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Wits and Academic Partnerships agree to educate online

- Wits University

Wits signs a MOU with Academic Partnerships to increase access to education through online learning.

The demand for quality education and access to education in Africa is increasing, with few resources and infrastructure to accommodate qualifying students.

Online learning is important to South Africa because the demand for tertiary education in emerging economies is insatiable but access is a problem. 

The University of the Witwatersrand and Academic Partnerships (AP) in the USA, which partners with universities to increase access and revenue through online courses, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signaling their intention of participating actively in building online programmes.

The MOU was signed at Wits on 8 August 2016.

The introduction of online programmes at Wits aims to address some of the challenges of access to higher education in South Africa.

In June, the University launched its first three massive open online courses (Moocs) on the EdX platform, the first African university to do so.

These Moocs are: System Dynamics for Health Sciences; Research Methods: An Engineering Approach; and Results-Based Project Management: Monitoring and Evaluation.

Professor Andrew Crouch, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic who signed the agreement with AP on behalf of Wits says that the agreement to launch online programmes, rather than online courses is an exciting development for the University.

“Academic Partnerships is very reputable. There are partnerships in many parts of the world, and AP has experience in launching and sustaining online programmes,”says Crouch.  

The introduction of online programmes at Wits will enable the University to serve students across the globe through a highly efficient delivery system.

Randy Best, Chairman and Founder of AP says the partnership will benefit students, professors and the economy whilst making knowledge more accessible.

“The online programmes are going to play a critical role in the students’ life and enhance education. The programmes are also economical; there is no need to deal with infrastructure to support it. It makes the great knowledge of your professors far more available for more people,” says Best.

According to Crouch, the launch of the online programmes at Wits is awaiting final approval from a number of bodies, including the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Council for Higher Education as well as the South African Qualifications Authority.

It will take almost a year before the first online programme can be launched, as the programmes also need to be accredited.

The first online programmes will be in business and administration and these will be postgraduate programmes.

Other programmes which are currently being explored are in the education area and the health sciences. Only a few programmes will be online.

The introduction of online programmes will not replace current contact programmes. Rather, online programmes will increase access to courses where there are too many students and too few lecture halls and lecturers to accommodate all those students, says Crouch.

The quality of education for online students will also be important and has to meet Wits’ standards.

“The same entry requirements for our full- time students will be prescribed for our online students, so that we are ultimately assured of a proud Wits ‘product’.”