STUDENT PROFILE, STUDENT SUCCESS AND EXPERIENCE, RELEVANCY AND IMPACT OF ACADEMIC PROGRAMMES
During 2016, the Faculty of Humanities worked towards a number of goals that are part of our larger 2020 vision. These goals include:
· To increase the undergraduate success rate of our students
· To increase our postgraduate numbers and improve our throughput rate
· To continue the process of addressing and integrating decoloniality in our curriculum
· To engage with blended and on-line learning
· Strive for excellence in our teaching and learning
At the level of our undergraduate degrees and diplomas, our throughput and pass rates remained stable. As a Faculty, we have four initiatives to assist our students; the Extended Degree Programme, improved tutorial programme, early identification of At-Risk students and Intensive Revision Programme.
The first intervention is the Extended Degree Programme, in which students who show real academic potential, but who did not achieve the required Grade 12 points to enter into the standard undergraduate programme, are able to enrol in our extended four year degree programme. In this programme, they are given extra tutorial support, they meet with the extended student co-ordinator on a regular basis for guidance and support, and they take two modules in their first year that focus specifically on helping them improve their reading, writing, researching, and studying skills. In 2016, Extended Degree Students who achieved 75% or more for all their modules have been fast tracked in 2017 and will be able to complete their degrees within three years rather than four.
The second intervention is our tutorial programme. In the Faculty, we have been working towards a comprehensive tutorial programme where tutorials are run in all modules from the first year through to the third year. Over the last five years, our departments have worked towards improving their tutorial programmes and offering tutorials in each year of undergraduate study. In 2016, this extensive tutorial programme was made possible through funding from the University for tutors to first-year students; additional funding from the GES tutor programme provided us with senior tutors and as a Faculty we committed further funding to make tutors available in second and third year modules.
Most of our tutors are postgraduate students, but in instances where there are particularly strong third year students these candidates are invited to tutor first year students. The tutors are trained annually in January by ADS in three different groups: new, returning and senior tutors. Refresher sessions are scheduled throughout the year, and departments also have specialised training programmes. Overall, our tutorial programme not only helps our undergraduate students, but is also a space where our budding young academics, who are currently doing Master’s and Doctoral studies, are able to gain valuable teaching experience.
During 2016, Prof Hennie Lötter began to investigate the possibility of introducing an accredited tutorial course. In 2017, we hope to receive accreditation for our tutor training course, so that in 2018 all tutors who complete our introduction and advanced tutor training courses will be accredited as trained tutors.
The third and fourth interventions are our At-Risk Student intervention and the Intensive Revision Programme. In 2016, we were able to identify students who were at academic risk of failing as early as week nine of the academic year. These students were encouraged to meet with their lecturers and to attend relevant support programmes, such as support from the writing centre or PsyCad. Just before students wrote their June and November supplementary exams, we ran intensive revision lectures for students in all the modules where there were a high number of students writing supplementary exams. Students who were able to attend these lectures did significantly better than those who were not able to attend them. When we investigated why students did not attend these revision lectures, it became clear that for many students the cost of coming to Johannesburg and paying for accommodation while attending the intensive revision classes made it difficult or impossible for them to attend. In 2017, we will be running intense revision classes during the study break and then lecturers will be encouraged to record their revision classes as videos or podcasts that will be made available on Blackboard ensuring that access to these revision sessions is available to all our students.
Over the last five years, the Faculty has run a highly successful advertising campaign to increase our postgraduate student enrolment numbers. In 2016, we reached a record high of 964 postgraduate students enrolling in the Faculty. These growing student numbers have led to a number of challenges, most notably slow rates of completion where the average Master’s student is taking three years to complete a two year degree and a PhD student is taking five years to complete a three year degree. Having identified these problems in 2015, we began introducing interventions to address them in 2016. Our first challenge has been to increase both the number of supervisors that we have and the quality of supervision given to students. To this end, our A rated scholar Prof Thaddeus Metz ran a number of workshops on postgraduate supervision. A second factor that was slowing down our throughput rate was timeous ethical clearance. In 2016, we revised our ethical clearance process and at the monthly Higher Degrees Committee meetings where proposals serve, the Ethics Committee and the Higher Degrees Committee now give their feedback simultaneously. A third intervention has been the streamlining of all the processes and producers from enrolment to graduation. In revising our processes, we have also introduced a more stringent student progress monitoring system that enables the Higher Degrees Committee to track the actual progress that postgraduate students are making in the course of their studies and to intervene when it becomes clear that students might be at risk of not completing their degree timeously. In 2017, we plan to continue addressing our postgraduate throughput rate and aim to ensure that students who have been in the system for a number of years complete their degrees in 2017.
One of the most exciting developments in the research being done by our postgraduate students has been the number of theses and dissertations that are engaging with decoloniality. During 2016, our Faculty hosted a number of seminars on decoloniality and in April Prof Cheryl Hendricks ran a workshop on ‘Decolonising the Curriculum,’ which was enthusiastically attended by many of our academic staff. The Faculty has made a firm commitment to decolonising its curricula and during 2016 many of our departments worked on revising and re-designing their modules in order to engage meaningfully with the University’s broader aim of decolonising the university and the curricula offered at the University of Johannesburg.
Technology and Learning, Blended Learning and On-line Learning
The Faculty is part of a five year long DHET funded research project exploring the use of technology in blended learning. This project is being run over five different universities, including the University of Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand, Sol Plaatjie University, the University of the Free State and the University of Cape Town. In the Faculty, our researchers who are part of this project (Dr Carina van Rooyen, Ms Hemali Joshi and Prof Maria Frahm-Arp) are examining creative and new ways in which technology can be used to improve and enhance learning.
During 2016, the Department of Psychology designed a new on-line degree programme, which will include modules in Psychology, Industrial Psychology, English and Communication Studies. It is envisaged that the degree will be rolled out in 2018. Moving forward, in 2017 the Faculty is planning a series of workshops to enable academics to learn more about on-line pedagogy and explore how different departments could begin to offer on-line modules.
The Faculty has a long tradition of teaching excellence, as evidenced in the number of faculty members who have won the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. In 2016, Prof Maria Frahm-Arp, from the Department of Religion Studies, received this award. Since its inception in 2009, this award has been won by the following members of the Faculty: Prof Ylva Rodney-Gumedy, from the Department of Journalism, Film and Television; Prof Thea de Wet, from the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies; Dr Carina van Rooyen, from the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies; Prof Hennie Lötter, from the Department of Philosophy; and Prof Nathalie Hyde-Clark, from the Department of Communication Studies. In the Faculty, Prof Catherine Botha, from the Department of Philosophy, and Ms Hemali Joshi, from the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, have also been winners of the Vice-Chancellor's Distinguished Awards for Most Promising Young Teacher.
Prof Frahm-Arp’s innovative use of technology in teaching and engagement with undergraduate-led research shows how new and exciting developments are transforming teaching and learning in the 21st century. In her research on the use of handheld devices in teaching and learning, she is examining the new types pedagogical approaches best suited to engaging with technology in teaching and learning. She believes that one of the most important things that students need learn in their undergraduate degrees is how to communicate effectively using contemporary and cutting-edge technology. In her courses, she asks students to make two minute videos on particular topics. These are shown to the class, and in this way students also become teachers. Through this process, they learn new technical skills and critically engage with concepts and ideas in a format other than the traditional essay.
In 2016, the Faculty ran its annual Teaching and Learning Awards. This year awards were won by: Mr Anthony Kaziboni, from the Department of Sociology, for the best lecturer to first year Undergraduate Students; Ms Melissa Card, from the Department of Psychology, for the best lecturer to senior Undergraduate Students; and Ms Hemali Joshi, from the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, for the best lecturer to Honours Students.