“Our priority throughout the Covid-19 crisis has been to support students to continue their studies through the modalities best suited to these extraordinary circumstances,” says Prof Robert Balfour, deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning.
“Similarly for our staff, the university’s planning efforts have focused on keeping staff safe and empowering business continuity from their home environments.”
The coronavirus pandemic has changed more than just day-to-day life. It has also had a profound impact on education.
The face of education globally, and also in South Africa, will never be the same now that remote learning, which includes online and distance learning, is becoming the norm. eish! took a look at how the NWU is using remote learning to continue its academic activities.
NWU embarks on remote learning
Staff and students have embraced the new way of teaching and learning, and are receiving continuous support with this from the Centre for Teaching and Learning, University Management Committee, Committee, the Covid-19 response team and IT, among others.
Empowering all students
Although remote learning is an online experience for most students, the NWU has gone to great lengths to ensure that learning also continues for students who currently do not have access to technology. This entails the distribution of learning material and resources to students in remote areas.
Academic and support services staff alike are working tirelessly to ensure that all students have the opportunity to complete the 2020 academic year successfully.
Adjusting to the new normal
As with all things new, the NWU community has had to address the many challenges brought about by technical and other difficulties.
The Centre for Teaching and Learning has implemented various channels to reach out to lecturers to offer assistance, training and advice.
In this way they address concerns pertaining to eFundi support, support for distance education students and support for staff needing to use electronic media to facilitate learning online or via the distance modality. This support has included webinars, telephonic and video assistance, as well as paper-print material.
As remote learning is continuing at the NWU, the university has seen thousands of students simultaneously working on eFundi, setting up a new record as students continue their education.
Learning in the time of
Continuation of Level 5
Lockdown level 5 starts
President Cyril Ramaphosa announces that the Covid-19 alert will be lowered from Level 5 to Level 4 as from 1 May.
At a media briefing, Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, outlines plans for the 2020 academic year. He announces that tertiary institutions will not resume campus-based academic activities during Level 4 lockdown.
The NWU has informed students that it has reached a zero-rating agreement with Telkom, Cell C, MTN and Vodacom. Students will be able to access study material and information on eFundi and other subsites on the NWU website at no charge. (The NWU entered into agreements with telecommunication companies for reverse-billing in order to facilitate free access to the most relevant and necessary study material.)
The NWU works on acquiring a significant number of laptops and other devices that will be issued to qualifying students on a loan or rental basis.
The university makes arrangements to deliver printed materials for students who cannot access the internet.
17 April - 1 May
Continuation of Level 5 lockdown period
Lowering of Covid-19 alert from Level 5 to Level 4
President Cyril Ramaphosa states that an announcement will be made when the Covid-19 alert will be lowered from Level 4 to Level 3.
The Staff Reintegration plan is sent out.
Prof Dan Kgwadi, vice-chancellor, briefs staff via email and a video recording explaining that the NWU has prepared a holistic plan for multi-modal learning through distance and online learning in order to complete the academic year successfully.
He gives the assurance that all steps to protect students and staff will be taken as the NWU prepares for the systematic return of students and staff.
Dr Nzimande holds a briefing about the return of students under Level 3 of the lockdown.
He says a maximum of 33% of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences under strict safety conditions. Universities will start their re-integration of students two to three weeks after the country has moved to Level 3.
Lowering of the Covid-19 alert from Level 4 to Level 3.
Online classes commence and plans are made to provide printed materials for students unable to access the internet.
Lecturers receive their unique links for each of their modules via email in order to adjust to the current teaching and learning situation.
The NWU Covid-19 Response Fund is launched to support students with laptops / devices. It also aims to offer support to staff, students and the communities around campuses with necessary equipment and other needs.