In June 2011, Ingrid Bruynse of the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, Steve Hull of JISC Digital Media in the UK and Vance Martin of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the US met at the DIVERSE conference in Dublin. They wanted to find a project that the three of them could pursue together — a project which was decided upon when Ingrid described the state of education in her home state of KwaZulu Natal and the effects of the AIDS epidemic.
Over the course of the following year they evaluated three possible approaches to this situation. These were:
- using teleconferencing (or equivalent) both to ameliorate access problems due to physical distance and to democratize classroom by permitting a teacher to engage with the class as a co-learner,
- using video to provide content which, although unidirectional in presentation can stimulate critical thinking as well as providing information, encouraging students to take more control of their education and
- using video to compile clips of best practice, tips and “what I wish I knew when I was new” in order to train non-teachers to take on a mentoring role.
It was eventually decided to concentrate our efforts on the second of these, it being the most practical one to pursue in the short term. While many setbacks delayed the project over the year, nevertheless it wast up and running in time for the 2012 DIVERSE conference, where a progress report was presented.
The response to the presentation was overwhelmingly positive, resulting in the chair of DIVERSE pledging the organisation’s support for the continuation of the project. Ingrid, Steve and Vance are now continuing the pilot scheme and looking at other ways in which more support can be provided to secondary education in KwaZulu Natal.