Changing our current education strategy has become more urgent than ever. We are faced with disruptors such as the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) and the emergence of technology everywhere. COVID-19 ignited the response of all South Africa’s Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to “move beyond current face to face and blended approaches to teaching and to use online teaching and learning” (Ndlovu et al., 2020). Furthermore, the pandemic magnified disparities between rich and poor with the implementation of blended learning in HEIs.
Most institutions were forced to go fully online for the rest of the academic year with academic institutions making more use of online learning management systems, such as Moodle. For many years however, the optimal uses and functions were not fully explored or used by current educators (Ndlovu et al., 2020). This Covid-19 crisis spring-boarded our vision to investigate the future and this future is one where educators will constantly be exposed to challenging events, demanding fluency and agility in teaching approaches. It is therefore essential that we re-think and re-invent our educational practices and processes at academic institutions. As educators, we need to develop and support students to become critical citizens that contribute positively to society. Our institutions need to improve the quality of education, which includes the integration of technologies, as well as the development and expansion of the skills of our educators. Such a transformation and implementation of our education strategy is not possible without skilled, innovative, and smart educators.
“Smart education is understood as a comprehensive integration of technology, accessibility and connecting everything via the Internet anytime and anywhere.”(Nguyen & Kieuthi, 2020). Instead of just transferring knowledge and teaching content, smart educators need to focus on developing and training the skills of students such as creating and contributing to knowledge building and information application, as well as developing talent and expanding students’ perspectives. Educators become motivators for students to actively engage in the learning journey and education in this context is a technological process and the educator is part of the process (Nguyen & Kieuthi, 2020).
This technological process provides students and educators access to new technology, where both groups are central to their learning, taking responsibility for their selection and choice of the content they need for their learning and the teaching process. The advantage of technology is that it supports the learning journey and allows students to search, find, share, process and contribute to knowledge. This expands the minds and the intelligence of the groups they are functioning in.
Digital learning needs various forms of learning resources, such as creating videos, interactive e-books, content curation tools, and digital e-portfolios, which enhance the interaction between content and students. With the ability to create these types of resources, faculty support the digital learning journey of students, so we need to increase the ability of our educators to become smarter and more digitally fluent. The question is how do we get educators to reform, especially private higher education institutions, and become more digitally fluent in this fourth industrial revolution (4IR) (Bonfield et al., 2020)?
Educators must be able to integrate technology into their pedagogy and to add to their current qualifications. This of course should be part of a continuous professional development plan whihc is monitored through a competence evaluation system. Nguyen and Kieuthi (2020) provided some hints on how to improve educators’ information technology ability in Vietnam, and these might spark some thoughts in our context as a Private Higher Educational Institution. The authors mentioned that educational institutions, in general, should include more technology training as part of teachers’ training. So, including technology training at our institutions is essential. Government should include a basic investment policy and mechanisms where private enterprises invest and implement educational technology with institutions. As a Private Higher educational institution, we should also reap this kind of benefit. Academic institutions need to invest in updating their information technology infrastructure, so all students have more and better access to resources anywhere and anytime. If information resources become more open access or less expensive, all students will gain more access to these resources. Lastly, the authors support the development of human resource training programs on educational technology and more integration of information technology training.
The implication for institutions is to guarantee providing educators the technological and pedagogical support (Christo-Baker, 2004). Educators need to make sure to commit to lifelong learning, adapting their existing teaching practices, becoming more agile, fluent, and smart in response to a volatile educational age and understand what is 21st learning and the skills (Sterling, 2017, (Joynes et al., 2019), and the technology that is needed to function in an unknown world.
So, let’s all grab this opportunity as an academic institution and as educators, and implement future teaching and learning with confidence. Do not allow the present to become the future.
Bonfield, C. A., Salter, M., Longmuir, A., Benson, M., & Adachi, C. (2020). Transformation or evolution?: Education 4.0, teaching and learning in the digital age. In Higher Education Pedagogies (Vol. 5, Issue 1, pp. 223–246). https://doi.org/10.1080/23752696.2020.1816847
Christo-Baker, E. (2004). Distance Education Leadership in Higher Education Institutions: Explored Within Theoretical Frameworks of Organizational Change and Diffusion of Innovations Theory. EdMedia+ Innovate Learning, Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, June 2004, 251–256.
Joynes, C., Rossignoli, S., & Amonoo-Kuofi, E. F. (2019). 21st Century Skills: Evidence of Issues in Definition, Demand and Delivery for Development Contexts (K4D Helpdesk Report). Institute of Development Studies: K4D Helpdesk Report, August, 75.
Ndlovu, N., Mbatha, N., & Msiza, V. (2020). COVID-19 and Currere : Looking Back and Going Forward. February 2021.
Nguyen, D. T., & Kieuthi, T. H. U. C. (2020). New Trends In Technology Application In Education And Capacities Of Universities Lecturers During The Covid-19 Pandemic. International Journal of Mechanical and Production Engineering Research and Development (IJMPERD), 10(July), 1709–1714.
Sterling, Stephen. (2017). Assuming the Future: Repurposing Education in a Volatile Age. 10.1007/978-3-319-51322-5_3.