Why Hybrid Learning?

SU has been relatively well-positioned to respond to the immense disruption to the higher education landscape over the past few years.

“It could build on 20 years’ technology-enabled learning and teaching as well as substantial investments in IT infrastructure”
says Dr Antoinette van der Merwe, Senior Director: Learning and Teaching Enhancement at SU.

Stellenbosch University’s (SU) response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been swift and pragmatic, despite the high levels of uncertainty. The response has since evolved to a flexible approach to meet various faculties’ and student cohorts’ unique needs over the longer term.

Prior to these necessary responses to the global pandemic, however, the university already committed strategic funding to create the infrastructure for hybrid courses – offerings which involve sustained periods of fully online learning. As a result, SU has been expanding its internal instructional design capacity before the COIVD-19 pandemic.

SU is, however, approaching emerging models of educational delivery critically and carefully: “We have learned, over the past year, that even the students and lecturers who describe themselves as ‘digital natives’, find online learning and teaching challenging,” says Miné de Klerk, Project Manager Hybrid Learning at SU.

“Virtual and (mostly) self-paced learning can be isolating and frustrating. It calls for a remarkably high level of motivation and resilience, whereas face-to-face learning (ideally) offers a supportive environment conducive to learning – such as a dedicated, shared place and time with peers. We are therefore continually striving to improve our design of hybrid courses. We seek to incorporate as much in-person facilitation and interactivity in the virtual classroom as possible, and to retain a responsiveness to the unique contexts of our diverse students. We can – and should –  craft a response that speaks to our context – as opposed to mimicking ones that do not”.