Despite being a distance education school the University of South Africa (Unisa) still used to do certain things in person, with one of them being new student orientation. With the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown still continuing, Unisa has moved this activity online too.

Earlier this month the orientation took place on Microsoft Teams, a first for the university in this regard.

“The aim of the workshop was to provide new students with relevant information about learning online and Unisa support services – especially, how to access them remotely under the unique and challenging circumstances typifying the 2020 academic year due to the pandemic,” writes Diksha Lala, the administrative officer, Counselling and Career Development Unit for the Gauteng Region.

Students from Gauteng and other provinces also received more information about how Unisa works as a university together with a question and answer session where questions were answered live.

While orientation usually gets a bad rap in the education world it really is needed for Unisa. It can be difficult to navigate the school’s online systems to do important tasks, especially with the lack of support students have now with its campuses closed.

Those closures are also a big reason why the event went online.

“Traditionally, after each registration cycle, Unisa’s Gauteng Region holds face-to-face student orientation workshops for first-time registered students at its five regional centres,” Lala continues.

Hopefully this extra online help will be of use to new students who started their courses now as the second semester is shorter than the first.

While this is promising it is happening during a rough time at Unisa. In the first semester of 2020 examinations – which were also usually written in person by students – were moved online. Results from these were delayed causing problems with registration for this second semester now.

To add to this Unisa is still being reviewed by a ministerial task team on behalf of Blade Nzimande.