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This article appeared in the Herald of 31 October 2016.

Online learning, off-campus lectures to start despite protests 

IN a desperate attempt to salvage what is left of the 2016 academic year, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) has launched several campaigns, including online learning and submission of assignments.

The university’s various faculties will release their recovery plans to students today.

However, some students who form part of the #FeesMustFall movement have threatened to shut down the university’s communication system, saying the alternative learning methods are an insult to their cause.

After several failed attempts at reopening and resuming lectures, NMMU said in a statement on Friday the plans would include reduced face-to-face classroom contact and a greater reliance on alternative forms of teaching, such as online learning.

The university said it would also redesign assessments and replace some exams with a continuous assessment approach.

NMMU said various off-campus venues across the metro, such as 11 municipal libraries, had been availed to allow for face-to-face classes, tests and exams, while students would have free access to the student portal.

“NMMU is also participating in availing the ‘zero data cost’ concession provided by all cellular networks and Telkom.

“This offering will go a long way in expanding avenues for access to information resources for staff and students,” the statement said.

#FeesMustFall spokeswoman Nontobeko Zungu slammed the cutback on classroom contact, saying an online teaching approach was not inclusive of poor students.

“This plan is a disadvantage to a lot of students who are off campus and are particularly part of the movement because they are poor.

“What happens to students whose libraries don’t have a Wi-Fi hotspot?

“We are representing students who on a normal day have to choose between money for a taxi or food. This is not a plan for everyone.”

Zungu said some students had suggested that the university’s communication system be shut down, but they had yet to discuss their official stance on the off-campus lecture venues.

On more than one occasion, students who are part of the #FeesMustFall movement have said at meetings that they wanted to cut off the university’s communication system as it undermined their movement.

NMMU spokeswoman Zandile Mbabela said the university had put sufficient measures in place to mitigate any disruptions.

“There has been sufficient planning to ensure that students can access the resources made available as part of the academic completion plan,” Mbabela said.

Second-year B Com accounting student Sinawo Ndzolo, 21, who is not part of the #FeesMustFall movement, said he appreciated the recovery plan, although he feared some modules in his course required contact learning and the plan would cause them to fail.

Exams at Rhodes University kicked off with only a few glitches on Friday and a heavy police presence at the exam venue.

Rhodes #FeesMustFall students, however, questioned why those writing had not opted to write exams in January next year, as has been allowed by the university.

#FeesMustFall activist Sima Heleni said the movement did not understand why exams were going ahead. “The students who are writing are mostly those who have not been protesting.

“This could lead to certain groups [of protesting students] who have been identified being victimised when they write in January.” 

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777