Stellenbosch University: SU and edX partner to increase access to high quality online education

Stellenbosch University (SU) is proud to announce its partnership with edX, a leading global online learning platform from 2U, Inc. As an edX partner, SU – like some of the world’s top academic institutions, NGOs and organisations – will be able to host fully online courses via a platform that features over 44 million students across 196 countries. The University’s pilot course series will go live in July 2022.

Prof Wim de Villers, Vice-Chancellor of SU, said they are proud to partner with edX. “edX and SU are aligned in their ethos of human-centric education through learning about, and responding to, the needs within the education space. The people in our respective organisations strive to promote pathways to better, more meaningful livelihoods for lifelong students.”

The ‘StellenboschX’ course portfolio (hosted on the international edX platform) is set to include a wide range of disciplines. These offerings will both showcase SU’s academic and research expertise and demonstrate a responsiveness to the evolving needs of contemporary, adult students. The portfolios will include both paid-for (certificate-bearing) professional certificates and open courses that can be completed at no charge.

Prof Deresh Ramjugernath, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching at SU, said the partnership with edX will have a far-reaching impact.

“This means in real terms that students from across the world with their diverse backgrounds and fields can access the unique Stellenbosch University offering and potentially forge networks across these previous geographic barriers. These future networks have the potential to catalyse new ideas, processes and outputs to improve community and society,” Ramjugernath said.

Hybrid learning (HL)

The partnership forms part of SU’s hybrid learning strategy, which has been implemented since mid- 2020. This strategy involves SU employing the full potential of digital learning technologies, as well as expanding the University’s internal instructional design capacity. The nett result strives to align SU’s academic offering with the evolving needs of a wider student market.

Dr Antoinette van der Merwe, Senior Director for Learning and Teaching Enhancement at SU, said the University is committed to explore different learning pathways and modes of provision to serve current and future students.

“As a residential university, SU will continue to serve its on-campus students but will also aim – through its HL strategy – to ensure its course offerings are increasingly accessible to international students, working professionals, lifelong students and students whose personal circumstances do not allow them to regularly commute to (or reside on) campus.”

The edX-hosted ‘StellenboschX’ course portfolio will support this strategy by including flexible, fully online courses that are freely available, as well those that involve a paid-for option to earn a certificate for successful completion. The very first StellenboschX offering, the Strategic Human Resources Management (HRM) Xseries, is an example of such a series of online courses that provide the students access to in-demand skills development, as well as the opportunity to earn a StellenboschX certificate as evidence of their learning.

This pilot course series (launching in July 2022) is based on one of SU’s first official hybrid learning programmes – the highly successful Strategic Human Management Resources (HRM) postgraduate diploma – and will offer students a blend of academic and practitioner insights as they are guided through a highly engaging yet flexible and self-paced learning experience. To develop the series, the hybrid learning instructional design team has partnered with the Department of Industrial Psychology to curate content from the existing postgraduate qualification and supplement it with material and learning activities that will speak to an international market of online students.

The SU development team is further guided by the edX support infrastructure, which include access to rich market intelligence and pedagogical insights on accessible online learning design. In preparation of the launch of its first course, Kabelo Serutle, VP and General Manager 2U, has been collaborating closely with the SU hybrid learning team.

“The launch of StellenboschX is a testament to the University’s commitment to academic innovation and supporting its diverse group of students,” said Serutle. “We look forward to welcoming Stellenbosch University to the edX family and continuing to collaborate on this program to make education accessible and affordable for students.”