Tshwane North Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College in South Africa transitioned to Open LMS in 2020 to offer eLearning to 2,000 initial users and meet the needs of learners through a blended learning approach.
Institution: Tshwane North Technical and Vocational Education and Training College
Location: Pretoria, South Africa
Platform/Products: Open LMS
Student population: 20,000
Number of LMS users: 2,000
Tshwane North Technical and Vocational Education and Training College (TNC) is among 50 public technical and vocational education and training colleges in South Africa. With a central office and six campuses comprising over 20,000 students, the college’s main objective is to equip students with the right skills, knowledge, and attributes to lead the modern economy.
In 2014, the college began its journey to eLearning after receiving a mandate from the country’s Department of Higher Education and Training to begin a roadmap towards digital transformation. After conducting research, the college explored an eLearning implementation in 2015, through a pilot program geared towards a select group of students to gauge how they experienced the blended learning model. In 2019, online classes began to be offered to working students and were delivered via a free LMS through a Creative Commons license.
The college began to transition to a blended learning model in 2020, to accommodate for the imminent changes brought on by the pandemic. TNC’s Dr. Pieter Geel, LMS administrator, and Mongalo Henrietta, online lecturer, have been working together to successfully transition the college to the new learning model with the support of Open LMS, the institution’s new LMS provider.
The Challenge: Extending eLearning Across Programs and Users
When the pandemic hit in 2020, South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training indicated that education institutions could move to a blended learning approach, as education had mostly been delivered face-to-face. This posed a challenge for the institution, as the number of users and usage had to suddenly increase and their existing LMS could no longer support it. Additionally, the LMS lacked a number of features that were now necessary. The college needed a way to extend eLearning across faculties and students, resulting in the need for a more robust LMS platform that could meet its new educational needs.
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The Solution: Adopting Open LMS and Completing Training
TNC had learned about Open LMS in late 2019, and Dr. Geel and Mongalo Henrietta were interested in implementing it and had done some initial training. With the COVID-19 shutdown in the country, however, TNC remained closed for most of 2020, which posed an impediment to moving faculty and students into the new learning modality. Dr. Geel and Mongalo Henrietta used the time to attend Open LMS administrator programs, as well as to set up the structure on the LMS with assistance from the Open LMS team.
“Because of COVID-19, we had to close the college for a long time. During that period, we were able to complete the training courses available to upskill ourselves on how to use the LMS. That assisted us to be ready this year, in 2021, to fully use Open LMS.” – Mongalo Henrietta, online lecturer and LMS trainer, Tshwane North TVET College
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The Result: Successfully Moving 2,000 Users to eLearning With a User-Friendly LMS
At TNC, classes opened on February 8th, 2021 and the institution is successfully implementing blended learning for 2,000 initial active users for the Open Learning Unit. Currently, it uses the new LMS platform to upload materials and have students access resources on their devices. Although transitioning to Open LMS has been easier for some of the students due to their experience with the previous LMS, Dr. Geel and Mongalo believe that Open LMS has been more user-friendly and intuitive. For instance, in the past, they had to manually provide students with login credentials and walk them through the process. With Open LMS, students receive the access link directly and can log in without assistance.
Getting buy-in from management and lecturers across all campuses and convincing them to use the LMS has been the most challenging part of the process. To this end, Dr. Geel and Mongalo Henrietta have provided faculty training by creating learning modules and having staff mimic the student experience. Additionally, staff were provided with a sandbox to learn the system as lecturers. “We have to get buy-in from all the stakeholders. What I like about Open LMS is that the moment I extract information from our student site and put it onto the LMS, the students know exactly what to do. They just follow the instructions and are able to easily interact with the LMS,” shared Dr. Geel.
While data, connectivity, and access to devices are a challenge in the country, there are ample advantages to eLearning. With the right tools, students can access learning anytime and anywhere using the mobile app. They can revisit materials as many times as needed, especially if they missed a class and need to catch up online. Since the college has just transitioned to eLearning, it’s hoping to begin using all the tools and plugins available, such as Blackboard SafeAssign for Moodle for plagiarism prevention. In addition, it will be ready to deliver learning should the college have to close its physical doors once again.
“I’ve worked with a number of LMSs but Open LMS has been so user-friendly to me as an administrator. It is much easier to train faculty on this LMS because once you access the platform, you can just explore it and it’s straightforward. It’s very user-friendly” – Dr. Pieter Geel, LMS administrator, Tshwane North TVET College.