UCT Broadens Access Across Africa

20 Aug 2014 - 00:00

Thousands more opportunities for postgraduate diplomas

The University of Cape Town (UCT) today announced that it has launched a suite of online postgraduate programmes as part of a strategic initiative that will enable students across Africa to study with high–touch interactive support – anytime‚ anywhere.

UCT’s Faculty of Commerce‚ in partnership with GetSmarter‚ is now offering three Postgraduate qualifications online‚ in blended learning mode as part of the Across Africa initiative. Blended learning combines the use of a flexible and cutting–edge interactive online education platform with face–to–face learning.

Professor Don Ross‚ Dean of the Faculty of Commerce‚ explains‚ "With an interactive high–touch design our Across Africa programmes encourage styles of learning and engagement that go well beyond what can be implemented in the traditional lecture hall. Rich‚ real–time student communication with lecturers‚ tutors and one another during all stages of learning is now possible".

Across Africa Managing Director‚ Jacques Rousseau added: "Having road–tested the Across Africa online education platform myself in teaching a class of 1 500 students‚ it is clear that students appreciate – and greatly benefit from – the opportunity to work on their own schedules‚ as well as to receive peer and instructor support virtually on–demand".

The UCT Postgraduate Diploma in Management in Marketing and the UCT Advanced Diploma in Business Project Management will start in February 2015‚ with applications currently exceeding 115 and 72 respectively. The UCT Board Course will also be available via online format.

The launch of the programmes in blended learning mode‚ with additional popular programmes to follow‚ has the potential to exponentially increase access to education. Currently UCT is limited by its face–to–face intake‚ which this year stands at 26 330.

The Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET) lists South African public higher education key data indicating that there are over 2‚7 million school leavers who are not in education‚ training or employment. The provision of online education in South Africa allows universities such as UCT to expand the access of high quality education beyond campus borders in an attempt to lessen these figures and to provide continuing education for graduates.

Working professionals typically been limited in their opportunities to pursue postgraduate studies. The cutting–edge delivery mode of UCT’s industry–aligned programmes offer learners the unique opportunity to retain full–time employment and advance a career in their chosen field‚ while formalising their skills with a top–tier tertiary qualification.

UCT have moved swiftly since the Government last year granted UCT the right to offer distance learning qualifications‚ partly thanks to this being a direction it has been preparing for since 2008 through the presentation of numerous short courses in partnership with online education company GetSmarter.

Sam Paddock‚ CEO of GetSmarter‚ said: "It is a privilege to partner with such a forward–thinking university to deliver these esteemed postgraduate diploma programmes to learners across Africa. We look forward to opening the doors of opportunity for those seeking to advance their learning through part–time‚ distance education."

Online distance learning (ODL) has long been changing the face of education around the world‚ with leading international universities in countries such as the United States of America making the move as early as two decades ago. A report by the U.S. Department of Education found that "classes with online learning (whether taught completely online or blended) on average produce stronger student learning outcomes than do classes with solely face–to–face instruction."

UCT has chosen GetSmarter as its partner due to the company’s full–service online education offering as well as its unique high–touch model‚ which results in significant student completion rates. In an African and South African context‚ there is an opportunity for this form of distance learning to transform education. The Across Africa partnership brings a practised and proven learning model and virtual learning environment (VLE) that promises to deliver better results than ever before achieved with traditional face–to–face learning.

In 2012‚ UCT ran two undergraduate courses Evidence–Based Management and Strategic Thinking‚ as a part of the Bachelor of Business Science degree. Results were promising‚ with enthusiastic student participation and feedback as well as similar or improved quality of work produced by students. Crucially‚ results in the first year Evidence–Based Management course suggested that the VLE design is intuitive and accessible enough to mitigate against the so–called "digital divide"‚ with students from disadvantaged school backgrounds performing as well or better than comparable cohorts in previous years.

Joint CEO of GetSmarter‚ Rob Paddock said: "GetSmarter’s online education philosophy brings the art and science of learning together with technology and people to provide a meaningful and interactive learning experience that benefits from the latest advances in online learning technologies. The high–touch support model provides learners with personalised support from a dedicated Course Coach‚ and ongoing access to a Course Instructor‚ an industry expert."

"As learning is enhanced when done in collaboration‚ a range of social learning activities are also practised with the virtual classmates. Proactive approaches to designing learning activities around real–world situations foster relevant‚ concrete skills development‚" said Rob Paddock.

Across Africa is a strategic partnership between UCT’s Faculty of Commerce and GetSmarter‚ providing access to the highest quality blended mode business education. UCT’s scope extends to all areas of sub–Saharan Africa‚ and all possible opportunities are being investigated for providing both UCT and its future students opportunities for growth.

Collaboration with local universities Across Africa is crucial for ensuring academic relevance‚ as well as in providing the opportunity for UCT to contribute to the development of academic institutions on the continent.