All your years of burning the midnight oil won’t help you much if you don’t package yourself and your application in way that makes you stand out from all the others who had also burnt the midnight oil. Here, at PRESENTATION, we show you how to make sure interviewers take (positive) note of your CV and your interview, and advise you on how to make the best of your internship. We help you to carefully craft the perfect package to make your future employer draft that contract. It’s all about strategy, not just luck. After all, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
Across the country hundreds of thousands of young people recently entered Higher Education hoping to graduate in a few years so that they are qualified to enter the workplace. The reality however is that first-year dropout rates are extremely high in South Africa, which means many first years won't complete their studies.
But the good news is that there are a number of early alarm bells which, if heeded, can help students manage their risk and prevent them from abandoning their studies, an education expert says.
"While statistics vary, it is estimated that more than 40% of students quit their studies after their first year. Some would argue that this figure is as high as 60%," says Peter Kriel, General Manager at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private Higher Education provider.
"Not being successful as a first year student in Higher Education, is a process that begins well before a student actually drops out of Higher Education, as there are various early signs of potential failure that can predict if a student may run into trouble later," he says.
Kriel says parents and students should note that factors influencing study success can be broadly divided into three categories: Broader socio-economic or personal factors, not properly doing one's homework before deciding what to study and where, and most importantly, one's approach and actions as a first year student.
For students who are already in Higher Education, the third category is the one they need to address now, says Kriel.
He says that students should carefully consider the questions below. If the answer to any of these questions is "NO", they need to take action as recommended in the solution to each problem, as they might be at risk.
Q1: Did I meaningfully participate in my institution's orientation programme?
Any good institution of Higher Education should have a first year orientation programme, says Kriel.
He says the information provided during orientation is intended to guide students logistically, so they can focus on academic work without being overwhelmed by admin.
"If you missed out on orientation, particularly academic onboarding programmes, you will now have to acquire these skills on your own on top of the day-to-day academic demands."
Solution: Speak to someone to find out what the orientation programme included. If your institution of choice is offering an extended first year on-boarding programme, make sure you get involved immediately. Make time to specifically focus on trying to gather the information you missed out on – logistical information is especially easy to gather. Academic preparedness will be a little more challenging, but it is worth catching up on what you missed early on.
Q2: Am I attending most of my classes?
Class attendance is probably the single most important contributing factor to success, says Kriel.
"Of course, reasons beyond your control may cause you to occasionally miss a lecture or tutorial, but if you miss class simply because you don't feel like it or you had a late night and feel like sleeping in, you are at risk," he says.
"If you miss class because you are working on an assignment or task in another module – you may need to plan better. Missing class to do assignments becomes a vicious circle as you miss more classes to do other assignments. This is a recipe for failure."
Solution: Undertake to miss no more classes going forward, and draw up a roster for future assignments so you can complete these without needing to skip class. Prioritise your classes and schedule all other activities so there is no conflict. If something comes up which prevents you from attending a specific lecture, catch up as soon as you can.
Q3: Did I pass all my assessments to date?
It is still early in the academic year, but your performance in any assessment you may have had, be it a formal test or assignment or a task completed in class, is already a clear indicator of your outcomes profile, says Kriel.
Solution: Determine why you failed an assessment. Did you work hard enough? If not, you know you need to work harder. Are there parts of the work you don't understand because you missed class? If so, follow the advice in point 2 above. Did you do everything possible and simply do not understand certain concepts? If this is the case, speak to your lecturer sooner rather than later about how to approach the issue.
Q4: Did I acquire all the prescribed text for my modules?
For many reasons, not least financial pressures, many students don't buy prescribed textbooks.
"Unfortunately, your chances of success are diminished if you don't have textbooks. Textbooks guide students through the syllabus of a specific module like a roadmap and are often accompanied by additional resources, questions and activities that will enhance the mastering of the required material," says Kriel.
Solution: If you can afford to buy the prescribed text, get it as soon as possible. If not, know that student-centred Higher Education institutions will be acutely aware of the challenges some students face and may have e-book alternatives. Often these are available for free to registered students. Speak to the librarian on your campus to find out if there is an e-book alternative for the textbooks you don't have. There may also be copies of the textbooks in the campus library, and while these are often on the reserve shelf, spending time in the library will definitely be advantageous.
Q5: Do I feel part of a Community of Practice?
Moving from a comparatively protective school environment to Higher Education may mean that you find it hard to adapt from the start. This may unsettle you if you subconsciously feel that you are not at the same level of performance as your fellow students. The reality is that these feelings are quite normal, and that many of your classmates probably feel the same.
Solution: Talk to someone you trust about your experience and feelings. Good institutions will have academic support and counselling facilities. Having said that, some people simply just find fitting into the traditional university environment a challenge – larger classes, less rigid structure and monitoring and so forth. If you are 100% sure that you fall into this category, and can't see yourself continuing on your current path, don't despair because there are alternatives. Especially in the private Higher Education environment there are often colleges (note that private institutions are not allowed to call themselves universities, even if they are offering the same qualifications) that offer smaller classes or campuses that may be more suitable to you. Distance learning may also be an alternative for some.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) is a division of the JSE-listed ADvTECH Group, Africa's largest private education provider. The IIE is the largest, most accredited registered private Higher Education institute in South Africa, and the only one accredited by The British Accreditation Council (BAC), the independent quality assurance authority that accredits private institutions in the UK. By law, private Higher Education institutions in South Africa may not call themselves Private Universities, although registered private institutions are subject to the same regulations, accreditation requirements and oversight as Public Universities.
The IIE has a history in education and training since 1909, and its brands - Rosebank College, Varsity College and Vega - are widely recognised and respected for producing workplace-ready graduates, many of whom become industry-leaders in their chosen fields. The IIE offers a wide range of qualifications, from post-graduate degrees to short courses, on 20 registered Higher Education campuses across South Africa.
With South Africa in the grips of graduation fever, and the soon-to-be capped proudly displaying their achievement on social media, the reality of the challenges associated with one's first job search will soon set in for many.
"Transitioning from studenting to adulting can be hard and often demotivating once application after application goes unanswered. Unfortunately, given the country's constrained economic environment and the tough job market, a degree is no longer a golden ticket to employment," says Wonga Ntshinga, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education institution.
He says with years of hard work behind them, the real work now starts for graduates.
"You have to approach the job search with the mindset that the search is your job, for now, until you convert your CV into an interview, and your interview into a job offer," he says.
Ntshinga says graduates should keep in mind that each job advertisement will attract scores of applications, and that it is necessary to make one's candidacy stand out from those of one's peers.
"Treat the job hunt process as an opportunity to learn and grow, and constantly polish your CV, your skills, and experience," he says.
Ntshinga says there are 5 things graduates must do in preparing for the job hunt:
SORT OUT YOUR CV
"Your CV will be the first impression prospective employers get of you. Structure your CV logically, make sure that it contains all the necessary information, and showcase any relevant experience and qualifications.
"Very importantly, get your CV proofread to ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors."
Ntshinga says that all good higher education institutions, where it be a public university or private, should have graduate assistance.
Approach your institution and ask for help, if necessary, in drafting your CV. Additionally, your institution's career centre may be in a position to connect you with potential employers."
And finally, it is vitally important to tailor one's CV for the requirements of each individual position.
"Sending out a generic CV, which does not address the specific position advertised, is a surefire way to land your application in the recruiter's recycle bin," Ntshinga says.
SEARCH FOR OPPORTUNITIES
The jobs won't come to you, you have to find them, says Ntshinga.
"You can't apply for something you don't know about. The way to find out about current or future openings is to keep your ear to the ground, to network, and to do desktop research."
It can be very helpful to join professional organisations, which will provide networking events and opportunities, industry newsletters, and the possibility of finding a mentor.
A suitable mentor can guide and support you through good times and bad. Mentors are ideally positioned to help young graduates with practical, industry-specific advice – whether it be skills or career options.
Meeting with recruiters, checking in daily with career sites, and registering your CV on a number of sites will also help to get your profile out there, Ntshinga says.
DEVELOP YOUR PERSONAL BRAND"The very first thing a prospective employer will do upon receiving your CV is to search your social media profiles, and peruse any other information about you they can find online. So you must do a social media audit and remove anything that could throw a negative light over your candidacy," says Ntshinga.
"Once you've acted to eliminate any potentially harmful content, you have to pro-actively build a positive online presence. That means joining professional sites such as Linked-In and consistently building a positive, professional personal image."
Ongoing professional development is non-negotiable in today's world of work, Ntshinga says."The work doesn't stop when you receive your degree, or even once you land your first job. You have to constantly update and build on your skills to remain employable and sought after. This means you have to commit to an attitude of lifelong learning. So what you can do right now, is for instance to sign up for a short or online course which builds on your existing skills, or provide an additional skill that complements your first qualification.
"As an added bonus, the fact that you are continuing your studies looks exceptionally well on your CV, and will definitely catch the eye of employers."Ntshinga says during the job search process, it may also be helpful to volunteer your time and services in a field related to your qualification."That will help bridge that crucial gap between academic knowledge and experience, which is almost always called for in job advertisements."
Searching for work can be a demanding, challenging and sometimes demotivating endeavour.
"The search and the inevitable rejections can be emotionally and psychologically exhausting, but you must not let this consume you," says Ntshinga. "Don't take rejection personally, but rather view each opportunity as a chance to learn and grow. Use your time and your days wisely, by scheduling in the work you'll be doing on your search every day, by getting plenty of exercise and rest so that your physical wellbeing doesn't become an inhibiting factor."
"Finally, get help if you need it. Approach your own or a new institution, and ask for assistance if your job search still fails to produce results. Career centres will be able to advise you if you need to change your approach, or if you need to supplement your skills to be more relevant in the job market. They will also be able to assist you in honing the very important soft skills that are in such high demand from employers.
"Keep going, keep learning, keep abreast of development in your industry, and keep sharpening your skills," Ntshinga says.
The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) is a division of the JSE-listed ADvTECH Group, Africa's largest private education provider. The IIE is the largest, most accredited registered private higher education institute in South Africa, and the only one accredited by The British Accreditation Council (BAC), the independent quality assurance authority that accredits private institutions in the UK. By law, private higher education institutions in South Africa may not call themselves Private Universities, although registered private institutions are subject to the same regulations, accreditation requirements and oversight as Public Universities.
The IIE has a history in education and training since 1909, and its brands - Rosebank College, Varsity College and Vega - are widely recognised and respected for producing workplace-ready graduates, many of whom become industry-leaders in their chosen fields. The IIE offers a wide range of qualifications, from post-graduate degrees to short courses, on 20 registered higher education campuses across South Africa.
Many job applicants think – incorrectly – that the war is pretty much won once their CV gets the nod and they get invited to a job interview. Yet the shortlisting is only the first hurdle and, once cleared, candidates must prepare to compete on a very different level against other candidates who also passed muster on paper, an expert says.
"Interviews can be scary affairs, and anxiety often trips up otherwise deserving candidates," says Wonga Ntshinga, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, the largest and most accredited private higher education institution in South Africa.
"The purpose of an interview is to get to know a candidate more closely, and to try and determine which shortlisted candidate will be the best fit not only for the work and a position's unique challenges, but also for the company and its culture. And the best defence against wasting a valuable interview opportunity is to be prepared. Very prepared," he says.
"If you have all your ducks in a row by the time you go and sit in front of the panel, you will be the master of your destiny - not your fear and anxiety."
Ntshinga says the following should be kept in mind in the lead-up to the interview:
Pay attention to detail
Do your research about the position and the company, opportunities and challenges. List and rehearse your career highlights as they relate to the requirements of the job you want to land. Focus on what you are currently doing, what you have done, and what you expect to contribute in future. Demonstrate how you will solve problems, manage projects and make decisions.
Understand that your track record is constructed throughout your life
When showcasing who you are and what you have done, source relevant and exciting examples wherever you can find them – whether from school, higher education or previous positions. Prove that you have successfully worked with various kinds of teams, for instance large-scale, diverse or acrosss continents, and that you understand how the physical world works.
Keep it clean
Realise that when two candidates are equal, the one that is able to demonstrate a positive impact on their community, and resilience and strength of character, is more likely to land the job. A good reputation is an invaluable asset. If there is a negative in your past, be prepared to convince the panel that you have grown and learned from it.
Demonstrate that you are part of a professional community
Join and become active in your industry body or a professional organisation. It shows that you are not an island and are committed to growing your career.
Fake and fumble
Preparation is key. Know what you want to say, and find opportunities to do so in the questions that are posed. Ditch the unnecessarily lengthy monologues, and answer questions honestly and precisely. Above all, answer questions in a cool, calm and friendly manner. Show your entrepreneurial spirit, by providing examples of times you have looked for innovative solutions to problems.
Think your good grades and technical proficiency will pull you through
There is a good chance that most of the candidates competing with you during the interview stage will have the same level of subject expertise as you. That is why you have to demonstrate how you as an individual will be the best choice. Amplify and articulate your technical skills, but be sure to also showcase your great communication and strategic skills, and your emotional intelligence.
Let your social media activities destroy your real-life opportunities
All employers will do a social media background check on prospective employees. Online mistakes can last forever, so always be very responsible in your posts and interactions. If you have beef with someone, take it offline and solve the problem like an adult. Nothing says "stay away" like seeing unsavoury exchanges on your candidate's timeline. So, even before you apply for a position, do a personal social media audit and ask yourself the question – would you hire the person you are seeing in those facebook posts and tweets? If not, you should invest some time in developing a more professional online presence.
Matrics should now be deep into preparing for their upcoming mock exams – which are only a few weeks away – and ultimately the final exams of their school careers in two months' time.
With only a handful of weeks left to revise, they now need to up the ante to ensure they get the best marks possible on their prelims. Doing so will enable them firstly to see which areas need more work before they write their finals, and will also ensure that they get the very best marks to allow them access to the higher education institution and qualification of their choice.
"Learners now need to go beyond reading and re-reading their textbooks and notes, and employ a more holistic strategy which will position them to bring their very best to the exam room," says Wonga Ntshinga, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest and most accredited private higher education institution.
Ntshinga says that at this stage of the game, the PROVES method is a great approach to follow, as it helps to cement the academic work in the learner's mind, while expanding understanding from different angles. Additionally, it gets learners in the right frame of mind, to withstand the anxiety and stress which can negatively impact performance.
The PROVES method can be broken down as follows:
"The next few weeks and months are going to be taxing for learners preparing for their final exams, but by following a strict study strategy and doing what needs to be done every day – without allowing panic and procrastination to set in – there is still sufficient time even for learners who aren't quite where they should be at the moment," Ntshinga says.
"And by incorporating this strategy into their approach right now, many learners will also find a new feeling of empowerment to take on the additional burden that higher education will bring."
DID YOU KNOW?
The IIE has a history in education and training since 1909, and its brands - Rosebank College, Varsity College, The Business School at Varsity College and Vega - are widely recognised and respected for producing workplace-ready graduates, many of whom become industry-leaders in their chosen fields. The IIE offers a wide range of qualifications, from post-graduate degrees to short courses, on 20 registered higher education campuses across South Africa.
With the holidays almost over and preliminary exams on the horizon, Grade 12s are on the cusp of entering one of the most stressful periods in their school careers. The relatively calm few weeks they still have ahead of them should therefore be used to plan their post-school options, which will free up their physical and emotional energy so that they can wholly focus on doing their best in their final exams.
"Deciding what to study and where to study can be hugely stressful, particularly when you don't have a clear idea of what you want to do with your life, which is the case for many thousands of learners," says Natasha Madhav, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
"It is therefore important that learners don't add this burden of anxiety when trying to prepare for exams. This can be avoided by taking the time right now to investigate their options and, ideally, already submitting their applications for the qualifications and institutions of their choice," she says.
She says the most important advice she has for prospective students, given the difficult economic climate and associated challenges of finding suitable employment after graduation, is to look at qualifications and institutions that will prepare them for a specific career and the world of work.
Additionally, they should ideally line up at least one or two additional options, as they may find their circumstances and preferences having changed by the end of the year.
"The worst courses of action, are to sign up for an arbitrary qualification with no real understanding of how you can leverage it post-graduation, spending valuable time and money on something that may not lead to a career, or following your friends' lead because you are not clear on your own aspirations," she says.
Madhav says learners who don't know what to study, should consider what kind of work they would find interesting, and then work backwards to determine a suitable qualification.
"It is also worth remembering that there are literally new fields and careers opening up every year – things that your teachers, parents and friends may not even have heard about," she says.
"So don't settle on a university and then only investigate what they offer in terms of qualifications. Do it the other way around – determine what you would like to do, determine what qualification would enable you to do that, and then find out which institutions offer that."
If, for instance, a learner is interested in Game Design, it makes sense to find an institution that offers that qualification rather than doing a generic 3-year degree and then attempting to break into the industry thereafter.
Or if they are interested in brand management, to determine the best place where they can study this, rather than doing a general business undergraduate degree.
The same principle goes for a host of other career-focused fields, such as copywriting and communications, digital design and marketing, IT and networking qualifications, and business qualifications.
"The world of work is rapidly evolving, and to be competitive in the job market, candidates must try and match their qualification as closely as possible to the work they would want to do one day," says Madhav.
"Making that determination takes time and clarity of thought in the face of all the options out there, which is why Matrics should make the best of the few weeks of grace they have left and get their future plans sorted now."
Despite their best efforts, many learners and students currently writing their mid-year exams are having to face up to the fact that their performance on papers written thus far isn't what they hoped it would be. There is however still time to get back on track, and they should guard against catastrophizing their current situation, an education expert says.
"It can be hugely disappointing when you've put in the hours, did all you can to prepare, and then still find yourself sitting in the exam room awash with anxiety because you can't recall and reflect what you've learned," says Dr Gillian Mooney, Dean: Academic Development and Support at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education institution.
She says learners and students who find themselves in this position should avoid panic and regain perspective so that they are able to do their best on their remaining papers.
"Firstly, you should recognise and acknowledge what is happening. Mid-exam meltdowns are not unusual, and can happen to anyone, even to usually high-performing candidates," she says.
"By facing the situation head-on, you can take back control and ensure you do better on upcoming subjects, which will go some way towards normalising your aggregate marks."
Dr Mooney says there are a number of reasons why students and learners may experience mid-exam meltdowns, including the general anxiety and stress related to writing exams, lack of sleep, burnout, and of course inadequate preparation.
At this stage, it is important to take a step back and take stock of the situation, put things into perspective, and devise a strategy for the remaining tests and future ones, she says.
LOOK FORWARD, DON'T LOOK BACK
What's done is done, and it serves no purpose to fret about papers you have already written. Put it behind you, and focus on what still lies ahead. Undertake to do whatever you can to ensure you do as well as possible on your remaining tests, and let go of the disappointment of previous papers which will only negatively impact your future efforts.
PUT THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE
Your academic career is a marathon, not a race. Each day provides a new opportunity to do better, and in the long run a few papers on which you didn't do well won't spell the end of your dreams and aspirations.
REVIEW YOUR EXPECTATIONS
If you are consistently not performing in certain areas, you may need to review your approach. Perhaps you require a certain subject to gain admission to a specific institution or course, which is why you continue with it despite repeated setbacks. If this is the case, it would be a good idea to consider whether you are on the right track in terms of your plans for your future and career. Chances are good that there are other options out there for which you will qualify, and which may in fact be a better fit for you.
PLAN YOUR STRATEGY AND LOOK TO THE FUTURE
Resolve that, from today, you are taking back control. Ensure you stick to a schedule of eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercise, and upping the ante on your preparation, for instance by putting in an extra hour or two to complete a past exam paper.
You can also add in some fun, alternative ways of studying. For instance if you're unsure about a section of work, find some YouTube videos on the topic. As an example, if you search for "isiZulu past papers" or just "isiZulu", you will find a multitude of past papers and memos as well as tutorials to assist with vocabulary and grammar. The same can be done for pretty much any other subject or topic.
BAG SOME WINS TO GET YOUR CONFIDENCE BACK
Find something every day that will boost your confidence, and allow you to prove to yourself that you are able to work hard and improve on past performance.
"Bad results are not the end of the road, and you still have ample opportunity to improve your performance if you take control right now," says Dr Mooney.
"The most important thing is that you don't allow panic to set in. Face your situation in a calm and pragmatic way, and take all the concrete steps you can to take back control. Staying calm is your most important weapon in the exam room, as is keeping a sense of perspective at all times, and endeavouring only to do your best in whichever situation you find yourself."
DID YOU KNOW?
Recent studies have highlighted the negative impact of Impostor Syndrome on young graduates transitioning to the workplace. An expert says it is important to identify and understand the signs of impostor syndrome early in one's career, to avoid losing confidence and to become an empowered, valued and productive team member.
"According to a study conducted by UK career development agency Amazing If last year, as much as a third of millennials – young people between the ages of 18 and 34 - suffer from Imposter Syndrome at work," says Dr Gillian Mooney, Dean: Academic Development and Support at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education institution.
She says locally the situation is likely to be much the same, with a large number of young graduates who will be able to identify with a persistent fear of being "found out" or exposed as a "fraud" in the workplace.
"Imposter syndrome is commonly reported by recent graduates who are starting to formally work for the first time," she says.
"While Impostor Syndrome is not a formal psychological diagnosis, the concept has been used since 1978 to describe people who have an ongoing fear of being uncovered as being a fraud, or persistently feeling that they are 'phony'. So there is good news for those who have been experiencing these confidence-sapping feelings in the workplace: firstly, there are many millions of people around the world who feel the same way, so you are not alone; and secondly, there are some solid ways in which you can rectify the situation."
Dr Mooney says that a further characteristic of those 'suffering' from Impostor Syndrome is that they tend to struggle with internalising their achievements.
"Many high achievers make external attributions about their success, for instance that they have been 'lucky' and that their success has little to do with who they are and what they know, or hard work and intelligence. This means that these people believe that they are not intelligent or capable enough, in spite of the objective evidence to the contrary."
Dr Mooney adds that there is no clear pattern or type of person who may suffer from imposter syndrome.
"People from diverse backgrounds, with different levels of intelligence and personality types can experience the feeling that they are not capable or qualified enough for their position. But it is important that these feelings are addressed, because it is clear that they can detract from your performance and can keep you from reaching your full potential."
So how does one tackle Impostor Syndrome? By taking the following action:
RECOGNISE AND ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOU ARE DEALING WITH
When these destructive thoughts and feelings emerge, recognise them as such. It will be easier to manage these feelings and thoughts once you know what they are. Note negative self-talk, such as 'I can't do this work' or 'I don't know how to do this presentation', and determine whether your insights are based on fact, or fear.
CHANGE YOUR MENTAL PROGRAMMING
Think about whether or not there is any real evidence for your feelings of inadequacy. Are all these feelings and thoughts just in your head? Actively rephrase your thoughts. Substitute 'I don't know anything' for 'I don't know everything, but that is to be expected because I am still learning'. Nobody is ever expected to know it all – only to try their best and work on areas that need attention.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
Make a list of both your strengths and your weaknesses. Focus on the areas that you need to develop. Focus on how you can capitalise on your strengths. Keep a running list of tasks completed well, no matter how big or small.
REALISE THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Approach the Career Centre or counsellors at the private higher education institution or public university where you studied. A good institution will be well equipped to put your feelings into perspective, and to assist and guide you to set out on your path with renewed self-assurance.
Action is the antidote to despair. Don't wallow in feeling of inadequacy or concern about your ability to handle your workload. Commit to being productive and completing one task after the other, putting one foot in front of the other. As your list of small victories grows, so will your confidence and feelings of being empowered.
COMMIT TO LIFELONG LEARNING
In our rapidly changing world of work, it is those who stay at the forefront of developments in their industry, and those who constantly update their skills and fields of competence who remain relevant and in high demand in the workplace. Constantly growing and expanding on your fields of competence, by for instance enrolling for a distance learning, post-graduate or part-time qualification, will ensure that your faith in your ability to make a real contribution in the workplace continues to grow, which will soon banish any feelings of inadequacy for good.
South Africa's notoriously high drop-out rate among first year university students can be ascribed to a number of factors. One of these include a disconnect between lecturers and students and, if addressed, can make a difference not only to individual student success, but also to overall throughput statistics, an expert says.
"We hear a lot about this idea that modern students are different. That can be really daunting when standing in front of a group of students, as those differences are not clear and are wrapped up in further obscurity with references to 'digital natives', short attention spans and even 21st century skills - as if every lecturer should understand what that means and know how to adapt their teaching as a result," says Tshidi Mathibe, Head of Programme: Faculty of Commerce at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
She says given this context, it is important to focus on the fact that today's students, just like young adults of all generations past, are caught in between worlds and ways of being, with the new overlay of technology and an uncertain world further complicating matters.
"Therefore, lecturers who want to support their students' learning need to make sure that they engage with the students where they are at and take it from there. To do that, there are a few things that improve chances of success," she says.
PIC: Tshidi Mathibe
KNOW YOUR STORY
"Whatever you say can be Googled students. It is therefore critical that you are a master of what you are teaching. It is also important that you are a role model in helping students understand that the lecture room is only where knowledge starts, because the real learning is being able to make sense of it all by drawing on many sources of information," says Mathibe.
"If you model confidence and curiosity, students will do the same and not find it quite as necessary to put you in your place with differences on detail."
IF YOU DON'T KNOW THE ANSWER, SAY SO
"If you do not know something, students are far more likely to learn from you modelling how to find out answers and will have greater trust in someone who does not simply pretend to know everything," Mathibe says.
"Young people have no need to see lecturers are omniscient. What they want is someone willing to engage with them to extend what you both know. You need to be the master of your discipline, but that is not the same as being its sole custodian."
Students will only engage with someone whose reactions they can predict and so, if you are consistent, engaging and human, and give them glimpses in to the things that motivate you, you provide them with the hooks and inroads for trusting you with their questions.
"If you are able to get students to connect with you as a competent and curious individual, the lecture room is easier to manage as people are far more likely to disrupt the classes of those they do not respect."
REMEMBER THAT THEY ARE HUMAN
Mathibe says that taking time to understand who the students are makes a world of difference to a lecturer's ability to select relevant examples and case studies.
"Understanding the range of learning styles they bring with them reminds you to offer a range of learning opportunities. This is not about pretending to identify with their music or even political preferences, but it is about consciously using accessible examples that enable them to anchor their learning," she says.
USE CASE STUDIES
Case studies are the most powerful of teaching tools as they provide stories around which theory can be organised and remembered.
"Your selection of case studies also speaks volumes about who you are and who you think they are. Case studies also offer you many opportunities to model problem solving, decision making and critical reasoning resulting in higher quality learning."
BRING IN THE EXPERTS
"Guest lecturers deepen understanding as they provide different perspectives and reinforce what you have been trying to teach," notes Mathibe.
"Guest lectures are also the perfect way to offer exposure to a multitude of voices on a topic that will enable more students to identify with someone who is an expert in the field you are trying to share, thereby also reducing boredom."
BRING IN THE TECH
"Use the technology to which students already have access and give them the responsibility to prepare for classes by finding examples, reading online or collaborating on a task. Teaching time can then be spent reflecting on the steps they have already taken, while the pressure is then on students to keep up rather than on you to drag them along."
"Ultimately what helps students learn and make a success of the challenges of their first year in higher education, is connection," says Mathibe.
"By connecting with students using these strategies one will be able to bridge both real and imagined divides between lecturers and students, and any good public university or private higher education institution must ensure that lecturers are fully trained and empowered to connect meaningfully in this way."
With the release of university results in coming weeks, many first years have to face up to the fact that their transition from school to higher education was less successful than planned, and that they need to re-evaluate their current path. While it might seem that there are no options but to throw in the towel, those who failed or under-performed in their first year actually have a number of ways to still realise their dream career, an education expert says.
"It is not a pleasant position to be in if you just finished your first year of study and you didn't pass as well as you had hoped to, or as well as your family and friends have expected you to. Now is the time though to be courageous and honest with yourself and others by re-assessing the situation, and making the changes required to get back on track," says Natasha Madhav, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
"It is very important for both students and parents to realise that not getting it right the first time doesn't make one a failure. Instead, the situation should be regarded as a temporary – if inconvenient and costly – hurdle, and a wake-up call for thoughtful reflection."
Madhav says the transition from school to higher education is a very challenging one on many fronts, but that those who didn't rise to the occasion on the first try have a number of steps they can take to start their new year with new direction and determination.
She advises students to:
1) MAKE SURE OF YOUR FACTS
It is important that you work out the facts of your situation – are you eligible for a supplementary assessment or a remark on any of the subjects? How will this impact on you graduating? What is the best way to re-organise your curriculum to still graduate as soon as possible? If you really need to change course can you take any credits with you? What are the cost implications of all of this information and how can you fund it?
"While these facts feel overwhelming to gather and organise, the reality is that you will make better decisions if you are more certain about the absolute reality of what you need to manage," says Madhav.
2) MEET WITH A STUDENT OR CAREER COUNSELLOR "The transition from school to college or university can cause many students to feel isolated and overwhelmed during their first year," she notes."For many students, failure in the first year is not necessarily a reflection of their academic ability, but rather an indication of an underlying issue. It is perfectly normal to need time to adjust to the social, emotional, and mental hurdles of university or college life. Even if you feel emotionally sound, talking with a counsellor about ways to achieve academic success can help keep you on track." Madhav says that student and career counsellors will take students through different options to ensure that they have chosen the right qualification and, if not, to identify fields better suited to the student's personality and career aspirations. It may, for instance, be a good idea to first pursue a Higher Certificate, before pursuing degree studies. It may also be that there is a more suited qualification within the chosen field."Knowing what your options are – and making sure you are on the right track before continuing – is an important part of ensuring future success," says Madhav.
3) SPEAK TO THE LECTURERS OF THE COURSES YOU FOUND MOST CHALLENGING"Identifying those subjects that were most challenging, and potentially had a decisive impact on your results, is in an important step," says Madhav.She says that seeking advice from lecturers can help students to overcome past challenges and identify new approaches to areas they found particularly discouraging."Asking your lecturers for additional resources that you can engage with over the holidays can also help better you prepare for success next year," she says.
4) SET UP A NEW STUDY PLAN"To ensure success in the new year, devise a plan to help you stay on track and succeed the second time around. Better note-taking in class and using your smartphone to record your lectures can make it easier to study for exams in future. "Social collaboration can also improve learning," says Madhav.
She suggests creating a blog or Facebook group where students can invite other students to share notes and engage, to keep motivated and learn from peers.
5) TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO YOU
Madhav says that any good public university or private institution is filled with resources to ensure student success, including online.
"Identify online lectures, video labs and tutorials that are relevant to the course you are studying. Also enquire about individual tutoring or assistance available on campus. One-on- one learning, whether in person or online, is a great way to go over tougher subject matter that might not get addressed during class time," she says.
6) IDENTIFY A MENTORMaking a connection with a mentor that you respect can help you feel less isolated, optimise your educational experience and provide you with ongoing guidance and support. "A good mentoring relationship is often characterised by mutual respect, trust, understanding, and empathy. A good mentor will also be able to share life experiences as well as technical expertise. In the end, they create an atmosphere in which the student's talent is nurtured and fostered. Seeking help from an expert will make your studies seem less scary and more attainable," says Madhav.
7) COMMIT TO YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL WELLBEING"Don't allow what should be a temporary setback to impact on your health," says Madhav.
"While you may feel very down at this stage, commit to keeping fit and eating healthy foods. Not only will this positively influence your ability to handle this challenging time, but it will also ensure your brain is in tip-top shape when you resume your studies."
Greg Sithole graduated with an IIE Diploma in Information Technology Software Development from The IIE's Varsity College in Sandton (Class of 2015).
Today he is a Junior Software Developer at Empire State, and can boast of having developed apps for such major companies as Barclays.
The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) is SA's largest and most accredited private higher education provider, and its graduates are highly sought after in the workplace.
Here, Greg tells about how his childhood dream became a reality with the assistance of The IIE and Varsity College, and about his brilliant vision for his future.
MY DAILY DUTIES:
My daily duties include developing mobile and web applications, improving existing systems and working with various clients as well as team members to build great projects. We also assist interns from The Digital Academy which where I started, and that led to me working for Empire State.
I CHOSE MY QUALIFICATION BECAUSE:
From a young age I was fascinated by computers and gadgets, and it has always been my dream to be in the IT Industry making software and creating amazing applications, which can and will be utilised by the people around me.
MY GREATEST CAREER SUCCESS TO DATE:
My greatest achievement was that during the time of my Internship (November 2015 – January 2016) at The Digital Academy, I was named as The Best Developer of the Quarter and since then I have created a variety of applications for companies like Barclays.
HOW THE IIE VARSITY COLLEGE CAREER CENTRE HELPED ME ACHIEVE MY GOALS:
The Career Centre Coordinator helped me to secure the position I am in now by giving the students studying my course an opportunity to go to The Digital Academy, and because of that, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the internship, which led me to Empire State.
WHAT STOOD OUT MOST FOR ME ABOUT VARSITY COLLEGE:
It is the amount of support I had from my lecturers because without them I would not have been as committed to becoming a really good software developer.
WHAT I WANT TO ACHIEVE IN FUTURE:
I plan to pursue further studies, i.e. BSc IT Computer Science. Career wise, I would like to grow as a Developer and become a Senior Developer, ultimately creating my own video game development & media company.
MY ADVICE FOR YOUR FIRST JOB:
I would advise students that the most important things after school are dedication and hard work, as this is only the beginning and the harder we work, the further we go.