22 October 2021 | Story Eugene Seegers | Photo Jolandi Griesel
Dr Arnelle Mostert receives the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for excellence in learning and teaching from the Vice-Rector: Academic, Dr Engela van Staden, at the annual Learning and Teaching Awards ceremony held in Bloemfontein on 13 October 2021.

The annual Learning and Teaching conference was held virtually by the Centre for Teaching and Learning from 13 to 15 September 2021. The conference, with the theme Quality and Innovation for a New Blended Learning Future, culminated in the annual UFS Learning and Teaching Awards, held on the Bloemfontein Campus on 13 October.

Highlights from Learning and Teaching Awards

This year, the Centre for Teaching and Learning recognised various academic staff members in different learning and teaching categories during the annual Learning and Teaching Awards ceremony. The categories included innovation in learning and teaching (curriculum design / assessment / student engagement / technology-enhanced learning and teaching); research in learning and teaching (novice and advanced); as well as the Vice-Chancellor’s Award. The Vice-Chancellor’s Award acknowledges all-round excellence in the field of learning and teaching.

Dr Arnelle Mostert from the Faculty of Health Sciences, who brought home the Vice-Chancellor’s Award, says, “To win this award has been a dream of mine for a very long time. I am so excited and grateful, as this prize is the culmination of years of dedication and hard work. Excellence in teaching and learning, in my eyes, lies in the small acts we do daily: Improving one lecture at a time, one word of encouragement, helping one student understand a concept, and most of all, touching one heart at a time with kindness and compassion. These small acts create a ripple effect in many peoples’ lives, as the students we teach can touch the lives of many others."

Not only have academic staff been rewarded, but the most valued professional award recognised the contribution of academic support professionals towards the advancement of learning and teaching at the institution and acknowledged dedication, innovation, and excellence in the support sphere. 

Gugu Tiroyabone, winner of the Most Valued Professional award, says of this accolade, “For me, this recognition affirms the commitment of the UFS to Goal 1 of its Strategic Plan 2018-2022: To improve student success and well-being. Reflecting on the past 19 months, a changing educational climate, and an evolving learning and teaching landscape, I appreciate how the new challenges have helped us grow as an institution, both as staff and as students. I am extremely thankful to work alongside a resilient team that is committed to holistic student success both inside and outside the classroom.”

For the first time, the Departmental Award for learning and teaching was bestowed on the School of Accounting (Bloemfontein Campus) and the School of Education Studies (Qwaqwa Campus). These two departments have shown great commitment and involvement in improving learning and teaching under the leadership of Prof Frans Prinsloo and Dr Bekithemba Dube.

This year, the best Qwaqwa and the best Bloemfontein conference paper presentations each received an award. The awards were won by Dr Brian Sibanda (CTL, Qwaqwa Campus) for his paper Practicing decoloniality in English Academic Literacies, and Dr Rick de Villiers (The Humanities, Bloemfontein Campus) for his presentation on Close reading at a distance: Making remote learning intimate and intensive.

Highlights from conference

Day 1: The conference was opened by the international keynote speaker, Dr Carl S Moore, Assistant Chief Academic Officer at the University of the District of Columbia, who gave the presentation Access to Learning. This presentation highlighted the role of online and blended learning within the future of higher education.

Day 2: Guest keynote speaker, Dr Noluthando Toni, Director of Teaching Development at Nelson Mandela University, presented Towards re-imagined blended learning and teaching: Heeding student voices and participation to bolster education practices. Dr Toni’s presentation focused on contextualising the new blended learning and teaching environment within South Africa, and shared experiences from her institution during their remote learning and teaching strategy (2020/21).

Day 3: The guest keynote speakers, Dr Adriana Botha (educational psychologist and senior educational consultant: Blackboard) and Dennis Nevels, presented the paper From Conventional to Online Assessment – Rethink and Innovate, in which they focused on providing academic staff with innovative practices and ideas around online assessment.

Throughout the three days, UFS academic and support staff members shared quality learning and teaching projects and innovations through academic papers in different conference tracks.

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