Stellenbosch University’s Strategic Human Resources Management (PG Dip Strategic HRM) is the first offering developed as part of the institution’s Hybrid Learning (HL) Strategy, which will involve a growing portfolio of flexible offerings for working adults. The design of the programme is the result of dynamic interactions between the academics in the Department of Industrial Psychology, highly respected industry specialists and SU’s new and growing hybrid learning design team. Student testimonials, after their first semester of study, show that this process of industry-academic collaboration, supported by a dedicated team of learning designers, culminated in a customised, impactful, and flexible learning experience. 

The human resources (HR) field is adapting intensively in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes the course ideal for experienced practitioners and leaders to sharpen their strategic outlook. The Department itself is established as a forerunner in HR, presented their flagship diploma in a hybrid format, in line with global trends and changing student needs. The decision to develop this course was undertaken after market analysis showed this as an important need. 

The first classes were presented as a series of interactive webinars during the diploma’s contact week (25 January – 29 January 2021), and these were well received by the first cohort of SU’s hybrid learning students, including students from across Africa.  Professor Ramjugernath, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Learning and Teaching, indicated in his welcome message to the group that since SU has steadily built its capacity to apply digital learning technologies to enrich the learning experience of its students, he was confident that the programme would enrich their academic learning and enable the group to build a network of peers. 

He affirmed this group’s proactivity to hone their critical skills through their attendance and that it was necessary to support HR managers and leaders’ ability to navigate complex situations and manage unforeseen risks, to enable their key role in organisational learning. 

The modules covered in the first contact block included Strategic HR Management and Ethics, Talent Management, Strategic HR Development and Compensation and Employment Law. 

Appreciations for the programme’s first week were passed on to the course assessors, describing the programme as being ‘well structured’ and that the ‘online support and content was commendable’. 

Feedback also indicated that while the HR landscape was challenging, the course provided anchoring, motivation, and knowledge to take these practical insights directly into the workplace, as the participants were active in industry and that the hybrid learning format had enhanced access for working professionals, to block off self-paced study time, and contact time. It was universally shared by the group that the depth of learning was significant in a short period. 

Hybrid learning is differentiated from Augmented Remote Teaching and Learning (ARTLA), in that it is not an interim response to the unique circumstances associated with the global pandemic. Rather, courses that are intentionally designed for hybrid delivery are evidence of SU’s long-term strategy to respond to global trends and changes in education. Additionally, hybrid learning is crafted hand in glove with the programme’s convenors, with deliberate pedagogical approaches which are navigated as a cross-disciplinary team – supporting the evolution of learning and teaching at the university collectively. For academic staff, the active support they receive from the Hybrid Learning team provides an opportunity for professional development, as they learn to facilitate learning through a more flexible modality of predominantly self-paced (asynchronous) learning. 

Mr. Marius Meyer: A pivotal driver for this hybrid postgraduate diploma has left a remarkable legacy through his HRM thought leadership

Furthermore, hybrid learning is designed with networking and peer support at its core to facilitate long term support and interaction with cohorts. 

A fledgling team has been formed to support the university on this ongoing journey, consisting of learning technologists, multimedia specialists working within and along key strategic units at the University to ensure an integrated team is forged. 

The celebration itself of this important milestone for Stellenbosch University, the Department of Industrial Psychology and Hybrid Learning unit is bittersweet as the course convenor and doyen of strategic HR, Senior lecturer Mr. Marius Meyer, passed away. It was a poignant tribute to him that the team forged ahead in honour of Mr. Meyer’s contribution to the department and the HR field.  The feedback from this first cohort is testament to this.

This year, the diploma drew students from Southern Africa and Europe – with over 300 international students enrolling for the module on Strategic HRM and Ethics, says Prof Aletta Odendaal, Department of Industrial Psychology’s Chair. 

The collective professional experiences over the past year have shown how much is to be achieved through productive forms of digital engagement and online collaboration. 

All stakeholders in this value chain, stand to benefit. 

Hybrid learning benefits the students who can expect a learning schedule that is more flexible than a fully on-campus, residential one, with frequent opportunity to interact with peers and lecturers in the virtual classroom. Lecturers can develop new skills and stay in tune with the demands of our time and in turn, Stellenbosch University remains relevant and responsive to the changing education needs, providing greater access and transformative, supportive experiences.

Germaine Tahor
Hybrid Learning – Marketing