The Covid-19 pandemic has halted all learning institutions from carrying out their mandate and continuing with their academic curriculum since the beginning of the national lockdown. This decision has raised many concerns about the academic year for most students, their parents and the respective institutions.
As of 20th April, 5 Universities have now taken the initiative to remedy this problem by launching their online learning programs or improving already existing programs in order to resume their curriculum for the remainder of the academic year.
Concerns have been raised by students and student bodies in various universities that online learning will be challenging for some students. The main challenges raised include students not having the necessary tools and devices needed to learn from home i.e. laptops, computers, smartphone, tablets etc. The second issue is that data costs are too expensive to learn remotely and that most students who live in rural areas are facing connectivity issues.
The Vice Chancellor at WITS University, Adam Habib, said that the university has done extensive research on the concerns of the students. The data indicated that 10% of their students do not have devices to learn from. To solve this problem, the university has bought 5000 devices and sent them to students in need of devices as a loan from the university.
Additionally, the university has provided 30 Gigabytes of data to all its students to facilitate the process of online learning. The data collected by the university indicated that each student would need 20-25 Gigabytes of data to fully participate in teaching and learning online.
“If some students don’t succeed in online learning, then we will run a face-to-face programme when we return to campus on a new academic calendar” said Habib. He further reiterated that the academic year can still be salvaged if the students take online learning seriously especially if the institution is in a position and has the necessary resources to launch online learning.
The Vice Chancellor mentioned that the 5000 devices and the 30 Gigabytes of data for each student was a cost borne by WITS University. However, they have gone out and engaged corporate partners who have promised some assistance.
He concluded by saying that every student – rich or poor – deserves a fair chance to conclude the academic year.