[24 April] Academic continuity update

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Dr Sizwe Mabizela, Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor
Dr Sizwe Mabizela, Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor

Our preparations to migrate to remote/online teaching and learning delivery are moving ahead. The Orientation Programme has gone well and some of the teething challenges are being attended to.  The Orientation Programme will continue for the whole of next week. 

We have made a pledge to foreground all our efforts for continuity of the academic project/teaching and learning on the principles of social justice, equity, participation and access with success for all. We will spare no effort in ensuring that we achieve what we have set for ourselves. There is still much to be done. The next few days are critical in finalising our arrangements for the launch on 4 May 2020.

The academic content sites hosted on the campus that were reported in our previous communique as cost-free for clients of the four large mobile service providers in South Africa (Cell C, MTN, Telkom, & Vodacom) are in place as zero-rated sites.  We note that 4868 connections entered the student training site on 20th April. 7103 unique individuals have logged onto RUConnected between Monday 20th and Wednesday 23rd April either to access the online orientation and other material hosted there, or to upload information for the students. This is a pleasing start in our pre-remote-learning phase.  The issue of data bundles for students to access learning content that is hosted outside of the university domain is ongoing, and we will let you know as soon as an affordable arrangement has been reached. 

To support students who are within a network capable geographic area but do not have an appropriate laptop or tablet device, the University has ordered a large number of new laptop computers.  We are awaiting their delivery. In the mean-time, it is important that our assessment of student learning devices and network needs is completed without delay.  The laptops will not be cost-free, but will be made available to students who need them for online education on a financed arrangement.  The details of the terms of repayment are under development, including looking at incentives to encourage the completion rates of students who take advantage of these devices.  More details will be available in the coming week.

Plans are moving ahead to also be in a position to deliver printed study packs to students who are not able to make use of online facilities, or who have not responded to the request to indicate their needs in this regard.

The University has attempted to contact every student currently registered with Rhodes in 2020, to ascertain each person’s device and network readiness to work from home for an extended period. A significant number of students have not yet responded to the text, e-mail or phone calls that have been made.  If you are one of those students who have not yet completed the survey, please respond to one of the following e-mail addresses by 27 April indicating that you need to be sent the survey questions for your learning needs to be considered in our planning.


o   International:        covid-int@ru.ac.za

o   Humanities:           covid-hum@ru.ac.za

o   Commerce:          covid-com@ru.ac.za

o   Education:            covid-edu@ru.ac.za

o   Law:                       covid-law@ru.ac.za

o   Science:                covid-sci@ru.ac.za

o   Pharmacy:             covid-pha@ru.ac.za


Kind regards,

Sizwe Mabizela

Vice-Chancellor, Rhodes University