Responsible Resource Use Department is moving full steam ahead
During the COVID-19 crisis, the Responsible Resource Use Department has by no means gone into hibernation despite having to comply with the regulations and send its students home.
In addressing the needs of the College with the MAVA Foundation via Peace Parks Foundation, a key partner to the College, the MAVA Foundation was advised that as a result of the directive received from the South African National Government’s Department of Higher Education and Training the College had to cease all contact training interventions and ensure all students were able to return to their countries of residence.
This has obviously had a significant impact on the College’s operations and training but the SAWC has remained positive about seizing opportunities and is using this time to prioritise new training methodologies, which were already in process. As part of an emergency grant, the SAWC asked the MAVA Foundation to assist with the development of a sustainable, income-generating output namely the online component of the Field Guide training programme. This is also in line the call for all Higher Education and Training providers, including the SAWC, to develop ways to continue with their education and training programmes via online, eLearning and social media.
The development of online guiding programmes would thus help reduce the impact of the national lockdown strategy and also provide an opportunity to utilise technology-mediated learning to enhance the student learning process. In turn, this would assist the Responsible Resource Use department, who trains Field Guides and Trails Guides for the southern African eco-tourism industry to transform its guiding programmes from a contact classroom environment to an online course in which students can pursue the theory elements at their own pace.
As a fully accredited provider for field guide training in southern Africa, the SAWC is an endorsed provider who works with the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA). As such, the Responsible Resource Use department is now fervently working on our online course development, and online guiding products, which they hope to complete by July 2020.
Moving forward, the development of an online teaching capacity and presence will also help the department address one of the significant problems that the SAWC faces in implementing its transformational role. The cost of providing accommodation and meals over the typical course is high and this is currently beyond the means of many local students. Being able to cut the residential/on-campus time to 4-6 weeks (to apply the skills learnt) would considerably reduce the overall cost of the course.
The hardware and data requirements for students are now being mapped out but it is envisaged that the online course will group 17 modules into seven (7) clusters (thematic areas). Each thematic area will have a series of online resources, quizzes and assessments. The idea would be that once available online, any person interested worldwide could register for the programme. On successful completion of the online aspects, a SAWC certificate of completion could be downloaded. Students who want to receive the SAWC practical and applied component of the training, would be given a series of training dates to attend a 3-week applied guiding programme at the SAWC at set dates throughout the year. At the end of this period, the student would write the Apprentice Field Guide exam and then continue, if required, for a further three (3) weeks with the fieldwork of the higher level Apprentice Trails Guide course.
This new approach to training requires upgrading the technical facilities available in the designated classroom and the preparation of a large number of short video tutorials and other learning and assessment materials suited to on-line learning. The on-line course will be offered using the Talent-LMS platform already in use at the SAWC and the online design of the programme includes (amongst other items):
o Developing theoretical training material not available from FGASA;
o Tailor-making audio, video, photographic, infographic content and tests, quizzes; and
o Providing interactive webinars as required to achieve the best training outcomes.
Ten to twelve SAWC staff are currently involved in the development of this online course, from the Responsible Resource Use department, the Applied Learning Unit and from the Academic department.
It is envisaged that an online capacity will have immediate, short term and long term advantages and applications. The process of developing this will involve staff training and development in several new skills, which has also provided an exciting opportunity from a staff development point of view.
Our sincere thanks is extended to the MAVA Foundation for making this possible.