Incoming University of the Witwatersrand Vice-Chancellor Professor Zeblon Vilakazi says he believes teaching and learning at education facilities should be both online as well as venue-based.
Vilakazi was speaking in an interview with News24 on Friday afternoon, after the announcement of his appointment by the institution’s council on Thursday.
He is currently the Vice-Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Postgraduate Studies at Wits, and will take over from Professor Adam Habib.
Habib departs at the end of the year.
The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in many institutions, particularly in South Africa, having to revert to online learning to save the academic year.
He said Wits had already made the shift and, in the process, ensured everyone was accommodated, especially the disadvantaged.
This was done by making devices available for students, providing data, and making their website zero-rated.
But although online teaching and learning may be the new norm, there is still a huge need for venue-based activity, the professor said.
Vilakazi said: “I don’t believe in full online learning. I believe the university and all centres of learning are spaces where people, or future leaders, must get to know each other, must engage, debate and interact and socialise; play sport and so on. Education is more than receiving content. It is about interaction.”
He added that a classroom was still needed, but activity within it could be integrated with online platforms too.
As much as online teaching and learning is good and has its strengths, it still needs to be complemented with classrooms and a blended learning process instituted to shape the future, even post Covid-19.
“The way we teach now will have changed next year, [in] what form I don’t know. I cannot predict for now. But I do see an element of plans between both classroom teaching and online teaching.
“A blended learning process will help in shaping the way we teach and learn going forward after Covid-19,” he said.
Wits was among the first institutions to introduce online learning in April after campuses were forced to go on early recess in March, due to the pandemic.
In May, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande announced that under Level 3, a maximum of 33% of students were allowed back on campuses and in residences – as long as they can been accommodated in line with health and safety protocols to curb the spread of the virus.
Students have started returning to campuses.