A ‘Watershed’ for Educational Transformation

Deployment of Carpe Diem Learning Design Methods in a South African Context


  • Gilly Salmon Education Alchemists Ltd.
  • A. van der Merwe Stellenbosch University
  • A. Schoonwinkel Stellenbosch University




This action research project describes the application of a large-scale collaborative learning design method to a major educational transformation programme at a South African university. Our findings determined that Carpe Diem learning design was an appropriate methodology for contributing to and creating key moments and movements (“watersheds”) in educational transformation in the South African context and beyond. We demonstrated that the impact of an original one-week collaborative intervention, covering all faculties and 10 major degree programmes, was sustained over the following three years. It created acceptance and strong interest across the campus in transforming learning and proved a fitting catalyst for programme renewal initiatives. It placed the university and the service to its students in a much stronger position in unexpected circumstances. We offer suggestions for those who would like to try a collaborative design approach for transformation.

Keywords: programme renewal, Carpe Diem methodology, learning design, creative collaborative groups, threshold concepts, authentic assessment, catalysts, watershed moments, sustainability, “future-proofing”, South Africa.

Author Biographies

Gilly Salmon, Education Alchemists Ltd.

Professor Gilly Salmon has been a learning innovator for more than 30 years. She researches and publishes widely on the themes of innovation and change in Higher Education and the exploitation of new technologies of all kinds in the service of learning. She is internationally renowned for her significant contributions to  education futures, including research, innovation, programme design, teaching methods and the use of new technologies. Professor Gilly Salmon is founder and C.E.O of Education Alchemists ​Ltd - a company formed around her life's work including Carpe Diem learning design methodology, pedagogical transformation, online teaching, technology enhanced learning, the 5 stage model and e-tivities.

She previously also published the much cited article "May the Fourth be with you" in an earlier edition of this journal. It can be accessed at: https://jl4d.org/index.php/ejl4d/article/view/352

A. van der Merwe, Stellenbosch University

Dr Antoinette van der Merwe is Senior Director: Learning and Teaching Enhancement at Stellenbosch University. She has been involved in professional academic support for the past 23 years at SU. Her main research interests include the scholarship of educational leadership and the effective use of learning technologies in higher education.

A. Schoonwinkel, Stellenbosch University

Professor Arnold Schoonwinkel obtained a Masters degree in Engineering from Stellenbosch University,  a PhD in Engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of Cape Town. He worked in industry and at Stellenbosch University as professor in satellite engineering, Dean of the Engineering and as Vice-rector.



How to Cite

Salmon, G., van der Merwe, A., & Schoonwinkel, A. (2020). A ‘Watershed’ for Educational Transformation: Deployment of Carpe Diem Learning Design Methods in a South African Context. Journal of Learning for Development, 7(2), 127–141. https://doi.org/10.56059/jl4d.v7i2.392



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