Some prospective first-year students fear that this might compromise their chances of succeeding at Wits.

Classes for all first-year students at Wits University will be conducted online when the academic year begins on Monday, March 8.

According to the senior director of academic affairs, Professor Diane Grayson, Ulwazi, the new Learning Management System (LMS) that the university recently adopted, will facilitate remote learning for students and lecturers this year.

“For first-year students, all teaching and learning will be conducted remotely. Wits has invested in a new LMS that will significantly enhance our ability to offer high quality teaching that promotes effective student learning in an online mode,” Grayson told Wits Vuvuzela.

Grayson noted that face-to-face learning will only be allowed for courses that require students to complete practical components to their qualifications. She added that whether first-year students will need to come in for such work will be at the discretion of faculties or schools which will also decide when this will take place.

The dean of the faculty of science, Professor Nithaya Chetty, told Wits Vuvuzela that although the science faculty would have preferred to conduct face-to-face learning for first-year students, “We found it very difficult to accommodate all the first-year students on campus from a logistical point of view. This is just not feasible because of the large numbers involved.”

According to statistics given to Wits Vuvuzela by senior communications officer Buhle Zuma, the bachelor of science degree was the most sought-after programme by first-year students in 2021, clocking a total of 18 366 applications.

“We have decided that all first-year programmes will run 100% online, and that will include lectures, tutorials, labs, field trips, continuous assessments and examinations,” Chetty said. She encourages first years who live in environments that are not conducive for learning online to move into university residences or seek accommodation closer to the university.

Chetty added that although lecturers themselves would prefer to interact with students in person, they have made peace with the fact that it is not possible yet.

“It is going to take a little while for lecturers to come to terms with this new teaching environment because ideally, our lecturers would like to emulate a real live teaching classroom as much as possible. This year, I expect that our lecturers will be more experienced in doing so and will be able to build on the material that they developed last year,” Chetty said.

Membrance Malindisa (18), who received provisional acceptance from Wits to study towards a bachelor of science, says that she believes online learning may disadvantage her and her peers who are new to the university community.

“Online classes are going to be a problem if we are still living at home because some of us don’t have good and consistent network services that will allow us to study online,” Malindisa, who lives in Tsakane township in Ekurhuleni, said.

Prospective bachelor of education student, Zinhle Zili (19), says that she is not pleased with classes being conducted online.

“A lot of us don’t have the proper devices we need for online learning because we can’t afford them. Online learning could really be a big disadvantage to us new students,” Zili told Wits Vuvuzela.

FEATURED IMAGE: Face-to-face learning is not going to be immediately available for 2021 first-year Witsies. Photo: File.