Teaching and Learning Office

UTLO Background​

UKZN has positioned itself as the premier university of African scholarship and the primary responsibility assigned to the Teaching & Learning Office (UTLO) under the leadership of the Deputy Vice chancellor, is to provide leadership in all areas of teaching and learning to realise the University’s vision, mission and strategic plan with regard to teaching and learning.

UTLO is a diverse portfolio, which involves working closely with the Colleges, Schools and other professional and support structures to promote research and scholarship in teaching and learning. To this end, the portfolio has partnerships with the DHET, CHE, USAf as well as funders and donors. It is actively involed in the management of funded projects related to access, throughput and success, such as the DHET University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP); the DHET Foundation Provisioning Programmes; the Kresege/Siyaphumelela Access and Succees initiative. The portfolio includes monitoring of project funds; writing and co-ordinating project reports; developing funding proposals related to teaching and learning in co-operation with Colleges, the UKZN Research Office, UKZN Foundation and other related units. UTLO also develops and maintaining data bases related to teaching and learning projects; identifying and collaborating with academics with specialist educational expertise in different disciplines. UTLO also supports the generation of peer-reviewed teaching and learning publications.

In fulfilling its mandate, the UTLO collaborates with academics, researchers and students to create supportive, adaptable and innovative learning environments in which outstanding teaching at all levels is nurtured, recognized and rewarded. In pursuit of this, UTLO responds to the teaching and learning needs of the University community, providing leadership in developing, and implementing pedagogically sound research driven solutions. The Office is committed to supporting new and experienced academics increase their practical and theoretical knowledge of university teaching through workshops, seminars, and conferences that address a variety of topics, techniques, and programs.

To achieve its aims, the UTLO pursues several key priorities. Among these, it is committed to:

Leading curriculum transformation. This embodies two areas of focus. First, to support a deliberate effort to integrate the university vision and mission of an African Scholarship, however diversely interpreted, within the broad curriculum reforms needed to move the university into more competitive cutting edge 21st century relevant curricula, but which remain responsive to the development challenges of the country. Second, to use the opportunity of meeting the requirement of the new Higher Education Qualification Framework, National Qualifications Framework and related regulatory requirements in the review of existing programmes and the design and development of new qualifications. Following from the challenges of having developed ”Common Curricula” during the merger, the university is well positioned to engage a next level of curriculum transformations and reforms and to offer selected innovative and niche programmes of national and international quality to engage an internationalisation and globalisation challenge.

Promoting access and success but expanding this focus to paying special attention to throughput and success in subsequent years. This priority involves firstly, taking a stronger research informed approach to understanding and acting on failure and dropout rates across programmes that has become a national higher education concern; and secondly finding institutional strategies and mechanisms for sharing best practice that positively impact beyond the access and foundation programmes in mainstream programme teaching and learning.

Establishing an ongoing cycle of policy development, by implementing and reviewing university policies and procedures at all levels and with respect to both staff and students, to improve teaching and learning. Specifically we focus on the implementation of the Language Policy, in relation to teaching and learning.

Promoting the of scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) by acting as a catalyst for, and bringing together academics and researchers who have the common purpose of promoting optimal student learning both inside and outside the classroom. To achieve this outcome, it is crucial that we conceive of teaching as a scholarly act, which means that we have to invest in our teaching the same intellectual rigour and skill we devote to our research. Part of our drive to promote scholarship involves the launch of a quarterly seminar series which began on 20 March, and the annual University Teaching & Learning conference scheduled for 21-23 September 2009. As with other forms of scholarship, teaching must be public, problem based, purposefully designed, theoretically grounded, and peer evaluated. These are the values UTLO wishes to promote through the activities of the UTLO. And, if we acknowledged teaching as intellectual work, deserving the time and attention of academics and researchers, then we must institute appropriate incentives and rewards for such endeavours.

Promoting and Supporting Technology Enhanced Learning: It has now become more compelling for UKZN to become a leader in technology enhanced methodologies such as blended learning, e-learning, online learning, social media and video conferencing, in part because of the desire to produce leaders in technology and the fourth industrial revolution as these will play a leading role in business, society and industry in the medium to long term. It is also compelling for UKZN to lead in technologies that reduce teaching intensity to foster efficient self-driven learning capabilities while also freeing time for the individual teacher work-load for deeper scholarship engagements. UKZN will also develop superior methodologies for efficient learning in large classes so as to establish learning excellence as class sizes continue to increase into the future. The important thing is to provide platforms for active sharing and engagement in methodology and pedagogy beyond the traditional learning and teaching conference; platforms of specific communities of learning and teaching practice to engage analytically with specific outcomes that are effected in learning improvements.

Promoting and sustaining human capital development: The UTLO agenda and strategy derives from the principles underpinning the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) and is responsive to the recently adopted DHET (2018) National Framework for Enhancing Academics as University Teachers, which advances 6 Imperatives for action:

  1. Enable continuous professional development (CPD) for university teachers.
  2. Establish and maintain university teacher development structures, organisations and resources.
  3. Ensure that academics are recognised and rewarded for the work that they do as university teachers.
  4. Advance university teaching through leadership development.
  5. Promote knowledge production and knowledge sharing about university teaching and learning.
  6. Develop expectations of academics in their role as university teachers.