Recently, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga emphasised the need for large-scale, collaborative and substantive change to provide consistent equity, quality and life-long learning opportunities for all learners in South Africa.
It is exactly that kind of change that the University of the Free State (UFS) is committed to facilitating. There are more than 12-million learners and 380,000 teachers in South Africa, and progress is being made in strengthening the country’s wireless infrastructure. Therefore the UFS is embracing the challenge to transform education from the model that was established centuries ago in the absence of today’s tools and technology.
The UFS’s South Campus in Bloemfontein focuses on offering online distance-learning programmes. It is the first campus to provide a 100% online Advanced Certificate in Teaching (ACT) programme for teachers to help address long-standing educational, economic and political needs. Although the programme allows students to study at a time and place that suits them, it also provides extensive academic and administrative support.
The ACT Online programme creates a teaching and learning pathway for teachers who want to advance in their careers. It aims to improve teachers’ knowledge of and competencies in new subjects, or to strengthen their subject specialisation. Furthermore, it can play an important role in improving the quality of education and, in that way, the quality of life of many South Africans.
The programme not only upgrades the qualifications of teachers who are employed without adequate training, but also offers specialist education to teachers who need to strengthen their subject specialisation knowledge. It also retrains teachers who wish to change their career paths, thus widening the pool of teachers who can teach a specific subject.
The ACT Online programme holds numerous advantages for teachers, including:
- offering students the opportunity to study in their own time, anywhere, and at their own pace;
- presenting an outstanding opportunity to conveniently and affordably advance in higher education and achieve a professional qualification;
- being a brilliant solution for adult working students who cannot easily access traditional on-campus programmes;
- helping to accelerate the pace at which South Africa’s teachers earn this important qualification;
- making learning more convenient for working teachers by doing away with travel requirements; and
- assessing students’ ability to apply their new skills and knowledge in a practical way that can be applied in the classroom.
More about the ACT
To better meet the needs of committed classroom teachers, the UFS South Campus is proud to be the first in South Africa to introduce fully online instruction for teachers to complete their ACT for Foundation Phase, Intermediate Phase or Senior Phase English FAL. The programmes are organised into nine to 10 consecutive, eight-week sessions that can be completed in 18-20 months, compared with the usual 24 months for the contact programme.
For busy teachers determined to advance their qualifications, this is a wonderful opportunity to graduate with an ACT on National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 6. The programme requires no travel or mandatory contact sessions. Students choose the time that works best in their schedules to complete each week’s requirements.
Students can also enrol, pay for and complete one module at a time, which makes the qualification affordable. Fees are R2,435 for each eight-week session.
Students receive ongoing academic support from online teaching assistants to ensure full academic integrity and a learning experience on a par with or better than the same campus-based programme.
Additionally, all students are assigned personal programme coordinators to ensure they stay in the system and that they receive non-academic and technical support. This unique high engagement model leads to exceptionally high student success rates all the way to graduation.
Lessons include relevant problem solving and practical application exercises. Teachers can use their new skills immediately in the classroom. The online programme exemplifies the integration of theory and practice.
Engagement and support for the student
The ACT Online programme has online facilitators allocated to each module who will work with students to ensure they have interactive learning experiences.
- Each student has direct contact with a facilitator to ensure instant and continuous feedback.
- Technological support is provided by the UFS helpdesk.
- The student can revisit the content as required.
- There is no need to be 100% online all the time as most of the content can be downloaded and studied offline. Instructional modules can be accessed at any time via a laptop, computer, tablet or mobile phone through an internet connection from home, school or another convenient location.
- The programme is aligned to grant SACE Continuous Professional Development points.
Admission to the ACT is subject to the UFS general rules and the specific requirements of the South Campus and the Faculty of Education of the UFS. The following requirements for prospective students apply:
Applicants should have an approved and recognised professional teaching qualification:
- a three-year Teacher’s Diploma at NQF 5 (eg the three-year College of Education Diploma), or
- a 360-credit National Professional Diploma in Education (NPDE) at NQF level 5; or
- a 480-credit Bachelor of Education (BEd) at NQF level 7 (may be in a different phase or specialisation); or
- an applicable Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or Advanced Diploma at NQF 7 (may be in a different phase or specialisation); or
- an approved and recognised professional teaching qualification evaluated as REQV 13.
Applicants must be practising teachers.
Prospective students must provide proof that they are teaching in the selected phase or have access to an applicable classroom for the duration of the programme.
Students must have access to the internet and a laptop (visit www.ufs.ac.za/ACTonline for laptop specifications).
The starting dates for 2018 are January 22, March 19 and May 14.
This article was paid for by the University of the Free State.