Graduation Ceremony for the Certificate in Online Teaching for Educators

The Vice Chancellor of UNESWA, posing for a group photo with IDE Graduates following the Graduation Ceremony.

KWALUSENI – The University of Eswatini through the Institute of Distance Education (IDE) held a Graduation Ceremony for 83 awardees who received the Certificate in Online Teaching for Educators (COTE) on Friday 27 May 2022 at the Sports Emporium, Kwaluseni Campus.  In his welcome remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Justice Thwala, thanked the Institute of Distance Education, working with the assistance from the Commonwealth of Learning, for designing, developing and implementing the Certificate in Online Teaching for Educators’ short course.  “This short course allows educators from Eswatini and beyond to transition to online teaching and learning partly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and also through the implementation of the UNESWA Blended Learning Policy”, the Vice Chancellor noted. 

Professor Thwala also highlighted that offering the COTE programme was a relevant and timely intervention as it would assist in the attainment of higher order learning outcomes in line with the requirements of the 4th Industrial Revolution.  The Vice Chancellor mentioned that the awardees had completed an intensive six-week practice-oriented fully online training course which introduced them to all-important aspects of online teaching/learning from online course design, digital material creation, online facilitation to authentic online assessment. He further expressed his excitement that he would be the one presenting the certificates of achievement to all those that had successfully completed the programme. He concluded by congratulating the IDE Director, Professor Cosmas Maphosa, the Project Coordinator, Professor Karen Ferreira-Meyers, the module developers, the facilitators, the e-tutors, the technologist , the technician and everyone else who was involved in the COTE programme.

Following the Vice Chancellor and making his opening remarks was the IDE Director, Professor C. Maphosa who mentioned that those graduating on 27 May were the first two cohorts of students who participated in the programme. Professor Maphosa mentioned how thrilled they were as IDE to be part of the beauty of online learning as they were seeing most of the awardees physically for the first time. Professor Maphosa described part of this “beauty of online learning” as:

  • One is able to study conveniently from the comfort of one’s own home;
  • There is no need for unnecessary and costly travel to campus to receive instruction;
  • Learning is generally self-paced and self-directed;
  • One can learn on the go through the utilisation of mobile devices;
  • The learning material is presented in different formats”: print, audio, video;
  • Utilisation of exciting virtual interaction through wikis, discussion forums and live web-conferencing sessions;
  • Immediate feedback on some tasks through automated responses;
  • Highly engaging learning through interactive material;
  • Access to content at the click of a button, with links to information sources, and
  • Opportunities for online collaboration through add-on features such as Google Docs and Jamboard.”

The Director debunked some myths of online learning and mentioned how, with the support of the Commonwealth of Learning, they piloted the course in 2021 and then evaluated and further improved it before launching it in January 2022. Professor Maphosa appreciated the team that worked on all aspects of the course.  He mentioned that IDE had received a total of 428 applicants of which 421 were admissible and 237 were enrolled in the programme after paying the purposefully low tuition fees. He said: “Given the highly interactive nature of the programme, participants were enrolled in five cohorts of about 50 participants per cohort.” Notably also, some participants were from outside Eswatini and they fully benefited from the programme. The course attracted participants from diverse backgrounds, including the Under Secretary – Schools Manager in the Ministry of Education and Training, Mr. Lungelo Nhlengetfwa.

Finally, the director stated: “We are confident that the participants who are receiving their certificates today are certified online instructors, competent in the following general areas, with numerous specific competencies in each one of them;

  • Designing and developing online courses;
  • Creating interactive digital learning materials;
  • Planning and facilitating synchronous and asynchronous learning on a Learning Management System, and
  • Planning and implementing authentic online assessment”.

Speaking at the same function was Professor Karen Ferreira-Meyers, the Project Coordinator. She mentioned that two cohorts had gone through the programme and were ready to go out and apply their newly acquired knowledge and competencies. She mentioned that an additional three other cohorts would be getting their certificates in July 2022.  “We will be receiving applications for another set of cohorts during the month of July, so that, from August onwards, more educators can gain these extremely essential online teaching competences,” Professor Ferreira-Meyers remarked. She also assured the public that the course will be constantly updated and improved. “Quality assurance is a main thrust in how we work at IDE.” She concluded by thanking the Commonwealth of Learning for the support, IDE’s academic and support staff, the Director, the University of Eswatini qt large and the Vice Chancellor.

Four COTE participants (Dr. Selloane Pitikoe, Dr. Christian Ndlovu, Ms. Nolwazi Ginindza and Mr. Nkosingiphile Shongwe) shared their experiences on the course. They were grateful to IDE for giving them the opportunity to learn so many things in a short space of time and noted that the course is intense, well-designed and highly useful to them as education practitioners.

After the award ceremony, the vote of thanks was given by Professor I.O. Oloyede. Professor Oloyede thanked all who made the course offering and the graduation a success.