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UKZN rolls out free data bundles and laptops to students for online teaching during Covid-19

The University of KwaZulu-Natal has announced its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, a staff member who has been in self-isolation since last Monday.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal has announced its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, a staff member who has been in self-isolation since last Monday.

Published May 18, 2020

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Durban - Students studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal will soon be able to take their classes from the comfort of their homes - during the Covid-19 pandemic - as the institution rolls out free data bundles to all students.

In addition, UKZN said that the delivery of free laptops for first year NSFAS students has begun which will enable them to login to classes.

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"This is a fulfilment of our mandate to the transformation agenda by providing access to higher education. We are committed to ensuring that no student will be left behind in our effort to provide online learning,"  UKZN spokesperson, Normah Zondo said.

She said that this  made possible after UKZN successfully reached agreements with mobile network

operators for the zero rating of key websites that are hosted within UKZN’s network. 

The zero

rating of websites across all networks have been extended to include other online resources. 

"The outbreak of Covid-19 has led to the declaration of a national state of emergency and

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announcement of a lockdown with a huge impact on the academic project at the University.  The interventions we have embarked on, include alternative means of tuition involving mainly

blended learning, with learning content made available to all students by means of online and

offline learning, to also accommodate students who don’t have access to the internet," she said

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Offline learning includes preloaded flash drives, laptops and/or paper based interactive

learning content. UKZN is committed to providing full support to enable students to continue

to learn and complete the academic year, and to empower our staff to deliver quality

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education to our students. 

"Consequently, we have finalised moving of the academic content

of our courses onto virtual platforms so that the maximum benefit for students and staff is

realised – staff can deliver on their mandates while students can progress academically.  The remote online teaching and learning trial also known as the dry-run is currently being

performed to test the technology systems and online academic arrangements for readiness,

and to determine connectivity, functionality and type of device used, test access through

logins to system resources, learning materials, and live learning activities," Zondo said.

According to Zondo, the dry-run also

tests downloads and uploads by students and staff, and administers monitoring and

evaluation questionnaire surveys for students and staff.

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A survey was undertaken to assess the training needs of teaching staff with regard to the use

of online teaching and learning tools. 

The results of this survey assisted in supporting staff

further with their training needs and capacitating them to offer efficient and effective service

to all students, UKZN said while training sessions were conducted to enable academics to use various modes

of online teaching methods to deliver content. 

"On finalisation and completion of other logistical arrangements, the University will

communicate a date for the official commencement of online teaching and learning for our

students in the coming weeks.  We are excited about this achievement – and applaud our colleagues who have worked

tirelessly in our endeavour to ensure that online teaching and learning becomes a reality at

UKZN," Zondo said.

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