Online teaching and learning began today at the universities of Cape Town, UJ, Stellenbosch and Wits with others to follow as discussions about #OnlineLearning continue.
All universities and TVET colleges closed on 17 March following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a national state of disaster due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Department of Higher Education has been supportive of online initiatives taken by various institutions whilst some student bodies have expressed concern especially for students who may be excluded due to limitations beyond their control.
Recently, 16 April 2020, DVC Associate Professor Lis Lange released the universities framework for remote teaching and alternative calendar for UCT, and orientation week begins today for online learning.
The university states that is has considered the needs of their most vulnerable students and the needs of the academic and professional staff in their decision to proceed.
” We understand that each individual’s use of time and space is determined by the class needs, so from the very beginning we have focused on how to provide an equitable learning experience to all our students. We have taken particular care to prevent the remote teaching experience from reinforcing or increasing existing inequalities, by putting in place mechanisms to identify students who have technical difficulties for access and those whose social circumstances are not conducive to remote learning…we have also taken into account…o that student’s will only be able to engage in 30 hours per week of remote learning.”
As such the university is doing away with invigilated exams in favor of continuous assessment for the first semester. Additionally there will be no academic exclusions during 2020.
In an updated statement the university says
” … (UCT) has bought laptops which have been allocated to students based on financial need. These computers are ready to be delivered to those students who indicated in PeopleSoft that they wish to receive a loan laptop. We are awaiting clearance from government for the courier service. The Department of Higher Education promised that we will have news about this by Monday, 20 April, at the latest. As soon as this is approved, we will communicate with you. “
WITS has also begun it’s emergency remote teaching and learning program by opening for it’s second term online today. In a video uploaded to Youtube VC Adam Habib wishes students well on their online learning and addresses some of the concerns of access to data and laptops preventing some students from participating.
“Wits University is pleased to announce that you can now access 30GB of data (10GB Anytime & 20GB at night) if you are registered with any of the four networks – MTN, Vodacom, Cell C or Telkom. This service is at no cost to students. The offer is valid for one month starting on 20 April 2020, and should be used wisely for online learning and educational purposes. ”
The University is also urging students without laptops or devices to conduct their online learning to apply for a device via their faculty.
The Universtiy of Pretoria’s VC Professor Tawana Kupe has also said that the university will proceed with #onlinelearning beginning on the 4th of May, and that funds raised through the University’s Solidarity will be used to purchase devices for students that require them.
“We are committed to providing all our students with the necessary support to ensure their success and to ensure no student is left behind,” he said.
Meanwhile the department is making provisions and assisting tertiary institutions who currently aren’t able to offer online learning as part of their support for learning to continue.
“As a department, we are engaging with all our universities and colleges on pursuing online learning modalities where possible, while also looking at the possibility of using readily available study guides for the trimester and semester programmes, and a structured catch-up programme for the annual national curriculum (vocational) programmes” the department said.