The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Directorate of Comprehensive Online Education Services (COES) recently saw its first cohort graduate during UP’s autumn graduation session.
The Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health (PGDip in Public Health) programme is offered by the School of Health Systems and Public Health at the Faculty of Health Sciences, and is a fully online, accredited postgraduate diploma. It is a first for UP and South Africa.
Director of COES Professor Linda van Ryneveld says that this is an exciting time for both UP and COES.
“We are delighted to have our first graduates two years after starting the programme,” she says. “The fully online system brings with it many new options, such as the fact that students can enrol in the programme up to six times a year. This is the realisation of goals that were set when we started this journey – to become a leader in the space of credible online education and to increase the University’s national and international footprint.”
Professor Liz Wolvaardt, programme coordinator of the PGDip in Public Health, says that they have taken great pains to ensure that the programme is student focused and of a quality that befits the UP brand. She adds that because of these reasons and the programme’s flexibility, it attracts a wide range of students from diverse professions, most of whom work fulltime.
The first cohort of graduates from UP’s Directorate of Comprehensive Online Education Services graduated from the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health programme.
“Some people do the online programme because they are interested in public health, yet have no intention of studying further,” Prof Wolvaardt says. “Then there are those who do it to determine whether they are interested in studying further. Typically, the next step for those students is a Master of Public Health.”
She adds that students are provided with a significant amount of support to ensure their success, particularly when it comes to studying online and navigating the module contents.
“All the students must do the first compulsory module, which we have designed so that they will also learn a new functionality of the online platform every week,” Prof Wolvaardt explains. “I tell students that there are three things we are trying to achieve in our first module: to learn some facts, become familiar with the system and to have some fun. It’s about building knowledge about public health and to enjoy all the benefits of learning online, which is why we designed the programme so that the students learn in a very structured way and are never uncertain what we ask of them. For that reason, we have several support strategies, some are built into each module but, more importantly, we have a team of dedicated tutors, lecturers and the specialised support of the UPOnline staff in COES.”
Tebogo Mampane, a student from the graduating class, is pursuing her master’s in Public Health with UP and says that her experience of the online course has been nothing short of pleasing.
“I had been looking for an opportunity to further my studies and looking for a programme that would capacitate me to perform my work better as I am working with communities,” she says. “I saw the advertisement about the PGDip course on Facebook and enquired about it. I found that it was in line with what I was intending to do. What attracted me most was that it is an online programme. I am in Limpopo, and as a mother, wife and worker, I found it convenient; it was also suitable to my work environment and experiences.”
In addition to the content derived from the course, Mampane says she was also able to strengthen her computer and time management skills, and her self-discipline.
“What makes the course unique is that it is self-paced and flexible,” she adds. “I could do it at any time of the day. I would encourage students to do the course; on completion, not only will you be equipped with course content but also with computer and software skills, and independence.”
Professor Van Ryneveld applauded the commitment and professionalism of the lecturing team in designing and facilitating this high-quality online programme amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are looking forward to the first Public Management cohort’s graduation in September, and at least 16 further fully online programmes that will be rolled out over the span of the next five years.
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