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Monday, 13 December 2010

CPUT “A-Twitter” following first-ever RITAL Conference

“I just told my students that we are going to have our lecture via Twitter and that they needn’t attend class on the specified date”. Marian Pike, Public Relations Management lecturer had a rapt audience at the first ever annual Research and Innovation in Teaching and Learning (RITAL) Conference in December. Pike’s Twitter lecture was a world-first, and her RITAL conference paper, titled ‘Learning tweet by tweet: Reshaping lectures for Twitter’, highlighted the benefits of using the popular social network and micro-blogging service in education.

Prof Terence Volbrecht, former Fundani director alongside Teaching and Learning Dean at Rhodes University, Prof Chrissie Boughey, keynote speaker at CPUT's first-ever RITAL conference.

Pike added that she is planning on “tweeting” a lecture again in the near future, after experiencing how effective this medium of communication can be.

Prof Chrissie Boughey, Dean of Teaching and Learning at Rhodes University delivered the keynote address to a packed auditorium on the Granger Bay campus. The Fundani Centre for Higher Education Development hosted the ground-breaking conference, where Boughey spoke about her research on Universities of Technology. She also paid tribute to the work of her colleague Prof Terence Volbrecht, former Fundani CHED Director, who is about to leave CPUT and South Africa. Showing research statistics she had done independently, Boughey said she found that “only 5% of students graduated in regulation time at UoT’s, while 56% of students leave the system without ever graduating”.

Volbrecht, who will be emigrating to Australia soon, believes more can be done to improve higher education institutions while bettering the percentage of graduates. “We have to be far more systematic in our approached to better the current state of affairs. Research shows that students drop-out because of non-academic issues. If government can join forces with higher education institutions, it would be a step in the right direction”, Volbrecht insisted.

Presentations followed and were categorised according to the themes of the conference. These included Innovative Teaching Practice Educational Research; Developing Responsive Curricula; Improving Student Learning; and Innovative Teaching Practice.

In addition to the use of Twitter, Facebook and blogging was also investigated as a means of innovating in teaching at CPUT. In a paper presented by Dr Ivala and Mrs Gachago, a significant finding was that appropriate use of Facebook and blogs enhances student engagement in learning activities. The social network site was found to be a great “blurrer of boundaries” between students’ academic and social lives, and thus a positive force in improving their engagement.

By: Mariëtte Adams

Written by CPUT News