The University of the Free State will continue its academic programme in order to complete the first semester. Students will resume the academic year on 20 April 2020 as an online programme.
The programme will begin with an orientation and transition period from 20 April 2020 to 30 April 2020. According to the UFS Communications Office the majority of the first-semester modules will be completed online, with continuous assessment. This means that all assignments will be used to assess learning, with no examinations. Some modules have laboratory-based, studio-based, clinical-based, or community-engagement requirements that will be re-organised.
A specific plan regarding any formal community engagements, which includes aspects of clinical training, teaching practice, and work-integrated learning, will be prepared by the respective faculties. The examination will take place from 3 to 22 August 2020 through continuous online assessment, and the third quarter will commence on 31 August 2020 with a blend of online and face-to-face classes.
According to Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Frances Petersen should the national lockdown be lifted at the end of the month students and staff will be encouraged to practice social distancing.
“It is still unclear whether the national lockdown will be partially or fully lifted after 30 April 2020. Depending on the decision by the national government, students will be informed how their return to campus will take place – keeping in mind that social distancing and a small number of students on campus will have to apply,” he said.
The rector stated that university management is deeply aware that some students may struggle to connect online and expressed that students and staff need to learn and teach in a new way.
“The Online Transition and Orientation period will allow both staff and students to get acquainted with a new online learning environment; and enable both staff and students to re-establish a new way of communication, relationships, and interaction to optimise learning and teaching.
“It will also provide the university with an opportunity to assess challenges in the move to online teaching, including determining the level of connectivity, access to devices and other challenges experienced by students, and to use this period to resolve these challenges,” said Prof Petersen.
“Moreover, the university in collaboration with Universities South Africa, is continuously working on the zero-rating of websites. It has been agreed that some sites will be zero-rated in the short term and that students will be provided with a 10 GB, 30-day data bundle. We are grateful for this agreement, as it will assist students to commence their online academic activities on 20 April 2020,” he added.
Materials to help students get ready for the start of the online academic activities have been provided through the university’s Keep Calm, #UFSLearnOn campaign. The university is also working with academic staff through its Keep Calm, #UFSTeachOn campaign to repackage learning materials, while aware that students will not have regular access to the internet and in some instances no access to appropriate devices.
According to UFS Communivations students are also supported by the Department of Student Counselling and Development through its #UFSWellnessWarriors campaign, aimed at encouraging them to look after their health and wellbeing.