13 December 2020 | Story Eugene Seegers and South Campus contributors | Photo Johan Roux
Dr Joleen Hamilton - Johan Roux JRX December 2019
Dr Joleen Hamilton is one of the faces behind the short learning programmes hosted on the UFS South Campus. Joleen obtained her PhD in December 2019.


This year may have been one of the most challenging since the higher-education industry started, but the UFS South Campus in Bloemfontein has not rested on its laurels when it came to putting its technology and expertise to use in supporting not only tertiary but also basic education. Here are three examples of a large array of short-learning and other courses or interventions hosted on this always-innovating campus.

Online and short learning
Since the South Campus is the university’s online, distance-learning, and e-Education (ODeL) hub, it was in the ideal position to take certain courses and convert them to online short-learning programmes (SLP). These included a Euclidean Geometry programme arranged with the Free State Department of Education (FSDoE). Study guides were printed and couriered to the teachers who participated, and WhatsApp groups were used as the primary communication tool. Participants could submit their assignments via email or WhatsApp. An online forms platform was used to facilitate registration, as well as for pre- and post-tests and evaluation of the SLP.

Another two courses were Harnessing Social Media (five weeks) and TeachOnline (sixteen weeks): these SLPs were developed during the lockdown. The goal of both was to equip teachers with the skills needed to use technology as a mode of instruction during times like lockdown. Harnessing Social Media is a basic course that focuses on social-media platforms such as WhatsApp as a teaching tool. TeachOnline is a more advanced SLP that shows you how to use Google Classroom effectively. All the assignments were also completed and uploaded on Google Classroom. A total of 150 teachers were accommodated in the above three SLPs.

IDEAS Lab lends a hand
The IDEAS Lab’s studios, which would usually host the Internet Broadcast Project, were made available to the FSDoE, and technical assistance was provided to record the trimmed Annual Teaching Plan (ATP). The IDEAS Lab furthermore designed and published a YouTube channel where their IBP videos could be uploaded; the IBP’s recording time and subjects were also increased. Computer hard drives were used to distribute videos to schools.

Community Engagement project in Sterkspruit
Despite the pandemic and national lockdown, there was no concern that the South Campus would be prevented from displaying a meaningful 67-minute act of love. The tight-knit family on this campus reached out to an early childhood development (ECD) centre in need close to Sterkspruit which has 15 learners. Being aware of their extremely limited resources, and how cold the winters get in that area, staff members under the inspiration of Nelia Oosthuizen and Prof Lynette Jacobs, have since September 2019 been knitting squares that are then sewn together to form blankets. Knitting was certainly also a form of therapy for the staff members involved, and when lockdown eased and we could give them the gifts of love, the young learners at this ECD centre knew that somebody in a place far from theirs took the trouble to make a colourful, comfy blanket stitch by stitch to keep them warm.

Gauteng teachers empowered
The South Campus is dedicated to delivering quality distance education to sectors of society that would not necessarily have access to higher education. Its flagship programme, the Advanced Certificate in Teaching (ACT), has been delivered across six provinces of South Africa to more than four thousand semi-qualified teachers over the past four years, thereby ensuring that qualified teachers deliver quality education in some of the country’s remotest areas.

The South Campus Formal Programmes division, in collaboration with the Gauteng Department of Basic Education, has identified teachers within that province who would benefit from additional training. Funding for the students’ tuition and ICT training was secured from ETDP-SETA through the Campus Principal, Dr Maria Madiope. In 2020, a total of 563 Gauteng students were funded at a comprehensive value of more than ten million rands.

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