Connecting to content – a higher education consideration in South Africa
Written by: Zoe Guzman Martinez, Supervising Editor: Instructional Design
Growing up in rural KwaZulu-Natal, any questions I had that could not be answered by my mom, dad, teacher, a set of outdated encyclopaedias or the limited collection at the local library would generally go unanswered. With the rapid advancement of technology over the past few decades, has come the democratisation of information, which has changed (and will continue to change) the way in which we learn and teach.
Traditionally, the custodians of learning content have been limited and relatively exclusive, with restrictions as to how and when the content can be used. Open Educational Resources (OERs) have changed this by putting educational material in the public domain, using Creative Commons licensing. A move towards connectivist learning has also shifted the learning-content landscape by drawing on the notion that knowledge exists in external networks, and individuals learn by using technology to engage with peers and research a wide variety of topics.
The paradigm shift in how content is being made available necessitates institutions in higher education to adapt to meet the changing needs of learners. With extensive access to content, the expectation now is not for more of the same content to be produced, but for learning environments to focus on “packaging” this content to make it available in a way that works best for learners. In South Africa, it is also critical to source and adapt material in a way that creates a balance between content that is applicable to the African context, but that is still relevant from a global perspective.
Connectivist learning requires those who are teaching and learning to be able to research and filter the vast amount of content that is available, and to develop the skills necessary to turn quantity into quality. Fewer resources in higher education should be allocated to creating more content, and there should be a focus on adapting content that exists to make it more student-centric and, critically, to constantly update it to ensure that it is always current. Technology has made information more widely accessible, so, in higher education, the value we add is filtering content, making sure it is up-to-date and making it available to learners in a manner that works for them, applies to their context, and helps them to achieve their learning and professional goals. We live in an age where learning needs to be seen from a student’s perspective; the psychology of how learning occurs is more important than ever, and the content in higher education, which is designed to enable learning, needs to reflect this.
16 Sep 2021