E-learning gains further momentum as support grows

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 21 Apr 2020
Hazel Chimhandamba, Cell C executive head of marketing.
Hazel Chimhandamba, Cell C executive head of marketing.

As part of the response to help students through university closures due to COVID-19, various entities are supporting online initiatives, which enable virtual classrooms and interactive tutoring led by a subject matter expert.

SA has been under lockdown for the past 26 days, after the country saw a surge in COVID-19 cases, inadvertently fuelling online learning.

On 15 March, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced measures to protect the country from the spread of COVID-19 and, as a result, school and university holidays were brought forward, impacting the learning schedule.

Yesterday, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and University of Johannesburg (UJ) offered their students 30GB of free data to use for online learning.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) followed suit, providing prepaid data to all students who have valid South African cell numbers as part of support measures put in place for online learning.

“Each student will receive 30-40GB depending on their network provider, valid for 30 days, during the course of this week. The first batch of students started getting their data on Monday,” says UCT.

It confirmed MTN and Vodacom have agreed to zero-rate access to certain UCT sites.

Now, in a bid to help people enhance their skills during the lockdown and maintain social distancing effectively, Cell C has joined in and zero-rated a number of tertiary education sites.

The telco says this will assist teachers and students with e-learning during the COVID-19 nation-wide lockdown.

“To help customers stay connected and save on data, these sites can be accessed at zero cost through their smart devices.”

The sites that have been zero-rated include: UJ, Wits, University of the Western Cape, Stellenbosch University, Nelson Mandela University, Rhodes University, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Walter Sisulu University and University of Venda.

“We are pleased to do our part to help South Africa’s students and educators during this unprecedented time in our country,” says Hazel Chimhandamba, Cell C executive head of marketing.

Cell C says it is working in adherence to guidance provided by the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, which is aligned to the ministerial task team in terms of enabling e-learning during this time.

Likewise, PURQ, a local provider of qualification and enrolment data, called on more institutions of higher learning to make academic transcripts, qualifications and enrolment information available online.

Zubair Hattia, head of finance and operations for PURQ, says this is vital to assist students under lockdown to apply for competitively-priced finance, which results in upfront savings and repayment options to see them through the crisis.

“We know there are many students in dire straits who could benefit from reduced interest rates as a result of the qualifications they may already have achieved.

“A growing number of financial institutions are willing to provide preferentially-rated loans to undergraduates, with even better rates available to postgraduates, with risk-based models and credit worthiness encouraging further study.

“There may also be students who would want to change universities and to that end, would want their academic transcripts to be freely available online, assisting in quick response and turnaround times during registration and reducing the number of incidents of misrepresentation of academic transcripts for universities.”

PURQ was founded by SA’s public universities for the universities, with a mission to provide a centralised source of academic data using an online service that would cater for the needs of graduates and the universities, with a specific aim of making their academic information available to the market in a quick and easy to use platform.