The advantages of an LMS and Online learning

Digital Education is growing globally. Today, more than ever, institutions are having to adapt to digital streams and forms of teaching.

With so many digital tools, applications and platforms out there, the prospect of digital teaching and learning can be confusing and overwhelming.

A Learning Management System facilitates the digital teaching process. It should make learning faster, more productive and trackable. But so often it becomes a repository where information is uploaded and stored.

How Can an LMS Improve My Life as an Educator?

An LMS is there for online learning development. But is so much more than a platform where course material is uploaded by educators and then downloaded by students.

Let the Learning Management System be your go between face-to-face and virtual teaching.

Administration and Management

It streamlines administration and online course management with various communication tools – keeping educators in touch with students, and students up to date with what is expected of them, as well as when they have to complete assignments by.

Collaboration

An LMS creates a virtual learning environment, or a virtual home where resources are stored and where educators can interact with these resources, as well as with each other.

Assessment  

Besides hosting a virtual classroom, an LMS can automate or digitise assessments. Educators can assess students with various assessment tools in different media. Finally, educators and students can track results with integrated gradebooks.

Content

While you can host content on the platform, it is also a space where you can create content for courses. Share content as and when it is needed or according to progress, link content to relevant resources beyond textbooks and share content in various media formats adapting to the best ways in which students learn.

Let us help you embrace all of the functions that an LMS offers – and become confident in digital teaching today!

THE ADVANTAGES OF AN LMS AND ONLINE LEARNING

Contact us for more information on our services.

The Truth About Academic Integrity and Remote Emergency Teaching

Magriet de Villiers is an Advisor in Learning Technologies at Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Learning Technologies. She has a keen interest in political philosophy and public theology and she is currently doing research on the work of Hannah Arendt’s understanding of critical thinking and judgement through this lens.  Magriet has a passion for and interest in a pedagogy of discomfort, where learners are unique individuals who step into the world of higher education with embedded psychosocial structures and knowledge.

For students to gain the necessary skills to become well-rounded individuals and dynamic professionals, we need to instil a community of practice where students, educators and broader structures work together to enable a holistic environment that these students.

In this webinar, Magriet will be sharing her thoughts on COVID-19 and the continuing discussion on academic integrity.

“The more things change…the more they stay the same.”

Listen in to learn more about how things have changed from a classroom or face-to-face teaching environment to remote emergency teaching? How has this had an impact on Academic Integrity?

There are numerous assumptions surrounding academic integrity within the context of the online learning environment:

  1. Students cheat more in online environments
  2. Policies are the answer
  3. ‘Plagiarism detection software’ is enough

Magriet addresses these assumptions, highlighting truth vs myth.

To learn more, listen to the recording of this webinar below:

Bibliography for this webinar:

Blue, A. 2020. ‘Pandemic Fatigue’ marks a mental health crisis [Online]. Available: https://www.futurity.org/pandemic-fatigue-mental-health-covid-19-2405742/ [2020, August 15].

Booyens, M. 2020. Is dosente opgewasse vir aanlyn klasgee?[Online]. Available: https://www.netwerk24.com/Stemme/Die-Student/is-dosente-opgewasse-vir-aanlyn-klasgee-20200820 [2020, August 20].

Bruton, S. & Childers, D. 2016. The ethics and politics of policing plagiarism: A qualitative study of faculty views on student plagiarism and Turnitin. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 41(2).

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lackee, B., Trust, T. & Bond, A. 2020. The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning[Online]. Available: https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning [2020, May 27].

Jones, M. &  Sheridan, L. 2015. Back translation: an emerging sophisticated cyber strategy to subvert advances in ‘digital age’ plagiarism detection and prevention. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40(5).

Li, C. & Lalani, F. 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how [Online]. Available: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning [2020, May 29].

Macdonald, R. & Carroll, J. 2006. Plagiarism—a complex issue requiring a holistic institutional approach. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31.

Mphahlele, A. & McKenna, S. 2019. The use of Turnitin in the higher education sector: Decoding the myth. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(7).

Tolman, S. 2017. Academic Dishonesty in Online Courses: Considerations for Graduate Preparatory Programs in Higher Education. College Student Journal, 51(4).

Watson, G and Sottile, J. 2010. Cheating in the Digital Age: Do students cheat more in online courses?. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 3(1).

Watson FF, Bishop MC & Ferdinand-James, D. 2017. Instructional Strategies to help Online Students Learn: Feedback from Online Students. TechTrends, 61.

 

 

 

 

Why Academia Series 2: Cost Efficiency

In the fourth instalment of our “Why Academia” webinar series, we discussed the cost efficiency of this sophisticated student information system. Join Hanlie Spangenberg as she demonstrates how Academia-SIS fits into the time-money-quality equation.

“Cost efficiency is the ability to use fewer resources (cost) to achiever greater output.” Learn how you can achieve this with Academia-SIS.

Summary:

» Affordable annual licensing and support
» Cost effective due to a short implementation cycle
» Quick and low-cost customization
» No additional cost for hosting, annual database licenses or hardware costs
» No upgrade costs due to agile releases

 

Below is the recording of our second episode that covers Cost Efficiency 

Eiffel Corp has been serving students and institutions over the past 22 years. We have offices in South Africa as well as the UAE, along with partners in East Africa and other parts of Southern Africa.

Why Academia Series 2: Technology and Hosting

A summary of the technology and hosting services that Academia SIS offers:

  • Device independent
  • Fully hosted with no additional hardware and operating system costs
  • Agile releases for ease of transition to new technology and functionality
  • Application has been developed using enterprise quality open source technologies like java j2ee struts, hibernate, ext. Js mysql etc.
    Security at user application & database level

 

Below is the recording of our second episode that covers Technology and Hosting, where we cover the topics as mentioned above.

Eiffel Corp has been serving students and institutions over the past 22 years. We have offices in South Africa as well as the UAE, along with partners in East Africa and other parts of Southern Africa.

Why Academia Series 2: Customisation and Integration

Market trends for software selection have moved from full Student Information Systems to Best of Breed, that place an emphasis on skills for seamless integration to streamline business processes in the universities. If the integration is not effective, it can lead to data duplication and
frustrations. This challenge creates a focus on the importance of seamless interfaces/integration between software systems of business areas at universities.

The Academia system has a proven record of experience in:

  • LMS: Seamless integration between the Registration and Student Marks in the Academia
    system to proprietary and open-source Learner Management systems. This includes LMS
    systems like Blackboard, Moodle, etc.
  • Integration of Student Fees data to another Financial Management system, eg: Oracle.
    All student debtor functionality is available in the Academia system which leave the institution
    with a choice of integration on detail or summary level.
    Apart from existing platforms for integration, the Academia team has a knowledge base for adhoc
    integrations to fit the individual requirements of the university.

The system also allows for complete customisation and configurability of your screens and reports. In the webinar we demonstrate how easily your institution can adjust wording and info to relate terms as and how you use it.

Configurable screens and reports – add and hide fields to adjust to institution needs:

» CRM embedded with effective communication to students and other stakeholders
» Student app included in communication methods
» Portals for university stakeholders
» Reporting and management information – generate and customize reports including user definable dashboard

 

Below is the recording of our second episode that covers Customisation and Integration of Academia SIS with your existing systems.

Eiffel Corp has been serving students and institutions over the past 22 years. We have offices in South Africa as well as the UAE, along with partners in East Africa and other parts of Southern Africa.

Student information system

Why Academia Series 2: SIS Enhanced User Experience

Why Academia SIS: Enhanced User Experience

Academia SIS is a robust, feature-rich, analytics-equipped and user-friendly Student Information System (SIS). This System is built on cutting-edge and flexible architecture. Besides the obvious advantages of an information system that is built on the latest technology architecture, it also boasts highlights that are integral to a best-of-breed system.

What Does Academia SIS Offer?

First off, Academia SIS offers a unified and integrated structure, which automatically means reduced data redundancy. The system ensures standardisation of processes for the relevant institution. It not only streamlines processes, but it also offers comprehensive access to all relevant information through one, easy-to-use interface. This interface allows for departments and faculties to integrate and collaborate easily. The system also comes with its own mobile app, making it easy to access any time, anywhere for all stakeholders involved. Furthermore, it is cloud-enabled, offering the institution an option to host on various server hosting cloud platforms provided by Academia.

The system is configurable too, which means the institution can adjust the system and its interface, to meet its unique needs, easily and at a low cost. One of Academia SIS’ unique features is that it has multi-centred capabilities.  This indicates that the system is able to manage and report on multiple campuses and multi companies, efficiently. All parties involved can, therefore, base decisions on the information available for each specific context of a group.

Academia as a system, addresses the entire student life-cycle from application to graduation, with reporting enabled functionality for data gathered throughout the cycle. Academia also enables efficient communication with stakeholders.  The system supports all actions with the tools to structure and organise all administration and rules.

So What Makes Academia User Friendly? 

*Please scroll down for recording of our webinar session

The User Interface (UI) used to refer to the access a user had to a system. Over the years, this has evolved into a User Experience (UX), entailing the full experience a user has when interacting with the user interface. The UX needs to provide relevant and meaningful experiences to the user. Users will only become loyal and continue using the interface if they have a positive experience.

Furthermore, a meaningful UX aids your institution in defining the customer journeys of your product or in this case, system. In short, the”User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-users interaction with the company, its services and its products,” Nielsen Norman Group. The user experience is therefore not just about what stakeholders see when they interact with your institution’s system, but rather how they see your institution as a whole – services, programmes and products.

There are some industry principles that guide the design of a user-experience, these include the following:

  1. Make everything the user needs readily accessible
  2. Be consistent
  3. Be clear
  4. Give feedback (CRM enabled)
  5. Use recognition, not recall
  6. Choose how people will interact first
  7. Follow design standards
  8. Elemental hierarchy matter (maintain institution hierarchy with Academia SIS)
  9. Keep things simple
  10. Keep your users in control

Source: BJ Keeton, January 2019

Academia easily ticks all the boxes of these UX design principles.

Who Should Find Your Institution System’s User-Experience Satisfactory?

When it comes to a Student Information System, there are various stakeholders that access information via the system. Institutions, therefore, have to meet the needs of top/middle management, students, academic personnel, administrative personnel, parents/sponsors and regulatory bodies. All of these stakeholders need to have a positive experience with your institution’s SIS for it to be effective in communicating information and gathering data for reporting. The user-friendliness that is offered by Academia SIS, enables a positive experience. Users do not need in-depth knowledge of the system to access what they need. The reporting functionality of Academia SIS enables easy but accurate reporting – informing top management with insight to make decisions based on data.

Top and Middle Management

Academia SIS offers access to graphic views of data, in a consolidated and concise manner. Users can switch between different graph views to enable easy access to information that is simple to interpret – without having to do an in-depth search for data in the system. The Management Dashboard allows management to easily monitor data on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. This includes admissions, finances and so forth. To make this even more accessible, each dashboard can be set to meet the unique requirements of the user – in other words, aligned with the manager’s unique login or user profile. This customised experience follows through to reporting too. Academia offers controllers or button access to various formats of data reports. The user does not need any in-depth understanding of the system or the structure of the institution. The system processes data to report on what each user needs.

Students

Students will also use the system and it is therefore important that they too have a positive user experience. One of the first areas they would use would be the application portal. Here you as an institution can customise navigation, step-by-step, to suit your specific process. You do not need to adjust your process to suit the system, but instead, Academia SIS allows you to customise the application portal to follow your existing processes.

Academia SIS also has a student portal that allows students to monitor and analyse their own data, as well as communicate with the institution. This portal would, for example, reflect attendance (important for scholarship reporting for example), student fees and accounts, calendars and communication tools. This reduces admin resources from the institution’s side. The portal is also not device-dependent. Students can use laptops, smartphones or a tablet.

Students also have access to an Academia Application – that allows students with easy access to their portal information. This is included in the Academia System and no additional costs apply.

Academic Personnel

Academia SIS offers a Mobile Responsive Portal that allows lecturing staff to manage students, assignments and assessments from the convenience of their smartphones. The lecturer can also communicate with his/her students through this portal.

The communication allows access to an overview of all the various factions of the student from assignments, to marks to attendance, and then the option to respond to these focus areas with a message/communication via the portal.

Reporting is also simplified with easy data analysis options and various graphic output formats or views. This easy access to data gives lecturers a tool to answer important questions with ease –  ones that have a great impact on the overall decisions made within an institution at different levels of management.  Furthermore, the CRM allows lecturers to access all the information of one student in one place.

Administrative Staff

The configuration of screens is key when it comes to the user-experience for administrative staff.  Staff do not have to understand the system to access information. The columns make it easy to sort information according to what you need. They literally have access to data at the click of a button.

Academia SIS allows various ways of adding and managing data, making the lives of administrative staff easier. The naming conventions in data entry fields are configured to your institution’s terms. This means the information is in the language your institution already uses. The system allows the user to remove or add information fields to simplify their view. This also applies to reporting – the user can drill down to the fields he/she would like to pull a report on, and the system easily pulls out the data required.

Screens or dashboards are set up to reflect all the information relevant to your institution and your reporting and compliance requirements. Furthermore, the view of data can also be at a higher level. Compare daily or weekly data to generate analytics that influences decisions made at the institution.

Academia SIS then offers communication with the relevant stakeholders. Data is accessed and then the CRM allows to send messages to relevant groups, with easily adjustable email templates. Academia also allows you to set up a clear menu structure that helps all administrative staff to follow relevant processes.

Parents and Sponsors

Mange parents and sponsors by setting up a portal where you choose what information is shared with these stakeholders. Academic, financial, share marks, communicate events or other information. This portal makes it easy for both parents or guardians to access information about students relevant to them.

This portal is part and parcel of the Academia System.

Regulatory Bodies: Compliance and Reporting

It is important to note, that the Academia SIS builds in the requirements for compliance and reporting within each country and system. We, therefore, investigate before implementation to ensure that reporting is built into your SIS from the start – making it easy for all stakeholders to be compliant with regulations.

Academia SIS, therefore, makes it easy to offer a user experience that is both relevant and meaningful for all stakeholders involved.

After a successful first ‘Why Academia’ webinar series, we are rolling out a second series on all the features that make Academia SIS a great option for your institution. Below is the recording of our first episode that covers the Enhanced User Experience. Webinar 1: Enhanced User Experience. Please join us for our next episodes on: Customisation and Integration; Technology and Hosting and Cost Efficiency. Register here for these sessions.

Eiffel Corp has been serving students and institutions over the past 22 years. We have offices in South Africa as well as the UAE, along with partners in East Africa and other parts of Southern Africa.

Cost Efficiency

Manage the Change when Implementing an SIS

Over the past month, we ran a series of webinars that discussed the different benefits and features that Academia SIS offers.

The series included the following topics:

  1. Enhanced User Experience
  2. Customization and Integrations
  3. Technology and Hosting
  4. Cost Efficiency
  5. Manage the Change when Implementing an SIS

Below is the last webinar in this series, hosted on 24 June 2020.

Please note we will be repeating this series in August and in October. Feel free to register in advance, here

The Rise of Ghostwriting in South Africa

“Academia and fraud are no strangers,” Singh and Remenyi, 2015:1.

History tells us that cheating has been part of educational institutions in one way or another for a very long time. From using crib notes in exams; to getting hold of examination papers in advance; to creating fraudulent data and information for research reports. It is safe to say that in 2020, plagiarism and in particular, ghostwriting, are threatening the integrity of academia more than ever before (Singh and Remenyi, 2016:1).

While all academic misconduct is damaging to tertiary institutions, it is particularly interesting to see how the trend of ghostwriting is on the rise in South African institutions. The danger that comes with remote learning or COVID-19 crisis teaching and learning, is that the temptation to use these services is likely to increase. It is therefore of utmost importance to highlight these issues and increase awareness on the subject of academic misconduct and ghostwriting.

What is Ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting can be described as the practice of hiring a writer or writers, to create a writing piece according to a predefined style. The crux here is that none of the writing is credited to the author (or ghostwriter). While this has been part of the field of literature and the arts for many years; in most cases, this would be handled as a legal transaction between two individuals.  For example, the exchange usually entails an individual who outsources the task to someone else to produce a work in their field of interest or an autobiography – as they either don’t have the time or the skills to do so themselves (Singh and Remenyi, 2016:3).

In the academic field, ghostwriting is a type of misconduct. While being similar to plagiarism in that one turns in someone else’s work as your own, it is not actually the same. Unlike plagiarism (or kidnapping as the Latin word describes it), ghostwriting does not involve the theft of someone else’s work. It is more about lying about the authorship of the work. This is seen as serious academic misconduct, potentially even worse than plagiarism (Singh and Remenyi, 2015:3).

The impact of the Internet on Ghostwriting in South Africa

The Internet opened the market to ghostwriters. Initially, ghostwritten essays sold over the Internet were easily caught by anti-plagiarism software, writers have become great at overcoming this.  The Internet has turned ghostwriting into a global industry. Terms like ‘paper mill’ and ‘essay mill’ are often used to describe ghostwriting, and are usually the terms used for this kind of service. In short, the Internet has uplifted academic plagiarism from cut and paste or using a friend’s work, to a sophisticated process of acquiring services from an essay mill; acquiring completely original academic pieces and then submitting it as one’s own. Students are happy to use these services, either because they believe it is acceptable or because they feel they will not get caught by plagiarism software.

The promise of a plagiarism-free, legitimate paper is very attractive to a stressed-out student pressed for time. And it only takes a quick Google search to find a ghostwriter online within a particular field. And if students do not find them – they find students, through what seems like legitimate advertisements on social media and often even on official university marketing channels.  As visible in the images, these ghostwriting services make it seem completely acceptable to outsource academic work.

The Internet not only makes it easy to find ghostwriting services, but it also makes it hard to police. Someone might be selling essays in South Africa while being based in New York or Nairobi for example (Thomas, 2015).

 

 

 

How to Tackle Ghostwriting at Institutions

It is difficult to catch out a student if the assignment is original. Defending the assignment or dissertation is possible, as the student could have time to familiarise themselves with the work.  So if students and essay mills continually get away with exchanging cash for services without being caught – the business will continue to thrive.

According to Professor Adele Thomas, Professor Emeritus at the University of Johannesburg (2015), institutions have to tackle this unethical issue with zero tolerance. Students should be made aware of the pitfalls of cheating and must be taught techniques that better their academic writing skills. It should be about a culture of academic integrity, where the conversation around plagiarism and ghostwriting is open and transparent. The stance against the immorality of cheating, in whichever shape or form, should be loud and clear. The aim would be to internalise institutional values so that they become entrenched in practice and norm amongst students.

According to Singh and Remeny (2016), academic institutions are not only there to test the knowledge of students. “The purpose of a university…[is] also to inspire [students] to become lifelong learners.” This also means that institutions have an inherent obligation to ensure students see subject matter as both enjoyable and interesting. The hypothesis here is that if students see learning as a positive experience that is rewarding becoming specialised in their fields would be a natural side-effect. As a result, students would be less inclined to cheating.

Sources Consulted:

Thomas, A. 2015. Forget plagiarism: There’s a new and bigger threat to academic integrity. Mail & Guardian. 19 August. Available online: https://mg.co.za/article/2015-08-19-forget-plagiarism-theres-a-new-and-bigger-threat-to-academic-integrity/

Singh, S and Remenyi, D. 2016. Plagiarism and ghostwriting: The rise in academic misconduct. South African Journal of Science. 2016;112(5/6), Art. #2015-0300, 7 pages. Available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2016/20150300

 

Want to know more about how you can tackle plagiarism at your institution?

 

Get in touch - Learn more about Turnitin

 

Communication through Staffroom’s Parent Portal proves of great value in the time of COVID-19

The news of the first few COVID-19 positive cases in South Africa set us off on an unprecedented journey for all sectors – but especially the education sector. Parents, teachers and learners alike were thrown into the deep end as schools were closed (indefinitely) in March 2020.

In an attempt to ensure that no learners are left behind, schools had to find innovative ways to accommodate distance learning and online learning – or more of a crisis learning approach. Key to the success of this process has been communication with parents. While this has always been an important part of a successful parent-teacher-child relationship, COVID-19 has highlighted just how important it is.

One of Staffroom’s features exists to facilitate exactly that – communication between the teachers, parents, and learners. The Parent Portal (also known as InTouch Portal) shares information about the relevant family and the school.

What is Parent Portal used for?

Schools can use the Parent Portal to share all the relevant information regarding a school child with families. This includes all school activities, calendars and events. What makes this effective, is the convenience and ease of use to share a variety of information relevant to a particular family and their child. School’s can brand this portal with their own school branding and share unique content with parents.

Information included can relate to, for example:

  • School announcements
  • Upcoming events
  • Calendar and timetable information
  • Student & family contact information
  • Student journals
  • Correspondence sent to the family
  • Homework tasks
  • Attendance records
  • Assessment marks
  • Student behaviour
  • Copies of term report

 

 

In Your School’s Hands:

The InTouch or Parent Portal is completely separate from the Staffroom site. This means the school can control and manage what information they would like to share with their parents and learners on the portal. It is your own, unique site – with its own web address (URL). The site also allows for simple branding, so that the school’s portal reflects relevant brand colours and the logo of the school.

Information that matters:

Families can access information on the Parent Portal that is customised to their family.

This means, parents do not have insight into other children – they would view:

  • Information about their children only
  • Parents only announcements related to events, grades, classes or any activities that their children participate in
  • Learners would only see events and information that relate to their specific grade, class or groups they are part of.

Next steps?

If your school is already using Staffroom, but you are not using Parent Portal, please get in touch with our support team today to assist you.

If you are interested in Staffroom and all its other great features as a school management system, contact us for an obligation free demo.

 

What do schools think about Staffroom? Shandre Otto, Zwaanswyk High Principal, shares their experience.

 

Celebrating All the Dad’s this Father’s Day

“Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, story-tellers, and singers of song.” Pam Brown

In 2020, everything is moving at a much faster pace. Not only are we peaking in terms of advances in technology, with smartphones and virtual meeting platforms it is hard to switch off. Then came COVID-19 and working remotely has meant that we no longer necessarily have office hours. For many, work and home life suddenly became integrated into everyday life.

While this has impacted moms who work from home, we cannot forget the dads and their very important role in the lives of their children. On the 21st of June, we celebrate Father’s Day. We asked some of our ‘Dads’ at Eiffel Corp what being a father means to them.

1) What does fatherhood mean to you?

This is a tough job man.  Everyday. No breaks no weekends off…nothing.  I think I should take up drinking to give myself a break.  But it is my greatest achievement in life and I love it.

Being a teacher, a guide, a protector, a friend, a provider to little souls and helping them understand the world. Helping them to be good people and to be a positive influence on society.

The need to change my actions to lead by example and not act on impulse, the choice to love someone more than my own life.

Being a guide, mentor and helping my kids learn about the big wide world and all the wonderful things in it. It also means helping them discover their talents, interests and how the differences we all have are small, that we should be thankful for all that we have been given and to be respectful of everyone and everything. It’s also about creating lasting and happy memories my children can treasure their whole lives.

2) What do you like most about being a dad?

Although my kids are big, we still cuddle and I listen to their stories and pretend to be interested in some of the teenage stuff.

I love watching my kids grow in every sense, seeing them experiencing something for the first time and the wonder and excitement it brings. It is like seeing the world for the first time through their eyes.

Watching them grow into their potential and know I had a major part in moulding a successful human being.

Having fun and reliving my favourite memories of being a kid again through my kids’ experiences. Building forts, racing bikes, laughing at silly situations and all the simple little pleasures that bring so much joy to growing up.

3) What lockdown moment with your child(ren) have you enjoyed the most?

I know this is a bit evil but just to see them do some house chores that they’re not used to doing, but it gives them a new appreciation for what is done daily without them knowing.

To be able to spend time with them, to assist with their schoolwork and teach them some academics. To work around the house with them and do things together. The positive thing for me in this lockdown, is that it has allowed me to be closer with my children.

How they were forced to learn to work together in our confined spaces, but mostly the schools reopening. 

Spending lots of close contact time together and learning more about each other. Life is hectic and we miss the little interactions that are really such a big part of every relationship.

From all of us at Eiffel Corp – Happy Father’s Day!