Questions and answers after the university-wide meeting on the pandemic
We have compiled here a selection of the issues related to the pandemic that were discussed at the university-wide meeting for employees on 9 June.
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.
For more information about the points that Claes Lennartsson, coordinator of the Workgroup for Pandemic Issues, presented in his PowerPoint during the meeting, please review the Vice-Chancellor's decision, Reg. 258-20. All information is also available on the employee website pages about the pandemic.
We had level lime during study period one last year. How was the spread of infection during that period? Were there any cluster infections then?
On campus, we did not experience major problems, but the spread in society as a whole began and increased gradually over the autumn.
What message should we give to those we have contracts with for ongoing contract educations which are given to our collaboration partners?
Let them know about our current situation – that we follow all recommendations and are making a planned return to previous operations in an orderly manner as soon as we can.
Last year, the spread of infection did not begin until late autumn, so if we are to wait and see what happens, we may have to wait until October.
When the autumn term begins, we will know more about the vaccination situation, virus mutations, etc. That is why we will start in level lime, and then see how the situation is. However, it seemed too pessimistic to remain in level yellow, as all signs indicate that there is a continual reduction in the spread of infection.
Is there any impression/survey conducted as to whether we have attracted new student groups with a greater interest in distance education?
When the admissions period for the autumn closed, applications to the University of Borås had increased by 19.8 per cent. What increased the most were applications for freestanding courses, and many of these are conducted remotely. That may indicate something. This is something we should try to find out more about in the future.
The Student Union has had the opportunity to hear from current students about what they think. Some want to continue at a distance while others want to return to campus as soon as possible.
How do nearby colleges/universities plan to handle this autumn's teaching?
Most universities in the country are planning much as we are, including the University of Skövde, University West, the University of Gothenburg, and Chalmers. Everyone has received the same directive from the government regarding a slow return.
Are there any new recommendations about employees' travel during the period or do we first and foremost follow recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Sweden and/or the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, like everyone else in society?
In general, we follow the recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Sweden and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Until 15 September, we also have instructions from the government to work from home as much as possible. We will see if we need to clarify this information after 15 September.
Can we continue as we did last year?
It seems clear that much of what was done last autumn can also be applied this coming autumn. At the same time, it is important to learn from our experiences of what worked well and less well then. It is also important to keep in mind that there may be other recommendations now that need to be followed.
We must generally have good conditions to conduct our work without risking the spread of infection on campus. We try to enable everyone to take responsibility when on campus.
Can we have classes for international Master's programmes on site or via Zoom or mixed?
International students are given priority to be on campus to some extent, but it is important to follow the restrictions that are in place. It is advisable to mix components that are held both on campus and at a distance. We must avoid having too many people in place at the same time.
What about lab activities? During level yellow, we have had a limited number of people per room and used visors etc. when we worked in the lab. Examining lab exercises has also meant smaller groups but significantly increased times for scheduled opportunities (which also put more pressure on lab supervisors and other resources).
What matters is "distance when it works, campus when it’s needed." When it comes to the lab, routines and measures may need to be reviewed, and although most routines probably still need to be maintained, there may be something we can ease up on. Risk assessments need to be made upon our return to normal operations so that both students and employees can feel safe. We must not risk an increased spread of infection.
What about summer courses that start now and have physical meetings?
We will have to get back to you with guidance on the priorities here (after the meeting, this was produced and is published here, Editor's note). It is not relevant to have exemption applications in level lime, but there must be guidelines for what applies. At present, the Dean of Faculty is responsible for ensuring that the summer courses are managed in an appropriate manner.
Are exemption applications still needed?
No. In level lime, no exemption applications are needed; however, the priorities made must be followed.
What opportunities are there for hybrid variants in terms of technical aids and educational support?
KronoX contains information about the lecture halls' technical equipment. We are also continuing to work on establishing EduTech, which together with PUF (Department of Educational Research and Development) will be important parts in the continued work for competence development in the area, i.e. the use of digital tools in teaching.
We continue the work of supporting and strengthening our teachers based on what we learned during the pandemic. It would be desirable in the future to have the ability to deliver all educational courses and programmes with the help of distance tools. That does not mean that we should do it, but we should in any case have the ability.
Are there guidelines on how many people can be in a room during a teaching situation or in corridors? So that we can plan sufficiently small groups/large halls for teaching components of, for example, year 1.
The information on the number of people who can be in each room is available in KronoX. An update and review of the information is also underway.
We will also work with coordination like last autumn to try to follow and plan the scheduling so we do not have too many students in corridors, stairwells, etc.
At what level is a decision made about what can be given on campus?
The guidance that is being prepared (after the meeting, this was produced and is published here, Editor's note). It will show the different steps. The Dean of Faculty has the overall responsibility here. Just like last time, the proposal about what needs to be conducted on campus should normally come from the course/programme coordinator or examiner and then be coordinated within the Faculties.
We have already applied for an exemption before the autumn for a number of different components – do they apply?
The exemptions applied for before the autumn no longer apply because we do not have exemption applications now. Instead, priorities must be made. Discuss this with your Dean of Faculty.
It may be worth adding that exemption applications will be relevant if a decision is made to return to level yellow in the autumn term.
Why do we not open up for the on-campus written examinations in August similar to the plan we had last year?
It's a planning issue. If we had planned for re-examinations in level lime, we would have been in a difficult situation if the pandemic situation got worse during the summer. Then we would have had to re-plan during the holidays. We have therefore chosen to plan for re-examinations in level yellow so we can be prepared from the beginning. From the start of the term, it is possible to have exams on campus with the restrictions that exist.
Wouldn't it also be important to prioritise second-year students? They have spent their entire first year at a distance.
Primarily, we must prioritise the first-year students, as they are completely new and need to feel welcomed. Then we have other priorities, and in these admitted programme students from spring 2021 are also included. Second-year students may be prioritised locally at a later stage during the autumn, but they are not included in the assessment criteria for our current priorities.
Are there any thoughts that international students should be vaccinated before they come here?
The International Office has talked about this with the university's coordinator for internationalisation. What has been said is that we must follow the advice and decisions of other actors such as the Public Health Agency of Sweden and Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
As a Programme Coordinator for an educational programme with many international students, it is not easy to follow authorities' decisions. There may be students who have not received a vaccine and who then have to be quarantined. Facilitating their decision to stay in quarantine is important. If the guidelines state that they are to be quarantined for a week, how do we support them?
There are currently no guidelines for quarantine. But recently, all higher education institutions had a meeting with the Minister of Higher Education and Research and the issue of vaccination for international students came up, so it is an issue that is being discussed right now. We will get back to you when we have more information about vaccination and quarantine for international students.