The WCED project is one example of how the telematic platform is also utilized to support communities by providing virtual learning opportunities. The Telematic Schools Project started in 2009, as a collaboration between Further Education and Training (FET), theWestern Cape Education Department (WCED) and Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Learning Technologies (CLT). The goal of the project is to improve the overall pass rate of learners in underperforming schools. The idea behind this project is not to replace teachers but to use the best subject teachers to explain difficult concepts in a one-to-many approach. The goal of the FET programme is to provide quality education for every learner, in every school, and in every classroom.
Through the studio at CLT, the face-to-face teaching in the schools can be blended with the virtual learning spaces offered by the University. The telematic platform serves as a vehicle that makes it easier for all learners to gain access to teachers who are recognized for their expertise and pedagogical skills in a fully interactive, virtual learning space.
The pilot project was a great success and there are many reports of improved results, as well as other positive outcomes of the project.
Reported positive outcomes of the project:
- Learners experienced enriched learning experiences.
- It promoted teambuilding among educators and learners.
- It gave a profound understanding of certain concepts and approaches, through which the educators, as well as the learners, were empowered.
- It augmented contact time and instilled a culture of learning and studying.
- Even after the contact session, educators and learners could still do revision.
- This boosted the confidence of learners and educators.
- It brought more interactive teaching into the classroom.
- It improved the pedagogic situation in class.
- It dawned on the learners that there was a whole community outside their situation to reach out to and touch and that this could be done effectively using information and communication technology (Telematics).
- The self-image of the learners was improved. Learners were given examination tips, difficult concepts were explained, etc.
- It improved parent involvement in the schoolwork of the child. Parents wanted to make sure that their children really were attending these classes, which often would run until late. Some parents came to the schools surreptitiously in the evenings to check on their children.
The project has expanded since its inception in 2009, when it had ten pilot schools, to 133 schools in the Western Cape with installed telematic equipment. Since 2016, the broadcasts are being transmitted via satellite and via the Internet, thereby no longer limiting the live interactive broadcasts to schools with satellite equipment. It is now also available to all WCED schools through the Western Cape’s Broadband Initiative. Currently, 294 schools are registered for access to the project.
During the broadcast, there is live interaction between the teachers and learners via mobile technology, which are used to support informal conversation. To create a continuous support system, additional academic assistance is provided for both teachers and learners in the form of subject workbooks, the Telematic Schools website and access to the library of past broadcasts.
Past broadcasts are also available for download from the Telematic Schools website, thereby no longer restricting the schools to having to wait for the district offices to distribute the DVDs. This also makes it easier for teachers to incorporate the content into their own lesson plans, both as a teaching tool and for revision.
The partnership between the WCED and CLT also focuses on professional skills development. The presentation skills of the broadcast presenter have been fine-tuned in workshops, where feedback from learners received through the annual survey was addressed. Teacher Development is also expanding, as it is a powerful tool to reach all the teachers, at a much lower cost to the WCED. Seventeen teacher development sessions were held in 2017 and 2018.
The success of the WCED project led to the Northern Cape Education Department introducing a learner support project in 2012. At present, there are 103 schools in the Northern Cape that receive the telematic broadcasts. The Eastern Cape Department of Education joined the project in 2015, and as of 2019 is supporting 560 schools with an installed satellite equipment.
To access the Telematic Schools Project Website, you can click HERE and/or email firstname.lastname@example.org for access logins.