A number of international students find themselves without access to the remote online learning currently underway.
Wits is aiming to increase and improve access to computing devices for students, through the Student, Computers and Networks (SCAN) initiative.
The SCAN project was initiated by Wits, says Nhlanhla Mabaso, Director of Information and Technology. “The idea is that students should be required to have access to computing devices and to the network.”
The nationwide Student Laptop Initiative allows students and staff from participating universities to purchase laptop notebooks at reduced prices.
“It’s become more necessary for people to access knowledge through a wider range of computing devices,” Mabaso says. “For it to be effective we need to overcome a major obstacle: people who don’t have access to these tools (sic).”
Acer Education and Pinnacle, which sell Lenovo notebooks, are part of the initiative, together with 13 other universities.
“We arranged an agreement with Pinnacle,” says Chanel Strydom, Internal Sales-Government at Pinnacle Micro. “We decided to give students a deal where they could purchase notebooks for a lot cheaper.”
Strydom believes the programme has been very effective. “The response has been quite overwhelming, students are getting a big deal and we’ve had no complaints.”
The SCAN initiative began at Wits during Orientation week in February last year, and Lungelwa Kganyago, programme manager at Wits’ Computer and Network Services (CNS) believes access to computers is just one aspect of the initiative.
“It’s not just about getting people to own laptops for the sake of it,” she says. “It’s about trying to make sure that that ownership is widespread.”
Kganyago says by increasing Wifi hotspots on campus, Wits could also enable easier access to the network.
“We want to add value to [students’] learning experience, so that students who already own laptops are not left out.”