Next Generation E-Assessment Platform A Game-Changer In The South African Education Space

New Leaf Technologies becomes official distributor for world-renowned Cirrus technology   

A new study by researchers from the University of the Western Cape (UWC)  provides fascinating insights about the impact of online learning on students, and the need for tertiary institutions to adapt their traditional learning structures. 

The study, published in the South African Journal of Higher Education in September, looked specifically at low lecture attendance among first-year students at UWC and the reasons behind this. 

One standout finding was that the vast majority of the 672 students canvassed only attended between one and four lectures over a three-week period. 

Several factors for non-attendance were put forward by the respondents. 

Among these were that they were too busy studying for tests (37%), disturbingly, lectures were not stimulating enough (28%), and the need to complete assignments was too great (22%). 

However, students also found that online learning resources at UWC were sufficient enough to cope with their studies. To the researchers, this was significant. 

The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic and enforced closures of universities has accelerated online, or e-learning, significantly, a trend that is bound to continue. 

The researchers say students will increasingly learn through flexible online learning, and, going forward, a hybrid model of virtual learning and face-to-face lectures and tutorials will be implemented in the tertiary space. 

The University of Cape Town has already identified that this model will not only apply at the higher education level. 

In July, the prestigious institution launched the UCT Online High School, an undertaking that as of early October had attracted interest from more than 5,000 South African learners. 

So highly regarded is the school, that even with classes only starting in 2022, it was selected among the top 12 innovators in the WorldClass Education Challenge at the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit 2021. 

But it is not only in education that e-learning adoption is soaring. 

Lockdowns necessitated by the coronavirus have meant that companies have had to move away from the traditional in-store and head office learning scenarios and offer training in the digital space – a scenario seen the world over.   

Such has been the uptake that earlier this year the “Global E-Learning Industry” report, released by market data company ReportLinker, found that the global market for e-learning is expected to grow from $250.8-billion (R3.7-trillion) in 2020 to $457.8-billion (R6.8-trillion) in 2026. 

Since the desire for e-learning is so apparent among students, learners and workers, it is critical that lecturers, teachers and learning and development professionals are equipped with the right technology to make ongoing and accurate assessments, thereby improving overall learner performance. 

To this end,  online learning solution provider New Leaf Technologies has recently become an official distributor of the Netherlands-based Cirrus assessment platform in South Africa.

The award-winning, cloud-based platform assists learning practitioners in everything from exam creation and delivery to marking and analysis. 

“Cirrus is a next generation e-assessment platform,” explains Cirrus’ director of sales, Bart Beemsterboer. 

“Cirrus is very user-friendly and has some excellent marking features. The extensive workflow and the excellent user interface make it very easy for users and students to use the platform. 

“We are currently implementing Cirrus at the University of Pretoria. A big part of our offering is working collaboratively with universities that really help them being prepared for the future. For us, functionality 

is crucial for large customers in the education sector.”

The state-of-the-art technology, which even includes on-screen annotation, addresses every aspect of the learning process.

Notably for a country like South Africa where electricity outages are frequent, Cirrus includes a unique offline model that ensures tests and exams will not be compromised if internet connectivity is disrupted.

Importantly, the platform allows for advanced workflow for quality assurance, meaning educators can collaborate with colleagues or external subject material to create high-quality assessments. 

A further benefit is functionality that allows users to track changes, compare versions and check psychometric data between versions of the given assignment. 

New Leaf Technologies co-founder Paul Hanly is thrilled to be part of Cirrus’ journey in South Africa.

“Cirrus is a high-stakes assessment platform that is an excellent product for universities and institutions to offer quality assessments online. The African market is ripe for this at the moment,” he says. 

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