There has been an increase in the amount of time that MUT students are spending on online course activities since MUT announced the zero-rating of data services agreement with CellC, MTN, Telkom and Vodacom a week ago.
The agreement has enabled staff and students to access Blackboard Learning Management System (https://mutelearn.mut.ac.za), Moodle Learning Management System (https://moodle.mut.ac.za), MUT corporate website (https://www.mut.ac.za and https://www.mut.ac.za/virtualcampus) and ITS iEnabler Student System (https://ierp.mut.ac.za/pls/prodi03/w99pkg.mi_login) without any data charge using the four mobile service providers.
Many students had in the past raised concerns about the cost of data being one of the barriers that would prevent them from fully participating in online teaching and learning.
“One of the concerns from the student community has been the data issue which hindered the process of students being able to access the learning materials online. I believe that zero rating has helped MUT in addressing that concern moving closer to also addressing the issue raised by the DHET in terms of providing equal opportunities to learning for all students. This however does not mean that MUT is comfortable that every student has access to the learning material but we see it as a stepping stone towards that,” said Cebo Nyondo, E-Learning and Educational Technology Specialist at the Teaching and Learning Development Centre.
The agreement has come as a relief for students, many of whom could not afford the cost of data needed for one to fully engage with course materials online. “On average a student could be using close to 200mb a day and this depends on the type of course materials (which also include videos and mp3),” said Nyondo.
Nyondo also explained that although there are statistics indicating that over 12,000 students and staff were accessing the online teaching and learning platforms over a month, the number was “not an indication that the students are receptive of online learning”. The zero-data rating has meant that the cost of data is no longer a factor in determining the amount of time students spend on course material online.
The wider access to teaching and learning material online will also go a long way in encouraging academics who were also concerned about access for their students.
“It has now become easier to motivate academics to develop their materials online as the issue of access by students has been partly addressed,” said Nyondo.