Just a month after launching a brand new website, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has been recognised as one of the world’s foremost universities leading the way to web-based learning, according to Webometrics Ranking Web of Universities 2021.
The Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, published by the Cybermetrics Lab, is a ranking system for the world's universities based on both the volume of Web content and the visibility and impact of web publications according to the number of external inlinks (site citations) they receive. The aim of the ranking is to improve the presence of the academic and research institutions on the Web and to promote the open access publication of scientific results.
“Knowledge is power - and that power is needed now more than ever,” said UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Tyrone Pretorius. “At UWC, we produce knowledge that matters - and we believe in sharing that knowledge with the world to help produce the leaders of tomorrow. By investing in the web, we’re investing in building a better future.”
The ranking started in 2004 and is updated every January and July, and provides Web indicators for more than 12,000 universities worldwide. According to the January 2021 Webometrics rankings, UWC is ranked 6th in South Africa, 8th in Africa and 856th in the entire world.
The University of the Western Cape is no stranger to international ranking recognition. As UWC celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, the University has been repeatedly recognised as one of the world’s premier higher education institutions:
in the URAP top 1000 universities rankings;
the US News & World Report 2020 Best Global Universities rankings; and,
The Webometrics recognition is welcome, but perhaps not surprising - UWC always has been a leader when it comes to the web. The university has blazed a trail with e-learning, and has long been dedicated to the principles of open access.
And with the COVID-19 pandemic moving education away from campus, the university has continued to innovate.
“This is a time to reflect on how we do that: how we teach, what we teach, who we teach - and who we are as teachers,” said Professor Vivienne Lawack, UWC’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic. “There was a lot of creativity and innovation that came with us having to go online, and I think the big challenge for us is not to just go back to the way we were.”
Some of UWC’s online innovations during the pandemic include:
|1. Interactive Learning Environments: There are many ways to learn online - reading notes, watching videos or listening to podcasts, online quizzes, using Google Docs and WhatsApp groups to collaborate on assignments. The trick is to let students have as many opportunities to achieve success as they can. UWC’s Learning Management System (LMS), Sakai platform (branded as iKamva at UWC), has been ranked globally as the top Open-LMS for its user experience since 2019.|
|2. Virtual Labs For Real Results: Many students leave high school without any real laboratory experience. But UWC’s Faculty of Natural Sciences has found a way to level the playing field, by pioneering a partnership with Learning Science UK to provide students with access to virtual laboratory pre-pracs. The interactive material focuses on laboratory techniques with the aim of better-preparing students entering undergraduate practical laboratories, reducing time in the lab - and the inevitable waste and breakages that comes with it.|
|3. Augmented & Virtual Reality - A Better Learning World: Augmented Reality enables users to overlay hardware devices such as mobile phones in a real-world setting where complementary 3D objects can be experienced interactively. Virtual Reality allows visual immersion of users in a simulated 3D context, which is now supported by smartphones, complementary head-mounted gear or special glasses. And thanks to a partnership with EON Reality, UWC has pioneered AR/VR in higher education in South Africa.|
“From humble origins as a ‘bush university’, UWC has grown to firmly establish itself as one of the top tier of South African universities - while staying true to the institution’s commitment to access,” Prof Pretorius said. “Working together, UWC has gone from a small “Bush college” to a research-led learning and teaching powerhouse. And with the help of our partners in South Africa and abroad, we will continue to help future generations move from hope to action, through knowledge.”