Online Learning

I have helped and consulted large numbers of academics to develop blended learning experiences for students.  This is still a very new approach, but slowly but surely lecturers are getting used to having an online component to their face-to-face classes.  The sad part is that many still believe that uploading vast numbers of files to the learner management system is equal to blended learning.  For blended learning or online learning to be successful you really do need to create a learning experience which will guide students through the content that you make available.

I saw this video today and I do believe that this is what the learning experience of an online student should be. This is a fully online degree programme, but from the short snippets on the computer screen that I see, I do think that this is what an online course should look like.  (obviously I am only seeing small portions, but what I see I do like.)

#LearningGoesOn: How some classes carried on through #FeesMustFall

Article from – 31 October 2016

Usually at 7AM Kerishini would be frantically rushing to her first seminar of the day. But in the closing months of the 2016 academic year, she was one of the thousands of students whose classes were cancelled or chose to stay home during the ongoing #FeesMustFall protests.

“I wasn’t terrified of failing or doing badly like I usually am,” she says, “I was just scared of being caught in the crossfire at campus. Even though it’s calm at campus right now, I’m still scared. The protests are very unpredictable.”

While the headlines have focussed on campus closures and violence, Kerishini and fellow Bachelor of Science classmates at the University of KwaZulu-Natal are among those who have chosen to carry on with their studies, and as a result have found themselves moving to online lectures to stay on top of their coursework. And so, far, Kerishini has been seeing an upside to the whole affair.

Our software solutions increasingly emphasise design for mobile devices, and interfaces which work on low-cost mobile phones

“When I had to drive into university, I had to wake up at 5am and leave at 7pm,” Kerishini says. “Now, I can wake up when I want to. I like studying at night so I generally sleep through the day and study during the night. I love how quiet my house is at night.”

The decision to take the classes online was taken by Kerishini’s tutor.

“One of my lecturers records himself doing each lecture and uploads them on our learning website,” Kerishini says. “He also decided to post tutorials online instead of having face-to-face tutorials however, we can meet the tutors during the tutorial time if we need help.”

Kerishini is just one of many students who have felt that they had to resort to learning remotely as protests saw many university campuses too dangerous to be on or closed down altogether. Most universities already had tools which have been in development or in early stages of deployment, preparing for a future in which online learning will become a core part of university education, helping to reduce costs and make courses more accessible to all.

At many institutions these have quickly pressed into full service with students and lecturers who didn’t want to take part in the protests for whatever reason turning to them to get through.

We spoke to Anna-Retha Bouwer, a spokeswoman for the University of Pretoria (UP) about the arrangements the faculty made for remote learning.

“The University decided to resume its academic programme by implementing arrangements alternative to on-campus lectures after the wave of protest action that has been experienced at various institutions of higher learning over the past weeks,” Bouwer says.

Tools for learning

UP has been using a platform called Blackboard for supplementing face-to-face learning for some time. ClickUP, the internal name for the system, is used for student registration and submitting coursework, but during #FeesMustFall it’s become an alternative for students like Kerishani who haven’t felt safe coming onto campus.

“All lecture and study material will be made available by the faculties either online or by other means. In cases where contact between students and lecturers is required, arrangements will be made with students per module via their respective faculties, and communicated on clickUP,” the university says on its website.

The University of the Witswatersrand (Wits) has also pushed its existing tools into service at an accelerated rate.

“Prior to 2015 eLearning was a standalone unit in the university. In 2015, eLearning was integrated into the Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Development,” says Head of eLearning at WITS, Dr Nico Baird, “This signalled a shift away from seeing eLearning as a ‘nice-to-have’, towards mainstreaming the use of technology into the planning and delivery of all teaching and learning practices in the university.”

Do you think #FeesMustFall will affect your child starting uni in 2017?

Over the course of the this year Wits has spent time training lecturers and students to use its online platform, known as Wits-e, more effectively. The launch of three massive open online courses through edX has also contributed significantly to research regarding the scalability and best practices of the remote learning solutions.

This insight has proved invaluable as Wits launched a way for lecturers to lecture and students to learn when university campus became too dangerous for some.

“One solution which has been fast-tracked as result of the protests is lecture capture,” says Baird, “We planned to roll out a lecture streaming pilot study in the first semester of 2017. Following the protests, we decided to make a scaled down version of the service available immediately, to allow students to more easily access material for exam preparation. We are currently rolling out a lecture capture and distribution service in partnership with Grove Group, a Google Premier Partner.”

Problem solving while problem solving

If #FeesMustFall has proved an unexpected test ground for future online learning tools in South African universities, it’s also revealed weaknesses within the systems. As ever, it’s connectivity that’s the biggest issue, especially for those students who don’t have access once they leave the campus grounds. This has made some angry, as it accentuates the divide between the haves and have-nots.

“We use campus WiFi, but nobody gives a fuck if you have to use internet elsewhere. In fact, I don’t think it’s come up at all,” says UKZN tutor Jesamine Rikisahedew, who is also studying for a masters in Biological Science.

That’s not to say no-one’s come forward to try to help: Cell C, MTN and Telkom have all offered to zero-rate traffic to university websites until the end of the 2016 academic year. This offer was seized by a number of local universities, including Wits and UKZN.

“We have provided them [network operators] with specific IP addresses and, until the end of the year, students will be able to access these services without it using their own data,” says Baird.

Telkom has told us that UKZN has taken also taken it up on its offer.

Despite the cost of data coming down there is of course the question of what students have to use to access this content.

“Due to the nature of the strikes at the Westville Campus, not everyone can access the LANs. They get kept inside by protesters,” says Rikisahedew.

Not everyone has a notebook

So it’s not just the cost of data that’s an issue. Many students at our universities don’t have computers right now. UKZN, for example, did make it compulsory for first years to have a notebook from this year – and allocated notebooks to NSFAS students – but that means those in other cohorts still studying don’t have tools to access the net at all. Wits’ Baird is well aware of the lack of reliable access to computers off-campus too.

The net result of this is that many students have to use their smartphones to access this content. Not ideal, but reportedly workable.

“Our software solutions increasingly emphasise design for mobile devices, and interfaces which work on low-cost mobile phones,” Baird says.

As exams approach, Kerishini says she’s coped well with the disruptions but she relies heavily on her own discipline to make sure she studies. “I’m fortunate enough to be disciplined enough to work when I need to. I procrastinate sometimes but I get the work done.”


A-Twittering we shall go…

Nico Baird

I READ an article about how social networks like and are experiencing a slowdown of new subscribers. The article asks the question if this is the end of social networks.

I honestly don’t think so. I have always believed that certain social networks have only a limited lifespan. As new innovation in online social networking evolve people and groups of people tend to migrate across various social networks.

One such social network that will hit South Africa very soon is The pace of our lives are increasing and we do not always have time to blog the events in our lives. Facebook made it possible to quickly update your status and tell your friends what you have been up to. But often people only logged into their Facebook account to set their status and to see the status of their friends.

The main aim of Twitter is to update your status and inform your friends. This update is the length of an SMS and you only get 140 characters to tell your friends what you are up to.

When you go to you can quickly and easily set up your free account.

You search the network for your friends and link to them. When you select friends to follow they receive a message stating that you are now following them, they can then decide if they would like to follow you back.

In South Africa Twitter is big in the tech community, but it is growing quickly. I predict that in a few months you will find articles in all the local papers talking about Twitter and how popular it has become.

When you go and join Twitter remember to add me as a friend.

Twitter will also be quite prominent at PodcampSA this year.

Remember to sign-up for PodcampSA at

podcamp banner


Nico Baird

EK het Saterdag met ’n groepie lede van die ATKV gesels oor hoe om die internet beter te benut in hul organisasie. Nie net was dit lekker om weer vir ’n verandering ’n draai te gaan maak in Kimberley nie, maar ek het besef hoeveel opsies daar deesdae vir mense beskikbaar is om ’n boodskap oor te dra.

Die internet het so ’n wonderlike medium geword dat ons werklik hierdie wonder van die digitale era moet aangryp en optimaal moet benut.

Nuusbriewe is nog altyd ’n effektiewe medium om nuus te versprei en om inligting maklik oor te dra aan groepe mense. In die verlede was dit egter ’n duur oefening. Drukkoste en dan posgeld het hierdie kommunikasiemedium uiters duur gemaak.

Daar is egter ’n groot aantal opsies op die web beskikbaar en die skep en verspreiding van ’n digitale nuusbrief kan vinnig en goedkoop wees. is ’n gratis diens wat jy maklik aan jou blog of webblad kan verbind, en deur die regte opsies te kies kan mense op jou webblad inteken om jou nuusbrief te ontvang. Die verspreiding geskied ook outomaties sodra jy jou webblad of blog se inligting opdateer.

Die tweede opsie is ’n diens soos waar jy al die name en e-posadresse van ou lede of belanghebbendes kan invoer. Jy kan dan van verskillende bronne die nodige skakels invoer op Jy kies ’n tyd van die dag of die week wat die nuusbrief gestuur moet word en sal dan outomaties al die nuwe inligting van al die verskillende webbladsye wat jy gelys het, versamel en in ’n netjiese e-pos saamstel en uitstuur.

Ek het ’n akademiese / tegnologienuusbrief saamgestel wat daagliks al die nuutste inligting saamstel en uitstuur.

Indien jy belang stel om dit te ontvang, stuur net vir my ’n e-pos en jy sal dit dan daagliks kry. Jy kan ook maklik onder aan die e-pos op ’n skakel kliek indien jy nie meer die nuusbrief wil ontvang nie.

Gaan speel ’n bietjie rond, jy en jou organisasie of vereniging kan wondere verrig met só ’n nuusbrief.  Jy kan ook maklik bo aan die linkerkant van die skerm inteken op die ClickKliek nuusbrief!


Social networking a must for fundraisers

Nico Baird

FUNDRAISING has always been a very important part of any organisation’s daily tasks. Most charitable organisations are dependent on donations and support from the public.

In this day and age, however, it is more difficult to get the support you need. There are so many organisations bidding for the same support that you really need to do that little extra to get attention.

In the past few weeks I have been asked by organisations to help them harness the Internet to generate income. Most organisations do not have websites or even have someone around with the knowledge to utilise all the tools available.

Most of these tools are free and can generate large income if they are utilised correctly. But I think that at times it is a question of being penny wise and pound foolish.

There are a number of things that organisations can do, but I do believe that the most important is to create your own social network online. Creating a Facebook group to link to your website and also to get people to join your cause is the first step.

Please note that there are more than one social network out there and as organisation, joining more than one will be in your best interest. You will see how quickly people join your cause.

These groups grow bigger and bigger on a daily basis and as organisations you immediately have access to a large number of people who support your cause. Through the Internet and your social network platform, you can now directly and easily communicate with them and if needed mobilise them to action.

Organisations not embracing the world of social networking and new media will need to re-examine their strategies. If you want support you will need to go where the people are, and they are online all the time.

Podcamp South Africa to be hosted in Bloemfontein – 19 April 2008

DURING November 2007 I attended the first Podcamp to be hosted in South Africa.

Podcamp Cape Town was a huge success and my greatest wish was for Podcamp to come to Bloemfontein, to the centre of South Africa.

I am proud to be able to announce that Podcamp South Africa will be held in Bloemfontein on 19 April.

A PodCamp is a usually free BarCamp-style community UnConference for new media enthusiasts and professionals, including bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, social networkers and anyone curious about new media.

The first PodCamp was held from 8 to 10 September 2006 in Boston, Massachusetts. PodCamps   are now being held worldwide.

PodCamp is not just about podcasting.

If you are interested in blogging, social media, social networking, podcasting, video on the net, if you are a podsafe musician (or want to be), or   just   someone curious about new media, this is an event you cannot afford to miss.

PodcampSA is free to attend and at this stage we are looking for sponsors and people in the new media community to get involved, not only to attend, but to spread the word and lend a hand.

I was asked “why Bloem? Why not Cape Town or Johannesburg?” and my answer has always been, “Why not Bloemfontein?” We may not have the biggest new media community, but I think it is because we are not aware of each other, everybody is busy with their own thing, not knowing that there are others in Bloemfontein that could possibly assist you.

If you want to get involved please visit and register to attend this event. The new design of the website should go live soon!

People or companies who would like to help or sponsor any part of the podcamp, can send an email to

Pangea Day

In 2006 the visionary documentary filmmaker, TED Prize winner and founder of Pangea Day, spoke at the TED conference. At this conference she unveiled her wish to change the world through the power of film.

To find out more about Pangea Day I went to the website and after watching an incredibly well produced trailer. I found the following information.


Pangea Day taps the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future. In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.

On May 10, 2008 – Pangea Day – sites in Cairo, Dharamsala, Kigali, London, New York City, Ramallah, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv will be video conferenced live to produce a 4-hour program of powerful films, visionary speakers, and uplifting music.

I love the fact that if you have access to a venue where a screening can be arranged on the 10th of May you can submit it to the website and it will be listed. Two venues in SA will be screening the event, but I honestly hope that a venue in Bloemfontein will come forward and give their facilities for this cause. Not only will they be doing their part, but they will get quite a bit of exposure around the world. If you have a screening facility available let me know and I will assist you in setting it up.

Let’s put Bloemfontein on the map and do our part. Visit today and watch the short trailer and get involved.


The Knowledge Age (TED)

WE are living in the knowledge age and having access to information on demand is vital to the way we live and do business. Through the Internet we can now easily access knowledge we would otherwise probably never have had access too.

An example of this knowledge being shared is TED. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from these three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Each year TED brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers who are challenged to give the talk of their lives. These talks are on average about 18 minutes long and are just amazing to watch. They gather to spread their ideas and share their thoughts.

Only a 1000 people are allowed to attend the event each year and a ticket is a sought after item. This year TED has put one ticket up for auction on Ebay. Amazingly in a matter of two days the bid for this single ticket has gone up to more than $30 000,00, that is just over R210 000,00. The bidding is still continuing and there is still a few days left for this auction.

But you do not have to be rich to have access to this conference. All you have to do is go to and there you can download and watch all the talks. You can even subscribe to the Video or Audio feed in iTunes and each week you will get two new talks.

This is a vital resource for educators because these videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

If you want to view some of the best talks available given by some of the world’s thought leaders and pioneers then you should go to the website today.

It has been announced that a South African version of TED will take place in Cape Town later this year, but I will keep you posted as information becomes available.



Diensverskaffers melk ons leeg

APPLE het aangekondig dat verbruikers nou flieks deur iTunes kan huur. Jy betaal basies $3,99 of R28, laai die fliek af en kyk dit.

Jy het 30 dae om die fliek te begin kyk en jy het 24uur om dit klaar te kyk nadat jy begin het.

Nadat ek dit gesien het, het ek besef dat dit ’n wonderlike diens is, maar in Suid-Afrika sal dit onbekostigbaar wees.

Die gemiddelde fliek wat jy kan aflaai, is 1,5gigabyte en in Suid-Afrika sal dit jou ongeveer R100 of meer kos vir daardie 1,5gigabyte. Tel die R30 by wat jy vir die fliek se huur betaal en dit werk jou sowat R130 per fliek uit. Dit vir ’n fliek wat jy slegs vir 24uur kan kyk. Jy kan dus nie vandag kyk en môre weer nie, jy moet dit vandag klaar kyk en dan verval dit.

Ek kon nie glo dat die klomp Amerikaners so opgewonde is oor hierdie diens as dit so duur is nie. Dit is toe wat ek gaan ondersoek instel.

Ek het na 25 van die eerste ADSL-verskaffers in Amerika wat ek kon opspoor gekyk en kon nêrens ’n beperking op die hoeveelheid data wat jy kan aflaai op enige van die bladsye kry nie.

Dit is dus vir Amerikaners maklik om ’n fliek teen R30 te huur, daar is nie werklik enige ekstra koste vir die aflaai van die fliek nie. Dit is net jou basiese internetkoste (wat jy reeds betaal het) en dan die huurkoste vir die fliek.

Ek het werklik geglo dat ons teen hierdie tyd in Suid-Afrika ons by die res van die wêreld sou aansluit en meer aanvaarbare pryse vir internettoegang sou betaal.

Dit wil my egter voorkom of die diensverskaffers hierdie goue koei wil melk tot op die bitter einde.

Ons moet maar net terugsit en dit aanvaar.

Gelukkig sal ons dit een van die dae nie agterkom nie, siende dat ons nie elektrisiteit sal hê om ons rekenaars aan te sit nie.




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