Wits students take to social media to complain about the university’s data restrictions.

A number of Wits University students say they are frustrated by the restrictions imposed on the data provided to them by the institution for remote learning. The students say the 10GB data bundle, commonly known as the ‘uniticket’ data, does not meet their learning needs and they have to resort to buying their own since the new semester began on Monday, July 13.

“Being a student is not just Sakai and self-service,” said Ayanda Ntuli, a second-year BA general student . “We use Zoom [for classes], Khan Academy, YouTube, everything.”

The uniticket data limits access to Wits-accredited websites, including Sakai and the student self-service portal. Sakai is an online learning platform used by the institution to deliver course material and for assessments.  The university has partnered with Vodacom to provide students with 30GB of data, whereby 10GB operates during the day and 20GB after midnight. The data bundle was introduced by the university from June 5 to support online learning while the lockdown is in place.

Ntuli said that given the internet limitations during the day he has been forced to stay up until midnight to start working.

“I literally started smoking weed so that I can sleep and push at midnight,” he said.

A third-year LLB student, who asked to remain anonymous, said the uniticket data “is just useless, it always lapses. I always resort to buying data in exceptional cases where and when I have a submission, test or assignment and even tuts at times.”

Many other students aired their complaints on an unofficial Wits Student Facebook page. Bomi Madlomo wrote on the page,” Imagine having to wait until night to do your work. Unidata (uniticket data) is useless. We need to download external resources at times or watch YouTube videos and that requires data, which is expensive.”

Wits School of Education lecturer Bronwen Wilson-Thomson said, “I don’t really use much beyond Sakai in my teaching. My decision was strongly influenced by the issues of data availability.” Wilson-Thomson said although she has concerns about whether deep learning occurs, she is not sure that having access to a wider range of e-resources or data might fill the gap.

“Lecturers are also constrained and tend to focus on content, often at the expense of the skills and attitudes that students gain through face-to-face interaction,” she said. “Although synchronous online teaching, which would require more data and internet access, may address these problems to some extent, it too is far from ideal in supporting deep learning,” Wilson-Thompson said.

Wits senior communications officer Buhle Zuma told Wits Vuvuzela the university’s decision to restrict the use of the data to certain sites was to ensure that the data served its intended academic purpose. ‘”t is felt that this provision is in line with norms at other public institutions and is the best solution at this point,” Zuma said.

Nqobile Mabaso, SRC academic officer, said, “We are aware of the problems students are experiencing with data and have taken it up with the university. At the moment, however, the deal is the only one the university has managed to organise with network providers.”

Nqobile said that in the interim, while there is no solution to the 10GB restriction, students are advised to make use of the accredited sites.

FEATURED IMAGE: Students take to social media to express their discontent with the uniticket data. Many call it ‘useless’ on the basis of the restrictions attached to its use. Photo: Palesa Mofokeng.