I write especially to colleagues in undergraduate teaching and learning.
The 2022 academic year will start with a much more positive outlook than in the previous two years. While the pandemic is not yet over, we are able to resume teaching on campus under carefully controlled measures.
While the Department of Basic Education has ruled that basic education is back full steam, the Department of Higher Education and Training, which is our government line department, has not yet changed the regulations affecting the functioning of universities.
However, the University of Cape Town (UCT) has secured permission to start a pilot that allows us to reduce the required social distance while retaining the obligation to wear masks, use sanitisers and keep venues clean.
As a result, we have been able to increase considerably our ability to use the university teaching space with appropriate pedagogies in each course. Faculties and university support services have been working around the clock to produce a timetable that allows the maximum possible utilisation of space and time for teaching purposes. This is now settled.
2022 will be a transitional year for undergraduate teaching and learning. UCT’s new approach recognises our fundamental identity as a contact residential university, while incorporating a variety of pedagogic innovations that we introduced in our courses during the last two years.
The extent of students’ engagement with their own learning is fundamental to the success of this year. Our pedagogic choices need to support and encourage this engagement in a variety of environments. The university is fully invested in re-establishing the rhythm of academic life on campus, and the intellectual discipline that comes with it, through the use of the timetable. It is very important for students to attend contact sessions on campus. Course convenors can make these sessions obligatory.
While UCT is not yet legally allowed to return to full contact teaching, with very few exceptions all undergraduate courses will offer much higher levels of contact teaching. In some cases this means the return to lectures and tutorials on campus. In other cases this means a combination of online synchronous and recorded lectures, contact tutorials and practical work in laboratories and workshops.
As part of our commitment to access for all, over the last two years we offered mostly recorded lectures. Sometimes academics uploaded recorded lectures from prior years as extra material. I am aware that many of you have been working with the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) to redesign your courses. I thank you for your commitment to offer innovative curricula. This year we have the opportunity for synchronous teaching, while those lectures can also be recorded for further reference. This, together with your pedagogic choices in terms of small group work, will support a more satisfying academic experience for you and your students. The colleagues in CILT are prepared to assist you as always.
Some students are coming back to UCT with an FECR status in their academic record. This means they have been allowed to return to study despite not having met all the academic requirements in previous courses. We have designed a special programme to help these students to improve both their marks and the quality of their learning. Attending the programme is a necessity to prevent any further delays in their progress towards graduation. Details of the programme will be announced before the commencement of the academic year.
The type of assessment used in each course is up to the course convenor. However, all examinations and tests will take place face to face in venues on campus. Online exams will only take place if a high level of lockdown is imposed again.
There are venues available as study spaces and the UCT Libraries are fully functional and ready to receive students. The list of available venues will be published separately.
The wearing of masks on campus and, especially, in teaching venues is mandatory for students and staff. The university is operating as a self-regulated community. Lecturers and tutors have the authority to ask students to wear masks; to refuse students entry to class unless they wear a mask; and to ask students who refuse to wear masks to leave the classroom. Staff can agree with their students to remove their masks temporarily when talking, to make speech clearer.
UCT is a contact university. Students have enrolled in the knowledge and expectation of receiving contact education. Students remain responsible for meeting their course requirements as set by faculties. Students may ask for a leave of absence if they are not willing to attend classes under the current health prescripts. Unfortunately, no special accommodations will be made.
Chief Operating Officer (COO) Dr Reno Morar’s recent COO Desk has indicated that the Property and Services Department is responsible for cleaning venues and ensuring that sanitisers are available in all venues. For now there is no prescription about the type of masks to be worn. Should a decision be made at any point about using a particular type of mask, these will be provided by the university.
I join you in looking forward to a year of teaching and learning that will bring UCT staff and students together as a reconstituted academic community, moving towards new levels of cutting-edge teaching and learning.
Associate Professor Lis Lange
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning
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