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DUT expands online

DUT continues to move forward in using digital technology to support and enhance students’ learning experience. As of 2017, just over 60% of DUT’s taught modules have an active online classroom on DUT’s Learning Management System, the ThinkLearnZone. This is up from 53% in 2015. Over the past four years, DUT students from every Faculty and on every campus have benefitted from access to the ThinkLearnZone.

What lies ahead for open and online learning at DUT? DUT is actively looking at ways to improve the online experience for students and lecturers. Now that those at the institution has achieved a broad level of digital competence and familiarity, the next step is to further develop what is available whilst remaining in line with the Government’s strategic direction for universities. In the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training (2014) the Government commits itself to the adoption of open learning principles to support the need for expansion of flexible, quality education and encourages institutions to develop a blend of contact and distance methods of education.

DUT has established a task team which, over the next two years, will look at the best tool for the provision of online classrooms – a decision which will be based on what will be most effective pedagogically, in terms of allowing for innovative and technology-enriched teaching and learning, and technologically, in terms of the easy use and stability of the platform. Affordability will be a consideration, but will not be the primary driver. The increasing number of Open Source options will be investigated, as will other proprietary solutions. Should this result in the institution making a change, another year will be spent to ensure that, when it comes, there is enough lead time to provide a seamless transition for lecturers and students.

This approach is in line with general trends in Higher Education. EDUCAUSE Review, in its annual survey of the “Top 10 IT Issues”, notes that: “Higher Education will have modernised its enterprise application infrastructure, offering students and faculty a platform to manage their entire lifecycle” through from being a prospective student to alumni. Learning will become increasingly personalised and interactions with the university more fruitful as analytics, or the analysis of data, will serve to alert to, for example, students at risk of non-completion. Data, data integration and mobile access are key.

DUT’s objective is to find a solution that is flexible in terms of supporting learning and integrates well with other systems at the University. In this, the online classroom will be the facilitator but will no longer be seen as an end in itself. Rather, it will be part of an overall learning architecture that has the learner at its centre.

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