Passing matric with an exemption? Studying online is the way to go

Distance learning at Stadio Higher Education is a reliable way to ensure your academic future even amid the pandemic

25 January 2021 - 13:22
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Distance or online learning holds many benefits for students in SA.
Image: 123RF/sasinparaksa Distance or online learning holds many benefits for students in SA.

The 2020 matric results are due in February, but the future remains uncertain even for those who gain a bachelor’s pass, or university exemption, as SA’s legacy tertiary education system cannot accommodate every qualified matriculant — a situation compounded by Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

Yet the employment rate for South Africans with a tertiary qualification is 30 percentage points higher than for those who have only a matric pass, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

Only a shift to online learning will open more doors for matriculants, says Stadio Higher Education chief academic officer Divya Singh. “Best-practice blended learning, which is a mix of online and in-person learning, is a winner all round. It allows more students to study, and do so more cost effectively, from where they need to be.”

In 2020, four private SA higher-education institutions — Southern Business School, Embury, Lisof and Prestige Academy — were consolidated into Stadio to offer both contact and distance learning across several faculties and campuses.

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Stadio now offers more than 50 accredited qualifications across five faculties — commerce, administration and management; education; arts and design; science and technologies; and law — and 10 campuses in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town for more than 20,000 students. 

Classes are taught both online and in person to let students qualify in ways that suit them from wherever they are based. There is a straightforward online admissions process without application fees, and places are available right up until a course starts.

And while only 10 of SA’s 26 public universities could complete the 2020 academic year in time due to coronavirus-related delays, Stadio wrapped up its academic year in November 2020 – an achievement matched only by the universities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Distance learning is here to stay

In August 2020, vice-chancellors from the universities of Cape Town, Pretoria and the Witwatersrand discussed the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on tertiary education. They agreed that many students performed better via distance learning than through face-to-face studies, and that SA universities had to start adapting to such new teaching methods made possible by technology. 

Because Stadio follows best practice in online learning, its courses were already Covid-19 compliant even before the pandemic. So, despite the lockdown regulations, its students have thrived academically. 

Singh believes this shift to online learning will make quality tertiary education more widely accessible in SA. “It can allow more students to study, and it allows them to study more cost effectively from where they need to be,” she says. 

Possible downsides include the need for self-discipline; a reliance on technology that might not be affordable or available to many in SA; and the essential role of hands-on training in some courses. “But these are all remediable with the smart use of technology, good funding models and blended learning that puts some classroom work into the mix,” says Singh.

“With proper systems, good technology and adaptable teaching staff, we can actually improve standards and make sure we more effectively look after students who may be struggling.”

Singh adds that Stadio’s range of credible qualifications is designed with the workplace in mind. “We’re focused on providing rigorous, affordable and practical qualifications that produce employable outcomes for students.”

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This article was paid for by Stadio.