E-learning approval allows SAMTRA to offer online engineering course – with 100% success


There was a rare silver lining to COVID-19 in Simon’s Town, where a long-awaited online learning format enabled engineering recruits to pass their course at the South African Maritime Training Academy (SAMTRA) despite being in hard lockdown.

SAIMI’s latest intake of recruits to their Marine Engineer programme faced a demoralizing delay due to the unexpected hard lockdown in March. The recruits, drawn from across the country for the state-funded programme, were half way through the course when SAMTRA halted training as per the level five conditions. Like almost everybody else they found themselves stranded, in their case in accommodation organized by the programme organisers.

However quick thinking and timely intervention by both SAMTRA and the South African Maritime Safety Authority resulted in the recruits being able to resume their studies via a SAMSA-approved e-learning platform, much to the delight of SAMTRA academic head David Wolfaardt: “We had to shut down and we appealed to SAMSA,” said Wolfaardt, who has been a vocal advocate of distance learning for some time. “SAMSA gave us the nod.”

Instead of sending the recruits home SAMTRA were able to fast-track online course content, which ultimately proved successful – all the recruits passed. “We basically used any possible means available. We had Whatsapp groups set up and we would send them emails, readings, Zoom lectures, podcast presentations.  There was a whole combination of various methods of E-learning,” Wolfaardt said.

Once lockdown ended the recruits were able to return to the classroom to finish the course as per health guidelines.

Instead of returning home and having to restart the course from scratch, the students are now ready for the next stage of their careers.

The experience has proved a litmus test for e-learning and accelerated the process of formalizing e-learning. Said Wolfaardt: “SAMSA has now put together policy and we had a new marine notice last month – they will approve online training and step by step there is a group of courses they approve.”

“We are taking a step in the right direction,” Wolfaardt said.

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