Update on UCT changes in teaching and learning in response to COVID-19

20 March 2020 | DVC A/Prof Lis Lange

Dear students

Greetings to you all.  I am writing to inform you about how the academic programme will proceed during the second term of teaching at the University of Cape Town (UCT). This message applies to undergraduate students in the faculties of Commerce, Engineering and the Built Environment, Humanities, Law and Science. Students in the Faculty of Health Sciences will be contacted separately.

I know many of you have questions and anxieties about the future of your studies at UCT during the COVID-19 crisis. Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng has already communicated to you about the need to suspend classes and close student residences.

The State of Disaster declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa forces all of us into new approaches to what we do, to help flatten the potential curve of infection.

Even with suspended lectures and closed residences, the academic programme needs to continue at UCT. The university shares with  you the responsibility to parents, funders and the country at large for ensuring that you receive education in the different faculties.

To deliver the academic content planned for this year during this time of crisis, we have to move teaching and learning online. I know that this creates considerable anxiety among students because this is new and unexpected, and because some of you are living in circumstances that will make it difficult to study and work online at home. We are dealing with all these issues to ensure that no one is left behind because of the need to teach remotely online. The information available indicates that we could be working online between three and five months.

Here is the timeline for preparing for Term 2:

  • 1 April: by this date we will inform you about how the term will be organised, including how assessment will take place.
  • 6-9 April: The second term will start with four days of orientation online, to make sure you are connected, comfortable and ready to learn.
  • 16 April: Actual teaching will begin.

We have already set up a Teaching Online Task Team, where all faculties are represented along with student representation. The Task Team has support from colleagues in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) and other units in the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED), Student Wellness, the Disability Service, the Libraries and the Information and Communication Technology Services Department. This task team is responsible leading and coordinating the process of putting all our courses online so you can access them from home.

Our work has three parts:

  • First, a focus on staff at faculty level, to prepare academics to teach their courses online.
  • Second, a focus on establishing the right type of communication with students to support you before you go online and during the process of learning online. Our aim is for you to feel as connected as possible to UCT when you are at home.
  • Third, a focus on vulnerable students who might need extra help to learn online. This includes students with disabilities, students who are less familiar with computers and the internet as learning spaces, and students who need to learn in a more challenging social setup.

We are aware that for some of you access to data is an issue. Arrangements are being made by UCT, Universities South Africa (USAf) and service providers for zero-rated mobile data to specific UCT online resources, to keep  the costs of remote learning as low as possible.

To better understand and support you, we will soon email you a survey about your circumstances and readiness for online learning. It is important that you complete this as soon as possible, to allow us to plan for your needs. We are preparing a start-up pack for your learning online experience, to be available to you by orientation week (6-9 April).  We are setting up the necessary infrastructure and services for you to have support during this time. We are also preparing a communication to your parents, to alert them about your needs during this time and explain how they can support you.

This is an opportunity not only to continue your studies but to practice online skills that you will be able to use throughout your career.  We are facing not only COVID-19, but also the fourth industrial revolution, where technology will play a more central role in everybody’s life. We recognise that there will be challenges for all of us in working this way. Your input now and feedback during Term 2 will be valuable in helping UCT to improve our approach to online teaching and learning.

We believe that you can do this and excel. Together we are going to make a success out of this crisis. Meanwhile, please use the current break to rest and get ready.

Best wishes,

Associate Professor Lis Lange
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning

Updates will be posted on UCT’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 feature page on the UCT News website.

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Coronavirus Disease 2019 updates

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March and implement a national lockdown from 26 March.

UCT is taking the threat of infection in our university community extremely seriously, and this page will be updated regularly with the latest COVID-19 information.

Campus updates

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Daily updates

Friday, 5 February 14:20, 5 February 2021
Monday, 4 January 16:50, 4 January 2021
Friday, 18 December 11:30, 18 December 2020
Thursday, 19 November 09:30, 19 November 2020
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Wednesday, 18 March 16:00, 18 March 2020
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Campus communications

New SRC and other updates 16:44, 4 November 2020
Virtual graduation ceremonies 13:30, 21 October 2020
Online staff assembly and other updates 15:09, 30 September 2020
Fee adjustments and other updates 15:21, 16 September 2020
Call for proposals: TLC2020 10:15, 26 August 2020
SAULM survey and other updates 15:30, 5 August 2020
COVID-19 cases and other updates 15:26, 5 August 2020
New UCT Council and other updates 15:12, 15 July 2020
Upcoming UCT virtual events 09:30, 15 July 2020
Pre-paid data for UCT students 14:25, 22 April 2020
Update for postgraduate students 12:55, 20 April 2020
UCT Human Resources and COVID-19 16:05, 19 March 2020
UCT confirms second COVID-19 case 09:15, 19 March 2020
Update on UCT COVID-19 response 13:50, 11 March 2020
Update on COVID-19 17:37, 6 March 2020


Video messages from the Department of Medicine

Getting credible, evidence-based, accessible information and recommendations relating to COVID-19

The Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, are producing educational video material for use on digital platforms and in multiple languages. The information contained in these videos is authenticated and endorsed by the team of experts based in the Department of Medicine. Many of the recommendations are based on current best evidence and are aligned to provincial, national and international guidelines. For more information on UCT’s Department of Medicine, please visit the website.

To watch more videos like these, visit the Department of Medicine’s YouTube channel.

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Statements from Government


In an email to the UCT community, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“COVID-19, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is a rapidly changing epidemic. [...] Information [...] will be updated as and when new information becomes available.”


We are continuing to monitor the situation and we will be updating the UCT community regularly – as and when there are further updates. If you are concerned or need more information, students can contact the Student Wellness Service on 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271 (after hours), while staff can contact 021 650 5685.