Teaching practice at universities across South Africa has been radically changed following the COVID-19 pandemic and the cessation of contact sessions. Students have been unable to attend lectures, stay in university-managed residences or enjoy normal campus life. They have been forced to work from home or other off-site locations, and access online material to progress their studies.
The sudden death of the physical campus is challenging the assumption that learning is a social process which needs to take place in relation to context and community.
Although not optimal, it now seems possible to deliver education through online platforms and the use of a range of teaching methods including chat groups, text messaging, pre-recorded lectures and formative assessment. The quality may be impaired but the cost is a fraction of maintaining the universities’ physical infrastructure and providing the full set of social experiences which have become closely connected with student life.
A growing awareness that online education can be as effective as the campus experience will increase the competition from private colleges for student enrolments, and more significantly threaten the hegemony of public higher education institutions (PHEIs).
Walwyn, D. 2020. Online as the ‘new normative’ will damage public interests. University World News. Online edition.