Questions and answers from the university-wide meeting on the pandemic
On this page we have compiled a selection of the issues related to the pandemic that were raised at and before the university-wide meeting for employees held on 3 February.
In some cases, several questions on the same theme have been merged into one. Note that the responses are summarised based on the discussions that took place during the meeting.
The survey that went out to all employees due to the pandemic – why were only yes/no questions asked? Why was there not a scale?
The ambition was to develop a simple survey so as not to burden employees; we did not want to give you an additional task right now. The idea is that the survey will give an indication of the situation. But we are taking your views into account and considering how we will work with this in the future.
I wonder what HB as an employer is taking action with during these strange work environment conditions to make things easier for employees? For example, already last year, the Swedish Tax Agency temporarily increased its health allowance to SEK 5,000 to enable more health promotion for employees. Health promotion hours is also a tool many employers are using these days. Both of these tools feel sensible as we are quite a bit more sedentary now. I am missing support here, or maybe I have missed something? I think there are very many of us who are starting to get very worn out and the risk is that the consequences will be great in the future.
The health allowance was increased in 2020 to SEK 2,000 and a further increase may not have much effect right now as most of us do not spend time at gyms or the like due to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. If health promotion time were, be considered it is important that we clarify the principles for application. We know that there are examples from other universities, but the principles for application between them differs.
The university encourages the idea that the reduced travel time to and from work can be utilised for one’s individual conditions for physical activity as well as regular activity throughout the day and taking breaks when needed. There are examples of other universities with various web-based activities, for example at lunchtime, aimed at both employees and students. Suggestions about such efforts and how they could be organised would be interesting to find out more about.
Are we only to focus our efforts on distance education? Are there no more flexible teaching methods that we can work to become better at in the future? Students have already asked if they will be able to, for example, attend a lecture given on campus from home. Recorded material is also very much appreciated by the students.
Flexibility will definitely be important after the pandemic; we will not focus on distance education alone. Properly used, recorded lectures and distance lectures can be a good support for students, while creating the flexibility that many students request. There is a lot to discuss about this and we will come back to it in the future.
How do we prepare for the expectations that students have already shown that lectures, seminars, and other teaching situations be available and flexible even after the pandemic? Will opportunities to stream a lecture that takes place on campus increase and also be supported by technical support?
The university's premises are being updated to create conditions for digital interaction and greater flexibility in teaching. Technical equipment, the design of the premises, and employees’ knowledge of how to develop their teaching with the support of information and communications technology are equally important components of this work. Project EduTech and the Department of Educational Research and Development (PUF), together with the existing support organisation, are central functions in this work and will continue continuously. From the autumn term 2021, EduTech will be a collective resource for support for teachers who need information and knowledge about resources, work methods, and the use of technical aids for support for flexible and mixed learning and distance education.
A question about changed forms of examination: do we have any information regarding what the students think? We teachers see an obvious risk of cheating and have no opportunity to check this. Do the students think that there is any kind of risk of cheating? Have they reacted to changes in examination forms?
We have not asked the students how they think about this issue, but it is something that can be addressed at the next university-wide meeting with students. Students have generally been very interested in how we handle the pandemic situation, mainly based on how we can together reduce the risk of the spread of infection.
Even before the pandemic, we discussed whether written examinations held on campus are really the best way to evaluate knowledge. It is probably possible to find other variants of examination and also ways to conduct distance examinations without cheating.
Is it possible to let students who have technical problems with Zoom-supervised exams complete their exam in an exam hall instead, or should these students skip the exam?
If students have significant problems completing a Zoom-supervised exam from home, they can contact the Student Reception. There is some opportunity to sit on campus, but we hope that this is not necessary to any great extent.
If it is stated in the syllabus that the course must be completed with a written individual examination, may I supplement this with an oral follow-up if I think it is necessary?
No, in principle, course syllabi may not be supplemented or changed. What is in the syllabus is what applies. In courses that have not yet been started, it may be appropriate to change specific concepts such as "written examination on campus" (in Swedish, salstentamen) to “written examination.” Then there is the constant question of the extent to which the current situation around the pandemic can call for adjustments to examination methods to ensure that knowledge can be tested in a way that is safe when it comes to the spread of infection, high-quality, and fair and legally certain. If changes are made in relation to the syllabus by having instead, for example, a supplementary oral examination, there is always a risk of there being a notification to a regulatory authority and a possible decision from a regulatory authority that agrees with the student’s complaint.
Are Zoom-supervised exams also done in WISEflow, and in that case with locked computers, meaning that only WISEflow can be used and no other programs on the computer, as it is on-campus exams?
It is possible to combine Zoom supervision with WISEflow, but as we know Zoom supervision has its challenges and limitations. There are four different variants to use in WISEflow. Feel free to contact WISEflow support to talk about how it works and for tips on how to use the system.
I do not understand how I as an examiner can know that I am examining the right student if they are not sitting in the hall or being supervised in another way? So far, the discussion has been conducted as if this question does not exist and the responsibility ends up with me as an individual teacher and examiner.
This is an important question to which there is no easy answer. Fair and legally certain examinations have been a concern that has worsened with the pandemic; we have many complex problems that we must try to deal with in the best way.
It is not as easy to establish identity when the students are not present at a written examination held on campus. When it comes to Zoom-supervised exams, students identify themselves via Zoom, but it is of course difficult to find out if they are receiving help or if someone else is participating illegally.
How many students can we have at each Zoom-supervised exam?
We recommend 150 students at a time. We have a few exceptional cases where we handle over 200 students.
It can also be good to know that in the Zoom-supervised exams that take place with the help of the Student Centre, no student is left unattended. The exam supervisors monitor a maximum of 23 students on the screen, divided among 2-3 supervisors.
Regarding the discussion about digital examinations at a distance, these discussions are going on at all higher education institutions right now. I recently attended the dialogue seminar with the Swedish Higher Education Authority on fairness and legal certainty issues in connection with digital examinations, and the recommendation is not to have monitoring via Zoom but to try to find other ways. A tip for those who are interested is to participate in discussions and get tips about digital examinations by joining ITHU's subnetwork "Digital examination at a distance."
Have the students received a survey similar to the one the staff received?
No, but a more comprehensive survey was conducted with the students both at the end of the spring term 2020 and during the autumn term 2020.
Can we see the comments you received from the students? Then we can also know what their needs are and can plan ahead for future support.
There is an ongoing dialogue with Faculty and unit heads about how the survey results should be disseminated at the university. The Faculties and Professional Services have received the results from the student surveys and are responsible for using the material and sharing it within their areas.
Does the Swedish Migration Agency receive quick information that international students must be in Sweden/on campus?
Yes, they do. We have reported to the Swedish Higher Education Authority that our campus educations are campus educations, even though they are being conducted at a distance right now. A special effort will be made on this as misunderstandings have arisen about the issue.
The students who are doing VFU/student placements/internships: who will be responsible for their vaccination? Thinking of students in undergraduate nursing education and those who also attend specialist programmes.
Students’ VFU/student placements/internships settings are responsible for this. However, each organisation makes its own priorities and there are restrictions on vaccines, which can sometimes mean that the organisations have to prioritise their own staff.
Has the dropout rate of students been affected in any way by the pandemic restrictions?
In general, we see no such effect. The student completion rate has not decreased significantly in 2020, which is a sign that not many have dropped out. However, we have not followed up on this in specific areas yet.
I think that the students long for the structure that exists when on campus, with proximity to teachers and other students. We have probably not yet managed to build a similar web-based structure/digital meeting place here at the university. There are such types of meeting places in, for example, Second Life and more.
Yes, that's for sure. Part of studying is also student life. Even if we become good at delivering distance education, it is also important that we have a vibrant campus environment in the future. Many students have said that the social aspect is difficult, but at the same time the Student Union in Borås has had difficulty in getting students to participate in the activities that are organised.
I (Johanna Fridäng, Student Pastor, Editor's note) would like to remind you that as pastor I am available for dialogues with both students and employees, when needed. If you have contact with students who would need such a dialogue, please refer them to me. I can have dialogues at fairly short notice on weekdays.
How is the infection situation at the university?
We only have scattered cases, no cluster infection. There is also no current case where a person believes they have been infected at work.
All managers report to the Head of Professional Services and the chief safety representative about the infection situation at the university, mainly when it comes to employees but also about students in police education who, to some extent, have components on campus.
Is there a teacher representative in the new work group for the pandemic?
No. This work is no longer conducted in project form and the work group is not a decision-making group. As much of the work as possible must now be conducted in accordance with our regular structure of working. The work group is led by a coordinator who is responsible for monitoring developments in society regarding the pandemic situation and coordinating the work of taking appropriate measures at the university. To help, the coordinator has a work group with the Head of Professional Services, Communications Officers, administrative support, a student representative, and the chief safety representative. In addition to this, various functions are spoken with for status updates.
What is the forecast for continued yellow level?
Our current decision regarding yellow level applies to the entire term. We have a hope of being able to be more on campus at the start of the autumn term2021, but so far this is uncertain. We will have more information regarding the autumn term later in the winter/spring.
Johanna Avadahl // Translation: Eva Medin