Wits COVID-19 Update (15): Wits prepares to go online
- Wits University
Wits from the Senior Executive Team of Wits University.
Dear Colleagues and Students
This is an uncertain time for all of us – staff, students, members of the Wits community, and society. The sands are shifting daily and many of us are feeling anxious about what happens next – to our health and safety, livelihood, to our education, to our research, to our freedoms and to life as we know it.
Whilst we practice physical distance and social solidarity, this disruption also provides us with an opportunity to reimagine how we live, how we work and how we learn. It also allows us to exercise control over the aspects that we can change – and in this instance, how we can learn and work remotely.
Given the potential of a lockdown and uncertainty around movement in the months ahead, after a deliberative meeting (via Microsoft Teams) this morning, we agreed that:
- all faculties must prepare to take the academic programme online within the next two weeks (with the full support of the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development and the Wits ICT teams),
- all Deans (with the input of Heads of Schools and academics) will maintain a spreadsheet that will determine how programmes can be transitioned to a remote format,
- students will have to prepare to work online, and
- the precise date on which the University will reopen and the format in which the academic programme will commence, is still to be determined.
Some of the issues that were discussed are reflected below, including:
- the digital divide and how to mitigate against deepening this divide,
- a database analysis indicates that only about 25 out of Wits’ 38 000 students do not have a mobile phone,
- access to smart mobile devices (a quick survey has determined that about 90% of first year students have access to a smart mobile device) and Deans and faculty will look for practical solutions for the remaining students,
- access to data (the University has secured zero rated sites from MTN, Telkom and Vodacom, which means that staff and students can access these sites at no cost), and
- the anxiety of some staff members who are used to contact teaching and who have not been exposed to online learning systems or software (it was agreed that CLTD and Wits ICT would talk academics through these aspects).
We are still deliberating on a number of issues including the minimum requirements for online and distance learning and teaching (infrastructure, data, content modification) and the potential for introducing alternative assessments where applicable. A plan which details the form in which online teaching will take place will be shared in the coming days, in consultation with staff in the faculties.
Please send all your questions, suggestions and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meanwhile, please keep calm, keep safe, and look out for our latest updates at www.wits.ac.za/covid19. We can overcome this global challenge together.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM
23 MARCH 2020 (18:00)