University of Pretoria Vice-Chancellor Professor Tawana Kupe. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)
University of Pretoria Vice-Chancellor Professor Tawana Kupe. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)

Virtual return to class for Tshwane varsities

By Sakhile Ndlazi Time of article published Apr 17, 2020

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Pretoria - It's back to school for some universities in the city - at least virtually - in an effort to salvage the academic year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the institutions switching to remote online teaching and learning are the University of Pretoria, Tshwane University of Technology and Unisa.

Vice-chancellor of the University of Pretoria, Professor Tawana Kupe, said the institution would resume academic activities online from April20 until June 17.

This is in accordance with the guidelines under Scenario 3 of the university’s planning document and will include the remote writing of assessments to replace exams.

“Please note that even if it were possible for normal campus activities to resume by the scheduled examination period, preference should be given to (online) alternatives to traditional invigilated examinations, where feasible,” he said.

University faculties will need to ensure that all online assessments which replace formal exams are scheduled within the framework of the official exam timetable.

“Special arrangements will be made by the faculties for students to complete, in a controlled and safe manner, their clinical, practical and laboratory experimental work in order to meet the academic and graduate attribute requirements of their degree programmes,” said Kupe.

The institution has also come up with a measure to help those in dire need. According to Kupe, senior management have launched the UP Solidarity Fund, with contributions from the executive and faculty budgets, that will be used to buy laptops and provide connectivity to students in dire need.

In pursuit of the principle of sustainability, the laptops would be on loan to students and for use by other students in the future, he said.

At Tshwane University of Technology, Professor Lourens van Staden said that Universities South Africa would meet all vice-chancellors today to consider the various scenarios for the resumption of activities in the sector.

It would take into account the inputs received from all of the university’s campuses.

“Stakeholders, including student leaders and organised labour, will be consulted about our implementation plan based on the decisions taken at this meeting.

“Although no one has been physically at work, members of the higher education sector have been busy behind the scenes to ensure that we adapt to the extraordinary circumstances we are facing.”

To this end, senior officials convened yesterday in virtual meetings to consider three scenarios for the completion of the academic year 2020 crafted by Universities South Africa.

Van Staden said the framework put forward was clear that no student should be left behind because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Universities are exploring online modes as a means to continue teaching and learning during this unprecedented time of lockdown.

Based on this, the university has embarked on a survey to determine student readiness to access content online, which will be key for all decisions and plans. The number of responses stood at 23600 by the end of business yesterday.

Last week, the university embarked on the roll-out of devices to academic staff to enable them to receive training in managing academic content online.

Unisa said it would be fully online during the lockdown period, and its students had received their study material and were able to access their teaching and learning material online.

“Unisa will not distribute study material until the lockdown is lifted,” it said.

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL's #Coronavirus trend page.
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za

Pretoria News

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