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Wednesday, 08 July 2020

Academic ecosystem bolstered by holistic support programmes

IMPLEMENTING HOLISTIC STUDENT SUPPORT: CPUT provide first-class support services to students whilst dealing with the disruptions brought by the lockdown and COVID-19 pandemic. IMPLEMENTING HOLISTIC STUDENT SUPPORT: CPUT provide first-class support services to students whilst dealing with the disruptions brought by the lockdown and COVID-19 pandemic.

CPUT has secured a grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to strengthen virtual student support services.

The University will be supporting students on their journey to academic fulfilment during the current trying and uncertain times. The support will not only include additional academic assistance but will encapsulate overall support for students, looking at psycho-social support, disability unit support, counselling and psychotherapeutic therapy, amongst others.

The onset of the global pandemic has intensified the challenges students face. Educational institutions are adapting to new ways of learning whilst dealing with the additional disruptions the lockdown and COVID-19 bring. Crucial support systems and developing long-term, sustainable innovations within the education sector are required for students’ journey to adapt and reach their academic ambitions.

“As we enter the uncharted territory of COVID-19 and its regulatory restrictions, careful planning is needed to implement holistic student support in order to address students' needs during this time. Ours is underpinned by the principle that no student will be left behind,” says Prof Driekie Hay-Swemmer, Executive Director: Office of the Vice-Chancellor.

Projects that the institution is embarking on for students’ support during this time are:

Updated Online Directory which would ease access as students would be able to navigate information.

Online Helpdesk for students to access remotely while off-campus. Tutor and Teaching Assistant Programme: additional Writing Centre Learning facilitators - academic literacy support, additional Maths and Science Learning Facilitators.

Mentor and Retention officers which provide psycho-social support to first-year students. With COVID-19 their operation has changed from face-to-face to online.

Employability Improvement Programme which means online materials need to be developed, adapted to specific disciplines and offered to enhance student employability.

The Extended Curriculum Programme Support: specific tutorial support and seminars; online psycho-social support; E-books: Pearson’s My Labs & Mastering for Dental Science; Prescribed e-textbooks for Faculty of Business and Management Sciences Extended Curriculum Programme students; My Foundations Labs On-line reading and comprehension material.

Disability Unit support: online tutorials and support to lecturers about universal access and universal design for online and multimodal learning so that no student with a disability is left behind.

Student Counselling: rendering of online psychotherapeutic therapy and support services to students.

HIV Unit support: online coaching and support to current peer educators on creating short infotainment video clips and educational posters to provide online awareness campaigns focusing on COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence and related social justice topics so that peer-to-peer learning continues remotely.

In order to make these projects possible, Hay-Swemmer says that the impact of the grant will be felt by every student because staff members will be supported to quickly climatise to the new form of teaching and thereby cascading this to students.

Thashlin Govender, Program Director at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, says working in higher education for over a decade has shown the foundation how important collaboration is in order to provide an enabling environment for student success.

“The student environment serves as a key pillar to their academic experience and ensuring that students have the academic, physical, and emotional infrastructure to succeed is one of our guiding principles. We are pleased to have found a like-minded partner in CPUT that will help us create long-term benefits for students during this turbulent times,” Govender remarks.

In addition, Hay-Swemmer says the students and staff readiness to embrace virtual education are essential and hence the need for projects like this.  “Students must respond to the call by the university for them to urgently update their contact details online. Staff members and students must embrace the multi-modal approach of teaching and learning.”

Written by Aphiwe Boyce

Email: boyceap@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Engineering and the Built Environment and Applied Sciences Faculties.