Stimulating HELTASA 2017

Dylan Cromhout, an ECP lecturer in Marketing Department in the Faculty of Business and Management Sciences and one of the Foundation Special Interest Group (SIG) convenors at CPUT, attended this years’ HELTASA conference. He offers some reflections on his engagement at the conference.


The 2017 Heltasa conference was hosted by DUT and took place in Durban at the Coastlands Hotel in Umhlanga from 21 – 24 November. The theme of the conference was “Higher Education Well-Being: Transcending Boundaries Reframing Excellence.” The subthemes included:

  • Greater purpose of higher education;
  • Access and parity of participation;
  • Reframing student success;
  • Enriching the Curriculum;
  • Knowledge in the academy.

The keynote speakers included:

  • Professor Bal Chandra Luitel from Katmandu University: “Developing education research as/for transformative preofessional development: A case of (post)graduate education research programme for greater good;”
  • Professor Yusuf Waghid from Stellenbosch University: “Towards a university in becoming: revisiting deliberation, responsibility and cosmopolitanism;” and
  • Professor Stephanie Allais from the University of the Witwatersrand: “The Value of the lecture in higher education pedagogy.”

I attended a pre-conference workshop about “Integrating technology in Higher Education,” where I learnt about using Google Docs and Edpuzzle to facilitate more effective learning. It was a good interactive sessions where we could effectively engage with our co-participants.

I also attended many of conference presentations; ranging from decolonizing the curriculum (a big theme at the conference), student well-being, e-learning, innovation in teaching and learning, #Feesmustfall, MOOCs, open education resources, and collaborative online learning. Overall it would seem that lecturers and researchers around the country are asking similar questions and pursuing similar means to solve the array of challenges found in Higher Education. A key focus remains on what effective teaching and learning means and what benefits it might yield for students.

I also facilitated a Foundation Special Interest Group (SIG) session as I was one of the out-going convenors at CPUT. The session was attended by numerous foundation and extended curriculum lecturers and researchers. I gave a presentation where I shared what CPUT, as convernor institution, had been doing for the past two years. Colleagues across the sector then shared and described activities and approaches undertaken within the Extended/ Foundation programmes at their institutions. As the out-going convenor I also had to oversee the selection of a new convenor institution and the establishment of an National SIG Executive Committee. This committee will be made up of one person from each institution. The new SIG convening institution is the University of the Free State who will oversee the activities of the SIG for the next two years. A description of this meeting is captured in the SIG blog and can be accessed via the link. (Click for blog post and video).

Besides the SIG session and the many interesting and thought-provoking presentations it was also good to catch up with old Heltasa “friends” and colleagues in-between sessions and over lunch .The conference ended off with a Gala dinner where some colleagues were honoured with teaching excellence awards. Colleagues from all over South Africa spent the rest of the evening dancing and boogieing to the live band playing 70s and 80s music.

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