As 2020 draws to a close there’s a lot to reflect on. You’d be forgiven for feeling disengaged, unmotivated and somewhat lonely. With the vaporisation of face-to-face contact and the demands of social distancing, it’s not surprising people are feeling depleted by the year’s myriad challenges.
For some, however, the extraordinarily difficult circumstances of the past 10-12 months have inspired constructive shifts that have also brought about many positives. The acceleration of online learning is one of them.
Fortunately for SACAP students, not only did SACAP respond swiftly to the changing learning landscape, it continues to harness the power of the internet by amalgamating remote and real-time education into programmes that suit each individual student’s needs.
Trent Cairns, 21, is studying part-time for his Bachelor of Applied Social Science at SACAP’s Durban campus. Like many other students, unsettling uncertainty has pockmarked his year. Trent’s situation is made all the more challenging by the fact that he has cerebral palsy – his journey to this point in his academic career is nothing short of remarkable.
Hindered by the austerity of the pandemic, 2020 could not have been easy for him. We caught up with his mom, Shenley Cairns, and asked her to weigh in on the support SACAP offered its students to mitigate the disruptions emblematic of this exceptionally unpredictable year.
Shenley on SACAP Adapting to change
Right from the outset of Trent’s course Shenley says SACAP was very encouraging and accommodating. The modified methods the college used to deal with the pandemic have had a positive impact on his study path, too, she adds.
“We were so impressed at the beginning of lockdown. SACAP adapted quickly in comparison to universities – within just a week Trent was taking online lectures. Also, Trent said SACAP sent help to students without Wi-Fi, which makes you feel that the institution really does care.”
Similar to SACAP’s concern for others, Trent’s genuine heart-felt passion for people is what inspired him to enrol in his psychology degree. Giving hope to others, especially those with disabilities, is something he is passionate about.
“The educational psychologist we saw said that since he loves people he should learn how people think and why they make the decisions they do,” explains Shenley. “SACAP was recommended because it would be supportive of his condition. We did some research first and spoke to people in the higher educational sphere. They spoke very highly of SACAP.”
Shenley’s son is Staying the course
Despite the turbulence of 2020 Trent managed to complete and pass the first year of his Bachelor of Applied Social Science, an achievement that makes his mother very proud. “He has done incredibly well and has adapted amazingly to online learning,” she says. “He is a self-motivated student and we haven’t had to remind him once to do assignments. He knows exactly when lectures are and we are completely comfortable that he has not missed out academically.”
Trent has chosen to study for his Bachelor of Applied Social Science part time. “We wanted to give him a chance to get used to the rigours of higher education,” says Shenley. “He did have a teacher assistant with him at school because of his cerebral palsy, however, he has coped extremely well without any extra help.
Notably Shenley feels SACAP’s adapted techniques of teaching during the pandemic have helped her son’s progress. “We had insisted that he take notes during actual lectures and because he can’t really write we had to ask permission for him to record and then transcribe from there. With virtual lectures, however, they are available online and he can go over them again in that format. Trent definitely learns by listening rather than reading so in fact it suits him.”
Despite being physically separated from his peers Shenley feels that SACAP has done its best to make online lectures engaging and interactive. “I have seen Trent sitting there for a few hours and talking. I think that the lecturers have been really good,” she affirms.
Nothing can replace forging social connections in person, though, admits Shenley. “We have felt bad that he has not had the full college experience and enjoyed a time of making friends – apart from the first term. I think being in a class is better as he and his fellow students might be more open and communicative in a classroom setting.”
The desire for more face-to-face interaction during the on going COVID-19 restrictions is common among many students grappling with the rigidity of our new normal. The good news is that SACAP has sought out and developed three creative solutions that embrace future learning trends: On Campus, Online Flexi and Online Live.
As part of its commitment to a person-centred approach to education SACAP’s new blended learning opportunities not only accommodate the challenges bestowed on us by the pandemic, they enhance academic autonomy. Now that’s forward thinking!
Whether you prefer the flexibility of exclusive online learning or you’re someone like Trent who benefits from interacting and collaborating with educators and fellow students, but is also happy to engage with virtual learning activities, then SACAP’s new study options could be right up your academic alley.
With the rollercoaster ride that was 2020 almost behind us it’s encouraging to know that there are progressive learning systems to look forward to. Find out more here.