UJ community making the most of lockdown by future-proofing themselves with free digital certificates from Coursera

Staff and students at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) have been making the most of the COVID-19 lockdown period by enrolling and completing Coursera online courses.

Coursera, the world’s leading online learning platform, earlier this year launched a COVID-19 campus response and invited institutions all over the world to participate by offering free licenses. Since securing 10,000 licenses from Coursera as part of their COVID-19 Campus initiative in May 2020, UJ has been breaking multiple records with Coursera. The UJ community has enrolled in almost 18,000 courses to date, which translates into over 60,000 learning hours and over 70,000 lessons.

“UJ’s enrolments outrank all other South African institutions and leads the way! The appetite and response to this initiative has been overwhelming and our community response is the highest and most active in South Africa.” says Prof Saurabh Sinha, UJ’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation.

“COVID-19 lockdown period has seen an influx of technologies and UJ has had exceptional uptake by staff and students. The online approach has catalysed the university’s strive for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which brings together, in a multidisciplinary manner, a confluence of technologies.

“These technologies include artificial and augmented intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies respond to, among others, an approach for economic stimulus for a world where we co-exist with COVID-19 or for the ‘post’ COVID-19 period,” Prof Sinha continued.

To harness the multiplier effect of AI, for a transdisciplinary world, the University has partnered with Coursera and some 10,000 licenses were offered. These licenses have a financial worth exceeding US $2.5bn.

These licenses have had excellent uptake by our students and staff. In relation to COVID-19 and 4IR, we remain pleased by the educational quest and this transdisciplinary enablement. In line with UJ’s strategic forward-thinking and future-proofing agenda, the UJ response to the types of Coursera courses are overwhelmingly 4IR related.

We are on the future-forward track with skills development in Industry 4.0-type cutting-edge areas, such as; product and design, entrepreneurship, business psychology, strategy and operations, leadership and management, and many more.

In terms of our course selection response when compared to global trends, the UJ community has enrolled mostly in business-type courses, followed by computer and data science courses. On the Social Media platform LinkedIn, UJ staff and students have been posting their digital Coursera certificates achieved over the lockdown period from over 200 institutions globally.

Mlungisi Masilele a first year Accountancy student, did not wait for a second invitation to jump on the opportunity and has completed over 20 Coursera courses to date. On why he is being so active on Coursera, he says: “It is because I wanted to accumulate more knowledge and skills, especially in accounting, business environments, and I also wanted to boost my CV and make it attractive for my career during this pandemic.”

He has the following message to fellow students: “I can encourage them to join these courses because they are free, and it really helps a lot. It is a boost to your knowledge and skills in terms of reasoning, accounting, research, nature, the environment and you learn what is happening around the world. For me what I can say is that it’s been a blessing during this lockdown because I managed to achieve and accumulate a lot of things which I did not expect at all at the beginning of the year.”

Anthony Tattersall, Head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Coursera says, “We are thrilled to be partnering with the University of Johannesburg to help them provide job-relevant online learning to students. Amongst all the disruptions that COVID-19 has posed us, there are opportunities. Rethinking what the future of education should look like and adopting an approach that helps us improve it is one of them. The University of Johannesburg has seized the opportunity and we look forward to seeing them grow as our partnership develops.”

Dr Sonja Brink, Research Associate in the South Africa Research Chair: Integrated Studies of Learning Language, Science and Mathematics in the Primary School, Faculty of Education, and Associate Editor of the South African Journal of Childhood Education, says she decided to make full use of the Coursera opportunity to broaden her knowledge base pertaining to her field of work.

Dr Brink wanted to broaden her knowledgebase on aspects of school health and inclusive education in order to be able to assess the increasing number of articles which we receive on these topics: “I enrolled in a ‘specialisation’ which comprises a portfolio of four courses, offered by the University of Colorado. This gave me a solid understanding of managing asthma, autism, ADHD, allergies, diabetes, seizures, concussion and nutrition in schools.

Finally, since the COVID-19 pandemic will be impacting children’s lives in ways that we might not be able to fully comprehend at present, I enrolled in a course offered by the University of Minnesota which offers global perspectives on ‘Resilience in children exposed to trauma, disaster and war’. This has given me new insight into best practices for schools and communities with regard the effects of trauma on children.”

Mrs Annatjie Pretorius, Senior-coordinator in the Literacies Development division of the Academic Development Centre (ADC) saw Coursera as an opportunity to encourage her students to enrol in Coursera courses for credit.

“I jumped at the Coursera opportunity for my students as a mode of optional enrichment as I teach an academic support module to first year extended degree students. The wide range of topics and the flexible time frames rendered these courses suitable for the purpose of enrichment without overburdening the existing workload,” says Mrs Pretorius.

Students report that the courses are ‘worth it’, that they have ‘learned a lot.’ A student who enrolled for the Financial Planning for Young Adults course reports that it “was not difficult but it really challenged the way I think. Thank you once again for this unique opportunity.”

There are only a few weeks left to participate so please make the most of this valuable opportunity by signing up right now with your UJ email address: https://coursera.org/programs/university-of-johannesburg-on-coursera-zp2eu

If you have any questions or queries, please feel free to contact Ms Liana Meadon from ADC on lianam@uj.ac.za and we will be happy to assist you.


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