A New Way of Learning: Te Wānanga o Raukawa
By the time Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country would be moving into level four lockdown on the 25th of March - to try and contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus, Te Wānanga o Raukawa already had its own response plan in place.
Tūmuaki Dr Mereana Selby says dedicated staff were assigned the task of watching over what was unfolding overseas in the weeks leading up to lockdown in Aotearoa.
“We could see that the situation was becoming more serious overseas and would soon be impacting on us here in Aotearoa. So the wānanga Emergency Response Team, that was already in place to manage possible flooding, earthquakes and other emergencies, was given Terms of Reference and asked to come up with a response plan that would manage a potential lockdown.”
“I wanted a comprehensive plan that covered the whole of the organisation that had an authoritative presence, and provided a centre where everyone could come to for information and advice. I also wanted to maintain a sense of calm and confidence within our organisation, with our staff, our students, iwi and other stakeholders.”
“We werent going to wait to see what was going to happen in Aotearoa and then react accordingly – we wanted to have a plan already in place.”
“We implemented a four step plan starting at level one which included social distancing with no physical contact between staff and students as well as urgent travel only for staff. We also asked that any kaimahi who were ill or feeling unwell to not remain on campus. At level two we stopped teaching face to face on campus. All departments were given one month to prepare for complete online delivery.”
“I wanted as much as possible to maintain business as usual. So rather than looking at closing I asked the emergency response team to look at how we would keep our doors open and continue to deliver our programmes.”
“We talked the plan through with our kaihautū and asked them to exercise their leadership in their faculties, to look at new ways of working.”
“We wanted to be able to graduate through this plan as things changed. Managing our people became a priority. If circumstances were going to escalate we wanted them to be prepared so there were no surprises.”
“We also met with all staff and told them we thought the situation with Covid-19 could get worse but we had a plan in place to manage change.”
“We had hoped we wouldn’t need to move through the four levels – but we knew if we had to, we would be prepared. About four or five days later, our Government announced its four stage plan which almost mirrored ours,” says Mereana.
Over the past few years the wānanga had already begun overhauling its internal systems and was training its staff on the new systems.
“Because we have all been through training with our new systems the whole notion of going to online delivery wasn’t as daunting as it could have been.”
Mereana says one of the biggest challenges for the organisation was to consider whether the new way of working was conducive to learning in a Māori environment where face to face contact and whakawhanaungatanga was highly valued and practiced.
“We had no choice but to offer our entire range of programmes online. It was that or close down and we were not going to close down. Teaching weaving, carving and environmental studies where testing water quality was required for example was challenging. But we achieved it.”
The wānanga brought on extra assistance to help with the production of online teaching videos and live streaming.
As a result of going online and not having any students on campus – the wānanga temporarily closed down the kitchen and dining hall.
“No one has lost their job at Te Wānanga o Raukawa. We redeployed our kitchen, cleaning and other staff into other jobs. For example we established an archival project to manage all of our documentation and resources – a job that we needed to complete regardless of lockdown. It’s given our staff other opportunities to learn new skills.”
“We have now tested the ability of the organisation to deliver online – and we now know that we have that capacity. We are unlikely to return to exactly the same way we delivered programmes pre-lockdown,” says Mereana.
Mereana says the future of programme delivery at the wānanga is likely to have a mixed delivery of face to face and online learning.
“We know that many students prefer face to face contact and that the whanaungatanga experienced while on campus has a huge appeal. We have taken a giant leap in terms of our ability to work and teach with the use of technology and our staff have managed the changes extremely well,” says Mereana.
Te Wānanga o Raukawa currently has more than 3,750 students. It was founded in 1981 by the confederation of Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Toa Rangatira. In 1993 it was recognised as a wānanga.
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