Field learning the ecotourism way: Perspectives of students at the Durban University of Technology.
Hospitality industry. Hotels, clubs, restaurants, etc. Food service
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AbstractUniversities in South Africa face numerous challenges related to student success, student experience, pass rates, throughput rates, graduation rates, funding from the government and employability. Universities and the programmes that they offer are also criticized for non-alignment with industry needs and the overproduction of graduates that struggle to find employment after graduation. This paper argues that for programmes to enhance alignment with industry needs, etiquette and standards, it is crucial to collaborate with industry in the teaching, learning and assessment processes of a programme. This collaboration could be achieved through the use of industry experts as guest lecturers in authentic industry environments. Ninety third year students from the Department of Ecotourism were exposed to this kind of authentic and future-oriented ecotourism learning at Hluhluwe uMfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, for an entire week in 2017. This paper provides perspectives shared after their field learning experience. The study discovered that the experience was ‘thrilling’, ‘incredible’, ‘fun’, ‘educational’,’ informativ’e and ‘different’ allowing the students to use all their senses while also givingopportunities to do well to those students who tend to struggle in class. Most of the students thought that they had acquired enough knowledge and skills during their field-trip, to be able to provide the same experience to paying guests. It was also interesting to note that the training had afforded about 22% of the students an opportunity to decide that they were not cut-out for a career or business in the wilderness. However, the same training validated field-guiding as a career or business choice for about 78% of the students.