SANDILE NKABINDE, a first-year economics student at the University of Pretoria, prepares for his first online class. Picture: Sakhile Ndlazi
SANDILE NKABINDE, a first-year economics student at the University of Pretoria, prepares for his first online class. Picture: Sakhile Ndlazi

Virtual classrooms a challenge for some University of Pretoria students

By Sakhile Ndlazi Time of article published May 5, 2020

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Pretoria - Switching from traditional lecture halls and face-to-face interaction to virtual classrooms had been an unpleasant experience for some University of Pretoria students.

The unhappy students said they found it difficult to keep in tune with the technical requirements of the chosen course while some of them had no laptops. The university kicked off its online lectures yesterday.

For second-year student Busi Shongwe, it has presented a challenge. “There is no connectivity here whatsoever as the university promised. In fact, there is nothing that is pertaining to free portal connectivity.”

Echoing her sentiments was Lucia Solomons, who complained that the free portal was slow and that by 10am she had already missed her first lecture.

Tsholofelo Moeketsi said: “This connection takes forever to load. I think there must be an alternative way to do this.”

Another student, Nelson Khoza, was without a laptop, despite the university promising to deliver one. “How do you know if you will receive a laptop? I have been waiting since the last call with them two weeks ago,” he said.

But university spokesperson Rikus Delport said it was not such a bleak picture; overall it was going well. He said it was only a fraction of their students who had problems, and the university would sort them out. “Overall, it is going as we expected. There are a few issues that we are dealing with - mostly relating to connectivity, and a few students who have not yet received their laptops.

"We are in the process of getting laptops delivered to students, some of whom are in remote areas of the country. Our learning management system held up very well and most of the students were able to connect to the online platform.

“We’re also monitoring our social media platforms and from there it appears that while there were a few students who have raised issues, most of our 50000 students seemed to be managing well under these difficult circumstances.

“Most students seem to understand the challenges. Our students' success is our priority and we will do everything possible to ensure that no one is disadvantaged,” he said.

Sandile Nkabinde, a first-year economics student, was scheduled to have his first online lecture today. “I love my school work and university. I hope the online lectures work so I can do well in my studies."

Second-year student Aisyah Raihana Abd Razak said not being in a physical face-to-face environment was a bit awkward but it was something students could get used to.

However, her concern was whether all students would have an effective learning experience if faced with an unstable internet connection.

“I am staying with my parents and the internet is steady and fast enough for learning from home. Other classmates may not have the same privilege.

"That may cause some disruption to group mates or the class during presentations, for example, as there will be glitches and this can affect their performance and grades,” she said.

Aisyah added that to address this issue, institutions should provide a clear guideline to lecturers on how to overcome this concern, especially in terms of assessment.

For the duration of the online lectures, students will simply follow their normal timetables using the relevant platforms to engage with lecturers and participate in question ad answer sessions.

And to make things even easier, all telecommunications providers have agreed to give students access to the university’s content through the UP Connect Portal without incurring data costs. This means any data hosted on clickUP, other student portals, the library’s website and staff portals is free.

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