University of Cape Town prepares for online learning

University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town
Image: FILE

In an email sent out this week UCT shared its plans for online teaching and learning in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

It has plans to move undergraduate courses online in all faculties – except in Health Sciences, for which a specific plan is being developed. 

Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Associate Professor Lis Lange, indicated in an update to the university community that UCT will have to teach remotely during the second term.

She said: "Epidemiologists and public health experts in the Faculty of Health Sciences advise that the epidemic has to run its course and that all our efforts need to focus on flattening the rate of transmission. The course of the epidemic could be anything between three and five months. This is a moving figure as the situation changes daily. Flattening the rate of transmission has involved suspending classes, and sending students home.

"We need a different approach to teaching and learning so that students do not lose the academic year. We will have to teach remotely during the second term of the first semester.

"The only way of doing so is by taking our courses online. To do this, we have created a Teaching Online Task Team (TOTT) made up of the faculty deans as well as colleagues in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) and other units in the Centre for Higher Education Development, Student Wellness, the Disability Service, the Libraries and the Information and Communication Technology Services Department, said Lange.

She said this TOTT will focus on creating an environment to enable all students to learn remotely, adding that they are aware that "students will have different levels of access to the Internet and technology. Some students may be in environments where it is difficult to study".

"Taking this into account, we have decided that: All online teaching will have low-tech options so that students with low-bandwith connections can participate fully; Arrangements are being made by UCT, Universities South Africa and service providers for zero-rated mobile data to specific UCT online resources, so that students do not have to carry the costs of remote learning; A working group dealing specifically with the needs of vulnerable students has been constituted as part of the TOTT, to reduce obstacles to learning for vulnerable students. A full plan of support will be produced within the next week."

UCT is to hold a Remote Teaching Orientation week from April 6-9. Online teaching is to formally start on April 16 and will run for the normal number of weeks of the second term, although what will happen in those faculities that cannot do their teaching online still has to be addressed.

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