Undergraduate students in the School of Health Sciences (SHS) presented their winning Discipline specific research projects at the School’s annual Research Day.

Academic leader of Research in the SHS, Professor Pragashnie Govender, encouraged the students to adopt a science communication approach and ensure that the findings of their studies were always conveyed back to the communities where they were conducted. ‘Research creates new knowledge and understanding and is the force behind everything that we do. Ensure that you share your findings with the wider community and become advocates for improved healthcare.’

First prize was awarded to Audiology students, Ms Tersia Erasmus, Ms Nomali Jali, Ms Pamela Mthiyane and Ms Shanique Ronne for their presentation titled: Audiology and Speech Language Therapy Students’ Attitudes and Perceptions towards Blended Learning at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

BL is a pedagogical approach combining online asynchronous and/or synchronous and face-to-face contact time between lecturers and students, enabling learning to occur independent of time or place. Global studies have indicated that the majority of students prefer face-to-face contact time in the classroom. A study at the University of South Africa indicated that only 10% of students found BL to be beneficial, hence the success of blending learning is dependent on students’ willingness to learn in a blended learning environment.

The winning study involved research on a total of 170 second to fourth-year students of which 74% had access to the internet off campus and 84% who used the internet to study. Results revealed that students in the more advanced years of study, including third and fourth-years, had a more positive attitude to BL than the second-years who preferred face-to-face contact.

Overall, the participants demonstrated a positive attitude and perception towards BL despite challenges to internet access off campus, connectivity issues and insufficient training. BL was found to improve students’ skills, enhance learning experiences and foster a student-centered approach to teaching and learning.

Optometry and Occupational Therapy students tied for joint second place for their studies titled: The Effects of Laptop Screen Luminance on Ocular Tear and Accommodative Functions, and Answering the Training Needs of Child Mentors Through a Bespoke Training Package at the Inanda Children’s Wilderness Park.

Said Physiotherapist and one of the adjudicators, Mr Ntsikelelo Pefile: ‘As adjudicators, we have never seen this exceptional quality of work in the history of the SHS. You have contributed to curriculum development and produced novel, innovative studies. Congratulations to you all.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied