University extends reach across Africa

25 August 2014

The University of Cape Town (UCT) 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.

UCT’s Faculty of Commerce‚ in partnership with online education company 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.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Management in Marketing and the Advanced Diploma in Business Project Management will start in February 2015, with applications currently exceeding 145 and 111 respectively. The UCT Board Course will also be available via online format.

“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,” Don Ross, dean of UCT’s Faculty of Commerce, said at the media launch of the Across Africa educational initiative last week.

“Rich, real-time student communication with lecturers, tutors and one another during all stages of learning is now possible.”

The Across Africa learning model combines the use of a cutting-edge interactive online platform with a high-touch support model, which provides learners with direct access not only to their fellow students, but also a dedicated course coach (an academic) and a course instructor (an industry expert).

Across Africa MD Jacques Rousseau commented: “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 launch of the programmes has the potential to exponentially increase access to education. Currently, UCT is limited by its face-to-face intake. Diploma programmes in the commerce faculty are currently limited to about 80 students, whereas in the Across Africa format there is scope for class sizes in the hundreds.

The Centre for Higher Education Transformation, which lists South African public higher education key data, indicates that there are over 2.7-million school leavers who have not undertaken education or training, or who are unemployed.

“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,” the university said in a statement.

“UCT moved swiftly since the government granted it the right to offer distance learning qualifications last year. This was partly thanks to the university’s preparation to move in that direction through the presentation of short courses in partnership with GetSmarter.”

GetSmarter CEO Sam Paddock said the cutting-edge delivery mode of UCT’s industry-aligned programmes gave working professionals the opportunity to retain full-time employment and advance a career in their chosen field, while formalising their skills with a top-tier tertiary qualification.

“It is a privilege to partner with such a forward-thinking university to deliver these esteemed postgraduate diploma programmes to learners across Africa,” Paddock said. “We look forward to opening the doors of opportunity for those seeking to advance their learning through part-time, distance education.”

SAinfo reporter