Soapbox Sukaina Wilji

“How to build enabling partnerships with academics to design for and teach in digitally enabled learning environments”
Presenters: Sukaina Walji, Janet Small, Andrew Deacon, University of Cape Town

Academics have highly developed knowledge fields and rich experience of teaching in the classroom. However, when higher education institutions challenge staff to teach online and to become ‘digital’ teachers, there is often little bridging done between academics’ current teaching practice and the envisaged fully online educator. In our context, most academics have never studied online themselves and like most of us, are more likely to  reproduce the patterns of education we have ourselves experienced. Some academics may have limited skills and knowledge about digitally mediated education, do not feel comfortable experimenting with technology in high stakes teaching contexts or find such activities take time away from other commitments (Gregory & Lodge, 2015; Harrison et al., 2017).  In addition, many academics may not have any professional teaching qualifications, digital or otherwise and we find that the language, terminology and “jargon” of instructional design is often misunderstood or considered alien to some academics’ teaching contexts.

The wicked problem we are presenting is how to build a common approach and understanding between online course design teams (including online learning designers, edtech staff and academic developers), and academics and their teaching teams given the distance between dispositions, professional backgrounds and relative power dynamics between academic and “professional staff”.  What works in your institution?


Gregory, M.S-J., & Lodge, J.M. (2015) Academic workload: the silent barrier to the implementation of technology-enhanced learning strategies in higher education, Distance Education, 36:2, 210-230, DOI: 10.1080/01587919.2015.1055056

Harrison, R., Hutt, I., Thomas-Varcoe, C., Motteram, G., Else, K.,  Rawlings, B., & Gemmell, I. (2017). A Cross-Sectional Study to  Describe Academics’ Confidence, Attitudes, and Experience of Online  Distance Learning in Higher Education. Journal of Educators Online, 14(2), 9.