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UCT Formal Online Education Project 

The University of Cape Town (UCT) Formal Online Education Project is a five-year initiative (2018–2022) funded by the Vice-Chancellor’s Strategic Fund. The two focus areas which the project seeks to support are the development of online and blended courses at undergraduate level and fully online programmes at postgraduate level. The initiative commits substantial funding for online education expansion at UCT and includes:

  • incentivisation funding for UCT academics and departments through competitive bids for course and programme development from a common funding pool

  • centrally managed infrastructure investment, including platform development and enhancements, capacity building and evaluation.

This project is an opportunity to innovate in online and blended learning and to strengthen online education capacity. UCT is committed to improving access and reach, and using online methods to address key teaching and learning challenges. The first call in 2018 attracted 34 expressions of interest, of which seven proposals were funded. In 2019, the second call resulted in 29 Expressions of Interest, with five proposals being selected for development in 2020. The interruption of regular academic activities due to the Covid19 crisis has meant that no new development projects were taken on in 2020. For more information or updates please contact sukaina.walji@uct.ac.za.

How to participate

Annually UCT academics and departments are invited to submit an expression of interest for support and seed funding to develop formal credit-bearing online courses or programmes at UCT. The dates of applications for submissions have not yet been published for 2021.

Viable expressions of interest will be offered support in the following ways:

  • assistance to develop the full proposal and documentation for accreditation as an online qualification (if needed)

  • assistance to scope and develop a budget

  • funding to investigate feasibility through market research

  • funding for staff time and/or academic buyout

  • online course and curriculum design support

  • video and visual materials production

  • planning student engagement and support

  • support for building a course/programme on a suitable online learning environment

  • training to run online courses and support students

  • support and advice for appointing the appropriate support staff (eg job descriptions for online coaches/facilitators, instructional designers).

The following criteria will be applied when evaluating the expressions of interest:

  • motivation: why this programme/course is suitable for a blended/online mode

  • an estimation of the likely demand

  • motivation of anticipated impacts of offering programmes/courses in an online mode (revenue, improved student outcomes, etc).

  • evidence of capacity – availability of a team willing to work on the development of the programme/ course (for the sustainability of the enterprise, there should be more than one academic involved)

  • the support of the head of department.

Please note:

  • For undergraduate courses, the committee will be particularly looking at improving learning and student success, especially in large classes. Both blended and online modes will be considered.

  • For postgraduate programmes, the committee will consider whether there will be sufficient demand for the proposed programme to scale, achieve maximum sustainability and whether new markets will be reached. It is envisaged that postgraduate diplomas will be most appropriate for this format, although professional masterʼs applications may be considered. Programmes currently running in block release modes may also be considered for offering in a fully online mode.

Please note that stand-alone postgraduate courses will not be considered.

If the expression of interest is supported, you will be invited to collaborate with the Institutional Planning Department and the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) to develop a proposal (including a budget) before a final decision will be made to proceed with formal steps (such as programme accreditation). 

Why is UCT investing in formal online learning provision?

In September 2017, UCT adopted a new Online Education Policy to renew and innovate in learning and teaching, to increase access to and success in quality education. The policy recognises that “higher education in general is moving towards flexible forms of provision, and increasingly includes mixes of blended and fully online provision in various configurations”. It commits us to strengthening our capacity to support online delivery of courses and programmes.

The policy reaffirms UCT’s orientation towards residential undergraduate teaching, while also encouraging experimentation with the use of technology to enhance learning. Fully online provision at postgraduate level is particularly suitable for working professionals or those requiring flexibility for participation in higher education. The Global Pandemic has emphasised the urgency of embracing technology enabled education as part of the future of higher education - see #unleash teaching and learning to create the UCT of the future.

Who decides about the funding?

The Online Education Sub-Committee, part of UCT’s Senate Teaching and Learning Committee, established in terms of the policy, will consider the Expressions of Interests and make decisions about funding. The sub-committee has representatives from all the faculties and key institutional role players.  

How formal online courses fit into our current course provision

This project supports developing online courses in the formal credit-bearing band and enables innovation in teaching from conventional to flexible modes.

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