The characteristics of ethical teaching during Remote Teaching and Learning contexts


The shift to Emergency Remote Teaching and Learning (RTL) during the COVID 19 pandemic has forced lecturers to use online platforms such as Blackboard, Teams and other Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as WhatsApp.  The rapid change has been unsettling as lecturers anxiously tried to reach their students online. Lecturers had to revisit their teaching methods and focus on creating an online social presence through various activities such as short videos, podcasts, synchronous and asynchronous discussions, and peer and collaborative learning opportunities. Feedback from students shows that they adapted their learning and had to apply different learning strategies.  In the process, challenges and questions arose about the ethics of teaching online.   

Mutual engagement and interaction

Supportive engagement and interaction were essential to lecturers’ online teaching. They paid attention to establishing relations of care and trust with their students.  Feedback from students shows that most lecturers tried to create a caring and nurturing learning environment online. According to the students, lecturers played a supportive role in setting the proper tone and atmosphere during RTL. They displayed the capacity to show their social presence via controlled, yet ubiquitous online communication. The students explained that they were aware of the lecturers’ presence in the online environment.   Lecturers went on to create a nurturing and supportive environment during RTL by using a variety of strategies to engage students in learning activities, such as including synchronous and asynchronous forms of engagement, WhatsApp messaging and  Blackboard.

Generating student-centred learning activities

Our engagement with lecturers shows that student-centred learning activities online is a critical aspect of RTL. A student-centred approach to learning relies on constant dialogue and interaction between lecturers and students and ensures that student learning is at the heart of RTL. Lecturers focused on developing learning activities that cultivate understanding and autonomous learning opportunities. Rather than giving loads of notes and PowerPoints, a strategy of students-centred learning was developing activities that generate independent and critical thinking. Lecturers constructed activities that assist students in asking why and encouraged high order thinking. Too often, lecturers only rely on rote-learning questions and do not ask students to apply the concepts.

Providing peer support opportunities such as tutors and mentors

Remote teaching and learning can lead to students feeling alone in the learning process. What has to be accounted for is that learning is also a social activity and that lecturers have to develop opportunities for students to engage with one another in the learning process. A key feature of RTL is, therefore, providing access to peer learning and support. Some lecturers changed their pedagogical approaches by including peers, tutors and mentors and as part of the learning process. Online tutors and mentors played a crucial role in RTL so that students felt like they were part of a community of learners.  Having regular online tutor sessions allowed students to learn from their peers and to engage in the affective dimensions of RTL. Peer learning was encouraged through pedagogical strategies such as group work and paired learning activities in the online environment.

Extending the resources available to students

While we rely on texts in the traditional classroom, a vital element of RTL is to provide a range of resources for students to learn from such as audio, visual, print and online library resources. RTL forces lecturers to use audio and video as part of their pedagogical strategies. Ironically, print material is essential for students as lecturers fear that not all students would have access to the internet. The various pedagogical approaches resulted in lecturers attending to a broader range of students’ learning styles.

Responsiveness during assessments and ensuring that feedback is prompt

Assessments and feedback is a critical part of the RTL. Assessments always evoke anxiety and stress, and within the RTL context, anxieties about assessments are heightened. Responsiveness during assessments and ensuring that feedback is prompt was central to RTL. The feedback from students showed that students appreciated lecturers who communicated clearly about what to expect from assessments and those lecturers who responded to questions about assessments. For students to learn effectively, feedback after assessments must be prompt and must enable students to improve their work. Lecturers used various platforms to give feedback to students such as Blackboard and WhatsApp.

Utilising ICTs: To WhatsApp or not to WhatsApp?

Lecturers utilised ICTs tools extensively during RTL, and the most widely used tool was WhatsApp. The challenges were related to the style, and the manner of engagement as students would use a casual tone and would sometimes use expletives as part of their interaction with lecturers. Some lecturers did not want to impose themselves on the WhatsApp space and decided that a student representative should be part of the WhatsApp group and would in turn report to the lecturer.

Students studying at home

Factors such as as a noisy learning environment, an unsuitable place to study and learn and living with a large family impacted on RTL. Students also had to deal with psycho-social problems such as the anxiety and fear of not completing the academic year, the fear of COVID-19 and feeling alone while studying and not having the normal support of peers          

Is ATS good at communicating science?

Before we answer this question, let’s first contextualize the structure, mandate and operating procedures of the Agrifood Technology Station. The Station consists of seven technical staff members, an Administrator and a Finance Officer. Our mandate is innovation support to SMEs in the food industry and also technology transfer and training. In our set of Standard Operating Procedures it would be quite evident that meeting this mandate requires significant two-way communication with our clients, other academics, suppliers and the public at large.

Now, having said that, it also implies that we need to do this in a way that the parties mentioned above understand, assimilate, use and critique such communication and its content. It will also be evident that the parties mentioned above would almost be a disparate group in terms of science. Put another way, the degree of knowledge of hard science and science “lingo” would vary greatly. In other words, ATS would need to communicate in different ways with different people pending their “science groundedness”.

Why the question in the first place? In the first instance, because of my own interest in science communication in terms of my role as manager of ATS. Hence my completing an online course in science communication through the Center for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at the University of Stellenbosch. In the second instance, the importance of science communication is growing in this science & technology-driven world. This is evidenced by articles in The Conversation:

Our job at ATS is thus clearly dependent on communicating science and technology. Over the years we have worked with nano- or micro-enterprises up to multinationals and big corporates. This means we would have communicated with a wide variety of people of all educational backgrounds, including academics at other tertiary institutions. We have learnt over the years how to communicate technically challenging topics or processes. This includes breaking down these topics or processes into simple unit operations. In the initial life of ATS (more than 12 years ago now) this did prove somewhat of a challenge.

Some parts of the challenge was that, in many instances, the clients we serviced were, more often than not, well-versed and technically savvy in their special project or task. However, in the same instance, they would not be as savvy regarding all the supporting knowledge or other operations which they needed for support and for solving their specific problems/ projects. This is where the value of ATS arose i.e. having a good generals science and technology background we could help clients see the trees in the wood.

I also completed a crash course toward certification as a consultant. This was a generic course that could be applied to many different fields. Surprisingly, this course corroborated our learnings at ATS in terms of how to work with a client. This included the empathy required with problem solving as well as the need to listen well before responding. To me, this confirmed that our approach, still in use today, was the correct one.

n the “publish or perish” world of academia, the need to address everyday challenges of our communities has slowly become more important. As the old story goes, blue sky research was the order of the day, a large percentage of which was fundamental or far from directly answering critical, real-world challenges. Suffice to say that, via Universities of Technology and also now traditional universities, this is being remedied. The Agrifood Technology Station is one such unit among many others at the forefront of this bandwagon, again communicating solutions and information to the challenges and improving public understanding of the outcomes of such.

We do try our best!

L. Dolley

Megan Alexander: extra(ordinary) academic in ECP who is ‘supporting students as they transition into and through the university’

In our final segment of the (extra)ordinary academics in ECP series for 2018, we shine the spotlight on Megan Alexander. Megan is a Communications lecturer in the PAG Foundation and Tourism and Entrepreneurship extended programmes in the Business Faculty. We sat down with Megan to find out more about her interests in education more generally, and current role within the ECP domain.

At her core, Megan is a teacher. She started her career as a primary school teacher before moving into the TVET sector and then finally joining CPUT, in the Education Faculty as a Teaching Practice Coordinator. In 2015 she joined the ECP community when she moved to the Business Faculty as a Communications lecturer. Megan is also responsible for the PAG Foundation coordination and deals with all the RPL applications in the PAG department.

Megan feels her grounding in both the primary and secondary schooling sector has prepared her well for understanding, especially, students’ university transitions and language and communication needs. She has been able to marry her dual interests and passion for education and language in her own educational journey which started at UWC. She completed an English and Psychology degree before pursuing a post-graduate diploma in education. She then completed a BEd in Educational Psychology. However, her experiences of working in multilingual educational contexts and her interesting to appropriately support students in predominantly English medium learning environments, led her to pursue a Masters’ degree in Second Language Acquisition at Stellenbosch University.

Megan particularly enjoys and is drawn to supporting first-year students in the ECP pathway. She feels it is the differentiating characteristics of this cohort that makes the teaching space she occupies a particularly productive one. Some of the main challenges she has encountered, appears to reside outside her immediate ECP classroom. These include, the uneven faculty and institutional support and understanding of ECP and certain structural barriers within the faculty that prevent lecturers from exploring the full curricular potential of the ECP teaching and learning space. Megan believes firmly that ECP academics need more control over the selection and placement of students in their classrooms.

As a passionate advocate for the ECP project she feels that it acts as a vital mechanism of providing entry routes for students into their chosen fields of study. In key ways ECP does address the educational needs of its students. Therefore, it is an important social justice driver in the university sector. Megan emphatically states that ECP is not fulfilling a ‘bridging’ function, rather it is a legitimate pathway to successfully completing a diploma qualification. She also believes that ECP holds tangible benefits for both students and academics. But more could be done to support ECP academics. Especially to forge a closer, more productive community of practice, and to assist with their development as not only teachers, but also researchers.

Megan, along with her PAG Foundation colleagues, recently participated in a few practice-sharing dissemination and networking opportunities at conferences. In 2019 she will embark on a collaborative research project with colleagues at UCT and two universities in Australia. Their research topic: students’ academic reading as they transition through the university.

In her spare-time Megan is an avid play-station ‘gamer’ and she enjoys gardening, keeping fit and walking her dog.

Amanda Morris: an extra(ordinary) academic in ECP who is ‘creating a space in the world for the student to flourish’

In our second installment of the (extra)ordinary academic in ECP series, we profile Amanda Morris, currently a lecturer in the Design Foundation and previously ECP coordinator for the Graphic Design Foundation. Recently we caught up with Amanda and learnt more about her deep passion for design education, love for teaching and commitment to improving the learning experiences of all students who step over the threshold of her classroom door.

Amanda is a true example of the institution growing its own timber. She completed her Graphic Design diploma at Peninsula Technikon, one of the pre-merger institutions that became CPUT in 2005. Her passion for teaching developed early, when after just a year in industry she decided to quit her job, pursue her BTech degree and jumped into the world of education. She was so enthusiastic to join the ranks that she initially worked ‘for free’ – doing observations and acting as a teaching assistant in the Graphic Design classrooms at Pentech. She then started teaching part-time on a certificate course which was to become the pre-cursor to the ECP in the department. She then went on to join the lecturing team in the Foundation Year on the Bellville campus. Between 2014 – 2017 Amanda took on the role of ECP coordinator in Graphic Design and in 2018 the new joint Design Foundation was implemented on the Cape Town campus.

It is no surprise, given Amanda’s interest in design education, that her MTech degree focused on this topic and specifically the learning preferences of students and how multimodality shaped the teaching and learning setting. Amanda finds that the start of each new year, with its new cohort of students brings a flood of possibilities, excitement and enjoyment; as she is able to share in her students’ experiences of exploring the field of design – a field which without ECP they might not otherwise have had access to. She sees her role as primarily linked to helping students find their sense of identity in  finding out what it is like to be a designer. But this does not diminish the continued frustrations she has that the ECP project is still misunderstood in the wider departmental and institutional community. Or the lack of follow-through and uptake of ECP pedagogies, principles and work ethic into the mainstream. All too often ECP resources are still not fully utilized to accord the all-important access and there isn’t always clarity about what the ECP learning experience should be like for students.

A lot more could also be done to appropriately assist ECP academics to fully realise the role, principles and ethos of the project – with Amanda asserting that a distinction must be drawn between students either being ‘underprepared’ for university study or ‘unsure’ about their chose of study. She insists ECP should not be treated as a ‘waiting room’. She also believes that the next frontier for ECP should be around creating meaningful access and support for students with disabilities. Hard questions also need to be asked about the extent of support (academic and others) that the ECP can or cannot provide.

Amanda’s social justice principles associated with her ECP location, easily crosses-over to her after hours’ activities, where in addition to being an active mother of three young children, she is involved in community and fellowship work on the Cape Flats. She also finds time to feed her graphic designer-self and frequently undertakes part-time design work.

The art of acceptance and the absence of the grasping mind

Written by Courtney Fowles

Intern Counselling Psychologist, District Six Campus

‘It is one of the great lies propagated by our culture that getting more and more physical and material prosperity will lead to greater and greater happiness. This is simply not true. Genuine happiness lies in not wanting. Endless wanting is such a burden to the mind. If we really wish to be happy and create happiness for those around us, our task is to clean, aerate and order our minds’ – Tenzin Palmo

“If I just lost that weight I’d feel better about myself”
“If I just gained that weight I’d feel better about myself”
“Once I get that qualification, that degree, that job I’ll be able to find peace”
“Once I am married I will feel safe and happy”
“If I just manage to get that outfit, car, or house I’ll be happy”
“If only I had not done that one thing in the past I would feel happy right now”
“If that didn’t happen to me I would be able to experience joy”
“If I got more ‘likes’ or followers things would be better”

The list goes on and the search for happiness, peace, fulfilment and joy continues. Sound familiar?
Sometimes, actually most of the time we get caught in memories of the past and musings about the future – our brains default button if you will. And when we spend time occupied in these two spaces, which do not exist in this very moment, we deny ourselves the opportunity to embrace and rest in the joy or stillness of what is right now.

Maybe how we are ‘searching’ is part of the problem. Rushing, spending, and accumulating, more and more. We seem to have buried our joy under piles of stuff that bought us some temporary pleasure or fulfilment at the time. But never seems to tick the box of eternal joy, happiness, and peace. But why, we spent so much money on that outfit, the new trend ‘must have’, appliance, watch, gadget, car, or other material thing we deemed essential to our fulfilment. And in doing this we relegate happiness to the future and we prevent ourselves from feeling content right now at this very moment! It’s the same with all the other societal expectations based on how you should look, who you should be with, what you should believe, how qualified you should be or how big your salary is. All these things are external, they rely on doing or gaining things on a superficial level of reality. They are sold to use through society’s neoliberal and capitalistic pursuits under the guise that we can purchase happiness with the latest trend or attain it by fulfilling a socially constructed expectation of what it is to be normal and happy.

A lot of us seem to think that maybe we are not good enough and by doing or attaining certain things we will finally be good enough, worthy, fulfilled, acknowledged, loved and so on. And so we attach ourselves to people, situations, beliefs, or possessions in an effort to feel good enough. You get the gist, we are constantly reaching and grasping at dreams, things, and expectations that we forget to manifest instead of dream, to appreciate the things we have and not pen happiness on the next purchase, to embrace where we are, who we are, and how we look right now in our lives rather than comparing ourselves to friends or celebrities on social media. We need to loosen the hold our expectations and desires have on us and free ourselves from this illusion.

The wisdom of Tibetan psychology tells us that the essence of Buddhism involves the absence of grasping and desire which is known as Vajrayana. So ask yourself; are you happy, content, and joyful and at peace right now?
If yes, great! I could learn a thing or two from you!
If no, that’s okay maybe the trick is not looking at attaining more externally but emptying it out a bit, clearing the layers of dirt we bought and borrowed to gratify our ego’s and looking inwards. That’s a bit scary for some of us, it can make us feel vulnerable which society often tells us is ‘weakness’. This is why we penned our joy to things we got pleasure from almost instantly in the outside world or we chose ignorance as the path of least resistance. Because these paths did not involve sifting through layers of fears, uncertainties, and doubts or feeling vulnerable. But what if the payoff of turning our search for happiness, joy, and peace inwards resulted in eternal happiness, joy, and peace. For some this is known as enlightenment. And we can start our journey towards that today, by;

Learning to let go
Let’s take a moment to look at our attachment and grasping tendencies:
Step 1: Identify my grasping
Find a quiet place to sit comfortably with a pen and paper handy. Start reviewing all the possessions and attachments you have accumulated in your life. Now see where an intense sense of ownership or possession is focused. These are tangible things but it could also be an attachment to ideas, knowledge, people, and symbols. Maybe you’re attached to attachment! Just write down what comes to mind without analysing it, put it aside and don’t read through it. You can keep doing this for a couple of days to see what comes up and to identify any pattern in your grasping tendencies. Ask yourself; Do I see the consequences of my grasping? Can I see the difficulties, suffering or conflict it causes?

Step 2: Imagine losing or giving away
Again find a relaxing spot with pen and paper and mentally go through the list of attachments you created. Now imagine losing the important ones, as if they were taken away or you had to give them away. E.g. If it’s your knowledge you lose it, your good looks they are gone. You had to catch a plane suddenly and leave it all behind, see what happens in your mind.

Step 3: Now give it away
Okay go on and give away one of the possessions you are attached to. It’s gone, see how this affects you now by noticing what happens in your mind and body. Now give away another thing, actually give it away. Keep giving until it becomes easier. Can you feeling anything liberating in this generosity?
I am not telling you to get rid of all your things; rather it is the psychological detachment from them that can be of benefit. To enjoy fully but have insight into your relationship with attachment and grasping is what we are trying to do. To see where our freedom lies. Here are some ways we can learn more about our attachments and how we can create some healthy distance from those that do not serve us;

Ways to let go of the grasping mind:
Practice acceptance
Openly and radically accepting ourselves as we are can be transformational. So notice how you talk to yourself, the attitude you have towards yourself, the judgements and criticisms you easily dish out to yourself on a daily basis. We expect ourselves to perfect which we are not and cannot expect to be. If we allow our minds to reveal themselves and to accept this without judgement and criticism we can find a sense of peace and understanding, without slipping into bad habits of negative self-talk that push away peace and understanding. So why not try making friends with your mind?

Body and breath
We seem to have become quite disconnected from our bodies. So just take a moment to check how your body is feeling at the moment, are you holding in your breath or is there some tension somewhere? Or can you notice any free and empty spaces in the body? Really focus on the sensations your body is experiencing. Once you’ve done this little body scan and checked in with yourself. Notice how you are feeling, the body sometimes tells us things we have become accustomed to silencing. Are you tired? Are you anxious? Are you content?


“Some of us are war with ourselves without realising it: we repress feelings, deny the existence of unwelcome mind states and refuse to accept ourselves as we are. As a result we experience inner conflict, anxiety, depressive states and fear; we are unhappy in life and fearful of death” – Rob Nairn

We can make friends with our minds by learning to be a bit gentler with ourselves and letting go of thoughts and habits that do not serve us by allowing the mind to be still. Sounds a lot easier than it really is. Getting into it can be a slow and sometimes boring or very frustrating process because the mind is prone to constantly thinking, analysing and concentrating. Much like spotting an animal in the bush. If it is constantly moving you may struggle to see what it clearly is. But if it remains somewhat still you can observe it fully and with clarity. If we are able to get the mind to be fairly still we can experience clarity, wisdom, and compassion without having to look in all sorts of strange places.

Create awareness and focus
Develop bare-attention. This is the ability to notice the comings and goings of your mind without attaching thoughts and behaviours to it. As a movie camera would pan a scene without comment, evaluation, judgement, or interventions so can you with your mind – through observation. This also means don’t grasp or attach to mindfulness as it defeats the process.

Attitude of gratitude
Lastly, try cultivate this as a daily routine by just checking in with yourself, friend or loved one and listing just three things that you are grateful for on this day at this moment.
May you loosen the grip of the grasping mind and find peace, happiness, and joy in the art of acceptance.


Reference: Nairn, R. (2002). Living dreaming dying. Kairon Press: Kalk Bay.

Re-visioning the curriculum with Marketing ECP

In an effort to create a more inclusive and responsive curriculum for their ECP students in 2019, the HoD, Mandy Jones, and the ECP lecturers in the Marketing department devoted three mornings to workshop their existing ECP curricula.

Everyone agreed that their existing curricula did not adequately or appropriately meet the educational needs of their students. Lecturers were keen to explore, new and fresh ways to bring the student to the centre of their thinking and practices in the ECP classroom. The three-day workshop series focused on a detailed exploration of who their ECP students are, an analysis of their current curricula, how to infuse their curricula with the three domains of learning, thus knowing, being and doing, and then examine how individual lessons could cater more fully to the specific needs of students.

The committed group worked energetically over the three days and participated in the many activities and discussions that sought to help them better understand how to change their existing curricula and classroom practices. The lecturers also decided to form a ECP curriculum committee to drive forward the work undertaken during the workshop and ensure implementation in 2019.

HELTASA 2018: wrap-up from the PAG Foundation presenters

Megan Alexander, Andre Cornelius and Robert Schultz, ECP lecturers in the PAG Foundation, took their curriculum development work to HELTASA this year. Below they share their experiences of this significant annual gathering of higher education scholars, researchers, academics and practitioners.

Heltasa 2018 afforded us the opportunities to engage in practice-sharing, networking and collegiality. Best practice, complexities and challenges in HE were brought to the fore through presentations, interactive posters, discussion sessions, table discussions, workshops and networking events. The ECP Special Interest Group (SIG) sessions were particularly interesting and helpful in that ECP databases would be formed or managed better. This would serve as a tool or vehicle for ECP academics to remain in touch, to share information or practices and to rally support for issues around concerns like policy change. Our presentation on Navigating Curriculum Implementation: the experiences of ECP lecturers in the Public Administration and Governance Department was well attended with visitors from a range of universities as well as CPUT colleagues. Questions and comments posed will allow us to further interrogate and respond to our curriculum and continually debate its relevance and purpose.

Important Blackboard Maintenance and News

Attention ALL Lecturing Staff
You may have experienced that the look and feel have changed, it’s still the same LMS as you know it, but with the anticipated Blackboard Ultra theme.
We’re reaching the end of the year and we need to do some maintenance on the Blackboard System.
1. All the 2014 – 2016 subjects will be removed from the system:
Therefore it’s time for you to make backups of your subjects and download it to your PC’s to ensure that you have a personal copy. Blackboard will also archive older subjects, but if you for whatever reason
might need your subject to be restored, it will be a faster process if you have your own archived copy than for us to request it from Blackboard.
Archive Instructions:
Underneath the Course Management Control Panel;
click on Packages and Utilities;
click on Export/Archive Course;
click on Archive Course;
Select your Copy Options and click on Submit.
(You will receive an email when the Archive process is complete. Just click on the archive file to download it to your PC.)
2. Next generation LMS: Move to SAAS and Blackboard Ultra:
With the move to Software as a Service (SAAS), all future software updates will happen automatically. Blackboard Ultra is the new Blackboard version that we’re moving to in 2019! The following document describes the transformation of the user interface and workflows in Blackboard Learn to Blackboard Ultra.
3. Creating 2019 courses:
All the 2019 courses will be created on Blackboard before closing of the 2018 academic year and populated with the primary lecturer as linked on ITS.
If you do not have access to our learning resources on eLearning BP: Best Practice, please drop us an email.

Domestic Use of Energy Conference (DUE 2019) Topics

Energy access
Energy affordability
Mini-grids, nano-grids and smart grids
Smart metering and AMI
Energy efficiency, air conditioning and heat pumps
Renewable energy and power electronics
Appliances and smart appliances
Low voltage DC and DC Home standards
Energy Management, Ambient Intelligence
IoT in Energy
Green Energy
Energy Modelling

Energy Solutions for the Cities of the 4th Industrial Revolution

In line with World Bank initiative for universal access to energy and sustainable energy for all, various solutions are being implemented and monitored for their efficiency. Among the solutions for increasing universal access to electricity are off grid electrification such as solar, diesel and hybrid systems.The humble home, from Cape to Cairo, from Beijing to Fez or London to Calcutta, remain the focus of energy use that is critical to most people. This home is now almost universally tied into not only an energy use nexus, but also a transportation and communication one.In the fourth revolution new energy technologies will feature. The efficiency and flexibility of energy use will improve with intelligent monitoring and connectivity of devices.  Low-cost renewable energy, and perhaps bio-energy through genetic modification, 3D-printed nuclear reactors, fusion power and carbon capture, offer cheaper, cleaner energy. How will these technologies influence and impact
on the Domestic Use of Energy? These are questions we can explore at the 2019 DUE Conference. Increasingly new and novel energy demands will also appear – household robot servants, human exoskeletons, hyperloops, long-distance commuting in autonomous vehicles, hypersonic plane travel, and space holidays. Solar roofs, batteries and electric vehicles will increasingly offer a new way for individuals to create and sell energy services, even if end uses do not change much.The conference will host a FULL DAY Workshop on Microgrids which will also award CPD points for attendance.Come to the African and International DUE 2019!
The conference is a celebration of the convenience of electricity and investigates new ways to “do more with the energy you use” – productive use of a strategic resource by an ever expanding base of consumers in both the residential and business sector means that South Africa can grow its economy thanks to a reliable electricity supply.Enjoy Wellington, an idyllic town 40 minutes from Cape Town, at the finest time of the year! At the same time, please join the local drive to conserve water – our other most precious resource.