2020 was an extraordinary academic year! When lockdown was announced, our immediate challenge was to embark on migrating all our modules to remote, online teaching and learning. As such, we were fortunate because 12 of our modules were already using an online exemplar module.
The hard lockdown period, 26 March – 30 April 2020, was declared a student recess at UKZN. Therefore, our biggest challenge was devising plans for making up the lost teaching and learning time to ensure the academic year could be completed successfully. Contact teaching and assessments were not an option. Our plans, therefore, had to focus on migrating all academic activities online. Although several academics had adopted a blended learning model of teaching before the pandemic, this did little to alleviate the inherent difficulties encountered in migrating solely to remote teaching and learning.
The onset of COVID-19 as a global pandemic was a relatively sudden phenomenon. It shook the walls of academia, and Nelson Mandela University was no exception. The immediate challenge was to ensure the safety of staff, students and the general public. Closing our campuses and assisting students to return home was the first step to safeguarding our space. Simultaneously, it was imperative to keep the academic project alive and to move swiftly to online forms of interaction and education. On this score, it was immediately apparent that we had come a long way from the #feesmustfall protests of 2016/2017 and that we could leverage the advances in technology to enable our students to operate virtually using our online platform (Moodle). As such, #feesmustfall suddenly became our most important reference point for our future conduct!
Since NWU is a contact university the immediate challenge when lockdown was announced was how quickly the faculty could adapt to online learning environment.
The global advent of COVID-19 immediately challenged the Faculty of Law (UP Law) to move teaching and learning (T&L) online as emergency remote teaching (ERT). Fortunately, since the University of Pretoria (UP) was already operating according to a hybrid teaching and learning model, we were well-equipped to move all our modules swiftly and successfully online.
After students left campus, we scrambled for the best substitute for face-to-face lectures. The traditional way of giving lectures was not now possible; our skills training component, which involves face-to-face consultations with clients and court, attendance was also not possible. Since our LLB structure puts considerable emphasis on this skills component, it was imperative that we find a way to do this.
Upon lockdown commencing, our first concern was to communicate with students and staff regarding the way forward, which was difficult due to the uncertainty.
The 2020 academic year was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the UWC Law Faculty to move off-campus from mid-March. So-called 'emergency remote learning' started on 20 April 2020, and continued for the rest of the academic year. UWC had been using the iKamva online teaching platform for quite some time, in support of contact lectures, and the platform was thus ready to be utilised during the pandemic, though now playing a much more important and central role. Once teaching and learning started again in April, now fully online, lecturers used narrated slides, videos and live classes on a variety of platforms, as well as discussion forums, in the place of traditional face-to-face lectures. Online teaching in these formats also took place on an inter-university level, e.g. with the University of Missouri and Symbiosis Law School in India. In order to ensure the integrity of assessments, which was a big challenge, several modules, across the year levels, employed research and writing-based assignments as an alternative to the traditional 'sit-down' tests and exams.