Change the world


The learning and teaching approach of the Medical School and Health Science Faculty has adapted with agility to address the challenges of the COVID-19 world.

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and 2021 has led to changes in multiple facets of life and this includes how universities position their learning and teaching. Here at Nelson Mandela University we continue to:

  • Remain flexible and adaptable through uncharted territory
  • Adopt a human-centred pedagogical approach
  • Prioritise the health of students and staff
  • Reaffirm the core values of our university
  • Commit to excellence, social justice and equality, and integrity.

To this end we are taking key learnings from our experience of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 which will help to take the ever-growing Faculty of Health Sciences forward.

The newer hybrid ways of learning and teaching, where we mix online and mask-to-mask opportunities, call for strong institutional support and systems.  Innovative thinking is leading us to flexible and lifelong learning opportunities, catapulting the University into the broader realm of planning and transforming to align with our Vision 2030 strategic framework.

The appointment of e-technologists and learning experience designers in the LT Collab and faculty, for example, have enabled direct ICT, technology and design support to be offered to Medical School staff. The Teaching Development team in the LT Collab offers an academic induction for new academics and ongoing teaching development opportunities.

Learning and teaching in the Covid-19 era

Providing access for success to our students means making a range of services and facilities available, irrespective of whether they are in a physical or online classroom.

For a start, every new student – medical included – has had a very different orientation compared to those starting out on their university career in the past. A critical factor to foster their academic success is that students can transition from school to university studies, and we have had to be agile and creative to ensure they can do so in safety, and become digitally literate.

Thankfully, the Medical School is not a new entity on its own but part of a strong Faculty of Health Sciences which has helped to smooth their path. The Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice (IPECP) model is embedded in this faculty, and our medical students have been exposed to the same clinical training platforms as their peers in other health-care disciplines.

Pandemic learning

There are other complex realities to learning and teaching during a pandemic. The online environment has shown us that students need clear communication about where to find the information they need, what is expected of them in a task and, in turn, what they can expect from their lecturers.

It also has led to lecturers becoming increasingly flexible and creative, displaying  “without-a-box” thinking as they adjust texts and activities to ensure they are relevant to the COVID-19 environment and for the devices students use.

Support for student learning and wellness is embedded in a variety of platforms at Mandela University. Although much of the theoretical work in the new medical curriculum is covered online, it is augmented with virtual lectures and flipped-class discussions. Demonstrations and workshops on apps and available software have optimised online learning.

We also sought to find ways to make the workload – for students and lecturers – more manageable. 

Contact sessions that adhere to physical distancing and health requirements are limited to lab work, and experiential and work-integrated learning, depending on the level of lockdown.

Medical students have been able to participate in mask-to-mask classes and visit clinics, NGOs and residential sites, while also learning extensively in the virtual realm.

It's about finding the balance: keeping our students and staff safe over Covid-19 while ensuring that we meet highest possible standards of learning and teaching.

Given our human-centred, flexible, mixed mode learning approach, and the grit shown by our students, academics as well as professional and administrative support staff to persist and adapt as needed, our Medical School students have been given a solid foundation despite an extraordinary – and very difficult – academic first year.

Professor Cheryl Foxcroft, DVC: Learning & Teaching

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057