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Article

Albert Mawonde and Muchaiteyi Togo

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how universities can play a pivotal role in implementing sustainable development goals (SDGs). It recognises the advantage that…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how universities can play a pivotal role in implementing sustainable development goals (SDGs). It recognises the advantage that universities have in responding to social challenges through their functions and operations, mainly through research and innovation and academic prowess. Not much guidance is available on how they can contribute to SDG implementation. The research is a case study of the University of South Africa, a distance education institution. It showcases how its science campus in Johannesburg has incorporated SDGs in its operations.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected through interviews with campus operations managers and sustainability office managers, a survey with environmental science honours students was conducted and observations of the Unisa Florida campus environment were undertaken to establish practices that contribute towards SDG implementation. Document analysis assisted in complementing the data collection process. Data were analysed by aligning practices with SDG indicators.

Findings

The research revealed a number of practices that align with SDGs in teaching, research, community engagement and campus operations management. Unisa is however challenged by financial limitations and as an open distance education and learning (ODeL) institution, it struggles to involve students in these projects. The paper concludes that while the most obvious contribution of universities to SDGs is towards quality education (SDG 4), higher education, including distance education institutions, can play an active role in implementing other SDGs as well.

Research limitations/implications

This research was limited to one institution, Unisa, owing to time limitations. While this might seem like the research was too selective, it was intentional, as the aim was to research a distance education institution. The research targeted staff involved in campus operations at Unisa’s Florida Campus, which is located in Johannesburg. Interviews were limited to students pursuing BSc Honours in Environmental Management. This was a methodological decision to contain the research, but making sure that the targeted respondents were the most informed. Individual case studies are often critiqued for being insufficiently representative to allow generalisations to other contexts (Jupp, 2006). This applies to this research in terms of “populations and universes” (Yin, 2003, p. 10), but generalisations to “theoretical propositions” (ibid) are possible.

Originality/value

There are few studies in Africa which researched implementation of SDGs in universities, let alone in ODeL institutions. The research revealed the challenge of involving students in sustainability practices in distance education institutions and serves as a testimony that such institutions can still have successful projects on and off campus. It suggests involving students in applied research based on the current sustainability projects on and off campus.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 20 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article

Britta Zawada

The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of a culture of high quality and show how a culture of high or exceptional quality goes beyond the functional apparatus…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of a culture of high quality and show how a culture of high or exceptional quality goes beyond the functional apparatus of quality assurance, the so-called props on the stage, to the enactment and ultimately to the shared meaning-making and webs of significance for both the institution and its staff, as well as for the students and the communities they come from and will ultimately serve.

Design/methodology/approach

In addition to a general literature review, the paper is a conceptual exploration using a desktop study with examples from UNISA’s (University of South Africa) practice, to develop a conceptual understanding of the concept of a quality culture in higher education. The types and nature of the evidence required for the different quality loci and units of analysis are explored. Areas for improvement are indicated and linked to strategic imperatives in the South African context such as pedagogical renewal and curriculum transformation.

Findings

Conceptually, a quality culture can be found in four different loci, namely, in the input or functional apparatus, through the enactment to, the individual outcomes and the communal outcomes of institutional activities. The paper also shows that there are different levels of a quality culture that may be found in each of these loci, namely, compliance for accreditation, academic peer review and communities of practice and ultimately transformative meaning-making that leads to innovation and excellence. The conceptual discussion also indicates that in higher education, a regenerative clan culture would likely be the most conducive to ensuring a culture of high academic quality. The case study of UNISA indicates that all the functional quality apparatus is in place with supporting evidence, but that more attention could be paid to the meaningful enactment of a quality culture in in all of the above loci and levels.

Originality/value

This paper makes a conceptual contribution to developing the concept “quality culture” to include meaning making, communities of practice and ultimately communal, rather than only individual, webs of significance. The paper identifies loci and levels of quality and quality cultures and explores what may count as evidence of high quality in a distance-education setting.

Details

Quality Assurance in Education, vol. 27 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0968-4883

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Article

Judy C. Henning

The purpose of this paper is to share information on the management of open distance libraries with special reference to technology applications. It seeks to provide…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to share information on the management of open distance libraries with special reference to technology applications. It seeks to provide information on the changing roles of academic libraries with specific reference to the requirements of open and distance learning (ODL). It aims to focus on the practical management experience of the University of South Africa (UNISA) library in support of the implementation of a new ODL model (optimizing available technology) at the University.

Design/methodology/approach

A review of the relevant literature was conducted to provide an overview on the topic and a context for the information gathered on the UNISA Library. Information gathered from the planning, policies and procedures of UNISA in general and the UNISA library in particular as well as experience gained by participating in workshops on ODL at UNISA was included in the paper.

Findings

The findings indicate that research and literature on leadership in distance education in general are limited and this is even more true for open and distance libraries. It is, however, evident from experience and the required standards for distance library services, that structured management and planning of these services are important to ensure success and future developments of the services. Furthermore, leaders in open distance libraries also need a variety of skills that are constantly updated to ensure optimization of resources, for suitable strategic planning, policy formulation and suitable in terms of new technology developments.

Originality/value

In addition to the literature survey and analysis the information gathered for the article is original in that it captures the experience gained from management of an ODL library. Although focused on open distance learning, the information is also of value to residential institutions, as the border between online services and open distance services is becoming blurred.

Details

Library Management, vol. 31 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0143-5124

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Book part

Ashiya Abdool Satar

This chapter presents a case study of the University of South Africa (Unisa), an Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) institution, to highlight the innovative strategies…

Abstract

This chapter presents a case study of the University of South Africa (Unisa), an Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) institution, to highlight the innovative strategies the university adopts to create inclusive learning spaces for students with hearing and visual disabilities and impairments in an ODeL environment. In doing so, this chapter first highlights the obstacles that students with hearing and visual disabilities and impairments face in the higher education sector in South Africa in general, and then closely examines the challenges these students face within a distance-learning context, with particular reference to the post-apartheid era. Subsequently, the discussion steers towards the specific context of Unisa and the approaches embraced by its Advocacy and Resource Centre for Students with Disabilities (ARCSWiD) to create an inclusive learning environment for these students. A close examination of the various sound and audio formats, as well as support services for documents in Braille, for example, for students with visual impediments and a discussion of the support systems, such as sign language interpretation, among other support structures, for students with hearing difficulties are then put forward. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the ethical issues associated with the use of assistive devices and other support structures for these students, before putting forth recommendations, and making suggestions for possible future studies.

Details

Strategies for Facilitating Inclusive Campuses in Higher Education: International Perspectives on Equity and Inclusion
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78756-065-9

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Article

Jenny Raubenheimer

The purpose of the paper is to investigate the enhancement of resource sharing with a state-of-the-art transportation system in a large open distance learning (ODL…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of the paper is to investigate the enhancement of resource sharing with a state-of-the-art transportation system in a large open distance learning (ODL) institution in South Africa. The University of South Africa (UNISA) is an ODL institution, and it has the largest academic library of its kind in Africa. The University is acknowledged as one of the mega-universities of the world with a student body approaching 400 000. In addition to providing an inter-lending service to this large student body and to 3,000 staff, the UNISA Library is a net-lender within South Africa’s inter-lending and resource sharing network. The Library’s inter-lending service forms part of the request services available to all its clients and to the wider community of participating libraries. Daily, an average of 2000 requests is received for processing, retrieval and delivery. This paper provides a brief overview of how the Library’s request service is managed and will discuss the technologies used to speed up the request process. It focuses on an automated radio frequency identification (RFID) transportation system to be implemented as part of the 21st century, newly redesigned UNISA Library. To ensure the speedy availability of material on the shelves after return, this system automatically transports materials via a Paternoster book lift to the respective levels within the Library.

Design/methodology/approach

The methodology used in this investigation encompassed a literature study and a study visit to a library where this automated delivery system had been implemented and information was gained from relevant service suppliers.

Findings

The UNISA Library found that it is feasible to use the system in terms of the large number of books to be transported from drop-off points to the respective levels. In accordance with the investigation of the number of trolleys to be pushed daily by staff from one point to another, the installation of an automated system will allow more time for shelf maintenance staff to attend to the processing of requests for material and other important but less urgent duties. This will impact positively on the speed of delivery of requests submitted by ODL clients who cannot visit the libraries together with those submitted by local and international inter-library loan partners who depend on the UNISA Library as a net-lender for material not available in their own collections. This will impact positively on availability of material on the shelves and the speed of delivery of requests for information resources submitted by ODL clients who cannot visit the ODL libraries and inter-library loan partners, nationally and internationally, who depend on the UNISA Library as a net-lender for material not available in their own collections.

Originality/value

Because rapid delivery of requested information resources has become very important to ensure just in time information, it is important to implement an internal delivery system to support the inter-lending process. This study is useful for libraries that need to deliver many physical items to a large client body.

Details

Interlending & Document Supply, vol. 42 no. 2/3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0264-1615

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Article

Albert Mawonde and Muchaiteyi Togo

The purpose of this paper is to explore the challenges faced by ODeL institutions to involve students in campus sustainable development goals (SDGs) related practices…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the challenges faced by ODeL institutions to involve students in campus sustainable development goals (SDGs) related practices. Given that universities are mandated by several calls to participate in the implementation of SDGs, one way they can contribute to the SDGs paradigm is through the involvement of students.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected through interviewing the Campus Operations Manager and the Students Representative Council (SRC) to determine the challenges of involving students’ in SDGs-related practices. The SRC completed the USAT (Part C) to determine SDGs practices students are involved in. An online survey was undertaken to determine how BSc Environmental Management students are participating in SDGs and the challenges faced towards their involvement. Thematic analysis analysed interview data and descriptive statistics analysed online survey data. Credibility and reliability were enhanced by data triangulation.

Findings

The research revealed that few students were involved in some campus SDGs-related practices. Few students were involved in off-campus SDG projects. This result is attributed to the distance between the University of South Africa (Unisa) and the students, lack of finance, the misconception around SDGs and a lack of interest in SDGs. The geographical distribution of ODeL students was concluded as the major barrier to student involvement in SDGs.

Originality/value

There are few studies, which investigated the involvement of students in campus-related SDGs in universities, let alone distance universities in Africa. The paper testifies that ODeL institutions have avenues to involve students in SDGs if such institutions become proactive through campus SDGs competitions and certification.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article

Elmarie Sadler and Jacobus Stephanus Wessels

The purpose of this paper is to report on the reflective identity work of a white female chartered accountant, scholar and academic manager, regarding the intersectional…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report on the reflective identity work of a white female chartered accountant, scholar and academic manager, regarding the intersectional transformations of gender and race as well as leadership within the South African accounting profession over four decades.

Design/methodology/approach

The theoretical lens of intersectionality is applied through an autoethnographic approach. Multiple layers of personal experiences and observations are interpreted through identity work of leadership provided and received. Autoethnographic data are substantiated and contextualised through the researchers’ sense-making, official and scholarly sources.

Findings

Sustainable transformation of the accounting profession requires a deepened understanding of the interconnections of the personal, structural and systemic areas within unique contexts. Leadership, as provided and received, must be included within the intersectional orientations. Intersectional orientations become then more significant for understanding progressive changes of the demographic profile of the accounting profession not only in South Africa but also in other countries. The transformation interventions aimed at affirming high-quality black African, coloured and female candidates to the South African accounting profession are founded on the principles of social justice. A sustained reframing of the demographic profile of a profession is possible through accelerated and well-funded collaborative transformation interventions enhancing intentional structural changes of the membership pipeline.

Research limitations/implications

The possible limitations of this study lie in the contextual nature of the material and findings and the lens of the specific theory.

Practical implications

The understanding of the practice of interventions aiming at transforming the country-specific demographic profile of a scarce skills profession such as the accountancy profession.

Originality/value

The originality of this paper lies in the application of an intersectional theoretical lens that argues for leadership as a dimension alongside age, gender and race in an autoethnographic sense making of the transformation of the South African accounting profession.

Details

Meditari Accountancy Research, vol. 27 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2049-372X

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Article

Rudi Wessel Pretorius, Ryan Anderson, Anisa Khotoo and Richelle Pienaar

This paper aims to reflect on approaches through which open, distance and e-learning (ODeL) students can use their local environments for assessments and explores how this…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to reflect on approaches through which open, distance and e-learning (ODeL) students can use their local environments for assessments and explores how this shapes their conceptualisations of “university” and “campus”. Key issues and lessons learnt are covered, thus providing pointers for implementation of the type of assessment approaches that are presented.

Design/methodology/approach

Using three undergraduate sustainability-related modules in the Department of Geography, University of South Africa (Unisa), the lecturers’ reflections on the real-world sustainability learning experiences of students in these modules (2015-2018) have been cross-correlated and compared to present an integrated picture of emerging best practice.

Findings

The use of real-world, place-based applications, which form a central theme in the assessment strategy for all three modules, allows students to deal hands-on with sustainability issues, establishes a connection between ODeL students and the university and presents an opportunity to engage these students in real-world sustainability learning despite not being on campus.

Research limitations/implications

The case study format and qualitative, reflective methodology present limitations, while specifically focusing on ODeL and the final phase of undergraduate studies. Despite these limitations, the lessons learnt can be of value to universities currently transferring to online offerings, with possible impacts for sustainability learning.

Originality/value

This paper addresses misconceptions on the role of ODeL in transforming to sustainability. The criticism that ODeL is suitable for primarily theoretical training is countered by evidence that appropriately structured assessments requiring ODeL students to engage with real-world issues in their local environments, can provide valuable sustainability learning experiences.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 20 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

Keywords

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Article

Rudi Pretorius, Andrea Lombard and Anisa Khotoo

Inquiry-based approaches can potentially enrich sustainability learning in any educational context, more so in open and distance learning (ODL – perceived as theoretically…

Abstract

Purpose

Inquiry-based approaches can potentially enrich sustainability learning in any educational context, more so in open and distance learning (ODL – perceived as theoretically inclined) and in regions of educational need (such as the Global South, of which Africa forms part). The purpose of this paper is to map the benefits and challenges of using inquiry-based learning (IBL), with reference to ODL and the value added by IBL in terms of education for sustainability (EfS) in Africa.

Design/methodology/approach

Evidence-based reflection is used to provide a narrative assessment of the experience gained with IBL in two undergraduate sustainability-focussed modules in the Department of Geography at the University of South Africa (Unisa), an ODL provider in Africa and the Global South.

Findings

Consideration of enabling and limiting factors indicates that although constraints are experienced, adoption of IBL approaches holds potential as pedagogic for EfS in Africa, due to grounding of learning in theory and applied to local places/contexts. This indicates a role for IBL to change perceptions regarding the lack of practical utility of ODL.

Originality/value

Implementing place-based and contextual IBL is innovative in ODL. It adds value to learning experiences and supports transformative learning, both important components of EfS and addressing a need in the African context. Practitioners will find the experience gained with implementation of IBL, coupled with possibilities associated with information and communication technologies, of value.

Details

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 17 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-6370

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Article

Buhle Mbambo‐Thata

The purpose of this paper is to discuss issues surrounding implementation of technology in libraries. The paper aims to focus on the process of implementing mobile phone…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to discuss issues surrounding implementation of technology in libraries. The paper aims to focus on the process of implementing mobile phone services at the University of South Africa (UNISA) Library, and how the introduction impacted on internal operations. It is based on a survey of staff concerning the impact of the first six months of the service implementation.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on a limited survey conducted within the University of South Africa (UNISA) Library. It discusses the impact and potential on staff within the library and the service processes. The study provides information for management decisions if there should be changes in the operations. It outlines lessons learned. It further stresses the need to monitor and evaluate processes of introducing new technology in libraries.

Findings

The paper indicates that the introduction of new services should not be simply an add‐on‐ service, but should also be followed by monitoring and evaluation of impact.

Research limitations/implications

The paper is limited to the University of South Africa (UNISA) Library. Applications in different settings may yield different results.

Practical implications

The findings could be used as lessons learned by other libraries wanting to introduce mobile phone services.

Originality/value

This is an original paper, not previously published providing useful information on the impact of new technology on library internal operations.

Details

Library Management, vol. 31 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0143-5124

Keywords

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