IMPACT OF ONLINE TEACHING AND LEARNING ON AT-RISK STUDENTS AT AN INSTITUTION OF HIGHER LEARNING IN SOUTH AFRICA: SMU CASE STUDY
Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:The whole world has witnessed the devastating effects of COVID-19. Several businesses have closed down, millions of lives lost, and academic programmes disrupted affecting students’ academic performance. Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU) being a higher education institution (HEI) that relies on contact-based teaching and learning was not spared. When SMU enforced lockdown restrictions, academic activities were converted to online mode with little or no preparedness. The student support services which are an integral part of teaching and learning were also compromised. This online transition on its own had several challenges for students and academic staff members because of the lack of training, software, and hardware resources. At SMU in the School of Science and Technology, an at-risk student is defined as one who has achieved less than a 55% mark in an assessment, first-entry student, repeater, or absentee. This study focused on data for students who failed the final summative assessments. At SMU, the student support service is a manual process that starts in the academic departments and ends with the support departments. A quantitative approach was used with secondary data on final summative assessments taken from the undergraduate programmes in the Department of Computer Science (CS). These assessments were gathered from ten modules over a 3-year period, 2019 to 2021. Two out of the 10 modules are year modules under the extended curriculum programme (ECP) while the eight are semester modules from the main Bachelor of Science (BSc). The results show that the total number of students registered for undergraduate modules in the Department of CS over the 3-year period was 480, 438 and 457 in 2019, 2020 and 2021 respectively. Furthermore, the results show that the pass rates were 89%, 91%, and 75% in 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively. However, in 2020 the spike in the pass rate can be attributed to the changes in assessment rules to accommodate the challenges experienced in that year due to COVID-19. The major findings in different groups show that in ECP module MCSC000 there was a drop from 94% to 62%, in BSc 1 module MCOA012 there was a drastic drop from 91% to 43%, BSc 2 module MCOA022 there was a drop from 85% to 68%, and in BSc 3 module MCOA032 there was a drastic drop from 91% to 48% in pass rates over the same period. These findings show that the academic performance of students at all levels was negatively affected in 2021 as evidenced by a decline in pass rates compared to 2019. In conclusion, it is therefore evident that the academic success of students requires the provision of early and effective interventions because, without it, the students are more likely to struggle academically which could lead to high dropouts. Based on the challenges that exist in SMU, it is evident that more has to be done to resolve the status quo and ensure effective support for students. The institution should invest in a software solution which will effectively identify at-risk students and modules, monitor and evaluate the support provided to students, and track their academic progress. Therefore, it is recommended that an effective online solution be developed and implemented with immediate effect as an intervention to address these challenges, because at SMU, online teaching and learning is here to stay.
Keywords: Higher education institutions, at-risk students, manual processing, online teaching and learning, online student support system, pass rates, assessments.