As an academic, Dr Woudi Von Solms came to realise the power of technology and has since adopted it as her basic tool of trade. She has successfully deployed it in a number of various contexts and disciplines in which she has been involved such as in business, research, education, health and farming.
Von Solms, who is a senior lecturer of tourism at the University of Mpumalanga (UMP), believes that technology alone cannot achieve much. She said to optimise it one should always use it creatively and to enhance as well as enrich learning experience.
For instance, she trains small to medium enterprises to use social media and create an Internet presence for their businesses, by using a mobile application.
Said Von Solms: “I love the influence technology has on our lives. Some of my research has even considered how technology can promote engagement with nature. Lastly, I love my teaching and I am passionate about lecturing. Not just about lecturing, but about being creative in the way I convey theory to my students and make them think critically and creatively, collaborate, and discuss the theory.”
She said when she was studying for her Masters’ degree in commerce she conducted a research on Geocaching to determine if it could be seen as a way to promote physical exercise. Von Solms said while she was working with an established local health provider she recognises the link between health, tourism and technology. In addition, she said she researched how Geocaching and other technologies can be embedded into the business model of National Parks to enhance customer experience.
When Von Solms was doing her MBA her research focused “on the impact of education on students’ levels of creativity and their ability to communicate, collaborate, and think creatively”. She said she realised over the seven years she was lecturing that there is much to be gained by incorporating unusual ways of teaching.
“I started reading up on the role of technology in education and the computer programs or cell phone applications out there and what researchers thought education might look like in the future,” said Von Solms.
She continued to put technology at the centre of her academic career. For instance, when she enrolled for her PhD through the NRF bursary she looked at land use within the private wildlife sector in South Africa.
Through the use of technology she conducted interviews with private game farm owners and managers as part of collecting primary data. According to Von Solms, the research involved collecting data on the demographics related to the game farm owners and geographical data on where the game farms were located. The outcome of the study resulted in findings that she reckon would be valuable to game farm owners particularly regarding how best to use their land sustainably, profitably and productively.
“This information is now being used to advise industry on how to make changes after the prices in the wildlife industry have collapsed. Those game farmers can now consider alternative land use forms and will have a better knowledge of what other land uses they can explore,” said Von Solms.
Some of her career highlights include taking part at the London International Conference on Education, a stint in teaching marketing and short learning programmes to SAFCOL from 2018 till beginning 2020. She is currently involved in the Centre for Entrepreneurship Rapid Incubator (CFERI) at UMP.
“I realised that incorporating creativity in my lectures worked and is recognised. COVID-19 forced me to teach creatively in a different way, as there were no physical classes. I had to channel my creativity by using online teaching platforms. It is good to know that UMP recognises my passion for quality teaching and the fact that I have assisted other lecturers with Moodle,” said Von Solms.