All student e-mail - Monday 16 March, 2020
Further to my message yesterday, I am contacting you again to ensure that you are fully informed about our plans to deal with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis. This includes: arrangements for transition to online teaching and learning; restricted campus operations from the end of term; and, possible future steps.
This is clearly a concerning time for us all in the University community and beyond. We are in regular contact with students and staff overseas to offer advice and support and would ask all students, wherever you are located to keep checking for new information on the FAQ site, and to talk directly to your School and Programme contacts for programme-specific information and emergency measures. In addition, please read carefully our latest information below about how we are planning to operate in the next days and weeks.
1. Transition to online teaching and learning
Over this week, the University will be transitioning to online teaching and by next Monday 23rd March, we will move to online delivery for the remainder of this term which means that there will be no face to face teaching activity. This is something that we have been preparing for over the last few weeks. We will be providing teaching materials through Canvas, and you will be able to contact tutors and each other including for things like project and dissertation supervision via a range of channels including discussion boards, email, skype or telephone.
Online exams and assessments - Over the next 10 days, we will be providing further information about next term’s activities - including our plans for online exams and assessment. In the meantime, you should continue to complete and submit end of module assessments and dissertations in the normal way, whether you are on campus or at home. You should also prepare for examinations to take place in the examination weeks, albeit in a modified format. Your Schools will be in direct contact regarding local Programme issues, such as placements and modifications to exams and assessments. You should follow your School’s normal processes and deadlines for requesting extensions/deferrals or submitting Extenuating Circumstances with consideration given to the impact of COVID-19.
Schools are putting in place specific examination/assessment plans for your programme, including meeting the requirements of relevant professional bodies. Clearly there will be some modifications to the exam formats, but we will send you detailed information on this as soon as it is ready and we will ensure you are not disadvantaged. We will need you to cooperate with us through the exam period if we are to achieve our aim of getting as many of you as possible to the next level of your programme or into your career. We still intend to run a supplementary exam period as scheduled, but this may also need to be online.
Home study preparedness - One thing you can do now is to check your own “home study preparedness” to ensure you are able to access teaching and assessment materials remotely. This includes doing everything possible to secure access to a device and WiFi in your home environment. Of course, we recognise that in some cases this will prove challenging and we will take this into consideration on an individual basis.
We are aware that many students have already chosen to return home and we understand that other students will also be returning home before the end of term. We fully understand this decision, and just ask that you let us know by completing the relevant process (see link at the bottom of this email). We also recognise that some students won’t be able to go home due to travel restrictions or other personal circumstances.
2. Restricted campus operations from 27 March
In terms of the University more generally, we will be moving to a restricted campus operation model by the end of term (27 March). This means that the majority of University staff will be working remotely and only essential staff will be on campus. It also means that only essential buildings will be open. The closure of non-essential buildings is likely to include the majority of buildings including sports centre, Tiverton Gym, our museums, and all catering outlets on campus (excluding halls), but we will ensure continuing access to some study space for those who have to stay locally. We will confirm the details of what will remain open during this period later this week.
Student wellbeing services – Up until 27 March you can access all our wellbeing services normally. In “restricted campus operations mode” we will not be able to provide face to face services, but will be able to respond to general e-mail and telephone queries and where necessary make referrals to other services. Our webpages will be updated with advice and information for available services, but counselling and mentoring services, including the Student Disability Service and PAUSE will be temporarily suspended. Our website will also provide details of support and crisis services that are available outside the University.
Student in University accommodation - Our support and services for students in University-operated accommodation will be maintained throughout, including through the Easter vacation. We are also working with our partner accommodation providers to ensure a continuous service. If you need to self-isolate and have to remain in University-operated accommodation then you should let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We are well-prepared to support students who may need to be in isolation.
If you are living in private rented accommodation and are staying near campus then please be advised that restricted campus operations means that all catering and sports outlets will be closed along with the majority of campus buildings.
3. Going forward
It seems likely that we will also need to continue to deliver our education online next term. Our ambition is to ensure that students can graduate or progress to their next year of study wherever possible, so we will be asking you to cooperate with us to help make that happen.
These are circumstances outside of our control, which means that no matter how well prepared we are there will inevitably be some disruption in the weeks and months ahead not least because it is impossible for us to predict when staff, students or their dependants may be unwell.
We are trying to be as prepared as possible for as many eventualities that are in our control and are grateful for your continued co-operation. We know that you will have lots of questions and we might not have all the answers yet, but we will stay in contact with you, wherever you are, with regular updates throughout this week. I am confident that our fabulous staff and student community will help us to get through this crisis, by supporting one another, being considerate and being kind.
Best Wishes -
Professor Kathy Armour