Exploring circular systems-based education in South Africa: A collaborative approach to digital learning

Author: Dr Eben Haeser Swanepoel
Orcid Id: 0000-0003-3205-5244
Postdoctoral Researcher, North-West University, Economic and Management Sciences, GIFT.
PhD: Psychology of Education (UFS), M.Ed Psychology of Education (UFS), Hons Psychology (UNISA), B.Ed FET (UFS)


South African education systems are at an exciting juncture. They are shaping the way into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and globalized access to learning. Online learning has gained traction internationally and been shown to be effective in curbing overcrowded classrooms at both schools and institutions of higher learning. Online solutions promote open-access learning at cost-effective rates also. South Africa is hindered, however, through unequal access to resources and inequality when it comes to the implementation of online learning as a uniform platform across locations. This article explores a circular model of sensitizing educators, by means of teacher induction, to the use of digital content through collaborative practice, whilst building a systemic autonomous platform of content which is contextual, reliable, and formally assessed before it is used in classrooms. Drawing on cybernetic theory, the article is framed by how systems open and close boundaries to information and how systemic structure is either maintained or lost during the process of adapting to incoming feedback from other systems. With the pressure to adapt to international ideals and globalization, it becomes increasingly important to explore how South African education systems steer information from teacher induction to the ultimate application at grassroots classroom level. Digitized learning, as proposed through this article, holds value when incorporated through collaborative practice where information boundaries from external systems are opened and closed for the purpose of maintaining the ideals of internationally bench-marked knowledge, while at the same time upholding a unified democratic front to the South African context.

Keywords: Cybernetics; Technology Education; Educational Systems; Teacher Induction; Circularity

1. Introduction   

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has brought on disruptive technological advances which can potentially replace outdated and traditional ways of doing. Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT), all characteristic of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s innovations for transformative practice, introduce technological innovation which can potentially change the way we teach and prepare learners and students for the world of work (Xing & Marwala, 2017; Kayembe & Nel, 2019). The rapid trajectory of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s globalization movement compels us to reflect on existing ways of doing and align the South African education system with international benchmarks and global trajectories in the area of vocational access. At the same time, there is a growing need to explore how, within the globalization movement, the South African educational system can retain a democratically unified system whilst simultaneously accounting for cultural diversity and the unequal access to information systems at sub-systemic levels due to past inequalities that hinder access and resource distribution (Meier & Hartell, 2009).

The relevance of 4IR to South Africa, as a Sub-Saharan country, has however been scrutinized. The country’s infrastructure deficits and unequal skill distribution are key challenges to aligning skillsets with the benchmarks of advanced economies (Ayentimi & Burgess, 2019), and public discourse centres on the need for better access and globally bench-marked educational reform. Historically, the Fees Must Fall movement is an example of societal feedback highlighting the dialogue of high-quality access to higher education platforms at lower costs (Pillay & Swanepoel, 2018). More recently, the global Covid-19 pandemic and the national lock-down have highlighted the importance of continuous instruction across all education platforms. Digitized learning platforms have become a go-to for instruction (Odendaal, 2020).

Especially post-apartheid, educational reform in South Africa has seen a paradigmatic emphasis on ways of doing, focussing especially on policy and curriculum reform to align with systemic injustices caused by past unequal access to education and resource distribution (Gumede & Biyase, 2016; Subreenduth, 2009). Social segregation and class privilege, however, still pose challenges when it comes to equal access to quality education. The desired change for socially just education reform has been slow to manifest at a practical level. An inter-generational cycle of unequal privilege and poverty now sees learners from sociohistorically hindered schools unable to accumulate the skills, especially in mathematics, to assimilate functional alignment with high-quality education access and lifelong learning opportunities (Spaull, 2015). There has been stringent progress in technologically enhanced learning methods in South African schools, and teacher training programs now need to be examined as a key component in aligning South Africa with the global trends that form part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Padayachee, 2017). Older teachers often evade technological disruption in the classroom, while younger teachers show greater confidence in the use of modern digitized learning methods (Msila, 2015). This reflects segregated learning experiences across spaces and places of learning, and articulates the cycle of unequal learning that permeates traditional classroom practices. It can be argued that how a learner in a specific school will be taught is then left to the luck of the draw and would depend on the particular level of classroom autonomy they are subjected to for a given learning experience.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterised by innovative interdisciplinary teaching methods, with many South African teachers feeling uncomfortable teaching outside of their own discipline-knowledge systems. They may be slow when it comes to adopting enhanced methodological approaches towards cross-disciplinary collaboration (Chaka, 2019). It becomes increasingly difficult for teachers to use information in a funnelled manner, especially with the rapid digitization of information at a global scale and the need to facilitate both the subject knowledge as well as the technological skill-sets associated with finding and evaluating information in the classroom (Kultawanicha, Koraneekija & Na-Songkhlaa, 2015). The dissemination of information becomes an increasingly important skill-set. The wealth of information during the digitized age calls for greater scrutiny not only in terms of relevance, but also the applicability thereof, outside the classroom and within learners’ communities. A quality educational system should therefore be founded on skilled educators who implement and drive technological systems to optimize learning (Moodley, 2019) within relevant and applicable boundaries, for the purpose of mediating knowledge and information during the learning experience in a meaningful and contextual way.

Online learning, the Internet of Things, and the use of Artificial Intelligence for personalised learning are redefining the role of educational systems (Ally, 2019; Picciano, 2019; Pillay, Maharaj & van Eeden, 2018). Given how the use of smartphones, tablets and computers are becoming increasingly common among learners and students and the manner in which these technologies disrupt traditional pedagogical methods in classrooms on an ongoing basis (Laurillard & Kennedy, 2017; Zhamanov & Sakhiyeva, 2015), exploring a system of incorporating technology in a meaningful and collaborative way during classroom practice becomes increasingly viable. The shift towards digitized learning environments, in particular, but also the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s globalization trajectory would necessitate such an investigation. The systemic integrity of South African education, the inclusive nature of which extends across the space and place of all communities and stakeholders (be it national or international) should at the same time be retained. While there are a growing number of virtual and blended schools globally, further research is needed to determine the long-term viability thereof in terms of successful student retention and performance (Miron, Shank & Davidson, 2018). A lack of infrastructure, the skill-sets of teachers and overall expertise in optimally utilizing technology in the teaching-learning environment pose further limitations to modernizing digitized classroom practices in South Africa (Jantjies & Joy, 2016).

Specifically grounded on collaborative practice among various stakeholders toward global vocational access and quality education, this article aims to explore a circular model of teaching-learning which can potentially mediate geographical and spatial limitations to learning and sustain a continued and reliable method of delivery which brings transparent, reliable and valid information to learners and students. The circular method of delivery furthermore addresses the need to uphold a unified international standard of knowledge and information for the digitized age, while simultaneously retaining South African benchmarks and ideals as a means to retain systemic structure within the global front of information sharing and innovation as we move toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

2. First-order cybernetics: A systemic approach to information and education

Cybernetics derives from the Greek Kybernetes, which also translates to steersman (Heylighen & Joslyn, 2001). Aimed at investigating similarities amongst autonomous systems, cybernetics provides a lens for exploring how systems are structured and steered (at first-order level), and why they behave as they do (through a Second Order perspective). While the term cybernetics is often associated with the functioning of machine systems and robotics, it can also be used to observe and explore social systems and discourse (Umpleby, Medvedeva, Lepskiy, 2019). The theoretical lens through which this article is articulated is based on first-order cybernetics. Aligned with systems theories, cybernetics allows for the investigation and exploration of how systems are governed and maintained through patterns and rules that form boundaries to information. Especially useful in framing goal-related functioning of systems, the use of first-order cybernetics allows the researcher to investigate how a system functions through investigating the feedback processes of information which are allowed or rejected at specific intervals within the system to either initiate change or retain structure (Becvar & Becvar, 2012). As systems are governed by rules and patterns which form boundaries for attaining systemic structure, opening boundaries to allow information in, or in turn closing boundaries to reject information, helps provide a better understanding of how systems function in achieving a desired state or goal.

Accordingly, the use of first-order cybernetics provides a valuable framework for investigating the implementation of e-learning in classrooms across educational platforms. Simultaneously, it becomes possible to investigate how different systems within the wider South African system are shaped or restricted through open and closed boundaries, while at the same time investigating a model that allows for cohesive information flow to enter the South African system and school subsystems as self-sustaining entities without losing overall systemic integrity and entering a state of dysfunction (entropy).

3. Unifying the space and place of learning

The innovative use of digital learning aligns with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 4 and aims toward a 21st century paradigm of Education for All. This will deem the use of digitized learning as central to infrastructure limitations and extending learning to learners who reside in remote areas (Ally, 2019). Accordingly, the World Economic Forum’s Internet for All initiative looks at the deployment of training aimed at bridging the online access gap. South Africa is one of the countries that is aligned with the global Fourth Industrial Revolution initiative. By identifying challenging spaces of connectivity, especially in rural areas, the initiative is centred on “extending ICT infrastructure to underserved areas, lowering the costs of being online and cheaper gadgets, digitising local content and providing ICT and digital skills” (Matshediso, 2017). The unification of place and space, specifically to optimize learning, is twofold and encompasses the physical dimension as well as the unseen dimension (time and context). Encountering boundaries to learning in traditional classroom practice is commonplace, and online learning systems provide the opportunity to connect to other systems of learning and draw from external knowledge bases. Chilton (2019) expresses the value of connecting to prerecorded case study material or learners who are not able to access the main place of learning.

While the before-mentioned holds potential for bringing connectivity to areas otherwise hindered from achieving optimal access to online resources, there is a need to look at available tools for bridging the divide and achieving successful implementation. Jantjies and Joy (2016) draw on the lack of access to proper resources such as computers in schools, while maintaining that mobile phones have been effective in enhancing learning and teaching globally, especially in developing countries. The researchers go on to point out that multiple languages hinder the implementation of technological methods for blended learning in South Africa. While Western discourse is seen as a colonising tool deflecting from African knowledge systems (Pillay & Swanepoel, 2018), it becomes increasingly important to steer South African education in innovative ways and incorporating global innovations in a meaningful way whilst retaining the systemic integrity of the South African education system as whole. While also accounting for the resource constraints that underlie many spaces of learning, the multilingual citizenship characteristic of the South African context can, instead of closing the door to global adaption, become a strong motivator for conceptualizing an indigenously relevant system.

4. Establishing boundaries to open information: Toward ethical patterns of learning

The growing nature of the digitized learning and online access platforms for information is transcending closed boundaries to learning, and the digitized age is seeing a rapid increase in information availability (Ally, 2019). Gous (2019) postulates that the aim of education is to teach knowledge and information that is on par with the latest developments. Gous (2019) evaluates the applicability of information and knowledge through contextualized teaching. What is relevant and current will depend on the needs of the people that the information is intended to serve. Lambert and Gong (2010) emphasise that knowledge is power. Should information systems not be effectively employed, we risk a further divide and marginalization which would perpetuate past cycles. One example of this would be how literacy education has, through past policy and practice, enhanced white supremacy. Education did this through information control amongst groups which caused inequality in participation and vocational access, as well as further education and training (Reygan & Steyn, 2017).

South African education is based on rules and patterns of constitutional ideals enshrined in the South African Constitution (1996) that translate into idealized practice through the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (Department of Basic Education, 2011). These rules encapsulate the boundaries of equitable information and provide for restorative action concerning historic inequalities, the promotion of messages and knowledge based on inclusivity, and further promoting transformation towards the overall system of South African citizenship. Closed micro exploration has, however, revealed that closed system instruction has retained dysfunction and teachings have not been aligned with the overall systemic boundaries of social justice and equal participation (Davids, 2104; Rooth, 2005). While closed systemic loops have widened the gap between theoretic ideals and practice, opening educational boundaries to information can potentially lead to entropy.

Platonova and Gous (2019) draw on open education as a meaningful tool for producing free-thinking and multiculturally articulate learners. However, the researchers refer to open systems such as online education as a tool for perpetuating ideology and advance knowledge and information which is construed by power. Drawing on Gee (2011), the researchers feel that learning is central to changing patterns of behaviour and the creation of socially situated identities. Through symbolic discourse and cultural control, uncritical mass learning can decontextualize learning and skew it to the ideas and values of systems which are not relevant or on par with the learner’s specific context, which is where behaviour manifests. This is especially important to note when it comes to the creation of democratically accessible information systems during the digitized age where boundaries to information have been opened to global citizenship. Anefuku (2017) notes that opening boundaries to information for globalized knowledge is futile without critically examining the systems which underlie the knowledge base itself.

South African education systems are perpetually criticized for being dysfunctional at the practical level of conveying core curriculum content. Educators lack subject knowledge and in some cases teach subjects that fall out of their scope of training (Moloi, 2019). According to Lee and Brett (2015), a firm understanding of subject knowledge and comprehension of aligned pedagogies is fundamental to successfully utilizing technology during classroom instruction. A deficit in subject expertise is in turn a closed boundary for adapting to modern digitized learning methods which is relevant and contextual to learner needs. Research has also revealed closed boundaries of information sharing during sensitive topics, especially topics that are related to Social-Justice education. During certain classroom teachings, teachers perpetuate incongruent messages to learners, or leave out core content completely due to personal beliefs (Reygan & Francis, 2015). In such instances, opening boundaries to digital material holds value, and the teacher’s role as facilitator then becomes key in facilitating activities amongst learners. The use of technology for such learning experiences is however closely monitored and cannot be implemented on a large scale (such as via MOOC) due to the cultural plurality of learners needing to be understood within boundaries that are specific to the South African context. The uncritical use of material in digital format on the part of the teacher can either sustain the lesson within closed boundaries of digital use or lead to further entropy when employed without careful consideration.

Clarà and Barberà (2013) warn against the problematic pedagogies which underlie many forms of MOOCs, deriving from behaviouristic foundations to learning that situate knowledge as observable and objectively attainable. Further uncritical pedagogies can potentially lead learning toward representations of the object of learning, which obscures knowledge not as constructed patterns through various perspectives, but a thing that is not dynamic and adaptable. The use of MOOCs, without critically reflecting on which knowledge boundaries are opened, leads to further entropy within the learning process. Wise, Cui, Jin and Vytasek (2017) comment on interactional patterns during online discussions used in digital learning communities. With the wide array of participants engaging in the online discussion, it becomes difficult and chaotic to successfully disseminate relevant information that is aligned with the purpose of the learning activity. Porter et al (2016) further draw on harassment and bullying as cornerstone malpractices that hinder the adoption of online learning platforms. The further spread and “trolling” of pornographic material is also prevalent on online platforms. Online learning, in turn, needs to be aligned with instructors who comprehend not only the context of their digital platforms and users, but also grasp ethical boundaries in creating a functional system that is shielded from learning hindrances through the use of intervention, guidance and active participation.

 5. Traditional hierarchical versus modern digitized educational instruction

Traditional education systems are characterized by pedagogies that emphasise knowledge as external, thus situating the role of a teacher as the knower who leads learners to a set reality of “knowing”. Subsequent paradigm shifts have seen the role of the teacher change to that of a facilitator whose primary role is to create a learning environment in which learners co-construct knowledge. Recently, the shift toward modern digitized pedagogies is seen through the implementation of web 2.0 and the technological move toward learning platforms where learners connect to online instructors and potentially a wide array of knowledge sources (Clarà and Barberà, 2013). It has been noted that while the uncritical pedagogical approaches utilized through MOOCs can lean toward traditional behaviourist methods of instruction, the potential opportunities created for collaborative modern pedagogies is of value when used within a multi-perspective and collaborative environment. Fourth Industrial Revolution learning environments are conducive to collaborative learning. The teacher brings innovative technological methods to the classroom to facilitate collaboration, innovation, and creativity (Adefila & Pillay, 2019; Maksimović & Dimić, 2016). The modern role of the educator is subsequently multi-dimensional and transcends subject knowledge, redefining the educator as a change agent skilfully navigating social tenancies. The role is characterised by reflective practise and ongoing learning and research to maintain relevance in the face of societal changes in dynamic and innovative ways (Maksimović & Dimić, 2016).

Online education in various forms, including asynchronous and synchronous learning methods, have become popular platforms for instruction delivery, with designed lessons incorporating blended learning methods and artificial intelligence software for delivering personalized learning experiences (Ally, 2019; Picciano, 2019). Ally (2019) and Damoensa (2003) refer to the importance of teaching for the future, and align the modern role of the educator with the need to dynamically prepare learners for vocational access to jobs that are not yet in existence. The need for face-to-face learning as traditional learning methods have been re-aligned with virtual teachings where learners take control of their own learning experiences and select learning content (Akpan, Etim & Ogechi, 2016). Flipped classrooms have also broken away from traditional linear models of instruction, leading the learner to actively co-construct knowledge (Hwang, Lai & Wang, 2015). Gross, Pietri, Anderson, Moyano-Camihort and Graham (2015) draw on blended learning as it is beneficial for pre-class preparation and providing more opportunities for in-class activities as well as active learning experiences. Specifically grounded through research based on STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the researchers point to beneficial outcomes when learning is balanced between on-line and in-class contact-based activities. Flipped and virtual classrooms have shown proven value through the recording of classes and lectures for later use. The proven effectiveness of this method has led to classes being pre-recorded to instil basic knowledge before formal instruction, which in turn has led to more time for in-class discussion and contextualization (Hwang, Lai & Wang, 2015).

The ‘leading’ of learners and students is important, as the flipped classroom can revert to autonomous systems of control should boundaries to learning be too rigid and narrow. Further entropy is also possible should boundaries be too open and allow for too much learner autonomy. The teacher is at the core of successful technological integration in the classroom. Successful integration of constructivist learning and the use of technology is driven by the beliefs of the educator who ultimately enters the classroom (Chen, 2008), and accordingly teacher induction and developmental programs should focus not only on skillset improvement, but also teachers’ beliefs about digital learning. Damoense (2003) noted that online learning enhances collaborative engagement. Traditional teacher instruction gives way to facilitating meaningful engagement with online activities. The wealth of online activities and resources make the act of leading learners and teacher beliefs cornerstone in ensuring that meaningful boundaries to information are opened. To attain systemic integrity within modern 21st century teaching-learning spaces, the use of e-learning, flipped and virtual classrooms need to be used effectively in the context within which learners reside (both at a micro and macro level). This is especially important in relation to the amount of learning that will stem from online methods and which learning will flow from face-to-face modes of delivery. As such, the awareness of systemic boundaries becomes a cornerstone during online pedagogies. Educators will need to open and close boundaries to online instruction in a manner that enhances the overall flow of the teaching-learning process.

 6. A circular approach to collaborative practice

An effective method of opening boundaries to enhance teacher adaptability toward digitized learning is found in the form of Communities of Practice (CoP). CoPs allow for collaborative practice, and when grounded through trusted patterns of interaction, enhance cross-platform learning that is stimulated through various stakeholders (Lee & Brett, 2015). According to Lee and Brett (2015), the use of online-learning design allows for teachers to cross-collaborate within a CoP, which enhances peer-teacher communication, stimulates self-reflection, and allows for stronger implementation of material within classroom practice. Lambert and Gong (2010) advocate for the use of technological systems during pre-service teacher instruction. They see it as vital for translating skill-sets during teaching when educators enter classroom practice. However, while many universities and institutions of learning provide computers for use during training, programs often miss the opportunities to effectively integrate digital systems in meaningful ways that advance post-training incorporation and use.

The remainder of the discussion will focus on a circular model of open-closed boundaries to digital content which emphasises collaborative practice and contextual awareness stemming from initial teacher induction towards the grassroots classroom use of media and material. Specifically grounded on a process of circularity pertaining to the knowledge-systems teachers draw on, the proposed model further envisages a South African knowledge base and context in a manner where information is mediated and steered toward the ideals of the South African system and unified and constructed through a wide array of perspectives, languages and contextual backgrounds. Intrinsic to the model is that the product of the information retains core knowledge integrity and is evaluated and steered through didactic approaches during teacher induction, as part of the process, instead of it being a process to engage with only once teachers actually start to teach. Skill-sets can, accordingly, be translated toward post-induction employment where teachers construct subsystems of evaluated and monitored content, thereby ensuring a uniform content base as teachers become comfortable with the use of digitizing learning and peer-support towards the goal of reliable and equitable information sharing.

Figure 1: Cyclical model of initiating cross-platform collaboration toward e-learning in South Africa (Author, 2020)

Figure 1 illustrates a circular approach to introducing a reliable and valid flow of e-learning content into classrooms while providing relief for teacher input during certain stages or cycles of curriculum coverage. The risk of an open system to online learning content has been discussed, as content drawn on from international sources or external open boundaries does not guarantee that contextual or relevant information is conveyed to learners. The aim is further to emphasise that digitized content should not dominate lessons but be used effectively and innovatively to enhance the learning that occurs during formal teaching hours. A circular method of introduction to core content, in collaboration with higher education instructors, and emanating through the teacher induction process, holds value both for ensuring valid and reliable use of digital content, as well as for allowing sub-system classroom level autonomy during the facilitation and contextualisation of information.

A process of circularity allows information to flow through the system in a controlled and goal-oriented manner, while providing for a basis of stored content which is accumulated and available to teachers post-induction for use and knowledge refinement. It is noteworthy that this article specifically draws on a model where information is continuously updatable. Opening too many boundaries to online learning is detrimental and will lead to entropy and systemic dysfunction. Thus, the proposed model is founded on shaping an autonomous community of content which is evaluated and on par with current trends in education, and stored in offline format for post-induction use. The material is shaped around core content. Through the process of teacher induction, it can utilize various forms of online instruction and assessment methods, which can be translated to the needs of the classroom system. With a wide array of material available across various subject didactics, it also leads to fewer challenges when looking to find content that is of value across different contexts of space and place.

Teachers entering their own space and place of teaching post-induction have an array of material and curriculum coverage available to them right at the onset. They can integrate the resources available during induction in a controlled environment alongside various stakeholders and peers from a plurality of backgrounds and skill-sets. The process stimulates access to resources and material which is contextually relevant and adaptable to a specific context. Boundaries to the material are opened and closed to learners either offline or online, and the overall integrity of the system’s use is adjusted to contextual constraints and resources, as material can be provided through various offline means. Importantly, a circular system, as proposed, provides teachers with opportunities to shape positive values and collaborative values about using technologically-based learning in classrooms without opening e-learning boundaries in a manner that is disadvantageous to other systems of learning situated in other contexts. Boundaries are therefore systematically removed in a way that does not cause a larger divide between schools systems and teachers who cannot employ sophisticated digital material in the classrooms.

A sensitization process is thus articulated where, through opening and closing systemic boundaries to material, the teacher can better navigate their own subject knowledge and continuous learning, while allowing for a stronger unified method of conveying base knowledge and giving way to the contextual application of skill-sets in the classroom. While there are various sources available for teachers to draw on content already, these sources are often expensive and not created with larger populations or context in mind. They are also not always reliable in terms of the encapsulated core ideals of national and international benchmarks. Ideally, to maintain systemic integrity, the overall aims of a model for implementing digital learning in classrooms should enhance teacher practice to align with reliability, and up-to-date ethical information. Ultimately, constructing a circular approach for reliable information and content sharing holds value for periods of instruction disruption while also allowing for teachers to shape values and autonomy to draw strategically on local and international content for enhancing practice, bypassing emotional bias during certain lessons, or reshaping and refining knowledge that is not on par to, or unaligned with, current trends and benchmarks.

7. Recommendations and research

There are various challenges to the implementation of a circular model for digitizing content for a unified information base. Firstly, cloud space is expensive, and the management of the proposed system can be costly and time-consuming. While the proposed system is autonomous and updates as teacher-induction takes place, further research is required to explore smaller data management systems that are both cost effective and reliable, especially in spaces where schools already employ online learning in effective and creative ways. Artificial intelligence and autonomous systems are feared as potentially replacing teachers. However, with careful consideration and implementation, the uses thereof can reduce administrative times and reduce the likelihood and severity of teacher burnout. The use thereof for system management and information sharing in strengthening classroom practice will be useful for stimulating public debate around the digitized paradigm shift in South Africa towards the ideals of globalization and technological advancement that characterise the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

8. Conclusion

The unequal distribution of resources and the post-apartheid ripples that hinder many schools’ systems from benefiting from real-time synchronous instruction that is relevant to the South African context, are impeding the adoption of technology in South African classrooms. While international systems have deep knowledge and information sharing pools to draw from, the boundaries of relevance and context are primary challenges in shaping a sustainable base from a South African perspective. This article subsequently explored a possible method of sensitizing teachers to online learning through a collaborative model based on circularity. The proposed model reflects the advantage of continuous content, which involves opening a system to allow for new content to flow in a directed manner, while closing boundaries to content that is not on par or reliably assessed before being widely used. The proposed model allows teachers to access an array of voices and methods pertaining to a specific lesson, so that they can reliably convey core content in a more effective and controlled manner. By providing more time for the teacher to facilitate context and application in the classroom, the value of a circular model lies therein that it further stimulates ongoing access to new methods and content coverage for self-reflection and peer engagement.

Limitations of resources and time constraints are curbed due to the initial construction of a community platform during induction. South Africa has the exciting opportunity to shape the adoption of digital learning in a manner that emphasises the active role of the teacher as both facilitator and lifelong learner, while also bridging contextual boundaries in new and innovative ways that promote the sustainability of the South African systemic context. At the forefront of the digitization process is the call for further research into refining an autonomous system which would reduce colonial powers’ monopoly on information and further investigating closed boundaries to unreliable material and content to the detriment of the learner and their subsequent context in terms of place and space. The move toward digitized learning can strengthen teacher practice and enhance collaboration. If not properly initiated and implemented, however, we may create a further divide amongst systems of learning, and not just among subsystems in South Africa. The overall integrity of the South African context of learning may be compromised, when compared with international benchmarks.

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