Najma Agerdien, Ephraim Mhlanga, Tony Lelliott
The annual Nadeosa conference was held in July 2017 at the University of Free State, South Campus. The theme of the conference was Transforming the South African post-school education and training system through open and distance learning. This year’s conference was special as it coincided with the association’s 21st anniversary, and presented an opportunity to reflect on accomplishments, challenges and future possibilities.
Tony Mays and Najma Agherdien facilitated a pre-conference workshop on assessment in open and distance learning. The workshop generated much interest and debate on the subject which poses a lot of challenges in distance education provision. Two Saide staff members presented during the parallel sessions: Tony Lelliott presented on Stories for early literacy development - integration with teacher education programmes while Najma Agherdien presented on the development of a reflection tool used in Open Educational Resources (OER) related work.
The Keynote presentation by Prof Paul Prinsloo titled Talkin Bout a Revolution: (Re)claiming distance education as revolutionary, humanising praxis was particularly relevant and provocative. Prof Prinsloo posed the question: Is there a revolution that we are not talking about? Importantly, we need to be critical of whose revolution, who benefits and who defines the revolution. He pleaded with us not to ignore the “whispers, the trembling of the tectonic plates on which higher education, and particularly distance education [is] founded.”
The conference was also enriched by input for from one of the most renowned experts in open and distance learning, Prof Alan Tait. Alan Tait, who is a professor Emeritus of Distance Education and Development at the Open University, UK participated through a webinar. The focus of his talk was supporting the ODL student. His talk gave a lot of valuable insights on the challenges that are commonly faced in handling distance education students and how they should be supported to enable them to experience success.
The Gala Dinner, which took place to celebrate Nadeosa’s 21st anniversary, was a fun occasion, and some thoughts on the history of the organisation were provided by Saide’s Director, Jenny Glennie in an interesting light:
The Panel discussion on the last day of the conference was very thought-provoking. Jenny Glennie was part of the panel, together with Prof Moeketsi Letseka from Unisa and Mr Marius Meyer from SA Board for People Practices (SABPP). Jenny offered a unique perspective on what ODL practitioners bring to the table and made a plea for all of us (members/practitioners) to start working together.
The conference was also marked by a general meeting that was held on the morning of the last day. Amongst other things, the meeting elected a new executive into office, together with a new President and Vice President. For next few years, Professor Daniella Coetzee (featured above) from UFS and Dr Tony Mays from UP will be at the helm of the Association as President and Vice President respectively.