From 'business as usual' to 'business unusual': Online academic literacy development for education students during the Covid-19 pandemic.


  • Halima Namakula University of Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Emure Kadenge Wits School of Education, South Africa
  • Sarah Blessed-Sayah University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa



Academic literacy support and development, COVID-19, Emergency Remote Teaching and Learning (ERTL), writing centre


The Covid-19 pandemic brought about restrictions on physical interactions, which in many ways changed how we live and work. Due to these restrictions, writing centres at universities and other educational institutions around the world had to transition from traditional ways of supporting students to online or remote methods. To save the academic year, Wits University’s teaching and learning and other student support programmes, including the Wits School of Education Writing Centre (WSoE WC), were compelled to adopt Emergency Remote Teaching and Learning (ERTL). Transitioning to ERTL meant1 reimagining student support in an online mode. This paper explores how the WSoE WC transitioned from face-to-face student consultations to offering online academic literacy support and development. The paper highlights the adaptation process in the transition, particularly how the WSoE WC dealt with the varying complexities accompanying ERTL. The main question guiding this exploration is: How did the WSoE WC negotiate the move to online academic literacy support and development during the Covid-19 pandemic? Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with the director of the WSoE WC, who steered the adoption of the online mode and the peer tutors who worked directly with students online. The findings show that transitioning to the online mode during ERTL was difficult and complex. However, collective and individual agency enabled continued student academic literacy2 support despite disruption and change. This paper contributes to the ongoing conversation around the role of writing centres at universities in South Africa and beyond, particularly during disruptions. 


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How to Cite

Namakula, H., Kadenge, E., & Blessed-Sayah, S. . (2023). From ’business as usual’ to ’business unusual’: Online academic literacy development for education students during the Covid-19 pandemic. Perspectives in Education, 41(3), 50-63.