24 March 2020
Academic Information

Dear Student,

We know that many of you might be feeling anxious and uncertain about how the University of the Free State (UFS) is going to take learning and teaching forward during these extraordinary times. On Monday, 16 March 2020, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen tasked the Teaching and Learning Management Group (TLMG) to develop alternative ways of taking learning and teaching forward. The TLMG, under the leadership of the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), has been hard at work at developing a new approach.

Like most other universities, our best alternative to continue our learning and teaching is to move online. We are aware that moving online poses many challenges for our students since many of you do not have frequent and reliable access to the internet, or data when you are off-campus, or do not own the necessary devices to learn optimally. We are also aware that learning in a new way will mean that students and staff will need to create spaces for themselves to learn and work at home/off-campus. It does appear that we will be working online for an extended period of time, and we want to assure you that we will be here to support you in this journey as best we can.

The Keep calm, Teach On, and #UFSLearnOn campaigns are aimed at creating the best possible support for lecturers and students, respectively,
by adapting existing support and practices most suited to our new online environment. The new approach has the following components:

  1. Providing and developing support for lecturers to move learning and teaching online.
  2. Creating appropriate communication and support measures to help you learn as effectively as possible. The first of these is the Keep calm and #UFSLearnOn transition resource which will be shared with you through various platforms.
  3. Repositioning existing support systems to create a learning and teaching environment that considers the diverse needs and circumstances of our students.

As a start, here are the Keep calm and #UFSLearnOn dates on which resources will be released:

  • 25 March: This first edition will focus on helping you assess your current realities, and kick-start the planning for learning to continue.
  • 1 April: Release of Edition 2; this edition will be focused on getting connected and understanding how you will be learning when academic activities resume.
  • 8 April: Edition 3 to be released; the third edition will focus on the skills you need to be a successful student in the new environment.
  • 15 April: Edition 4 to be released; this edition will focus on helping you to stay and finish strong. This edition will also provide you with the university’s reassessment of the situation, which will be determined by the country's presidential lockdown situation.  
  • 17 April:            Academic activities will resume

We are very aware that for many of you access to devices, data, and networks is a challenge. As part of Universities South Africa (USAf), the UFS is negotiating to get our digital learning website zero-rated to minimise your costs. You will be receiving a survey link to provide us with information on the additional support you might need to connect and learn.

We know our students are resourceful and resilient to succeed in extraordinary circumstances. In the meantime, take some time to rest and recharge.

Best wishes,

Dr EL van Staden
Vice-Rector: Academic
University of the Free State

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