Questions and answers from the university-wide meeting on the pandemic
This news article is a compilation of a selection of the issues related to the pandemic that were discussed at the university-wide meeting for employees held on 21 April.
In some cases, several questions on the same theme have been merged into one. Note that the answers are summarised based on the discussions that took place during the meeting as well as the questions sent in advance.
Isn't it better to make decision about an entire term at a time, instead of having there be changes in the middle of a term?
We have had discussions about the possibility of making a decision for the entire autumn term. But if during the late summer/beginning of the autumn it turns out that we have a situation that allows us to return to campus studies, we will likely disappoint students and staff if we continue to conduct mostly distance education throughout the entire term.
We are also a governmental authority and we must give our students clear instructions so they know what to expect. The fact is that the vast majority of students have applied for a campus-based educational programme. But if we end up in a situation where we have gotten so far along in a course that it is difficult to make this change, then it will be possible to continue with distance education for the period needed for the course; we need to ensure that the students have the best conditions possible.
It may be the case that students accept that the course will be completed at a distance, but that we can at the same time allow them to be on campus, meet others here, etc.
Do we need to make new applications before the autumn term for the exceptions from distance education that we had during the spring? And should we apply now or wait until after the summer to see how the situation is then?
Yes, based on the decisions that now apply, a new application is needed for the autumn term. Apply now; then you have more room to manoeuvre this autumn.
Why can we not get a general exemption for teacher students' VFU/student placements/internships?
We understand that one might think that teacher students' VFU/student placements/internships should have a general exception as nursing students have that. But that is based on the fact that when the pandemic broke out just over a year ago, none of our students had insurance that covered COVID-19 during VFU/student placements/internships. This changed quickly for nursing students, but for teacher students this is still not included in the insurance. That is an argument against a general exemption.
How will it be handled in the event that students may not be present in Borås if there is a return to campus teaching at short notice?
It is very possible that some students will choose not to move to Borås as the autumn term will commence with distance education. When the situation does enable a return to campus-based education, you will probably have to discuss this with your students. Some activities may be offered both on campus and remotely.
The Workgroup for Pandemic Issues is also developing a guide for returning to campus and so there will be some guidelines for this problem. After all, we are talking about programmes that would normally be conducted on campus.
This type of plan, to conduct things both digitally and on campus, is not entirely simple and sometimes in actuality it means teaching the course twice in two sets. In that case, will there be funds provided for this?
It is not possible to make a general decision about this, rather this needs to be a discussion among those involved. Centrally, we can mainly provide guidance. It should also not be a question of finances--if it costs a little extra, we will have to solve it--but at the same time, it is an issue of finding the right balance so we do not wear out our employees.
We have very limited technical possibilities to conduct blended learning, especially if this is to start at short notice.
Blended learning can involve a mixture of distance and campus activities in different ways. We currently have around 25 lecture halls that have technical possibilities for this, but it is of course a question of pedagogical knowledge as well. We are working further with issues around the premises. But it is important to remember that we are not making a transition to blended learning; what we are doing now is that we are working during, and planning for, an extraordinary situation.
What is the situation with the technology available in the lecture halls in Skövde and Varberg?
It looks a little different at those locations; we unfortunately do not have more information than that right now. We will consider this issue further.
What are the possibilities for written exams held on campus in the autumn?
If a return to level lime is possible this autumn, it will probably be a priority that examinations in various forms be conducted on campus.
When it comes to this, it is also important to clearly communicate to students that, at short notice during the autumn, there may come information that digital examinations can instead be held on site. Students must be prepared for this.
We must also be prepared from both the teaching and the administrative side to be able to re-tool such exams quickly, if this is to be done. The situation around exams has been difficult for many in the past year. Do we have the capability for more rapid adjustments when it comes to exams?
We must do our best to deal with the return to campus and we must try to handle it in the best way. If it works well to have distance exams and someone wants to continue with it, that’s okay.
Is any preparedness being discussed together with the City of Borås when it comes to accommodations for written exams on campus that are held at short notice?
No, this has not been done so far, but we will consider this issue further.
How should we plan for re-examination weeks? Is there a possibility for written exams held on campus?
Based on what we know today, the answer is no: we are planning for level yellow. If there are new recommendations based on a better situation over the summer, it will depend very much on when the information comes. It will be difficult to make this change at short notice. In addition, we then will probably go to level lime, and not directly to level green, and then we will still have limitations to take into consideration.
It can be good to take into account when it comes to exams that we will change our learning platform this autumn as well, i.e. those of us who have done exams in PING PONG will now need to learn a new system (Canvas) in addition to everything else that is going on. The question is how much time we teachers have for everything new that is to be started this autumn. At A1, we also have a reorganisation underway (in addition to the university-side reorganisation). Is it possible to transfer resources internally? Can you imagine shifting certain activities from the teachers to other staff?
We have full understanding that there is a lot going on and we can only apologise. We had plans in place for university operations in which we did not plan for a pandemic, which makes it extra tough now.
In the implementation project for Canvas, project management is aware that more support may be required than usual in terms of conducting examinations in the new learning platform.
At Professional Services, we work continuously to review our support. But the employees at Professional Services also have a difficult situation, with a lot to do and new tasks that did not exist before the pandemic.
If planned Zoom-supervised WISEflow re-examinations are instead held on campus, would that not save resources in terms of exam supervisors?
When we return to normal mode and can take in as many students as possible in an exam hall, we would of course save resources, but it is reasonable to believe that there will initially be recommendations and restrictions on how we can handle written exams held on campus.
At the moment, we can manage 75-80 students at a time in WISEflow; usually we manage 150-160 in the WISEflow-prepared written exams on campus. The big limitation right now is Zoom supervision and the number of exam supervisors. We are always employing new exam supervisors, but at the same time, many quit when they get other jobs, etc. It is important to remember that exam supervisors are only employed on an hourly basis.
We are constantly working on the question of how we can increase the capacity for examinations given our current situation.
How do we communicate to our applicants about what type of teaching to expect this autumn? We are already getting a lot of questions about this from prospective students.
The basic premise is that most new students are admitted to campus programmes, but that they will now, instead, study at a distance. At the same time, we must communicate that as soon as the situation allows, we will return to campus studies.
This decision was made just recently and we must now make plans for how we communicate to both current and prospective students.
Our current students have been invited to a university-wide meeting in early May, and we will begin planning for something similar for those who have applied to an educational programme with us, both for Swedish and international students.
Last year, we prioritised having Reception of new students on site. Can we see such a prioritisation again this year?
The Student Union is responsible for the introduction of new students, and planning will be carried out this May. We have to wait for that planning.
It is important that we receive our new students in a good way, so plan for a scenario where Programme Coordinators will be able to receive new students physically, but wait and see, and be prepared that this may be difficult to implement.
When you say that we should plan so that it is possible to receive students on site--should we make a schedule and book rooms?
No, what is needed is to discuss different scenarios. We all have an equally good chance of guessing how things will be in the autumn. The planning conditions are that we should conduct everything at a distance, but new recommendations may come. And we should be prepared and have considered if something can be changed--maybe not completely, but some component? Conditions are very different in the different educational programmes, and therefore we do not want to make a university-wide decision about this.