Challenges and opportunities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in rural-based institutions of higher education in South Africa
In higher education, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a dramatic increase in remote teaching and learning worldwide. It has challenged traditional teaching and learning methods to their core. Digital technology has been identified as necessary for remote teaching and learning in higher education contexts, especially in developing countries. However, many institutions in rural areas are faced with difficulties in implementing efficient remote teaching and learning. The study sought to discuss and bring awareness to the challenges and opportunities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in rural-based institutions of higher education in South Africa. Due to the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the pandemic, the study used document analysis as a methodology. The study adopted Colaizzi’s phenomenological data analysis method. A thematic analysis was used, framing the study in terms of the following themes
1. Studying without essential resources (devices)
2. Challenges with internet bundles
3. Teaching first-year in a Foreign Language in higher education during the COVID-19
4. Online teaching and learning engagement.
The findings of this paper reveal that first-year students from rural regions had difficulties with online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was attributed to the fact that many students were not comfortable with foreign languages such as English. The paper concludes by affirming that remote teaching and learning have sparked uncertainty about the future of students in rural-based institutions of higher education that do not have the infrastructure for remote teaching and learning.
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