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OneConnect and Blackboard ensure academic continuity at UJ and UP during disruptive times

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In response to the Covid-19 global pandemic, South Africa’s higher education institutions were forced to shutter their campuses  and pivot to a fully online delivery of education. At the height of the pandemic, about 1.2-billion students globally were forced to  learn remotely, according to Unesco. Despite many challenges, some institutions were better prepared for the shift.  Blackboard’s deep relationships with institutions in South Africa and forward thinking enabled partner universities to seamlessly deliver instruction remotely and complete academic credentials, while simultaneously planning for the unknown.  

The sudden transition to fully online learning methods in the 2020 academic year raised concerns across  higher education about students failing to cope with the new normal. However, utilising Blackboard’s tools, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) maintained consistency in producing a high pass rate and a significant number of top achievers. 

“The lockdown affected educational systems worldwide, resulting in the near-total closure of institutions in  South Africa and the world,” said Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor of the UJ. “Those  who have proven to be agile in the wake of these challenges will live to tell the story, while others will have to catch up and keep up with an ever-changing post-Covid-19 world. Having Blackboard as a partner worked in our favour and ensured an effective migration to online learning. The role Blackboard played in maintaining the reputation of one of the institution’s well-performing faculties during a disruptive academic year was astounding.” 

Another Blackboard partner, the University of Pretoria (UP), was forced to go fully online as a result of Covid-19, but was well-positioned as a result of a focus on implementing a hybrid approach to learning.  

“Although Covid-19 shut down all South African universities as we went into the Level 5 hard lockdown last  March, we were able to complete the 2020 academic year successfully,” said UP Vice- Chancellor, Professor Tawana Kupe. “Our foresight in having a strong online component in 94% of our undergraduate courses ensured that when we had to pivot to online teaching exclusively, we did not have to  waste time playing catch-up. UP was prepared because we had adopted a hybrid approach to teaching and  learning since 2014. For years, we have acknowledged that part of our engagement with our students  happens in the classroom and part happens online. We adopted this hybrid strategy because, at UP, we  recognise that working online prepares students for the world of the future.” 

Strong relationships, leading technology and a relentless focus on the future are the principles Blackboard  relies on to drive partners’ success in South Africa, according to Blackboard Vice-President for Europe, Middle  East and Africa, Oleg Figlin. 

“During our over 20 years in Africa, Blackboard has built value, support and delivered client success,” said  Figlin. “Our powerful online teaching and learning tools allow for richer education and skills development for  students across the continent. We look forward to continuing our partnerships with these forward-thinking  institutions to drive education transformation in Africa.”  

Blackboard has also joined with OneConnect, a South African organisation that seeks to serve clients across  Africa and transform and propel industries through ground-breaking technology solutions. The partnership is  strengthened by the organisations’ shared vision to level the playing field for students and institutions in Africa through state-ofthe-art education technologies. 

“Blackboard and OneConnect are in the service of transforming lives by making learning accessible with  remarkable education technologies such as the Blackboard LMS and virtual classroom solutions,” said Sylvester Ratlabala, OneConnect Group CEO. 

Whether it’s keeping students engaged in the face of continued online learning or embracing hybrid models  as some parts of the region gradually return to in-person classes, Blackboard is committed to the success of institutions across Africa.  

About Blackboard: 

Blackboard is a leading EdTech company, serving higher education, K-12, business and government clients  around the world. We connect a deep understanding of education with the power of technology to  continuously push the boundaries of learning. Our mission is to advance learning together with the world’s  education community, so that all learners, educators and institutions can realise their goals today and  prepare for tomorrow.

For more information, contact [email protected]

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