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21 May 2019 | Story Igno van Niekerk | Photo Stephen Collett
Digital storytelling
Collaborating for the common good are from left: Willem Ellis, Karen Venter, Dr Deidre van Rooyen, Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, and Dr Johan van Zyl.

Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences quoted the Cat Stevens song I can’t keep it in, to capture the excitement surrounding the opening of a Digital Storytelling Lab on the Bloemfontein Campus on 10 May 2019.

After months of hard work by Dr Deidre van Rooyen, Willem Ellis, Karen Venter, as well as the staff of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Centre for Development Support, the Common Good First lab was completed just in time for the launch attended by about 50 delegates from other South African universities, as well as private and public institutions.

Stories meet technology

In a message, from Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement, informed the audience that the launch heralded the joining of the old world of stories with the new world of digital technology. Julie Adair, Director of Digital Collaboration at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, welcomed the UFS as a partner to this international social innovation collaborative project in a video message. 

Dr Van Rooyen, the project manager for the UFS, explained how she got involved in the Common Good First project, what the benefits of digital storytelling are, as well as what opportunities the lab creates for cooperation between role players involved in social innovation projects. 

Why the Common Good First lab?

The purpose of the lab is to create a digital network to identify, showcase and connect social innovation projects in South Africa to one another and to universities around the world for research, student engagement and learning and teaching. The lab has been fitted with state-of-the-art equipment for recording and digitising the stories that result from social innovation projects.

In a live Skype session with Dr Il-Haam Petersen, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), and some of the recent successes of the digital stories in Philippi in the Western Cape were shared.

Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, UFS Director Community Engagement did the final honours by cutting the ribbon, declaring the lab open, and sharing the dream that the work done in this lab will contribute to positive relationships and cooperation between the university and the community, in making not only the university, but the country and the world a better place.


News Archive

Staff experience running in the shoes of students
2014-07-29


Photo: Sonia Small

From having to upload money on a card and buying lunch at Thakaneng Bridge to naming the SRC members, some UFS staff members got to experience life as a full-time student on our Bloemfontein Campus.

During their 2014 Purpose Summit on 22 July, staff from Student Affairs competed against each other in an Amazing Race.

“We got to see how students actually run around on campus each day,” said Elize Rall from Residence Life. “We always hear from parents how their children have to go from one place on campus to the other to get things done … and now we know what they are talking about.”

Staff who attended the summit was divided into teams during the morning’s practical session. Similar to the popular television programme, The Amazing Race, there were quite a few checkpoints – often with some formidable challenges and quizzes.

To make their tasks even more difficult, the participants were forced to take the route students with disabilities would have taken. This means: no stairs could be climbed and no curbs could be jumped – they could only use ramps and elevators.

"The experience was extra-ordinary," said Lerato Masapo from Residence Life. "I learned a lot and I didn't realise how difficult it was for our disabled students to move around the campus.

"What struck me the most was the distance between every building and how far the students had to walk to reach certain places. This made me realise the importance and responsibility on us as staff members to know our environment and assist students accordingly in that regard."

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