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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – support and guidance

This page details examples of practice and approaches that have been taken by institutions in South Africa in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in areas such as learning and teaching, assessment and feedback, and student support.


Support for Remote Learnings; Emergency Funding; Academic Integrity
  • Online Learning and Teaching Support for Students
    Stellenbosch University has developed a dedicated webpage to support students in their remote learning. The webpage includes tips for temporary online learning and containing mobile data costs, guidance on academic integrity in online assessment, frequently asked questions on zero rating and laptop loans, guidance for learning online and tips for online communication etiquette. To support students who are socio-economically disadvantaged, the University has begun operating a laptop loan scheme. The loaned laptops have been provided to students who identified, in a recent institutional survey, that they did not have access to the appropriate technology and/or internet connectivity to undertake their studies at home. The University has also advised students that where they do not complete a Semester 1 online module due to internet connectivity issues, the student will be able to re-take the module in a hybrid learning mode in Semester 2. The hybrid learning mode will consist of online learning archived from Semester 1 and limited contact teaching sessions where practicable.
Support for Remote Teaching
  • Online Teaching: Lecturers
    Stellenbosch's Division for Learning and Teaching has developed a range of resources, including guides, websites and virtual seminar, to support academic staff in the transition to online delivery. These resources cover guidance on preparing for a period of temporary online teaching, online assessment, and online language support for lecturers.
Preparations for Autumn Semester

Transition Back to On-Campus Learning
  • FAQs Lockdown Level 3
    On 1 June 2020, South Africa moved to a national alert Level 3, which allows 33% of the student population of higher education institutions to return to campus. Stellenbosch University have asked that students do not return to campus until they are contacted by their academic Faculty. Faculties have prioritised the return of students who still need to do compulsory academic work on campus to graduate in 2020; students who need to complete practical work in campus labs or prescribed clinical work, or need access to specialised software or research materials only available on campus; students who must comply with PSRB requirements for on-campus work; and postgraduate students who require access to labs or technical equipment.
Transition Back to On-Campus Learning
  • Students in challenging home environments can apply to return
    On 25 June 2020, Stellenbosch University announced that students who were experiencing severe challenges in their home learning environments would be able to apply to return to their on-campus residences or private accommodation close to campus as part of the return of the first student cohort to campus activity. Students who successfully apply to return to campus under due to these circumstances will be expected to continue with online learning in their term-time residence.

Emergency Funding
  • Building the future through the COVID-19 UCT Emergency Fund
    UCT launched the COVID-19 UCT Emergency Fund to support the University and its staff and student communities to respond effectively to the global pandemic. The emergency funding has provided transportation for students who needed to return home before the lockdown, enabled the disinfecting of buildings as they were vacated, the sourcing of laptops and their delivery to needy students, the provision of personal protective equipment to essential staff members who needed to remain on campus, and the purchase of data bundles to support students in their remote study. The fund has been financed by donations from the University's Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, staff and alumni, public organisations and private foundations. The University has continued a call to its alumni for continued donations, as they intended to use the funds to support the eventual transition from online to in-person delivery of teaching.
Support for Remote Learning
  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 Updates
    The University of Cape Town (UCT) has developed a dedicated webpage where they frequently post updates on the impact of COVID-19 on the University and its academic calendar. The webpage includes a variety of campus updates, institutional statements and media releases, resources, and news and opinions.
  • Latest critical information
    UCT is providing data bundles for all students, who have a valid South African mobile number recorded in the student records. The data bundles are valid, in the first instance, for 30 days. All students will be provided these data bundles unless they choose to opt out. The University has requested that students with adequate internet access at home to study effectively opt out of the service so that the institution's resources can be focused on supporting those in need.
  • Update on the new teaching framework and academic calendar
    UCT provides regularly updates to its undergraduate students, as part of its COVID-19 Updates webpage, on the changes to their learning experiences. The University has purchased laptops which have been allocated to students based on financial need and an indication via the institution's student portal that the student would like to receive a loan laptop. UCT has established agreements with two telecommunication companies to zero-rate data for South African sites. Students will have free access to Vula, video lectures, the UCT library website, Open UCT and the University's main website. Where students do not have access to the internet, the University has begun to set up the distribution of printed learning materials and USBs with lecture recordings. UCT has also set up a Call Centre Referral System (CARES) to respond to student queries about connectivity, health and psychosocial issues. The University has spent two weeks reaching out to students who did not respond to their initial survey to ensure that they understand the needs of all their students. Moving forward, UCT will monitor student participation in remote learning and alert the appropriate academic faculty when a student is not able to connect. The University has organised for the week commencing 20 April 2020 to be an orientation week to support students to transition to online and remote learning. UCT has taken the decision that all first semester courses, except for final year courses of courses in the Faculty of law, will be graded on a pass/fail basis, which will not be counted as part of the students' final grade point average.
Support for Remote Teaching
  • Remote Teaching
    UCT's Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) has developed a series of resources to support academic staff in transitioning from in-person teaching to online delivery. These resources cover information on low tech remote teaching, strategies for emergency remote teaching for postgraduate courses, introductory webinars for rapid delivery of online teaching, and detailed webinars on the use of the institution's digital tools to support remote learning and teaching.
  • Working Remotely
    Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCT's Information and Communication Technology Services developed a series of resources to support staff who worked remotely. These resources include information about the use of digital technologies and an 'all-in-one' guide to remote working at UCT.
Preparations for Autumn Semester

Transition Back to On-Campus Learning
  • COVID-19 'National Lock Down' Return to UCT Policy Framework - Risk Adjusted Guide
    UCT has published its institutional policy and decision-making framework to support the return to on-campus activities on its website. The policy document recognises that there may not be a clear sense of progression back to on-campus delivery as the number of COVID-19 cases may fluctuate over the next year, necessitating a series of lockdowns. The Policy Framework and its associated Implementation Plan have been designed around four key principles: putting prevention first; a phased-in return to campus and the academic year; a centrally planned and co-ordinated implementation strategy; and, relying mainly on UCT's internal capacity. The Policy Framework outlines a three phased approach to returning to on-campus activity that aligns with the South African national alert levels. UCT has committed to providing three cloth masks to each student and staff member to be worn when in public within learning and work spaces and while commuting to campus. The University has also laid out expectations for the maintenance of the cloth masks and physical distancing practices to be undertaken by staff and students.
Transition Back to On-Campus Learning
  • UCT Return to Campus Process
    UCT has published a process map, which illustrates the ways in which multiple University processes have and will interact in the safe, phased return of staff and students to on-campus activities.
Transition Back to On-Campus Learning
  • Leaving No One Behind: A Toolkit for Supporting Marginalized Students During Crises and Emergencies
    UCT's Office for Inclusivity and Change has published an illustrated toolkit which emphasises the need to support vulnerable student communities during periods of crisis, using COVID-19 as its focus. While the data and context used in the toolkit is South Africa-specific, there are valuable insights into ways in which UK higher education institutions can support their vulnerable student communities.

Preparations for Autumn Semester

Support for Remote Learning
  • Process to apply for mobile computing devices
    Wits purchased 5,000 laptops to loan to students to support remote learning. The computer loan scheme was administered by the University's Student Affairs department. Wits also entered into contracts with the main mobile network providers in South Africa to provide 30GB of data to all students. The mobile data scheme ran for approximately six weeks. A new contract has since been negotiated with the mobile network providers on a bill-back basis for students and staff who do not have adequate access to Wi-Fi or data at home.
Support for Remote Teaching; Support for Remote Learning
  • Wits COVID-19 Update (16): Ways to learn and work from home
    The University of Witwatersrand (Wits) has utilised a regular update to its student and staff communities to share information on the institutional response to COVID-19 and important strategies to support remote learning and teaching. On 24 March 2020, following the beginning of the national lockdown in South Africa, the Senior Executive Team of Wits shared Wits-specific information on remote learning, including information on the VLE, support that could be accessed by staff and students and ways to access the VPN off campus. As outlined in the 24 March 2020 announcement, the University of Witwatersrand negotiated with mobile network providers to zero-rate key University websites, including the VLE. 
  • Emergency Plan for Teaching Continuity in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic
    Following the national lockdown in March 2020, the University of Witwatersrand published an emergency plan to support the effective remote teaching and learning of its academic community. The plan was developed to ensure that: every course offered in the second teaching block had an active VLE site; lecturers were available online during scheduled class times and beyond these times if required; academic support was available for students who need it; approaches to addressing the needs of students with disabilities were implemented; and, options for students who were not able to access the VLE system were developed and implemented. The plan set out the institution's pedagogical framework to guide its emergency remote teaching, information on the forms of online assessment that could be utilised, and identified the Educational Developed within each academic Faculty who could support remote teaching.
Support for Remote Learning; Support for Remote Teaching; Mental Health and Wellbeing
  • COVID-19 Update (20) - Wellness Update
    The University of Witwatersrand signposted its University community, via its regular institution-wide updates, to mental and physical wellbeing tools and resources available to their community. These resources included videos delivered by members of the University community on COVID-19, as well as educational posters on coronavirus that had been translated into Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu and English.
Transition Back to On-Campus Learning
  • COVID-19 Update (31) - The phased return of students and staff to campuses
    The University of Witwatersrand began its phased return to on-campus activity on 8 June 2020 with the return to campus of its first cohort of students. A second cohort of students will return to campus in mid-July. Each academic Faculty identified select students, specifically those who required on-campus facilities for progression, to return to campus as part of the initial cohort of students. Students, who live in University residences in term-time and are not currently living in an environment conducive to learning and who find it difficult to study online, will be allowed back into University residences incrementally. The phased return of these students to the campus is intended to provide them with an opportunity to continue their studies online from their respective residences.