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The A to Z of being a digital student at SGI (eBook available)

BY: SGI|27 August 2019
BLOG| The digital student life



The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has seen the impact of innovation and technology expand into all spheres of human life, including the ways in which we learn. Stellenbosch Graduate Institute (SGI) offers the ideal digital environment for students learning and working in 4IR, providing a virtual world where they can thrive.


As SGI’s courses and facilities are completely online, you’ll be able to enjoy all the perks of student life while you work or pursue other interests. Plus, you’ll gain the essential human and technical skills – such as critical thinking, problem-solving, innovation, collaboration, and communication and information literacy – of the digital age. And, you’ll have a vibrant student life, meeting myriad like-minded, friendly folk from all over the world! There’s also the benefit of world-class lecturers and learning coaches to hold your hand every step of the way.


But what exactly does digital learning entail and is it really practical to study online?



As a 21st-century student, you’re probably used to rapid communication through multiple devices. While education in South Africa is still modelled on traditional forms of learning, the Department of Basic Education has placed great emphasis on technology and 4IR and it is also why so many South Africans are switching to private varsities. Here’s all you need to know about digital learning, whether you’re just starting out on your tertiary education journey or are looking to upskill within your workplace. 



The short answer is no, although digital learning is often confused with online, e-learning or blended learning. Here are the core differences between these four types of learning:

  • Online learning refers to obtaining a learning experience by using an internet connection.
  • E-learning involves students and educators interacting online.
  • Blended learning is a combination of traditional face-to-face instruction with online input from a remote teacher.
  • Digital learning combines online learning, e-learning, blended learning and offline learning using online resources.


SGI combines online and e-learning, with continuous interaction and strong practical components to every course.



Although most millennials interact digitally in their everyday lives, learning through a digital platform is different. It requires a time commitment and a motivational attitude on the part of the student. However, there are certain netiquette rules to follow. You’re ready to embark on your online learning journey if you:

  • Can manage your own expectations about the amount of work you can handle;
  • Are organised;
  • Can manage your own time effectively without anyone following up on you constantly;
  • Are able to identify your learning objectives upfront;
  • Are committed to your pursuit of learning; and
  • Can stay motivated to complete reading material and meet assignment deadlines without a reminder.


TIP! Click here to watch a video on how to have the best ever online study experience in South Africa.


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Ready to pursue online learning? It’s as easy as being computer literate and having access to an email address, computer and stable internet connection. Plus, SGI offers a combination of ways to learn that include:

  • Lecturers with industry experience that provide regular optional video tutorials;
  • Study guides with clear learning outcomes, study materials and activities;
  • Assessments, including multiple choice questions, short writing sections, individual and group presentations, and summative assessments;
  • A digital library with subject-relevant textbooks;
  • Online support in the form of online tutorials with a group tutor, activities and contact modules; and
  • A personal learning coach assigned to you to assist with any challenges during your course.

Read how Lwazi, a 23-year-old from a marketing executive from Gauteng, took an online project management course and how it positively impacted his life.



At SGI, we’re committed to helping you reach your goals – even while balancing a heavy professional workload with a personal life and your studies. The best way to prepare for online learning is to be disciplined and have a time management plan that works for you.


Not everyone is able to work a full eight-hour day then jump into their studies immediately. Here’s how to plan your studies to fit with your life:

  • Find pockets of time in your day, such as that 30 minutes you would normally spend surfing the net or watching a sitcom.
  • Stay focused on the task at hand as multitasking can decrease productivity.
  • Set a schedule that works with your most productive times. For example, if you like waking up early, try studying an hour before you need to head to the office.
  • Get a study buddy or group by reaching out to other people also taking the course and meeting up (in real life or virtually) for a Q&A session over a coffee.
  • Use your devices and commuting time to make the most of extra resources (such as videos, lecture podcasts and discussion boards).


TIP! Watch our video outlining these tips here



SGI uses a Learner Management System (LMS) platform, which is referred to as the SGI Online Campus. Here, you will find all your course materials, a digital library with thousands of books and other texts relevant to your studies as well as forums, discussion boards and tools to help you complete and submit your assigned tasks. Additionally, we also make use of Moodle, a free, open-source LMS that allows collaborative learning and teaching.



One of the benefits of learning through SGI is that we’ve combined e-pedagogy and transformative technology to allow you to study at your own pace and from anywhere you feel comfortable. At the outset, SGI’s main aim was to design our courses so that lessons are easy to digest, and every single lesson can be used in your personal life as well as your work environment – which is why all our lessons are in the form of short videos.


As 4IR is evolving, there’s more of a need for practical, ‘hit-the-ground-running’ skills than ever before. SGI’s courses fill that gap between the theoretical and practical by encouraging you to apply yourself and delivering content that is relatable, insightful, relevant and convenient. Being online means we can continuously update learning materials to reflect real-world events. That brings another dimension to creativity and problem-solving.


Here are 10 apps that can help you with your online studies!



As with any form of learning, engagement is key. At SGI, we assign students a learning coach who will always be your first point of contact. Your learning coach will help you reach your goal of successfully completing your course and can be contacted through the Ask the Learning Coach section of the Online Campus, which offers chat, email, phone call, webinar and forum discussions. You can also reach your learning coach via the instant messaging service on Moodle.


While learning coaches predominantly focus on providing students with support to successfully complete their studies, they are also able to assist with academics, emotional and technical support. Learning coaches are responsible for attending to each student’s individual needs. “I sometimes send students words of encouragement to motivate them to keep investing in their success. I use the webinar to deliver all the necessary information and as a support group session,” says our learning coach Palesa Paterson. “My biggest reward is when students successfully complete their course.”



Willem Pienaar is the Registrar at SGI and his core responsibility is accepting new students into the various courses available, ensuring students qualify for the course they are applying for, registering active students on various accreditation institutions and helping to manage student life so all students can enjoy their studies and obtain their certification. One of the ways Willem helps students enjoy a student life at SGI is through webinars. “We encourage discussions amongst peers, specifically to answer those pesky questions that usually crop up, as well as to enable social interaction,” he says. “We try to enhance the student experience to ensure that whatever you learn, you can apply to your everyday life. We also reward students with various digital badges to encourage studies and completion of their courses.”


Willem is also responsible for ensuring student records are securely stored in the student management system. SGI complies with the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 and has strict security and information protocols in place to ensure student records are backed up daily and only available to those required to view them.


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Now that you’ve decided to take the plunge into the exciting world of online learning, what can you expect from the experience? Dr Riaan Steenberg, chief learning officer at SGI, and learning coach Palesa break down the typical journey of an SGI student – from the moment you register to the day you receive your certification.



Once your application has been successful, you’ll receive an email from our Registrar with login details to the Online Campus. This platform includes navigation specific to you and breaks down your course week by week so you have a full overview of what’s to come and can track how far you are with your modules and coursework. Plus, you’ll have access to the SGI digital library so you can go beyond your subject modules and really delve deeply into your areas of interest.


Week 1: Your first lesson includes an online tutorial given by one of SGI’s lecturers as well as online activities. You quickly learn that online learning is not just about watching a video. You are asked to complete a reflection writing exercise about the video you’re watching and you realise you’ve massively underestimated the workload required for this course! You take a deep breath and realise you’ll need to pull up your socks and tell everyone you’re doing a course so they can give you the support and space you need to succeed. Then you get asked to take part in a webinar and realise you’re not quite sure what that is…

SGI Focus Webinar: As part of SGI’s student support system, we offer live online seminars by instructors. Students are encouraged to log in and participate, and will have the opportunity to ask questions, receive feedback and interact with other learners.


Weeks 2 and 3: Your first assessment will occur in your second week of studies so it’s important that you complete the work set out each week. At this stage, your learning coach reaches out to let you know you’re falling behind and have one outstanding assignment. She also provides you with useful tips on time management and your workload. You speak to your learning coach about ways of combining your work project with your coursework and, finally, you start to feel like you’re making progress! Next up is your weekly test. You have three opportunities to complete it. It’s odd to be able to retake a test so many times but you realise that the test is not only there to test your knowledge of the coursework but also the different ways that questions can be asked to get the same answer.

SGI Focus Learning Coach: More than just a tutor, a learning coach assists students beyond the content for each assessment. SGI offers each student a personal learning coach to help with challenges ranging from developing a learning style, study skills and schedule to reducing anxiety. Students can set up individual sessions with their coach to help them reach their goals – and start thinking about career prospects.


Weeks 4 and 5: You’re halfway of your module or short course! At this point, some of your modules are becoming more challenging – but you’re more than ready for it. Your learning coach offers some additional tips to help you get into a good routine and you start weaving your studies into your daily schedule, watching a couple of videos in the morning and at points throughout your day. You also start working on questions for your assignments during the evenings, which makes your workload much more manageable, and get your logbooks signed off. Your assessor and learning coach provide you with feedback, telling you to dig deeper into certain topics so you can get a more well-rounded understanding of the work. These simple changes to the way you’re approaching your studies are teaching you a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of.

SGI Focus Logbook: Subject logbooks are a learning tool that help students record and keep track of what they’ve learnt and the challenges they are experiencing. It also provides the student’s learning coach with an overview of how the student is doing and areas where they may need assistance, and can be signed by a third-party such as a manager at work.


Weeks 6 and 7: Crunch time. As the course winds down, you’ll have to ensure you finalise your assignments and logbooks and start preparing for your exams that take place in the final week. You really want an extension on everything so you approach your learning coach and the academic staff but they encourage you to push through. You log on to the Online Campus and use the available study guides and the tips from your learning coach to complete everything in time – yay!

SGI Focus Study Guide: To ensure students understand the coursework and how it can be applied to the real world, SGI’s study guides incorporate clear learning outcomes, study materials for each subsection, examples and case studies, and activities that students can complete alone or in a group.


About five to six weeks after you’ve submitted your last assignments and written your exams, you’ll receive your certificate for your course. Wow! SGI’s National Certificate in Generic Management: General Management is accredited through Services Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) while the Advanced Project Management course is accredited through Project Management South Africa (PMSA).


*This is a fictional account based on the collective experience of students that have participated in SGI courses. Experiences may differ from student to student.



Although studying online seems easy enough (and there are so many advantages!), you should keep in mind that it still requires a lot of time and energy on your part. And if you study while you work, you may feel overwhelmed. Use these tips to ensure your student experience is as fun as it is educational.

  • Get social: Online studies can feel lonely. But remember – you’re not the only one doing the course. Sign up for the discussion forums at the Online Campus and interact with your peers. Better yet, ask if anyone would like to join a group study session then arrange to meet at a coffee shop or café – or have a virtual meet-up.
  • Eat properly: Often, when it’s crunch time, we neglect to take care of ourselves. But eating correctly will not only give you the fuel to push forward with your studies but can also provide your brain with the nutrition it needs to digest and retain information. Keep healthy food on hand so you can snack while you study.
  • Keep fit: With all your deadlines, you may not feel there’s time for exercise, but it’s been proven that doing regular exercise is good for your brain. StudyRight says it increases your energy levels, helps kick-start your brain function and levels your emotional state – all great for when you’re trying to finish an assignment or prepping for your exam.
  • Take breaks: Your studies are, of course, your number one priority but if you don’t move away from your desk a little, you may experience fatigue. Make sure you set time aside to do other activities unrelated to your studies such as going to see a movie with friends, taking a hike or simply reading a book. These little breaks will help you relax and get ready to jump back into your work without feeling guilty.

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“During the Leadership & Emotional Intelligence short course, I learnt so much about myself! As a brand new manager at African Sun Media, I became aware of my leadership style and how to efficiently lead my team on an emotional and professional level. The feedback I have received from my family, friends, colleagues and team really goes to show they could see a big change in my management abilities. Not only did this course help me in the work environment but my whole attitude and the way of thinking in my day-to-day life has changed for the better.

At work, it helped me establish a healthy and positive work environment for my team and colleagues – we are communicating better, we are achieving goals together and we are completely aligned. I can feel the positive change and I am very excited to learn even more with Stellenbosch Graduate Institute. I highly recommend this course for all working professionals, manager or not.”

– Rouxmia Bougas, SGI Leadership and Emotional Intelligence short course


“I will definitely register again as soon as my child is finished with her degree. This was my first online course. It was so hectic but with the help of Palesa and Willem, I made it!”

– Linda Volkwyn, SGI Leading the Leaders microlearning course


“I would like to take this opportunity and thank all the SGI staff that came to my zone and made a positive impact in my life. You were more than an institution for higher learning to me; you also took interest in my personal issues and assisted me to face them.

The webinar was so helpful with feedback and how to measure ourselves and I felt like I was a day scholar though miles away from you. Thank you for teaching me to allocate time to my personal task. I will be marketing your institution in my workplace and this is not the last you will hear from me.”

– Emmanuel Mahesu, SGI Leadership and Emotional Intelligence short course


5. Conclusion: Registering is just a mouse-click away…

Registering for an SGI course is super easy. Simply head to the SGI website, choose the course or field of study you’re interested in and click ‘Apply now’.

Note that each application is reviewed for academic submission requirements to help assist you to study the correct course and comply with accreditation authority requirements.

Apply to study at SGI today


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