Covid-19 lockdown pushes Wits University to offer online learning

Education Matters Logo

It is not yet clear when schools or universities will reopen after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s extension of the lockdown, and the University of the Witwatersrand has said that it will move to remote online teaching and learning as of Monday April 20. The university announced its plans for online learning in a statement on Tuesday

The university said it was aware that not all its students have access to resources that would enable them to access online learning while at home during the lockdown. The institution said its surveys had revealed that 10% to 15% of its students do not have access to computing devices, data or a conducive learning environment. 

To address these concerns, Wits said it had established a mobile computing bank, from which students can borrow devices. 

“These basic computing devices will be suitable for educational purposes and will be preloaded with the required learning resources before being delivered via the South African Post Office to students who absolutely need them.

“The cost of the device will be added to students’ fee accounts and will be reversed if the device is returned in good order at the end of the 2020 academic year. The students most in need will be prioritised when devices are allocated,” Wits said in the statement. 


It also said that it had partnered with the four telecommunications service providers to zero-rate the university’s library and learning management sites. 

Wits vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib said the pandemic is calling for new ways of teaching and learning. “While the faculties will ensure that the requisite support is in place, our students will have to make an extraordinary effort to adapt to remote online learning, particularly over the next few months,” said Habib. 

The university said in its statement that additional support will be provided to students, particularly those who might have difficulties transitioning to online learning, when contact classes resume. 

“It may be necessary for face-to-face lectures to be extended through the September and December vacation breaks and, for some cohorts, to extend the academic programme into 2021.”

UKZN weighing up options

Last Thursday, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) also said that it was exploring ways to resume the academic programme. The university said these include the possibility of losing a portion of the academic year or extending the academic year beyond December 2020. 

“The commencement of online learning will be decided on following further discussions and consultations with the student community. In the meantime, we have initiated a process to transfer all our academic course material onto virtual platforms, for completion at the end of April 2020,” UKZN said in a statement. 

The university added that it would look at “creative solutions” to address the challenges of some of its students’ lack of access to technological devices and data. 

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories

God just got his hand back

Diego Armando Maradona, the greatest footballer to wear the number 10 jersey, has left the field

Covid vaccines: Hope balanced with caution

As Covid vaccines near the manufacturing stage, a look at two polio vaccines provides valuable historical insights

Covid-19 vaccines offer hope as world leaders plan for future

Hopes over Covid-19 vaccines have given a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe, but the disease remains rampant and world leaders are urging people to be patient

There is no honour in leaking a matric exam paper

Those involved in the breach must be ‘dealt with swiftly and harshly’

Masterclasses in duck-and-dive

You didn’t need to be a genius or a prophet to predict that Bushiri would run or that Zuma would stall

Ramaphosa: We want investment pledges to translate into new jobs

To move out of South Africa’s economic funk, Ramaphosa is prioritising the materialisation of pledges made at the previous investment conferences.
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

Exclusive: Top-secret testimonies implicate Rwanda’s president in war crimes

Explosive witness testimony from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda implicates Paul Kagame and the RPF in mass killings before, during and after the 1994 genocide.

Shadow of eviction looms over farm dwellers

In part two of a series on the lives of farm dwellers, Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni finds a community haunted by the scourge of eviction

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…