The University of Cape Town launched the UCT Online High School in July 2021 with a mission to unleash Africa’s potential by expanding access to quality high school education at an affordable price. The UCT Online High School is delivered in partnership with Valenture Institute, a Cape Town-based edtech company.
In January 2022, the school welcomed its inaugural cohort of learners on its National Senior Certificate (NSC) programme across grades 8 to 11, finishing the year with over 4,000 enrolled learners.
At the start of 2023, UCT Online High School commenced with its first matric class and launched the most affordable Cambridge International Curriculum in Africa, as well as its Adult Matric Curriculum for learners over the age of 21.
Being an online school with thousands of learners, UCT Online High School has access to millions of data points to inform its approach to continuous improvement. “As an online school, we take great care to analyse the learning data that we have available to inform our product roadmap,” says Banele Lukhele, executive head of the school and chief academic officer.
The school announced a range of enhancements that would be rolled out at the beginning of the new school year, one of which is a first-of-its-kind mobile app for parents.
While there are many mobile apps on the market geared towards keeping parents informed of school updates, there are few that provide a view into a learner’s day-to-day learning analytics or that have been custom-built to complement a school’s unique approach to support.
“The UCT OHS ConnectED app is intended to open up a window into a learner’s learning behaviour, and it offers parents a convenient way to stay informed and reach out for support when it’s needed,” says Phillipa Haw, Director of Student Success.
The UCT OHS ConnectED app drives higher parent engagement
The features of the ConnectED app include:
- A data dashboard of a learner’s module progress for the courses in which they are enrolled, including those that are completed, overdue or upcoming
- A view of assessments due this week.
- Weekly summary report.
- Internal Tests and Exams Schedule.
- The ability to launch a WhatsApp conversation with a learner’s support coach directly from the app.
- Access to an Info Hub resource bank.
- Push notifications can alert a parent or guardian if their child misses a deadline or requires intervention.
Since launching ConnectED on all major app stores at the start of the year, more than two-thirds of parents have downloaded it, leading to significantly higher engagement rates than the previous school year.
“This is most likely due to the convenience of accessing information you need right from your mobile device. Our parent community is on the go, and we have been analysing ways in which we can ensure that they can engage easily with the school,” says Sipho Mpisane, Head of School for NSC.
UCT Online High School is investing in features that enhance what it calls the “learning triad,” which describes how the learner, parent and school need to work together meaningfully to enable the success of the learner.
The impact of parental involvement on student academic achievement has been well researched, with it now being considered one of the most integral parts of educational reforms and initiatives.
UCT OHS ConnectED app roadmap
When asked about what is likely to be on the ConnectED app’s roadmap, Chief Technology Officer of Valenture Institute, Andi Friedman, said that “the UCT Online High School team were prioritising more live views and data summaries for parents to better understand their child’s learning behavior. In time, we also want parents to be able to handle more of their communication with the school from within the app.”
UCT Online High School’s leadership is committed to leveraging data to inform its product roadmap. “We have the benefit of truly understanding what drives learner and guardian behaviour. We’re dealing with big data sets, and with the right analyses, we can target interventions that drive the right outcomes while keeping the cost of schooling down.
“This is an important part of our ethos: finding ways to afford our specialists, whether it’s learning facilitators, support coaches, counsellors, or subject specialists, the opportunity to do what only they can do as humans,” says Lukhele. The school said that guardians could expect some upgrades to the app later this year.
Head to their website to find out more about how you can join the school of the future.
Get to know Banele Lukhele – UCT Online High School’s Executive Head Of School and Chief Academic Officer