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The University continues to encourage and enable staff and students to adhere to and find ways to cope with the national lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

When our students started an extended recess on 18 March, we indicated that staff would be using this period to plan towards the resumption of our learning and teaching activities within the context of the trying circumstances in which we find ourselves as a nation and globally. I am happy to share with you that our planning is well underway and is nearing a conclusion.

Uppermost in our minds during this planning phase has been the differing contexts, circumstances and needs of our students, and especially the challenges students might experience to learn remotely. In addition, we continue to be aware that we are planning in a vacuum, as there are many unknowns that make us all feel uncertain about the way forward.

For example, we don’t know what will happen at the end of 21 days of lockdown, and whether the lockdown will be extended or not. We also don’t know when the lockdown ends, or is extended, whether university campuses will be allowed to open and run academic activities as per normal. It might be that some activities can start on our campuses, but that we might be required to limit the number of students in lecture venues, labs, studios, etc. to practice social/physical distancing. For these reasons, it has been necessary to develop our plan by taking into consideration different scenarios and with a view to remaining agile in uncertain times.

Based on the scenario planning, we concluded that it would be in the best interests of all our students to propose different learning and teaching pathways to complete Semester 1.

We developed an approach which will allow all students to achieve their learning outcomes through multiple, staggered pathways. There will be five variations of two pathways for students to acquire the necessary learning and teaching to complete their modules. These pathways range from largely digital to largely face-to-face and combinations of these two extremes. Some pathways may start at different dates and may take longer to complete but they will nonetheless allow students to complete their modules – which is our main aim. The pathways also include preparation for learning in different ways as well as providing the necessary academic and psychosocial support to enable students to learn successfully.

To move towards implementing the multiple, staggered pathways, we have:

  • Reviewed all the term 2 work in our modules as well as the assessment activities to determine what to adjust.
  • Prepared learning materials and activities.
  • Surveyed the extent to which students are able to learn remotely or not.
  • Empowered academics to be able to use flexible pedagogical approaches and to facilitate learning in a range of environments, including technology-rich environments.
  • Reviewed the academic calendar to accommodate multiple, staggered pathways.

The outcomes of the planning work now needs be consulted with our stakeholders and serve at faculty and institutional committees such as the Academic Planning Committee and the Executive Committee of Senate. These steps are important as our multiple, staggered pathways approach, revised academic calendar and changes to assessment activities in our modules need the buy-in of our stakeholders and formal approval before we can implement them.

We aim to conclude the formal approval phase before the start of the Easter weekend.

Thereafter, lecturers will start communicating with students about the pathway-linked resumption of learning and teaching activities after the extended recess period.

I want to leave you with something important that we have learned in the planning phase. We are convinced that providing various, staggered pathways for our students to complete their modules is possible as long as students and staff work together, adapt to the change of learning in various ways, support each other and commit to seeing the journey through to the end.

By being “stronger together” we will ensure that all students finish their modules even if they take different pathways and lengths of time to do so.

Contact information
Prof Cheryl Foxcroft
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Learning & Teaching
Tel: +27 41 504 2332