This book is dedicated to all higher education staff and students for their resilience and indomitable spirit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
You have inspired and continue to inspire in ways unmeasured.

27 October 2022 marked a momentous occasion for the HELTASA community. The first HELTASA book was launched by the Professional Learning Project Team. This book is a collection of written reflections on South African academics’ professional learning during Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) and how they navigated the rethinking and adaptation of teaching, learning and assessment. The event was a proud celebration of the hard work and dedicated efforts of all authors, reviewers and editors. It was a vibrant online celebration, attended by more than seventy colleagues and friends.

The Programme Director, Professor Sue Pather, the Vice-Chairperson of HELTASA, kicked off the event with a hearty welcome and she introduced the guest speaker, Dr Malefetjane Phaladi, Director of the Library Services at the Durban University of Technology. Dr Phaladi shared his delight that the book launch coincided with Open Access Week and is also an open access book. He explained that Open Access Week is an opportunity for the academic and research community to learn about the benefits of Open Access, such as free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research. He emphasised that Open Access has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted and, in that way, contribute to social justice.

The second insightful address was by Ms Rieta Ganas, HELTASA President and Chairperson. She described the book as “Real, authentic, messy at times, yet emancipatory and uniquely transformative”. She linked the reflections by the different authors in the book to the HELTASA mandate to be relevant, responsive and resilient as higher education engages timeously to unfolding events in the higher education landscape. She applauded the authors for having managed to amplify not only the spirit of transitioning higher education practitioners but also of South African higher education institutions and particularly that of HELTASA.

Thereafter the editors, Drs Rosaline Govender and Anthea Jacobs unpacked the contents of the book per theme, chapter and author. The four themes covered in the book are Reflections of journeys in professional learning; Creating spaces for connection; Transforming online pedagogies; and Reimagining alternative ways of teaching in HE. The twenty-one chapters in the the book, offer glimpses into how staff in higher education displayed resilience as they moved from feelings of angst, desperation, fear, trepidation, and excitement to a sense of innovation, accomplishment and fulfilment. What was also evident about the reflections are academics’ honest insights into the scholarly and practical measures engaged during ERT, as well as the support for each other through various communities of practice. The editors alluded to how they have learnt so much from what other colleagues know and do, and how that has changed their professional perspectives.

After much virtual applause and words of congratulations in the online chat, there was an open session for engagement and comments such as:

“What a lovely and really interesting blend of voices and perspectives in this book – what a really useful and meaningful exploration of scholarship and practice!”

“This is ground-breaking work a good balance of theory and praxis. Many congratulations to the editors and authors.”

“For me, contributing to our chapter along with my colleagues gave me the chance to reflect on what we accomplished in a difficult situation. We really managed to put something of ourselves and our own personalities into a digital environment, and the learners responded very positively.”

“A COVID-19 time capsule. Wonderful opportunity to capture this moment in history of HE. Thank you for doing this, colleagues.”

“Well done and congratulation to these 2 awesome editors. I appreciate your bravery and the passion that you exhibited during those turbulent times. Very impactive chapters, thank you.”

The event was concluded by the vote of thanks by Dr Anthea Jacobs, whereafter Dr Rosaline Govender brought the event to a close. All in all, it was a marvellous celebration of HELTASA’s first Open Access book and an exciting journey ahead in the higher education landscape.

Book Reference: Govender, R & Jacobs, A.H.M (Eds.) 2022. Critical Reflections on Professional Learning During Covid-19: Context, Practice and Change. Durban: HELTASA.

Report submitted by: Dr Anthea H M Jacobs