[Issue 95] Media Monitoring: Extract of Press News on Higher Education in Africa

  1. IOL

There is an urgent need to redefine the future of education – experts advise (South Africa)
Education experts and business leaders explored the theme of Redefining the future of education at the 7th annual Future of Education Summit held by CNBC Africa in partnership with Forbes Africa. Rakesh Wahi, founder of the Future of Education Summit and co-founder of the ABN Group, said there was an urgent need to redefine the purpose of education so that there is a shift from historic and outdated practices. Instead, the future needs to be in line with current opportunities and challenges being faced by the industry in general, and the youth, in particular. The summit zoomed in on micro topics such as building capacity and prioritising education in business planning to bring the sector into the 21st century. Education experts mulled over how redefining education would inform areas in the education system, such as leadership, curriculum development, skills and capacity building, psychological impact, technology and teaching methodology, wider-ranging credentials and financing. Dr Catherine Duggan, director (Dean) of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Graduate School of Business (GSB) said: “The gap between the ‘haves and the have nots’ among learners needs to shrink drastically, and the playing field needs to be levelled in this new age. We need to have an understanding of the local context, and how it can be incorporated into the education sector, to bring in lessons and learning from our local communities, and not exclusively from the West.” She recommended a more holistic approach which should be supported by both the private and public sectors. William Mzimba, CEO for Vodacom Business explained: “Every part of the education ecosystem will need support through their digital transformation journey, with the goal of ensuring education remains inclusive as a basic human right. “The e-School digital education platform has supported more than 1.25 million South African learners, while over 260 000 students in the DRC and Tanzania benefited from the free access to online learning materials that we enabled.
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  1. Inside Higher Eds

Student Performance in Remote Learning, Explored (Imperfectly) (Global)
Study finds that students in online courses fail to complete them and get lower grades than peers learning in person. Several experts question the paper’s design and findings, especially related to the pandemic. The quest to figure out just how much the COVID-19 pandemic affected college-level learning is understandable, not least so that colleges and universities can address any potential setbacks students have suffered as many hope to return to more “normal” learning environments this fall. With that goal in mind, more researchers will probably try to follow the lead of economists at Auburn University, the University of Southern Mississippi and American University, who published a working paper through the National Bureau of Economic Research this week, in which they use a large-scale data set from one public research university to compare how studying in person and online affected students’ course completion rates and grades before and after the pandemic. They find that when accounting for certain differences in student and instructor traits, students in face-to-face courses “perform better than their online counterparts with respect to their grades, the propensity to withdraw from the course, and the likelihood of receiving a passing grade.” The researchers say their findings hold steady both before and after the pandemic descended in spring 2020. That leads them to title their paper “Is Online Education Working?” and, by and large, their answer is no. Shanna Smith Jaggars, assistant vice provost of research and program assessment in the Office of Student Academic Success at Ohio State University, described the paper as that rare “rigorous” study of online learning with a large sample size, making it a “welcome addition” to the literature. She said the paper’s findings that students with weaker academic backgrounds struggle more in virtual courses, and that grades were inflated in the mostly remote spring 2020 semester, were persuasive. But several experts who study learning in multiple modalities say the study has methodological flaws and greatly overreaches in its conclusions, which they attribute to the researchers’ lack of knowledge about, and possible bias against, online education. They’re particularly troubled by the sections of the study’s findings related to the pandemic, which “do not acknowledge that this occurs during a pandemic, and these are not ‘normal’ online courses,” said Jeff Seaman, director of Bay View Analytics and one of the foremost researchers on educational technology. Duha T. Altindag, an associate professor of economics at Auburn and the study’s lead author, said the onset of COVID-19 motivated the researchers to revisit the long-standing debate about the efficacy of online versus in-person education, given predictions that the industry’s broad (if temporary) pivot would lead to wider embrace of virtual learning in the future
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