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A new skills set is learnt…“As we navigate our new norm of virtual teaching, it became important for me to allow my students the opportunity to choose whether they would like to have a Moodle chat session or a Microsoft Teams meeting once a week to discuss a prepared chapter. 

To my surprise all my classes opted for the Teams meeting”. These are the words of Dr Adele Potgieter, who lectures Marketing students in the Business & Economics Faculty at the George Campus.

Dr Potgieter shares her journey and experience of navigating virtual teaching, where she has since discovered the importance of students opting to see a face behind the screen. Initially, this option worried her as the data costs associated with some of these channels are quite hefty, but to her pleasant surprise, it proved to give students a sense of comfort.

“When we discussed the reason for this in the meetings (I was worried about using data vs the free Moodle chat), I realised that the students wanted some sort of “normality” in this very fluid period. They wanted to hear familiar voices of other students and their lecturer, they wanted someone to ask them how they were doing, whether they were coping with the new online study methods, whether they were safe, and how their emotional well-being was, only then could I start to discuss the chapter of the week”, shares Dr Potgieter.

What became apparent in these conversations and discussions was that groups weren’t particularly keen on a question and answer session in the beginning and really wanted content coupled with real life experiences to be highlighted.  Although the voice-over PowerPoints provided some comfort, students missed the discussion around them. In response to this, Dr Potgieter started to prepare some random statements and questions which she posts on the Teams chat to offset the discussions.

“My Advanced Diploma students' Teams meeting had to change to 16h00 on a Thursday to accommodate essential services students. I have also created a WhatsApp group with each class for speedy turnaround time when they have questions. Yes, this places additional pressure on me as the lecturer, as the normal emails still come in, but in a way, it provides comfort to the students to know I am just a WhatsApp away,” she says.  

What lessons and new skills has Dr Potgieter learned in this new norm? None of her students had previously done any Moodle tests before the start of the national lockdown. “I have had to learn so much in the past weeks, which included setting up dummy tests on the Moodle site, so as to allow my students to get a feel of what it would look like and what to expect from an online test. To be honest, my first attempt failed dismally as the students could not enter the Moodle site and enrol for the test as they were enrolled on the “official” Moodle site already. I had students in tears on the phone”, shares Dr Potgieter as she reminisces about her first failed attempts. 

The many failed attempts and frustrations allow for learning a new skills set and appreciating that this is a new norm for both student and lecturer. 

“I am sure if you ask me next week, new ideas would have surfaced. I am having an additional Teams meeting tonight at 17h00 as my advanced diploma students need to submit their research proposals, and I think they need encouragement”.

Contact information
Dr Adele Potgieter
Senior Lecturer
Tel: 044 801 5583