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Book: Technology-mediated Crisis Response in Language Studies

Chapter: 3. An Examination of Online isiZulu Language Learning during COVID-19: A South African Perspective

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.45097


The South African higher education landscape has been characterized by student protest and disruption since 2015. These recurring crises resulted in the introduction of technology-mediated initiatives pre-COVID. This chapter focuses on Basic isiZulu, an L2 module, compulsory for all non-L1 speakers of isiZulu. In this mixed methods study, the qualitative component consists of a content analysis of the module for the period 2014-2022. It critiques instructional design and explains how the model proposed by Chen (2016)- ICCEE – was implemented. Thereafter, using the framework proposed by Gacs, Goertler and Spasova (2020), which was designed specifically to deal with modules that transition from face-to-face to online, an evaluation is presented. The quantitative component uses the MOODLE learning analytics data to offer a longitudinal report on student engagement with selected online formative activities in seventeen semesters from 2014-2022. A comparison of the pre-pandemic years of 2017-2019 and the ERT period of 2020-2022, yields some interesting results. The overall average percentage of student engagement with online formative activities is similar, 51.2% for the former and 51.3% for the latter. The expectation that there would have been greater engagement during ERT on account of online teaching (as opposed to blended) was contradicted. In fact, intra-pandemic engagement was low. For 2020, the triaged year, less than 50% of the cohort engaged with OFAs. 47 % of students engaged with the online formative activities in semester one, and 48% in semester two. 2021 saw statistics improving, particularly in semester 2, where 64% of the cohort engaged with the five formative activities. In 2022, engagement declined. Sadly, it was incentivization that prompted the higher level of engagement. This chapter provides an overview of how Basic isiZulu navigated the journey into a technology-mediated module. The learning analytics data reveals the critical challenge of low engagement with online formative activities.

Chapter Contributors

  • Roshni Gokool ( - rgokool) 'University of KwaZulu Natal'
  • Shamila Naidoo ( - snaidoo) 'University of KwaZulu Natal'