Universities' academic year could stretch into 2021
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Cape Town – The lockdown extension could see tertiary students’ 2020 academic year stretch into next year, as institutions now explore alternative lecturing methods.
Universities SA (Usaf), a membership organisation representing South Africa’s 26 universities, said the lockdown extension had made it impossible to continue with face-to-face teaching and learning.
Usaf’s chief executive Professor Ahmed Bawa said academics were expected to start on April 20, but more details on this would be discussed in a meeting scheduled for tomorrow.
“Universities will engage in online learning. But I think it has to be emphasised that this online learning will be linked to a commitment by the universities to formally complete the academic year, even if it has to be stretched into 2021.
"This will, of course, mean that we will have to reshape the 2021 academic year,” said Bawa.
UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said their proposed teaching dates might still change, but a student orientation period focusing on how to learn online would kick off on Monday, April 20.
“This will be followed by the start of teaching on April 28. There will be no formal, invigilated exams at the end of the semester. Instead, assessment will be continuous during the term.
“Students will also not have to sit in front of their computers at the time of their lectures, as these can be downloaded and listened to or watched any time,” said Moholola.
He said the institution had implemented an urgent student access survey which would assess whether students had access to wi-fi, a quiet place for dedicated study or research and available hours for study or research.
“The university has identified the few students who have not received laptops, and laptops will be distributed to them, wherever they are. These will be loan laptops and they must be returned to UCT at the end of the 2020 academic programme.
"The university is very pleased to announce that Cell C and Telkom have agreed to the request to zero-rate access to certain UCT websites,” said Moholola.
UWC’s acting rector and vice-chancellor, Professor Vivienne Lawack said they were aware of the limitations some students faced in terms of equipment and data.
“The university’s executive management is currently discussing a contingency plan in this regard and will communicate this with all stakeholders once there is confirmation.
“I want to emphasise that no student will be left behind and our plan includes a catch-up phase for students who have no resources at all during this period of lockdown,” said Lawack.
CPUT’s Lauren Kansley said: “A teaching and learning continuation plan is already at an advanced stage of completion and will be communicated to staff and students in due course.
"Our staff have always been innovative during periods of shutdown to complete the curriculum.”
Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen also said they were exploring ways to assist specifically socio-economically disadvantaged students who indicated on their survey that they did not have access to a device to be assisted at home with computers, within the constraints of the lockdown regulations and what was practically possible.
Students who did not respond to the survey had been requested to contact SU Client Services at [email protected] or 021 808 9111 to be considered for learning technology assistance.