Life Sciences: Expanding and consolidating student learning experiences within an online environment

First year Life Sciences lecturers and practical facilitators created a blended online environment to supplement their teaching, learning and assessment practices for a large number of students. The module is structured according to lectures, tutorials, and practical lab sessions.

Weekly topics & homework activities (formative assessment/quizzes)

Students are provided with the opportunity to expand and consolidate their learning experiences, as they progress through weekly topics and presentations; and homework activities. These homework activities (formative quizzes) cover concepts such as:  Photosynthesis, Respiration, Mitosis, and Meiosis. The students are provided with grades upon submission. Furthermore, the students are able to view the memo, in order to reflect on learning progress related to each topic.


Practical test to improve scientific writing

An online practical test has also been setup to assist students with the basic principles of scientific writing.  The students are expected to peruse a journal article and answer questions related to research skills; and referencing methods.

Gradebook reduces administrative tasks

The Gradebook eTool was used to record the marks of all online activities/tests. This allows lecturers to easily collate and export marks, and view the combined average course grade of all students.  Students are able to view the gradebook and monitor their learning progress.

Course resources enhances self-directed learning

In addition, the course resources are structured and include:

  • Theory and practical guides;
  • Past test papers and memos; and
  • Weekly lecture material.

Students are also able to access resources (videos, skills guide and presentations) related to the practical component of the course; allowing students to reinforce knowledge and skills, andextend their learning experience beyond the classroom.

**Did you know? 20 887 users (students and staff) accessed iKamva during the month of March 2018.


‘Lessons eTool’ enables lecturers to apply a scaffolded approach

As academics, it is important to incorporate learning theories within your teaching, learning and assessment practices. This will allow you to guide your practice but also promote planning; teaching approaches; and enhance students’ learning experience.  Lev Vygotsky’s constructivist learning theory emphasises the effectiveness of scaffolding learning material.  The CIECT team encourages lecturers to use a scaffolded approach to teaching and learning, within your traditional practices and online spaces. This approach assists students with assimilation, iteration, and consolidation. Furthermore, the lecturer is able to extend learning beyond the classroom.


There are various strategies one can use to present learning material in a scaffolded approach. These include:

  • Recognition of prior learning;
  • Dividing learning material into manageable sections or ‘chunks’;
  • Providing clear instructions with expected learning outcomes to tasks; and
  • Presenting/explaining information in multiple ways to further assimilate content.

The ‘Lessons eTool’ allows a lecturer to design an interactive and structured blended-learning environment, enabling students to actively engage with the learning material via the iKamva platform.  Hence, content and activities related to coursework can be presented in a scaffolded approach, whereby students are presented with information on related topics/concepts broken down into smaller sections; along with related activities which aim to reinforce student learning.

Using the ‘Lessons eTool’ within iKamva, lecturers are able to integrate features such as Online Tests, Assignments, Polls, and Discussion Forums. The platform also features a checklist, which can be used by students to keep track of their progress within a specific section, enhancing self-directed learning.  In addition, it allows lecturers to incorporate a variety of digital media including YouTube videos, and external resources, which students can use to further expand their knowledge and understanding.

Lecturers are encouraged to attend and commit to the design workshops, hosted by the CIECT team. It is important for lecturers to focus on the effective design and development of interactive online environments; and not only dissemination of notes and lecture slides. **The pedagogical value will be explored further within these workshops; and its application within your online environment.

NB: The CIECT Team has embarked on its Roadshow. This scaffolded approach (presentation and structured online environment) was presented to the Law Faculty (HODs & lecturers).  Follow-up discipline specific workshops will be conducted for the lecturers; as they have seen the need to create more effective and interactive online environments.

English Department: Online spaces supplement consultations, lessons and assignments

Lecturers within the Department of English aim to provide students (across year levels) – with authentic learning experiences; and extend their teaching-and-learning practices through online environments. The lecturers employ various eTools within iKamva to supplement the process of student consultations; scaffolding of lesson topics; and avoiding plagiarism.

Sign-up eTool: Lecturer, Roger Field has utilised this eTool to create time-slots for student consultations. Various slots are created according to his consultation times, whereby students sign-up for 20 minute consultation periods. Through clear guiding processes, lecturers are able to clarify and confirm student attendance for further discussion and consultation.

Lessons eTool: This eTool was used to structure and scaffold content (lesson topics). The lecturer scaffolds the relevant content by providing an introduction to the topic/specific theme; supported by embedded YouTube clips; and related article/reading.

**This scaffolded approach follows principles of instructional design and learning theories, in order to reinforce the assimilation of the lesson topic.

Turnitin: This platform is widely used across the department as academic writing is an important component. This anti-plagiarism software is used as a developmental approach to assist students with referencing, paraphrasing and overall improvement of writing abilities (i.e. crafting ideas)Often, if students’ similarity index is too high, students are able to refine and edit their work and resubmit – to avoid plagiarism.

**It should be noted that in some year levels, there are a large number of students. Therefore, Tutors are able to provide students with constructive feedback on their assignments.  Feedback is imperative, as students should be guided on how to improve their writing skills.

Lecturers are encouraged to attend and commit to the design workshops (eTools and Assessment & Turnitin), hosted by the CIECT team. It is important for lecturers to focus on the effective design and development of interactive online environments; and not only dissemination of notes and lecture slides.

Science Faculty: Blended Teaching-and-Learning practices across disciplines

A total number of 197 blended learning environments were created across disciplines, within the Science Faculty. These environments have enabled students to access various learning material such as lecture slidesreadingspast exam papers and links to YouTube videos. In addition, students receive communication from lecturers via the announcement tool.

Various lecturers in the Faculty have incorporated the use of weekly tutorial quizzes within the Tests & Quizzes eTool, which forms part of the formative assessment component. These tutorials enable students to monitor their weekly progress and enhance self-directed learning.

A number of modules require students to perform practical tasks such as lab experiments. These were supplemented with instructional sheets, as well as videos. Practicals were reinforced through the use of video demonstrations. Students were able to access the learning material, prior to attending class sessions.

Lecturers also conducted their Course Evaluations via iKamva, through the Tests & Quizzes eTool. This mode of delivery also reduced the administrative load, whereby lecturers were able to easily retrieve collated student information, in ‘real-time’.

The Lessons eTool was effectively used for a Computer Science Honours module.  Students attended weekly seminars hosted by various guest lecturers. Furthermore, the structure included readings related to the weekly seminars. In addition, students were expected to complete weekly assignments, which entailed a constructive summary.

Lecturers are encouraged to attend and commit to the design workshops, hosted by the CIECT team. It is important for lecturers to focus on the effective design and development of interactive online environments; and not mere dissemination of notes and lecture slides.

Economic Management Sciences (EMS): Blended environments for learning and teaching purposes

A number of 277 online environments have been created for the 2017 academic year. Lecturers across the EMS Faculty, within the various departments have engaged in blended activities to supplement their learning-and-teaching.  They have consulted and attended various training workshops offered by CIECT, to seek advice regarding the design and structure of online environments to support student learning.  The iKamva platform was used in conjunction with face-to-face lectures and tutorials, to extend the classroom experience and assist with authentic learning.

These online environments included the following blended practices:

  • Structuring learning material through the use of the interactive Lessons andCourse Resources eToolsThe learning content was structured and integrated digital media components (images, audio, pdf documents and PowerPoint slides) in order to support and reinforce various concepts and topics taught; and to accommodate diverse learning styles. Students were able to view the interactive videos at their own pace and from various geographical locations. This blended mode of teaching allowed both full-time and working professionals to engage in the teaching regardless of space and time.
  • Enabling students to sign-up for tutorials according to their timetables;
  • Communication activities that included posting of Announcementsand setup of online discussion topics. The Discussion Forum was used to allocate group work topics, and various questions were shared within the groups;
  • Creating different assessments includingreflective individual online tests and group assignments.  The assessments were directly aligned to the course outcomes and formed part of the final continuous assessment mark. In addition the memos of the tests were translated into different languages.

Furthermore, the School of Business and Finance (SBF) Department has been engaged in projects that included the:

– Development of an Application server (designed by CIECT development team); whereby prospective students were able to apply for specific Programmes that are offered through the Business School.  Prospective students were able to engage in writing the online admissions tests within iKamva, which are designed to test numeracy, critical thinking, reading and comprehension skills.  These results were captured online and the administrators were able to retrieve the results and approve prospective student applications accordingly. This online project was setup in an attempt to streamline administrative tasks and application processes.

**A pilot project to design, develop and implement a distant/‘Purely Online’ Programme is currently underway and includes various stakeholders. These stakeholders include collaboration among UWC Departments from the DVC Academic office, SBF lecturers, CIECT and ICS team members, and the Higher Education Partners- South Africa (HEPSA), an international educational partner.  A specific EMS Programme has been identified and the roll-out of this pilot is scheduled to take place during the second semester of 2018. This online programme will be designed and implemented in consultation with the CIECT team, specific lecturers and HEPSA.

Education Faculty: Designing blended learning and teaching environments

Lecturers in the Education Faculty created a number of 78 online modules within iKamva, for the 2017 academic year. Various eTools have been used, such as the Course Resources, Tests & Quizzes, Discussion Forum, Lessons, Dropbox, Turnitin and Microsoft Word – to support teaching, learning and assessment practices. In addition, Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) such as Digital PhotoStories and ePortfolios were used for assessment purposes.

  • Course Resources: Lecturers created a structured environment to provide students with resources such as videos, PowerPoint presentations, articles, and documents etc.
  • Tests & Quizzes: Lecturers designed and developed online assessments; making use of various question types. Some tests incorporated negative marking (i.e. 0.5 points deducted per incorrect answer). In addition, this eTool was used to conduct online Course Evaluations.
  • Lessons: Students were also required to engage in self-evaluation and peer-evaluation activities. The Lessons eTool was used as a reflective space, where students could provide the lecturer and their peers with this feedback. Furthermore, this eTool includes a variety of other functionalities (embedding videos, documents, external links and polls etc.).
  • Dropbox: Students were also expected to submit an assignment in their Dropbox folder on iKamva. **Note: The Dropbox eTool automatically creates a folder for each student allowing for private sharing of documents between the student and lecturer.

The track changes’ functionality within Microsoft Word was used to enable the tutors to provide appropriate feedback for assignments. The specific assignment, including the feedback, is returned to a student – in order for the student to improve their academic paper.

Turnitin (anti-plagiarism platfom) was used for students to develop their academic writing. Turnitin was also used to monitor and track student submissions; as well as incorporating the GradeMark, Peer-Review and Rubric eTools. Students were able to submit assignments and hereafter each student (who submitted), received an anonymous student paper which they were required to review. The review process entailed the constructive feedback related to grammar, spelling, sentence structure; and relevant content/topic.

It should be noted that a collaborative Digital Storytelling Project was discussed and conceptualised between CIECT and Education lecturers. This project enables the 2nd and 3rd year Education students to create and plan digital stories to deliver their lesson plans during fieldwork practicals. **NB: Students received the mobile devices to develop their lesson plans. Each semester a specific student group will receive the mobile devices on loan which is returned after submission.

Lecturers are encouraged to attend and commit to the design workshops, hosted by the CIECT team. It is important for lecturers to focus on the effective design and development of interactive online environments; and not mere dissemination of notes and lecture slides.

Please contact the CIECT team to assist with the effective design and development of your online environment.

Law Faculty: Blended learning and teaching to support traditional practices

Lecturers across departments in the Law Faculty have created a total of 86 blended learning environments, for the academic year, 2017.  Lecturers make use of various content, communication, and assessment eTools within the iKamva platform. These include:

Announcements: Lecturers and tutors relay pertinent course information to students.

Course ResourcesStructured into weekly folders containing documents, journal articles, PowerPoint presentations and other information relevant to weekly lectures.

Tests & Quizzes: Lecturers have made use of a number of question types as part of their formative assessment such as Multiple Choice, True/False and Short Answer/Essay type questions.

In addition, these question types have been used to create weekly ‘eTutorials’, consisting of a question banks.  Each eTutorial entails specific time-frames, topics and assigned marks. These ensure that students consistently engage with and reflect on topics and concepts covered during face-to-face classes.

Some lecturers have also included Podcasts within their blended learning environments. These audio-recordings expand on topics covered during face-to-face lectures and aim to further reinforce students’ understanding of course content. These podcasts can be downloaded and listened to through a PC or mobile devices from any location.  A variety of multimedia content also ensures that the different learning styles of students are taken into account.

Lecturers are encouraged to attend and commit to the design workshops, hosted by the CIECT team. It is important for lecturers to focus on the effective design and development of interactive online environments; and not mere dissemination of notes and lecture slides.

Please contact the CIECT team to assist with the effective design and development of your online environment.

Geography lecturer and students apply video production skills to develop stories

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography, Environmental Studies and Tourism, Dr Suzanne Grenfell – recently used video as a medium for students to capture the effects of the drought, currently being experienced in the Western Cape.

Post-graduate students from the department went on a fieldtrip to the Theewaterskloof Dam where they captured images and video footage to develop their stories.

Dr Grenfell attended CIECTs Multimedia: Teaching Tools for the Digital Age Workshop, in February. This workshop enabled her to edit images, create audio (narration) tracks, compile media into a video and upload to an online platform.

Dr Grenfell gave feedback in relation to the development of videos, created by her students. She states that sharing these skills with students, has provided her with a new and creative way of accessing their knowledge of the situation.

Dr Grenfell also provided feedback related to the facilitation of the workshop. She states: “I think the department was blown away, thanks for a great course!

Contact the CIECT team to actively engage in the Multimedia workshop. You will be exposed to a variety of tools; and will be able to develop teaching and learning material, using a device and software of your choice.

Contact: Clint Braaf; Andre Daniels; and Marion Hermans

CHS Faculty: Blended learning & teaching practices across disciplines

The CHS Faculty has created a total number of 277 online modules within the iKamva platform, in the 2017 academic year.

Lecturers teaching the Post-Graduate Programme in Nursing Education, as well as Undergraduate modules for Social Work and Dietetics, made use ofePortfolios. The students were able to apply the eSkills in order to embed and share digital components (evidence) related to their competencies achieved.

The Announcement tool has been used across disciplines to keep students updated on administrative and content related tasks and activities.

Various assessments, specifically class and group assignments were structured online for student submissions.  The Tests & Quizzes eTool has been used across disciplines for formative as well as summative assessments.

The Discussion Forum was used as a communication tool for group engagement, supervision activities and overall class discussions.  In addition, Tutors in the Psychology Department have made use of the Discussion Forum as a means of assisting students who have queries related to course content. Posts in the discussion forum are visible to all students.  Hence, students registered for this module were able to view and respond to the questions.  The platform thereforeencouraged peer-to-peer interaction.

Furthermore, an eDocumentation web-based system was designed and developed by CIECT, in collaboration with the Nursing Department – to enable Clinical Supervisors to monitor and capture student activities. This project is still in progress. The Supervisors were also introduced to communication and assessments activities within their online environments (iKamva), in order to monitor students engaged in fieldwork activities at different placements.

Dentistry Faculty: Blended learning & teaching practices across disciplines

Lecturers across the Dentistry Faculty have created 63 online modules during the 2017 academic year. Dentistry lecturers contacted the CIECT team to assist with the selection of eTools; and the design and development of their online environments.

eAssessments were designed and developed for formative assessments within various undergraduate modules.  The ‘Tests and Quizzes’ is a popular eTool, as it enables the use of different question types.  In turn, various tests (making use of these question types) were set-up, to reinforce knowledge; and assess competencies and skills acquired. *It should be noted that the CIECT team is often requested to assist with the monitoring of online controlled tests (students seated within specific venues, such as pre-clinical lab settings).

Lecturers have also embedded related video clips, in order for students to view practical examples. These aim to assist with reinforcement and preparation for tests and practical tasks.

In addition students were able to access structured learning material (text and digital media components) – within the ‘Course Resources’ eTool.  This eTool is also used effectively for co-lecturing purposes (lecturers across disciplines, teaching collaboratively in a particular module).

The Expanded Functions Course 2, is a multi-modal short course offered to practicing Oral Hygienists. This blended course was created within the iKamva platform and used to disseminate learning material. In addition, students also actively engaged with various activities. *Pre-reading material was shared online, two weeks prior to the start of the course.  Hence, participants were expected to engage with reading material prior to the 5 day face-to-face course. The students engaged in group discussions related to various topics. Thereafter, they proceeded to the clinical laboratories to apply the theory, within the practical sessions. **It should be noted that this course also enabled Professionals, to attain Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points.