SERVICE BEYOND THE NORMAL CALL OF DUTY
Mr Riaan Loots holds the position of Senior Manager: Learning Management System and Academic Software Development in the Centre for Academic Technologies, within the Division of Academic Development and Support.
Prior to lockdown, Riaan was an exemplary and hugely important part of the CAT team, whose primary role was to ensure that the UJ learning management system was operative, in all its numerous functionalities, at all times. The sudden and widespread shift to online teaching and learning placed CAT at the very centre of UJ operations. In this demanding, incessant, challenging environment, Riaan became obsessive about innovation, quality, service to faculties and their students, 'never saying no' and working long hours to ensure that UJ's response to this crisis was the best it could possibly be.
Riaan took primary responsibility for the principal point of access – uLink – which he has developed, improved, expanded and maintained over the years. This required a lot of creative programming and constant vigilance. He was at the front of the UJ drive to achieve zero rating for the UJ learning management system. He was integral to the rollout of the Student Data Allowances project, and the Student Learning Devices project, in which he not only developed software and digital administrative tools, but also was also primarily involved in their daily implementation. He was central to the Student Geolocation project, which identified international students abroad and those students within South Africa with poor connectivity.
When it became imperative for academic staff to track individual student participation in online learning, Riaan developed and implemented a tracking system. He was involved in numerous other projects, across divisions and faculties, including Academic Continuity Reports (measuring student online engagement), the redesign of the survey tool for online teaching and module evaluations, the Level 3 indemnity Register facility, the UJ Covid-19 Dashboard, and the UJ Covid-19 online disclosure facility.
In all of this, Riaan emerged as a team player who did not, and does not, seek the limelight. He is constantly on the lookout for where he can contribute his skills, his long hours of work (frequently more than twelve hours a day, seven days a week) without wanting recognition, rather gaining satisfaction from participating in a job well done, for the benefit of the UJ community. In response to the demands placed on him, he sought more work, constantly seeking and asking for more projects, more things to do.
Riaan always delivers, with impeccable accuracy and attention to detail, under pressure, and in half the time. As a resource for CAT, for academic staff, and for the entire edifice of online teaching and learning, he has been ever ready and in good spirits.