HELTASA (Un)Conference 2023 Highlights
The 2023 HELTASA (Un)Conference, hosted by Northwest University (NWU) at their Vanderbijlpark campus, took place from 24 to 26 October. The (un)conference was a hybrid event with 212 in-person participants and 108 online participants. There were 86 different presentations, workshops, critical dialogues, posters and panel sessions. The theme of the (un)conference was “Celebration of Scholarship: Connecting the Lights", with subthemes centred on teaching, learning and assessment (TLA) experiences, digital transformation in higher education (HE), scholarship in HE, and HE TLA practices in changing times.
In his opening address, Prof Robert Balfour (NWU Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning) challenged participants to take the opportunity of the post-Covid moment to ask themselves what they could be doing differently in terms of teaching, learning and assessment. This would entail being present in the moment and reminding ourselves that our TLA practices are our personal brand. A question for participants to reflect on was, “How does *this* improve the student experience?"
A highlight from the second day was students voicing their opinions at the panel discussion on Generative AI in HE. The conversations emphasised that, even though embracing this technology may give you an edge, it is a double-edged sword that may hinder individuality. A panellist noted the important fact that Generative AI loves to teach. We, therefore, need to think about how we can use it to extend our TLA practices. Another highlight from day two was a panel discussion of the implications of 'publish or perish' for scholarship in HE and how emerging researchers can approach publishing in different ways. And, of course, the gala dinner was a highlight for some participants. During this event, the Teaching Advancement at Universities (TAU) Award for 2023 was awarded to Prof Elmarie Costandius from Stellenbosch University.
A highlight from day three was the critical dialogue on disruption and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Through song, dance, words and actions, participants creatively explored the (un)conference methodology as a disruption of scholarship and TLA practices.
Over the three days, HELTASA delegates came together as a community of HE educators, students, thinkers and innovators to explore, disrupt boundaries, and connect their thinking. This event was a success due to the active participation of delegates and their passion for HE TLA. A special thank you goes to the NWU organising team. HELTASA encourages members and participants to continue the conversations, share the knowledge gained, and implement the insights gathered during the (un)conference.