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To help bridge the gap between high school life and the university life, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) will be hosting a virtual Orientation Week for first-year students from Wednesday, 10 to Saturday, 13 March 2021.  

Mzwandile Khumalo1The orientation week will be held after the online registration for first-year students which will resume on Monday, 1 March 2021. Orientation will end just in time to prepare for the online and multimodal learning which will commence on Monday, 15 March 2021.  

The university has made it clear in all its internal and external communication that the 2021 registration will only be held online. Registration for returning students will resume next Monday, 22 February 2021. Research Masters and Doctoral registration began on Monday, 1 February 2021. No walk-in applications or enquiries will be permitted on campus. Only DUT staff and students with valid permits will be allowed to enter the university property. 

The orientation programme is designed to introduce and orientate first-year students to the range of services, facilities and aspect of university life unique to DUT. It is a project of “Sikusekele” (We Got You) under curatorship of the Dean of Students, Dr Maditsane Nkonoane, which seeks to foster integration amongst all departments within the DUT eco-system, to ensure seamless and energised support for students. The orientation is a joint initiative by various departments namely, Student Governance and Development, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Student Housing and Residence-Life and many other departments that are directly involved with students. 

First-Year Student Experience and Residence Educational Programme Coordinator, Mzwandile Khumalo said traditionally the orientation programme is done through contact session, however the COVID-19 pandemic has pivoted the transition to online learning. 

“This has also allowed us to reimagine the Orientation week and the approach towards student support and development, whilst ensuring the true meaning of student transition and integration as described by the likes of Tinto and Chickering scheme of theorem. We want to give first-year students, the same feel and support, through live sessions. The orientation week will be both Synchronous and Asynchronous, as we understand that our prospective students may be coming from different backgrounds,” said Khumalo. 

He said they have also considered the issue of data and devices, therefore resorted to the use of low-tech, text base and also pre-recording all sessions so that students can always revisit the Orientation page. Khumalo further explained that they have redesigned the approach of the orientation through three phases: 

Pre-Orientation Education: “How to” short motion graphics presentations, mainly on accessing registration, timetables, moodle and the DUT page, these can easily be shared on social media platforms. 

Orientation week: Including the Vice-Chancellor’s welcome, Parent’s Day and presentations from all the other departments. 

Post-Orientation:  Through the “Adapt 101” Moodle and MS Teams classroom, where they will be doing follow-ups and also keeping the students engaged. Students who will finish the orientation, as aforementioned, will receive a certification of completion. This is something the student can be proud of as their first certificates at DUT. 

Khumalo emphasised that the other important element of the Orientation is that they have ensured that it is friendly for students who are differently-abled. He said they are working with sign language interpreters and all recordings will have subtitles as well. 

Pictured: Orientation Week poster 

Pictured: Mzwandile Khumalo, First-Year Student Experience and Residence Educational Programme Coordinator.

Simangele Zuma 

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