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As a distance learning institute, service delivery to students is a critical component in order for education objectives to be met and surpassed. But, how can the university take the distance out of distance learning in order to achieve this? Ekurhuleni Region held their inaugural open day at Daveyton Campus from 6 to 7 July 2012, to address and help students with their concerns.
A large contingent of people attended the open day, eager to find out about prospective courses or information regarding their current studies. The pilot project was rolled out by Corporate Communications and Marketing with a view to expand the programme to other areas. Colleges and departments, including the College of Education, Advocacy and Resource Centre for Students with Disabilities, and Alumni Association were invited to market their respective courses and assist with queries.
“We decided to have this so that you can interact with the people who provide you with services.” Mayeshibe Setlatjile, corporate marketer, outlined the focus of the programme, while describing the history of the university and the origins of Open Distance Learning. He referred to students as major stakeholders and said the main objective was to facilitate assistance for them.
Richard Chauke, Deputy Director for Student Administration and Financial Aid Support in the Gauteng Region, stressed that they respected students’ challenges. “We are always at your service and we see you as a partner and not a cash cow.” He also explained that it was necessary for those enrolled to strive for excellence rather than just be satisfied with 50% passes, which he believes is related to success and obtaining careers after studying. Selatjile summed up that outlook. “For any country to succeed or move forward is when the students think beyond their degrees.”
The spotlight, however, was not just on current and prospective students, but alumni as well. With enrollees numbering in the hundreds of thousands, the university boasts a plethora of graduates who have gone on to become extremely successful in their careers. Millicent Phathi, Convener for Alumni in the Ekurhuleni Region, explained that part of their mandate is to build a relationship and database of alumni, in order for them to act as support mechanisms to various programmes and initiatives. “Educating the public about the core functions of the university is also one of their main goals. We focus on hospitals, the poor, sick, who cannot and do not know how to get involved in Unisa. It is our goal, to make sure people with disabilities can also be involved.”
Some of the issues raised by students included study groups, financing, exam venues, computer lab access and security during an interactive question and answer session.
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