When: 30 November to 3 December 2020
Where: Central University of Technology, Bloemfontein, Free State
2020 Theme: Creating Enabling Learning Spaces For All
Registration: Opens 1 May 2020
Higher Education (HE) globally and South Africa in particular, continues to face challenges relating to learning spaces that affect both teachers and students. This means that HE institutions have to relook the way they interact and engage with students. Morieson, Murray, Wilson, Clarke and Lukas (2018) advocate for university campuses that provide spaces to facilitate the formation of communities of practice and enable greater communication, interaction and collaboration in different contexts. Barnett (2000) describes the context of Higher Education as “supercomplex” and necessitates learning spaces where students can cope with the radical changes taking place in the world especially within universities.
In line with this ideology, the South African Education, through its Higher Education Qualification Sub-Framework (2013), highlights the need for expanded access and responsiveness to emerging skills and knowledge needs. Whilst widening access to higher education is important, it has led to increased number of students entering higher education, the majority of whom come from poor educational backgrounds that widens the articulation gap from secondary to tertiary education (Chetty and Pather 2015). It means that the university teachers need to be equipped to meet the demands of the diverse student population (Heagney and Marr 2013).
University teachers should revisit their teaching strategies and use innovative approaches that will enable all these students to equally participate and learn effectively. As observed by Kozinskiy (2017), there are students who are not interested in attending class, listening to a lecture and memorizing for examinations but they want to be challenged and engaged in the learning process. Innovative approaches should be considered in a broader sense to include curriculum transformation, assessment and evaluation of learning and teaching in different contexts. This could be linked to the 4th IR because almost fifteen years ago scholars spoke about students who are immersed in “educational virtual environments” which includes gaming and avatars (Dede, Clarke, Ketelhut, Nelson, and Bowman 2005). Penprase (2017: 215) also argues that, “the proliferation of 4IR technologies” will “make significant impacts on our lives and require shifts in employment and education”. This means that teachers will have to “reconsider the curriculum”.
While 4IR seems to be playing an important role in higher education, the reality is that, it might also alienate some of the students coming from backgrounds where they were never exposed to basic technology and decisions to incorporate or not to incorporate 4IR should be made with this in consideration. At the same time, the question of readiness by institutions needs to be considered, as well as the further widening of the articulation gap. It is therefore important to create learning spaces where both university teachers and students can co-create knowledge that will empower students to contribute to their society and economy. Morieson et al, (2018) suggest that universities should position students not as passive consumers but rather as co‐creators of their university experience. Case (2015: 31) argues for the significance of having “a depth of intellectual leadership in higher education that will allow us to build institutions that are truly public spaces that build emergent citizenship and belonging for all students”.
In line with this argument, HELTASA 2020 conference aims to present an opportunity for academics in Southern Africa to hold conversations on how to “create enabling learning spaces for all”. These conversations will be in line with HELTASA’s mission of promoting “teaching as a scholarly, responsive and legitimate engagement in the context of inclusion and upliftment in higher education practice…” and will attempt to respond to the following questions:
To what extent have universities transformed their curricula to cater for the diverse student population taking into account indigenous knowledge?
- How can innovative teaching and assessment strategies challenge the existing learning spaces in higher education?
- To what extent are university teachers ready to embrace the fourth industrial revolution (4IR)?
- How can educational technologies, be used to enrich students’ learning experiences?
- Responsive curricula in learning spaces in a changing higher education environment.
- Integrating the traditional classroom with other learning spaces.
- Promoting interaction, collaboration and engagement through flexible learning spaces.
- Transition from traditional to innovative learning spaces / technology-enabled learning spaces.
- Managing diversity and inclusion in learning spaces.