[University of Free State Business School] Lecturer empowers students to take control of their studies

Prof Liezel Nel, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Informatics at the University of the Free State (UFS), was announced as winner in the category Research in Teaching and Learning at the 2020 UFS Excellence in Learning and Teaching Awards, hosted by the Centre for Teaching and Learning in September this year.
Prof Nel, who is passionate about the Computer Science discipline due to its ever-changing nature, says she not only constantly revises the subject material, but also the way in which she presents it to students. “In order to be an effective facilitator, I adjust my teaching and learning strategies based on the needs of my students and their pace and depth of understanding,” she says.
As an adjunct professor, she currently teaches Web Development and Internet Programming modules on both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Prof Nel also supervises master’s and PhD projects in the field of Computer Science Education.
She believes in a research-informed way of teaching that is sensitive to the needs of individual students in a diverse educational context. Prof Nel is constantly investigating innovative ways in which the teaching and learning experiences of Computer Science students can be enhanced. “My teaching philosophy is geared towards the empowerment of my students in order for them to take control of their own learning experiences,” she adds.
Best teaching experience
She is in the position of working with students who are entering higher education for the first time and is of the opinion that especially first-year students need to be exposed to the best possible teaching experience.
“My students and I work together to overcome many of the unique challenges they are experiencing in order to better prepare them on an academic and a personal level for the successful completion of their higher education journey and for a successful career in Computer Science,” she says.
Besides the role that Prof Nel is playing in preparing first-year students, she also participates in the development of postgraduate students. “By involving all my postgraduate students in teaching and learning-related projects, I believe that I am playing a valuable role in shaping a new generation of teaching and learning scholars,” declares Prof Nel.
Continuous excellence
Her work to enhance the learning experiences of her students has received both local and national recognition. Since 2009, she has received numerous awards, including the UFS prestige award for Excellence in e-learning, the UFS prestige award for Excellence in Teaching; and the UFS Vice-Chancellor’s award for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Prof Nel also received the National Excellence in Teaching and Learning award from the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa and the Council for Higher Education (CHE).