Update on teaching and learning during COVID-19/Terugvoer rakende leer en onderrig gedurende COVID-19

The pilot of online teaching and learning
The Law Faculty students and lecturers commenced with online learning and teaching from April 2020. Adjusting to studies in law is challenging for many students whilst the increased complexity of pre-final year and final year modules present challenges of its own. As a Faculty we are therefore concerned with each and every student’s adjustment to our new reality, whether a first year or final year student and everyone else in between.
Our Faculty’s experience after 5 weeks of online learning has been mainly positive or at least as positive as is possible under the extraordinary circumstances. It has, however, not been plain sailing and important lessons have been learnt, which will help us going forward. Without reflection and continuous adjustments, we run the risk of losing students to this year, which is something that we want to try and avoid at all costs. We are grateful that our students have tackled this term with dedication and perseverance and we want to recognise the efforts of students and lecturers to complete this year successfully. We remain confident that we can achieve this goal.

Our response to the main challenges
The Law Faculty (together with the relevant institutional divisions) spent significant resources to identify and trace students in need of technological equipment and/or data. Despite severe lockdown limitations on setting-up laptops and delivery of instruments to students, we are confident that law students are in a good position to participate fully in online teaching.
The Faculty established a small committee (comprising of the dean, vice-dean, our dedicated student coordinator and the chair and vice-chair of the JV/S) to meet on a weekly basis to discuss pressing matters, to facilitate communication between students and the faculty/lecturers and to identify the need for areas of increased academic support for law students. At-risk students are contacted by the coordinator individually on a one-on-one basis. After the first week of teaching student feedback enabled the blended learning coordinator and lecturers to make adjustments to SUNLearn module pages to encourage continuous feedback and interaction. With the proficient assistance of the JV/S, a survey regarding students’ experience of online learning was conducted that provided us with valuable insights regarding pressure points and matters where the Faculty could assist. Some of the matters that students highlighted include dealing with the workload in this new context, mental wellness, structured communication in law modules, etc.
The Faculty engaged with the library and legal publishers to facilitate broader access to online resources, which was successful to a large degree but unfortunately not every prescribed text book is available as an e-book yet. Students and lecturers are, however, innovatively making use of different source materials to help bridge the gap.
Online (open-book) assessments are both a chance to present students with creative and enriching learning opportunities as well as a challenge to assure the continued quality and integrity of our learning and assessments. Following the first round of online assessments, the Faculty has held a series of internal discussions with the respective role-players, so as to learn from the initial test experience, in order to finalise a standardised assessment template of ‘best practices’ that is to be implemented in the upcoming June/July assessment round.
The University has also rolled out a comprehensive training programme for lecturers to equip themselves with the latest skills and knowledge about online teaching. Senate approved the Faculty’s changes to the Annual Calendar to provide for longer examination times for all semester module June/July examinations.

The move to online teaching and learning has been a significant adjustment for both students and lecturers. We are, however, positive that we will be able to adjust our sails to the wind and weather the storm.

Supporting our students
Based on the feedback we have received, we plan to provide law students with the opportunity to reflect on changes in their learning approach(es) that are necessitated by online learning. To this end, we have liaised with the Centre for Student Counselling and Development, specifically the Unit for Academic Counselling and Development, to prepare a tailor-made and targeted webinar to assist students with evaluating the success of their study techniques thus far.

“Online learning as a law student – suggestions & feedback”

Date: Wednesday 3 June 2020 (further details to be announced)

“Online learning as a law student – panel discussion”

Date: Wednesday 10 June 2020 (further details to be announced)

Law101 SUNLearn module

A general observation, for example, is that many students are attempting to transcribe audio podcasts/lectures instead of using it as a replacement for a contact session and as one of several inputs (including prescribed reading work) to satisfying a module’s study outcomes. It is important that students make use of this opportunity! The only certainty right now is that everything is changing rapidly and continuously — lecturers also have to reflect on their teaching approach and style in order to adapt and are continuously attending webinars on various topics related to teaching and assessment.

All scheduled tutorials are continuing and we invite feedback regarding suggestions for alternative or additional learning engagements. All lecturers are available for consultation and appreciate the inputs and recommendations received from students. It is important for students to realise that adjustments to, and tweaking of, the online experience can only be done in instances where the lecturer(s) are made aware of any issues or challenges. All law students are therefore encouraged to engage with their lecturers in this regard. Students are also reminded of their class representative, should they prefer to make use of this channel of communication.
We encourage students to provide feedback to the JV/S so that the Faculty can proactively deal with matters of mutual concern.
Please consult the useful resources developed and uploaded on http://www.sun.ac.za/english/learning-teaching/student-affairs/cscd/Pages/Guidance-for-Student-Online-Learning.aspx, and be sure to keep periodically checking the Law101 SUNLearn page. Remember that all counselling and academic development services continue and don’t hesitate to reach out https://www.sun.ac.za/english/learning-teaching/student-affairs/cscd. 

Message of encouragement
Artificial intelligence provides machines the ability to ‘adapt in changing situations with high precision, accuracy and speed’ due to insights from big data and the environment. Humans are not machines and we require emotional intelligence, motivation, support and a clear mind to adapt and find our feet in fluid contexts. Your ability to adapt is being stretched and while this may test your resilience now it will without a doubt contribute to your success in life.
Persevere, hang in there and please believe in yourself. Reach out to your support system, including family and friends. Make a conscious effort to stay in contact with your fellow law students, many of whom will no doubt be experiencing the new online environment in similar fashion to you. Use this contact as a means to get a sense of where you are in your understanding, relative to your peers – and work together where feasible so as to facilitate the adjustment to the online learning paradigm. We also see ourselves as part of your support system and believe that you can successfully complete this academic year.

The first and second examination opportunities as scheduled for June and July will all remain online assessments as per our prior communication. As soon as more clarity is available regarding COVID-19 and its implications for the second semester of 2020 we will update you.


Prof Nicola Smit, Dean

Prof Richard Stevens, Vice-Dean

Sound bite

Die loods van aanlyn onderrig en leer
Studente en dosente aan die Fakulteit Regsgeleerdheid het vanaf April 2020 begin met aanlyn leer en onderrig. Die aanpassing aan die studeer van regte is vir baie studente uitdagend, terwyl die toenemende ingewikkeldheid van modules in die voor-finalejaar en die finalejaar sy eie uitdagings bied. As Fakulteit is ons dus besorg oor die aanpassing van elke student aan die nuwe werklikheid, hetsy ʼn eerstejaar- of finalejaarstudent en almal tussenin.
Die ervaring deur die Fakulteit ná vyf weke van aanlyn leer was hoofsaaklik positief of ten minste so positief as moontlik onder hierdie buitengewone omstandighede. Dit was egter nie maklik nie en belangrike lesse is geleer, wat ons sal help om verder vorentoe te gaan. Sonder reflektering en deurlopende aanpassings loop ons die risiko dat studente hierdie akademiese jaar verbeur. Dit is iets wat ons ten alle koste wil probeer vermy. Ons is dankbaar dat ons studente hierdie kwartaal met toewyding en deursettingsvermoë aangepak het en ons wil erkenning gee aan die pogings van studente en dosente om hierdie jaar suksesvol te voltooi. Ons is vas oortuig dat ons hierdie doel kan bereik.

Ons reaksie op die hoofuitdagings
Die Fakulteit Regsgeleerdheid (saam met die betrokke institusionele afdelings) het aansienlike hulpbronne bestee om studente wat tegnologiese toerusting en/of data benodig, te identifiseer en op te spoor. Ondanks ernstige beperkings op die opstel van skootrekenaars en aflewering daarvan aan studente, is ons vol vertroue dat regstudente in ʼn goeie posisie is om volledig aan aanlyn onderrig deel te neem.
Die Fakulteit het ʼn klein komitee (bestaande uit die dekaan, vise-dekaan, ons toegewyde studentekoördineerder en die voorsitter en ondervoorsitter van die JV/S) saamgestel om weekliks te vergader. Ons bespreek dringende aangeleenthede, soos die fasilitering van kommunikasie tussen studente en die fakulteit/dosente asook die identifisering van areas waarin meer akademiese ondersteuning vir regstudente aangebied moet word. Studente wat akademies ʼn risiko loop, word individueel deur die koördineerder gekontak op ʼn een-tot-een-basis. Ná die eerste week van onderrig het die studente terugvoering die gemengde leerkoördineerder en dosente in staat gestel om aanpassings aan die SUNLearn-modulebladsye aan te bring om deurlopende terugvoering en interaksie aan te moedig. Met die vaardige hulp van die JV/S is ʼn opname gedoen oor studente se ervaring van aanlyn leer wat waardevolle insigte gebied het oor drukpunte en aangeleenthede waar die Fakulteit kan help. Sommige van die sake wat studente uitgelig het, is die hantering van die werklading in hierdie nuwe konteks, geestelike welstand, gestruktureerde kommunikasie in regsmodules, ens.
Die Fakulteit het met die biblioteek en regsuitgewers saamgewerk om breër toegang tot aanlyn bronne te vergemaklik, wat tot ʼn groot mate suksesvol was, maar ongelukkig is nog nie elke voorgeskrewe handboek as ʼn e-boek beskikbaar nie. Studente en dosente het egter innoverend gereageer deur verskillende bronne te raadpleeg en so die gaping te oorbrug.
Aanlyn (oopboek-) assesserings is ʼn kans om studente kreatiewe en verrykende leergeleenthede te bied, sowel as ʼn uitdaging om die voortgesette kwaliteit en integriteit van ons leer en assesserings te verseker. Ná afloop van die eerste rondte aanlyn assesserings, het die Fakulteit ʼn reeks interne besprekings met die onderskeie rolspelers gevoer, om te leer uit die aanvanklike toetservaring, ten einde ʼn gestandaardiseerde assesseringstemplaat van “beste praktyke” te finaliseer. Hierdie assesseringstemplaat sal in die komende assesseringsrondte in Junie/Julie geïmplementeer word.
Die Universiteit het ook ʼn omvattende opleidingsprogram vir dosente bekendgestel om hulself toe te rus met die nuutste vaardighede en kennis oor aanlyn onderrig. Die Fakulteit se wysigings tot die Algemene Kalender om voorsiening te maak vir langer eksamentye vir alle semestermodules in Junie/Julie-eksamens is deur die Senaat goedgekeur.

Die skuif na aanlyn onderrig en leer was ʼn wesenlike aanpassing vir studente sowel as dosente. Ons is egter positief dat ons, ons seile by die wind kan aanpas en die storm kan weerstaan.

Ondersteuning aan ons studente
Op grond van die terugvoering wat ons ontvang het, beplan ons om regstudente die geleentheid te bied om na te dink oor die veranderinge in hul leerbenadering(s) wat deur aanlyn leer genoodsaak word. Vir hierdie doel het ons met die Sentrum vir Studentevoorligting en -ontwikkeling, spesifiek die Eenheid vir Akademiese Voorligting en Ontwikkeling, kontak gemaak om ʼn pasgemaakte en doelgerigte webinar voor te berei om studente te help om die sukses van hul leertegnieke tot dusver te evalueer.

“Aanlyn leer as ʼn regstudent – voorstelle en terugvoer”

Datum: Woensdag 3 Junie 2020 (verdere besonderhede soos afgekondig)

“Aanlyn leer as ʼn regstudent – paneelbespreking”

Datum: Woensdag 10 Junie 2020 (verdere besonderhede soos afgekondig)

Law101 SUNLearn module

ʼn Algemene waarneming, byvoorbeeld, is dat baie studente probeer om die klank-opnames/potgooie/lesings oor te skryf in plaas daarvan om dit as ʼn plaasvervanger vir ʼn lesing te gebruik. Die klankopnames is één van verskeie insette (insluitend voorgeskrewe leeswerk) om die leeruitkomste van ʼn module te bereik. Dit is belangrik dat studente van hierdie geleentheid gebruik maak! Die enigste sekerheid op die oomblik is dat alles vinnig en voortdurend verander – dosente moet ook nadink oor hul onderrigbenadering en -styl om aan te pas en deurlopend webinars volg oor verskillende onderwerpe wat verband hou met onderrig en assessering.

Alle geskeduleerde tutoriale duur voort en ons verwelkom terugvoering en voorstelle vir alternatiewe of addisionele leerbetrokkenhede. Alle dosente is beskikbaar vir konsultasie en waardeer die insette en aanbevelings wat deur studente gestuur is. Dit is belangrik vir studente om te besef dat die aanpassing sowel as die hersiening van die aanlyn ervaring slegs gedoen kan word in gevalle waar die dosent(e) bewus gemaak word van enige probleme of uitdagings. Daarom word alle regstudente aangemoedig om met hul dosente in hierdie verband te kommunikeer. Studente word ook herinner aan hul klasverteenwoordiger, sou hulle verkies om van hierdie kommunikasiekanaal gebruik te maak.
Ons moedig studente aan om terugvoering aan die JV/S te gee sodat die Fakulteit proaktief sake van wedersydse belang kan hanteer.
Raadpleeg die nuttige bronne wat ontwikkel en opgelaai is op http://www.sun.ac.za/english/learning-teaching/student-affairs/cscd/Pages/Guidance-for-Student-Online-Learning.aspx, en sorg dat u die Law101 SUNLearn-bladsy gereeld nagaan. Onthou dat alle voorligtings- en akademiese ontwikkelingsdienste voortgaan en moet nie huiwer om daarna uit te reik nie https://www.sun.ac.za/english/learning-teaching/student-affairs/cscd.

Boodskap van bemoediging
Kunsmatige intelligensie bied aan masjiene die vermoë om “aan te pas in veranderende situasies met hoë presisie, akkuraatheid en spoed” as gevolg van die insigte wat die omgewing en groot datastelsels bied. Mense is nie masjiene nie en ons benodig emosionele intelligensie, motivering, ondersteuning en ʼn oop gemoed om aan te pas en onsself in veranderde kontekste te vind. Jou vermoë om aan te pas, word uitgestrek en hoewel dit jou deursettingsvermoë toets, sal dit ongetwyfeld tot jou lewensukses bydra.
Volhard, hou aan en glo asseblief in jouself. Reik uit na jou ondersteuningstelsel, insluitend familie en vriende. Maak ʼn
doelbewuste besluit om moeite te doen met jou mederegstudente, waarvan baie waarskynlik die nuwe aanlyn omgewing op dieselfde manier as jy beleef. Gebruik hierdie geleentheid as ʼn manier om ʼn idee te kry van waar jou begrip in
verhouding tot jou vriende sʼn is – en werk waar moontlik saam, om die aanpassing tot die aanlyn leerparadigma te vergemaklik. Ons sien onsself ook as deel van jou ondersteuningstelsel en glo dat julle hierdie akademiese jaar suksesvol kan voltooi.
Die eerste en tweede eksamengeleenthede, soos geskeduleer vir Junie en Julie, sal volgens die voorafgaande kommunikasie aanlyn wees. Sodra meer duidelikheid oor COVID-19 en die implikasies daarvan vir die tweede semester van 2020 beskikbaar is, sal ons jou in kennis stel.

Vriendelike groete

Prof Nicola Smit, Dekaan

Prof Richard Stevens, Vise-Dekaan



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