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Change the world

08/01/2022

Nelson Mandela University’s investment in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is preparing its medical students to work in an increasingly digital world.

The University’s Interim Director of ICT Operations Gary Ownhouse outlines how the University is embracing information and communications technology (ICT), noting that students have access to state-of-the-art equipment and make extensive use of online learning resources.

“They are also supported by a technical team with diverse competencies that enhance the areas of learning and teaching,” Ownhouse said, saluting the professionalism of the ICT staff.

Mandela University senior engineer for blended learning Shaun Meyer spells out three key IT areas: 

  • Medical technology;
  • ICT devices, for example, laptops with 3G connectivity, and the audiovisual and recording equipment used in the classrooms;
  • WiFi connectivity.

“There is a strong electronic presence in any medical school today, both on the ICT side as well as the actual medical components of the course,” said Meyer.

Technology plays a vital enabling role across all the university’s sites and it is essential that all new infrastructure is compatible with existing platforms. Demand has surged over COVID-19, due to the move to hybrid and online learning.

The supporting ICT strategy stretches beyond Missionvale Campus into hospitals, community health care centres and clinics in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. Later, it will extend further afield to parts of the Eastern Cape and beyond.

The new Medical School has a senior instructional designer to enhance digital literacy lecturer and two dedicated ICT staff, a senior support technician who identifies and proposes solutions and integrate new technologies as well as an e-technologist.

As Senior Learning Experience Designer, it is the task of Ra’ees Khan to ensure that  students have access to the highest quality resources and artefacts to create a rich and meaningful learning experience.

“Our Learning Design Unit is equipped with industry-leading human capital skillsets and state-of-the-art facilities and technologies that allow for the production of high-quality educational multimedia artefacts,” said Khan.

The Medical School’s multimodal approach uses a diverse range of media including customised flipbooks, interactive videos, branching scenarios, virtual reality,  gamification and much more. 

The medical education unit includes Total Quality Management standards and processes which enable the creation of videos, animations and other material which is exciting, fun and support educational development.

“The high-tech equipment and facilities give the perfect opportunity to create authentic learning experiences, which are contextually responsive and help to ‘future-proof’ our doctors-in-training,” Khan said. 

“As much as it is fun and creative, it is actually a very scientific process, based on cognitive psychology and how the brain works.”

Practices are benchmarked against global industry standards of excellence in teaching and learning, a core strategic focus areas.    

“We use data-rich practices to consistently make evidence-based decisions aimed at improving delivery while measuring our successes against our objectives on a frequent basis,” said Khan.

“Our high levels of innovation and research outputs will radicalise industries as we know it through our quest to create the best MBChB qualification in the world. I would certainly describe the institution as a rapidly emerging leader.”

High-speed connectivity

The networking infrastructure includes high-speed connectivity between buildings on Missionvale, Campus, and between the University’s other campuses, as well as a 10gig fibre link between the Missionvale Campus and the Gqeberha training hospitals of Livingstone and Dora Nginza.

Eduroam, a secure international roaming service developed for the international research and education is available in identified spaces to give students easy and secure network access while they are at the hospitals.

Students receive ICT orientation and training in areas specific to their MBChB programme. They need these skills from the get-go, as they use various technology-based platforms in the basic sciences, which include Primal Pictures, Complete Anatomy and four Anatomage tables.

Computer studies, referred to as Digital Literacy, forms part of a supportive first-year module called Academic Literacy and Reasoning. There is further back up from a dedicated Missionvale Campus computer centre for medical students as well as the general computer facilities and support services on campus.

Senior ICT support technician Rolihlahla Pityana and e-technologist Mark Domingo have been training and supporting lecturing staff to use the cutting-edge tools needed for hybrid and online learning.

“The equipment is very new and we have the responsibility of making sure that the hardware and the software work together seamlessly to sharpen key skills for students future,” Pityana said.

He cited the sophisticated Clinical Skills Laboratory, where demonstrations, skills practice, group activities and assessments are done, and students perform procedures such as CPR or taking a patient’s blood pressure while being filmed. For demonstrations, high-tech, lifelike manikins are used to represent real-world patient health scenarios. The lecturer can then give feedback and replay the video material with the students, enabling further discussion and learning in one of the debriefing rooms.

GoPros, Padcasters and other video filming equipment such as ceiling cameras with built-in microphones are used to give detailed and varied views that enhance debriefing, with each of the individual cubicles in the Clinical Skills lab set up for interactive learning.

The Medical School ICT project also has synergies with the Off-Campus Connectively project which began in November 2019. This is aimed at improving the connectivity to students living in accredited off-campus residences across Nelson Mandela Bay.

And, despite the ever-present threat of power cuts across South Africa, the campus data centre has a generator back-up and the Medical School has its own supply of power: “The generator kicks in immediately if we have load-shedding,” said Pityana. “We are ready for anything.”

 

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057
debbie.derry@mandela.ac.za