NUST launches iStudyXR Online Teaching Course for educators

THE National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in partnership with InventXR from the Silicon Valley in the USA, has successfully launched an online teaching course to empower teachers and lecturers in Africa during the Covid-19 period and beyond. The course, titled ‘iStudyXR Online Teaching Course for Educators’, was delivered online over a period of four weeks using the iStudyXR Learning Management System (LMS).

 As part of its response strategies to the Covid-19 pandemic and looking beyond, the Faculty of Science and Technology Education, working through the NUST Innovation Hub (NUST iHUB), developed the iStudyXR Online Teaching Course for Educators that attracted a total of 107 participants from universities, colleges and schools from five countries in the Southern African region.

“NUST iHUB came up with an intervention to pilot a new learning management system, iStudyXR, which incorporates both the technical and pedagogical aspects of online teaching,” said Mr Arnold Moyo, the Innovation and Business Development Operations Manager.

The course is the first output of the Future of Learning Centre of the NUST iHUB, an idea/concept accelerator for all things at the intersection of education and Internet revolutions.

“While the iStudyXR LMS was chosen to be the software delivery channel for this course, the skills acquired from the training are transferable to any LMS such as Google Classroom and Moodle,” said the Vice Chancellor, Prof Mqhele Dlodlo.

He described the advantages that iStudyXR has over other popular LMSs as its layout that is similar to that of popular social media platforms so that learners find it intuitively user-friendly and has been customised and adapted for Zimbabwe.

Prof Dlodlo added that iStudyXR incorporates an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered research tool called Yewno Discover; it incorporates a coding environment that enables learners to develop software from within the LMS without having to install any software development tools in their phones or computers and; it is hosted in a Zimbabwean Cloud located in Harare and Bulawayo thereby assuring the institutional users of the LMS of the security of their content and guaranteed access to their data for future use.

The Vice Chancellor said the local hosting of the Cloud makes it possible to reduce the data costs associated with accessing the iStudyXR LMS from within Zimbabwe to insignificant amounts if Internet Service Providers (ISP) can be persuaded to be part of a nation-wide intranet (Local Area Network) created through inter-connections at Internet Exchange Points in the country.

Before the launch of this new online learning platform, NUST promoted online teaching using platforms like SAKAI, Moodle and Google Classroom.

To successfully run the pilot iStudyXR course, the NUST iHUB recruited a team of experts from NUST, Midlands State University (MSU) and Stanford University (SU) to design and implement a one-month long online course.

Guest speakers who were invited to deliver presentations included Esther Wojcicki a prominent ICT pedagogy expert, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Zimbabwe representative, the CEO of Datemutande and the CEO of SportEDTV CEO.

“Participants were recruited through WhatsApp. The criterion for participation was access to a reliable internet connection during the lockdown and ability to recruit at least 10 learners with internet access during the implementation phase. 87 teachers from primary and secondary schools and 20 lecturers from universities, teachers’ colleges, agricultural colleges, polytechnics from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Malawi were recruited into the course,” said Mr Moyo.

He said graduates are set to participate in a virtual graduation ceremony next month where they will be awarded certificates of participation.



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