Stellenbosch University (SU) envisages that by 2025, hybrid learning (HL) students will form 25% of the total student body. According to SU's June 2018 enrolment figures, 11% of the institution's students are already HL students.
Over the past five years, blended learning has developed at such a pace at SU that the time has come to expand hybrid learning (HL), making tertiary studies more accessible to those who had not been able to attend university before. With the implementation of hybrid learning, SU joins the ranks of some of the leading international universities that also offer this type of learning.
Hybrid learning is a method of presenting academic programmes consisting of short contact sessions of a week or two between the lecturer and students, combined with online learning, virtual classes and online liaison between lecturers and fellow students. Blended learning, on the contrary, consists mainly of physical classes combined with the use of technology in a pedagogically accountable way. Blended learning techniques are therefore used for both full-time, residential students and for working students who study part-time. In both instances, students do their own work online or they have online access to additional resources. SU's HL model works in maximum synergy with the full-time academic offerings, ensuring that HL students can also benefit from accessible digitalised academic material.
Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel, Vice-Rector: Learning and Teaching at SU, has expressed his excitement about the future of hybrid learning. This type of learning is suitable for people who work full-time and are unable to attend classes but who would like to improve their skills. For this segment, the cost is often too high to return to full-time studies.
With the introduction of HL, SU joins the ranks of some of the world's leading universities who also offer HL programmes.
“Over the past five years, considerable progress has been made to introduce the latest technology on pedagogic level. This follows a Council project launched about six years ago to examine information and communication technologies and to find ways in which Learning and Teaching could benefit from technological developments," says Schoonwinkel.
Some of the transformative actions flowing from this Council project include:
- The establishment of the ultramodern Jannie Mouton learning centre with electronic class rooms
- New networks and the availability of faster WiFi to students
- The development of blended learning
- Acquiring new software for student information systems (SUNStudent)
- The development of new courses to train lecturers and students about the use of information technology for teaching and learning.
In order to grow the number of HL students, it is essential to extend the offering of HL academic programmes.
According to Schoonwinkel, another 21 HL programmes of at least one academic year and 120 credits each will be added to the total HL learning offering. “We expect to have no fewer than 250 students register for each programme."
Examples of HL programmes currently being developed are:
- Strategic Human Resource Management PGDip (EMS)
- Biology 124 and Bio-Informatics Honours (Science)
- Cancer Science Research MPhil (Medicine and Health Sciences)
- Structures in Fire Module in Engineering PGDip (Engineering)
- Forestry and Wood Sciences PGDip (AgriScience)
“SU's full-time academic programmes have an excellent flow-through rate. The experience of the HL student and the success rate should build on this characteristic. Limitations in physical infrastructure and other resources make it very difficult to admit more students than are currently being admitted through traditional processes," says Schoonwinkel.
According to him, the HL strategy combines SU's strengths to grow student numbers cost-effectively.
“Hybrid learning constitutes a big change for us and it will be the next big wave to hit SU. In the long run, HL could become people's preferred study method. It will also have a transformative effect on people in the workplace who would otherwise not have been able to gain access to a university. It is a known fact that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will necessitate the retraining of many people"
In the Learning and Teaching Annual Report for 2019 which was tabled at the SU Senate and SU Council recently, it is mentioned that HL offers a solution to contemporary students who choose to study online and who prefer to have the freedom of choice. There is a worldwide tendency that many prospective students rather want to gain access to smaller knowledge units in the form of modules and short courses, rather than obtaining full degrees or diplomas. HL enables SU to cater to this need – also for international students.
Increased access to the internet and improved software broaden people's access to learning opportunities, especially for students in underdeveloped countries. According to the annual report, Africa has the largest and fastest-growing youth population in need of education. “SU is in a good position to make a significant social impact on our continent," says Schoonwinkel.
Current HL offerings and enrolled students per module (June 2018)
|Faculty||Programme/module title||Number of students enrolled in modules|
Economic and Management Sciences
|Master of Business Administration (part-time)||3 431|
|||Bachelor of Public Administration Honours||2 034|
|||Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management and Administration||1 527|
|||Postgraduate Diploma in HIV/AIDS Management||1 349|
|||Diploma in Public Accountability||377|
|||Master of Public Administration||234|
Medicine and Health Sciences
|Postgraduate Diploma in Nursing||2 298|
|||Master of Public Health/Nutrition||210|
|||Master of Nursing||104|
|||Bachelor of Nursing Honours||26|
|Education||Bachelor of Education Honours||749|
|AgriSciences||Master of Food and Nutrition Science||69|
|Faculty||Total student enrolments (by headcount)||Total FTE students||Hybrid learning FTE students||Hybrid learning FTE students as a % of all FTE students|
|Economic and Management Sciences||8 927||7 026||1 451,1||20,7%|
|Medicine and Health Sciences||4 588||3 021||1 133,4||37,5%|
|Education||1 854||1 604||74,9||4,7%|
|AgriSciences||2 190||1 494||6,9||0,46%|
|Total||31 765||24 710||2 666,3||10,8%|