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Blended learning in times of disruption - a case study from CPUT
Cheryl Belford and Bronwyn Swartz
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
in times of disruption
CPUT and FMF
FMF and blended learning
Bronwyn and Cheryl - introduction
Tronto - ethics of care
Disclaimer: This is NOT an institutional perspective
but a personal reflection on 2 academics’ and 1 academic staff
developer’s teaching and learning practices
CC BY Max Pixel
CPUT and #FMF
CPUT one of the institutions most strongly hit by FMF
Different levels of preparedness
Initially no institutional approach / decision making
left to departments or individual academics
Over years “normalisation” of protests (integrated
into year planning)
FMF and Blended Learning
Huge increase in interest in
blended learning – success story
Blended learning / online more
successful if lecturers & students
Increase in discomfort around
social justice aspects of using BL
in terms of disruption
Cheryl and Bronwyn
- Both in the Faculty of Engineering
- “eLearning champions”
- Blackboard Power Users
- Part of 2016 CPUT OER project
- Particular interest in developing and using screencasts
- Continued the academic project successfully (majority of students managed
to complete their subjects successfully before semester end)
- Mix of LMS and other tools (screencasting / discussion forums / WhatsApp
/ online exams)
- Ongoing conversations around the ethics of using BL in times of student
Cheryl Belford: Transportation Engineering Programme, Department of Civil Engineering
Bronwyn Swartz: Quality Programme in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
JOan Tronto’s ethics of care (1990, 1993, 2001, 2013)
- Centring care as a political project (2013)
- More than just a disposition: an ethical
- Rather than looking at big ethical dilemmas
it is in our everyday practices of caring
for ourselves and others that we most need
to consider and practice ethical behaviour
Joan Tronto (1993). Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care.
New York: Routledge.
complex ethical relationship
all participants or actors need to be
Moves beyond dyadic relations for
Contextual / situational - we are all both
care giver and care receiver at times
CC BY Pixabay
Potential for abuse in care relationships
“Not all care is good care” (Tronto 1993)
Care can be paternalistic
- care that reaffirms or reinstates power differentials
- One way care
Care can be parochial
- caring only for those who are close to us or similar to us
CC BY Caliper Studio
Moral elements of care
1. Attentiveness (caring about): noticing unmet needs,
suspending one’s own judgements and being able to see
the world from the perspective of the one in need.
2. Responsibility (caring for): taking on the burden of
responding to this need.
3. Competence (care giving): being competent to care,
which is always both a technical and a moral and
4. Responsiveness (care receiving): listening to the
response of the person/group that was cared for,
sometimes resulting in new unmet needs.
5. Solidarity (caring with): taking collective
responsibility, to think of citizens as both
receivers and givers of care, and to think seriously
about the nature of caring needs in society.
CC BY PxHere
Being able and willing to respond to change and disruption
● Lecturers’ decision making processes were based on ongoing
student consultation, supported by social media and instant
messaging tools such as WhatsApp groups.
● Final choice about the continuation of the academic project was
left to the individual lecturer, our choice to continue was
based on a perceived need and willingness by a majority of
students to complete the academic year.
Reflection: Attentiveness (Caring About)
Reflection: Responsibility (Caring For)
Taking the responsibility to adopt current teaching and learning
● Decision to continue academic project by designing a learning
environment conducive to the new context.
Being prepared and being capable
● Both lecturers and students’ levels of competence were high,
based on previous exposure. Blended and later
online/open learning was neither new to the lecturers nor to
Reflection: Competence (Care Giving)
Reflection: Responsiveness (Care Receiving)
Establishing communication channels with students
● Continuous response to students’ feedback and levels of
● Move from the institutional learning management system to more
open, more accessible and more data effective platforms as a
necessary step to allow students to fully engage. Willingness to
repeatedly update materials based on students’ feedback.
● Cheryl anonymised students’ contribution, showing care for
students who navigated difficult terrains when openly continuing
the academic project and thus going against the student protests.
Reflection: SOLIDARITY (Caring with)
To think seriously about the nature of caring needs in society
● Tronto’s final element of solidarity, speaks about collective
responsibility and linking the needs of own context to the needs
of society at large. How do individual lecturers’ actions impact
on the larger systems (in terms of the institution, Higher
Education system, South Africa as a whole)?
● Reflecting on this final principle of the ethics of care, our
practices during #FMF become a thorny issue.
“To the extent that “improved teaching” is squeezed into
categories of growth and progress grounded in discourses of
teacher competences and behaviours— without instilling the
practical demands of teaching life with ethical and political
significance—then our efforts will unwittingly be caught up
in a blind reproduction of hegemonic forms of educational
development and monolithic notions of “improved teaching” in
● Disruption as positive trigger to more creative
teaching and learning practices
● But: education needs to be seen as a political project
● Deciding to continue to teach is not a technical or
pedagogical question – it’s an ethical practice
● Huge potential for more democratic /
equal relationships with students /
collaborative decision making
● Caring institutions are built bottom up through caring
pedagogies (Walker and Gleaves 2016)
● Importance of self care
Some preliminary conclusions...
CC BY Max Pixel
Ethics an ongoing project
...a species activity that includes
everything that we do to maintain,
continue, and repair our ‘world’ so that
we can live in it as well as possible.
That world includes our bodies, our
selves, and our environment, all of which
we seek to interweave in a complex, life-
sustaining web (see Tronto 1993, 103; Fisher and
Tronto 1990, 40)
CC BY Max Pixel
Conversation between Cheryl and Bronwyn: https://youtu.be/RSvvcuwkLBc
Emerge Africa webinar part 1:
Emerge Africa webinar part 2:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmXpo3CyFqQ&t=4s
Paper in press: Gachago, D., Swartz, B., Belford C. 2018. To care or not to
care - reflections on the ethics of blended learning in times of disruption.
Special issue on the Ethics of Care in Academic Staff Development, South
African Journal of Higher Education (SAJHE)
Stay in touch
Tronto, J., 1993. Moral boundaries: A political argument for
an ethic of care. New York & London: Routledge.
Walker, C., and A. Gleaves, 2016. Constructing the Caring
Higher Education Teacher: A Theoretical Framework. Teaching
and Teacher Education, 54, 65-76
Zembylas, M. 2017. “Practicing an Ethic of Discomfort as an
Ethic of Care in Higher Education Teaching.” Cristal -
Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning 5 (1): 1–17.