The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has introduced 100% online degree programmes as part of its strategy to create a learning ecosystem that aligns with international benchmark institutions.
The newly introduced 100% online programmes, according to UJ, are part of the institution's commitment to provide alternative means of acquiring internationally renowned qualifications available to students who are not able to attend face-to-face lectures.
At the end of last year, the higher learning institution introduced what it calls the "first-of-its-kind" 100% online-only master's degree programmes in four courses : the Master of Public Health; the Master of Public Management and Governance; the Master of Education Management, and the Master of Education in Information and Communication Technology.
On 2 July, UJ says it will launch its second batch of 100% online-only programmes to complement its suite, with four additional online programmes: the Bachelor of Commerce in International Accounting; Bachelor of Human Resource Management; Advanced Diploma in Financial Markets and the Advanced Diploma in Transportation Management.
The new courses reside in the UJ College of Business and Economics faculty and enable online students to collaborate with peers and lecturers internationally.
Prof Amanda Dempsey, senior director of the CBE School of Accounting, explains: "By shifting to online learning, UJ is creating a generation of informed and connected global citizens. Moreover, we are contributing to the needs of an adaptable, sustainable, knowledge-based economy which in turn, nurtures a democratic, diverse, and inclusive society."
By offering the 100% online programmes, UJ says it is providing an alternative means of acquiring internationally renowned qualifications to students, while also offering learning opportunities that accommodate logistical challenges such as full-time employment, geographical location and family obligations.
Liana Meadon, senior manager of the online programmes project at UJ, says the institution made the strategic decision to offer 100% online programmes as part of its dedication towards creating 21st century teaching and learning opportunities.
"Universities of the future need to be flexible, agile and adaptive in order to remain relevant in the long term. We can't continue to educate students for careers that will not exist in the future, or stay stuck in providing brick-and-mortar options only.
"Moving from contact only to fully online course delivery is an excellent example of UJ's commitment to remain the leaders of technology-enhanced learning opportunities that are suitable for the 4th Industrial Revolution."
The online strategy, she adds, required a university-wide effort to upgrade, adapt, change, experiment, learn, attend professional development sessions, and re-design learning opportunities that are easily taught and learned in an online-only environment.
"What makes UJ's online offerings so unique in the South African market is exactly because we offer continued online support through innovative educational tools. The online content is delivered through our Learning Management System, Blackboard, and in addition to the programme-specific content on offer, UJ can offer additional benefits to the students who radically improve their digital literacies and 21st Century skills through participating in our online-only programmes," adds Meadon.
According to a report by Ambient Insights, the African e-learning market is witnessing massive growth, spurred by public-private partnerships.
It points out that Africa's e-learning market doubled from 2011 to 2016, reaching $513 million, with SA being Africa's largest e-learning market, followed by Angola, Nigeria and Tunisia.
Last month, the University of the Western Cape launched a 100% online-accredited Management Development Programme, aimed at provide aspiring managers and first-line managers with the opportunity to acquire a background in the core functional areas of management.
"With this programme, we are bringing that tool to anyone who needs it, when and where they need it most. Education is the ultimate tool with which we can build better lives: not just for ourselves as individuals, but for our communities as well, and for society as a whole," said UWC's Rector and vice-chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, at the time.