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Massive Shift Towards Online Schools In South Africa

THE University of Cape Town has announced an expanded scholarship programme for its new online school due to significant demand.

The online school, which commences classes in January 2022, has received more than 7,000 applications for the 2021 academic year, with scholarships now being offered to all high school-aged students, it said. 

UCT is running the online venture in collaboration with the Valenture Insitute, and is a CAPS-aligned curriculum that enables learners in grades 8 – 12 the opportunity to study at a monthly fee of R2,095.

The university said that learners will benefit from a supported self-discipline model, which allows them to pace their own learning while receiving one-on-one tutoring from expert teachers and support coaches whenever they need it.

Students will also be provided with a range of university and career preparation services and offerings.

In addition, the entire curriculum will be made available for free on an interactive online platform, the tertiary institution said. Users of this free content will be issued with a learner number to save their learning path and data, with unlimited logins permitted.

Privates and corporates 

While many of South Africa’s private schools have had to incorporate online teaching due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some are making a more permanent shift towards online schools.

JSE-listed independent education provider Curro opened its Curro Online offering in mid-June last year, and boasts more than 600 learners.

The group has also implemented additional e-learning solutions, the latest being Curro Choice, an e-learning offering that launched in February 2021 to broaden the range of subjects available to every Curro high school learner nationwide.

Looking ahead, the education group said it will continue to invest in the business, and make better use of its existing facilities as the education landscape changes.

Corporates have also shown eagerness to offer online learning facilities. At the end of October, mobile operator MTN launched its online school, offering a digital curriculum for grades R-12.

The online school, endorsed by the Department of Basic Education, will offer additional features like video lessons, assessments and extra-tuition lessons for grade 10 to 12 learners.

It will also focus on areas such as financial skills, entrepreneurship, arts and culture, and career guidance content, with particular attention on critical careers where there are skills shortages in South Africa.

The portal includes an introduction to the early childhood development curriculum and African storytelling, with over 2,000 stories, to equip children with good reading skills and improve confidence, enabling them to learn and read independently.

Ongoing shift 

Before the pandemic, the majority of institutions had less than half of their learning offering available online despite nearly 9 out of 10 universities having started implementing their digital strategy sometime before 2020, said Stewart Watts, vice president for EMEA, at online learning company D2L.

The crisis accelerated efforts to implement digital strategies in South Africa and as a result, there is now an increased number of courses available online for students, growing to 59%, he said.

“Change is starting to happen and it will probably be like a domino effect. The pandemic has forced a long-term shift in the way we think about EdTech and digital transformation, and it’s a good sign that higher education institutions are putting the student experience and learning outcomes at the centre of their strategies,” he added.

“More than 90% of respondents in South Africa say that institutions need to digitally transform to enable future growth, and improving digital skills within the academic community is also a top priority.”

  • * Business Tech
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