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Friday, 17 July 2020

Academic obtains Fulbright scholarship

Daniela Gachago, an Associate Professor at the Centre for Innovative Educational Technology is thrilled to have secured a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in the United States.

In her quest to both broaden and deepen her research and to promote innovation in teaching and learning at CPUT and beyond, Gachago will be based at Pennsylvania State University also known as PennState University. The focus of her research is to understand how innovation happens in institutions of higher learning.

“We are looking at how design thinking has been adopted, used, and adjusted for higher education across different institutions and contexts,” she says.

Gachago is particularly interested in how design thinking can support academic staff development. She is working with eLearning champions across different faculties. In the past, her research, displayed what she calls an ‘eLearning mindset’, which is characterised by a focus on learners’ needs, a desire to collaborate, a penchant for risk-taking and experimentation, and most importantly, a shared concern not to see problems as stumbling blocks but an opportunity to innovate.

“In the project proposal I submitted to Fulbright, I would like to explore whether and how one can promote this mindset in academic staff development…I am excited about the opportunity to spend some time in the US,” Gachago remarks.

The period has been postponed from August 2020 to January 2021. “Let’s hope we can travel by then. It’s difficult to imagine that this lockdown will be over at one point.”

She is going to continue working on her research on innovation and academic staff development by exploring how Pennsylvania State University supports the teaching and learning project, with a particular focus on the integration of technology in teaching and learning. “PennState has a huge network of instructional designers and I will interview and work with them.”

She explains that to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship one needs a number of things, namely, a great proposal, but also letters of support from your institution and two reference letters. “You also need a letter of support from a US institution stating that they will host you. Luckily I was already part of a project with a colleague from PennState University, Dr Laura Cruz, who works at the Schreyer Institute of Teaching Excellence.” Cruz agreed to host Gachago and helped with organising the invitation letter from her institution.

Gachago likes working with people across different institutions. She says that pushes her out of her comfort zone and expands her horizons.  However, she concedes that it’s not easy working without direct contacts, ‘but luckily online video conferencing tools and other online collaboration tools, such as Google Drive, have made it possible to work online across different contexts’.

She says: “This has kept us going throughout the COVID-19.”

Written by Aphiwe Boyce

Email: boyceap@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Engineering and the Built Environment and Applied Sciences Faculties.