATED course and also wonder how this will be affected by the quality assurance bodies. 

    Can other members please clarify these matters?

  • johndeane

    I agree that there are several pro’s and con’s to online learning…

    A recent statistic came out mentioning that 70% of training/learning will happen online by 2022 – I will find the source and post the article.. 

    The main drawback of online training is the misconception that it is not as engaging or impactful as classroom led training.

    I believe a lot of this due to poor training delivery, and or 1  stream webinars (listen only).

    The use of the training platform and the caliber of the trainer are the make or break factor.

  • Carel Ballack

    The guys who are offering online engineering courses locally obviously also could not get accreditation. So they are offering the online courses as a service, and then you still have to write the tests at an accredited institution. They have obviously opted for doing it this way so that they can at least continue developing the platform while the SETA’s are catching up with the rest of the “real” world.

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    I have posted a question to Joe Sameuls regarding the issue of receiving accreditation and I am sure that he will be able to share light on the matter.

    Thanks for all the responses – anyone that can maybe direct me to links that provide statistics regarding on-line learning?  I think that it is still so new in SA that it will be a challenge to find this information, specifically related to SA.

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    I think this issue should seriously be addressed by SAQA.

    Wick, you must maybe look at MOOC’s website. One can also offer courses on their website – not sure how it works.

  • Wick van Schalkwyk

    Seven years ago I’ve started developing interactive online university modules and after spending hundred of thousands could not get accreditation in SA. It would have been a system where theorie and class is online and practicals in the work place and exams a combination of online prep and classroom finals. Feedback from every student i’ve spoken to said they would have preferred my system above UNISA’s non delivery of books at the time as all module info is online. An interactive group video chat for students and online labs was part of the development. I was even contacted to combine the biology and science majors with intenational nurse groups but acreditaion is given by a board consisting of current players in SA. They are keeping us from progress.

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    A colleague told me about MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and I am currently registered for a course:  MOOCS and the South African Higher Education Landscape.   They offer courses about astronomy, iterature, religion, economics, etc. Google MOOCS.

    I am not interested in doing any formal qualifications but think that it is wonderful to increase my knowledge through courses like this AND it is free.  It is not a need for me, but I am wondering if people’s workplaces will acknowledge courses like tyhi.

  • Carel Ballack

    They are using a platform called Electromeet. The feature that allows students to talk and interact has been disabled. I argued that even Skype is a better platform for comms. I will take a look at zoom, thanks for the comment.

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    I totally agree with you, Carel – there should be proper comunication.  Students should be allowed to communicate because one learns through interaction with fellow-students.  With my last course we were like REAL students … even discussing the lecturers!  (it was done very professional).  Sometimes the lecturers joined us in the coffee shop. We helped each other with assignments by sharing references.  Before we had to do an assignment there was first a general discussion around the topic. I felt that I was part of a studying community.

  • Steve Short

    @ Carel I can’t fathom why a provider would use text for comms between learners.  Platforms such as Zoom are a perfect alternative for learners in remote places and you literally get everything excepting the warm handshake.  As i said, blended learning is the way to go – a mix of self-paced e-learning, contact sessions (physical or via platforms such as Zoom) and any number of other strategies.  

  • Wilma de Villiers Post author

    Karen, then I can’t understand that correspondence courses which are presented by institutions like INTEC and DAMELIN are accredited.   On-line/e-learning offer so much more and I strongly believe it is more conducive for education and the learning process.

    It will be very interesting to hear Joe Sameuls opinion regarding this.

  • karen deller

    Sadly not all the SETAs accept the technology though! We were recently told by a SETA that they would not permit on-line learning in any shape or form.  When i protested i was told that “SAQA had not accredited them for e-learning, so they were not in a position to accredit a provider for e-learning.”   This was a problem for me as we had just spent approximately R500 000 developing a full e-learning course for a full qualification.  We are accredited to deliver the full qualification and it never crossed my mind that the SETA would have  a problem with a blended delivery (part e-learning and part on-line or face to face discussion).  I have tried reasoning with the SETA, explaining that in an outcomes based system the outputs are what they should be focusing on not the inputs…but we are not really making progress.  The SETA did come to see the e-learning and they brought a QCTO representative along but we are still waiting for a ‘verdict’.  Other SETAs are awesome with e-learning though (especially BANKSETA) and they are all supposedly following the same SAQA  rules and OBE system.  It is quite frustrating and SAQA appears unable to assist.  🙁 

  • Steve Short

    Blended learning is the way to go.  Providers who continue without online interfaces will be relegated to the recycle bin.  It’s not a beacon for the future… it’s already HAPPENED and if you’re a provider and not already on the boat it might already be too late for you.  

  • Carel Ballack

    I recently tried to do an N4 in electrical engineering on an online platform. Although i do accept that this is the way to go, the platform that was being used by the institution did not allow for participants to communicate with one another other than by text. I found it frustrating. It was however very convenient to attend classes from home, so that part of it was nice. The platform also limited the amount of input teachers could give as they could not be seen and their main form of communication was via a presentation slide show and voice. So although it is the way to go, institutions interested in going the online route need to be aware of the needs of the students, teachers and how they relate to one another on the online platform.

  • Dr Jacqueline Baumgardt (Jax)

    Dear Wilma

    It’s the ONLY way to go to cater for the vast demand, in my view. I think most universities cater for it these days in one form or another. I know most post-grad degrees can be done online these days. But it is not only unis that need to get on board – students also need to join in – many of them don’t participate in the online environment although they have the technology. As a tutor for UNISA, I have first had experience of the latter.