Support for NMMU students in Central

MARCH 15, 2016

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) is opening a 24-hour computer laboratory on its Bird Street Campus to assist an increasing number of its students living in the metro’s Central area.

NMMU will also hand over 250 tablets to students at the 15 March launch in line with the University’s commitment towards widening access in an ever-growing technological era.

“Many of our students cannot afford their own devices or not always easily access computer facilities when off campus. With a growing emphasis on blended learning, we’re constantly seeking solutions in this regard,” says NMMU’s Chief Information Officer Dr Sam Bosire.

With 3 300 students living in accredited off-campus accommodation in Central and many others living in private facilities in the area, NMMU has introduced a dedicated lab with 43 computers in the Felsted Building on its Bird Street Campus.

The 24-hour facility, which also makes provision for students with disabilities, will be manned by the University’s ICT Services.

The latter has made major strides in providing infrastructure to enable staff and students to keep up with the demands of a 21st century university by providing intercampus connectively, WiFi across all campuses with about 800 wireless access points, and in providing 3 700 PCs in computer labs.  

Once home to the University’s Business School, the historic Bird Street Campus is now a thriving arts and culture hub for postgraduate students and for music pupils. It is also home to the University’s own art gallery and an innovation hub for art students wishing to take their creations to market.

The introduction of the computer lab will further enhance the vibrancy of the campus.

According to Dr Bosire, all of NMMU’s campuses have their own laboratories. Given the increasing number of students living in the city’s historic heart, it was imperative to offer them a laboratory too – and save them the inconvenience of travelling to either North or South campuses.

Similarly, and in line with the Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) model, NMMU is to distribute 250 tablets to students according to previously agreed-upon criteria. On average, over 11 000 devices at NMMU access the WiFi network during peak hours.

“The University recognises the challenges faced by many students and is doing what it can to provide alternative mechanisms to bridge the digital divide,” said Dr Bosire.

The new lab makes provision for students using their own mobile devices offering ample seating space, electrical points for charging purposes and free WiFi.

A separate buzz room is available for students to do group work or enter into discussions so as not to disrupt the normal quiet laboratory space.

The introduction of the new laboratory and distribution of tablets is part of a bigger commitment to ensure that no academically deserving student is denied the opportunity of studying further.

This is also why NMMU introduced debt and down payment relief, and is one of the few universities to offer prospective students who fail to meet the criteria to study a particular programme, a second chance through its testing system. If students fall outside of the required Admission Point Score but fall within the testing band criteria, then they are invited to write a test to see if they have the potential to succeed in their chosen diploma or degree. Almost 40% of all graduates entered NMMU using this “second chance” method.