UKZN Distinguished Teacher Earns PhD

Dr Rosemary Quilling’s passion for teaching information systems and technology (IS&T) culminated in her being awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education by UKZN in May.

Supervised by Professor Wayne Hugo, her study was entitled: Higher Education (HE) Teachers’ Use of Social Computing in their Teaching: The Case of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Quilling is a senior lecturer in the Discipline of Information Systems and Technology at UKZN. Her study explored the reasons why HE teachers use or do not use social computing (Web2.0) applications in their teaching. She said that studies of social computing used usually only explore the factors impacting use rather than systemic, context-based explanations of how patterns of use or non-use have developed over time, and are instantiated and shift in specific instances.

Quilling noted that the doctoral topic she selected impacted her journey as she conducted her study at UKZN during turbulent times when the majority of HE teachers had no extrinsic motivation to explore the use of social computing in their teaching. She said: ‘The context was challenging, complex and in a state of systemic flux; providing sufficient reasons for teachers to choose not to innovate in teaching. When the study data was produced, the Institution had experienced an institutional merger (eight years prior), reorganisation into a College structure (within a year) and was plagued by annual student protests related to student access.’

In the midst of the challenges Quilling was recognised by UKZN as a Distinguished Teacher in 2016 in recognition of her ability to demonstrate innovation and excellence in the areas of curriculum development, teaching methodology and assessment methods. In the same year, she was awarded the National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award by the Council on Higher Education and the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa. These awards bear testimony to the quality and rigour of the teaching she brings to her lectures. She has shared her innovative teaching techniques with peers in national and international conferences and through research articles in accredited academic journals.

Quilling is pleased about her academic achievement which she will use to contribute to the transformation of the curriculum and even more importantly, to inform the systemic imperatives in Higher Education Institutions as a result of rapidly changing technological advances.

In 1986, she was the first member of her family to earn a university degree and she has made history once again by being the first to be awarded a PhD. Her other qualifications included the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Geography, Bachelor of Science Honours in Geography (with distinction) and a Master of Commerce in Information Systems and Technology (summa cum laude).

Dean and Head of the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, Professor Stephen Mutula congratulated Quilling: ‘The conferment of a PhD degree on Rosemary is significant not only to the Discipline of IS&T but also to the entire School in many ways. Firstly, she will join the growing number of staff with PhD degrees who are able to mentor and develop emerging academics. Secondly, she will now be able to supervise at PhD level and help enhance the School graduation throughput and research productivity. Thirdly, there is a clear correlation between possession of a PhD and the quality of teaching and research that an academic is engaged in.’ He added that the School looks forward to Quilling’s continued contribution to excellence in teaching, research and engaged scholarship in the School.

Words: Hazel Langa

Photograph: Albert Hirasen