COVID-19: ANU Classes to Move Online

By Declan Milton and Hayley Hands

ANU has announced it is preparing for a transition to “full online delivery” of classes in the upcoming week. In an email to staff and students on 17 March, Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt stated colleges are working towards moving classes online, so “students can study away from campus or within their campus accommodation”.

Schmidt stated that students will be contacted by their academic colleges regarding remote learning plans. Students in courses “where remote participation isn’t possible” such as those with labs or studio work, will still be required to attend classes. However, they will be required to practise “social distancing protocols” and “increased hygiene measures”.

In addition to remote learning, ANU has cancelled all events and social gatherings until 20 June. An FAQ by the ANU defined “events” as “non-essential” activities, and encouraged remote participation in social activity or meetings where possible. Multiple services, including ANU Counselling and ANU Academic Skills, have also moved online, with appointments now able to be held through the Zoom video conferencing platform.

The 17 March email also outlined potential changes to the operation of residential colleges. These changes include a limitation of 25 people on academic and social events, as well as the provision of “diligent practical and pastoral support” for people self-isolating. 

Unilodge has imposed these changes to social events, as well as a 25 student limitation in common areas. Residents have been instructed to remain “at least 2 arm’s length away from one another”. Registration sheets are also being used “in the case of a resident contracting COVID-19 virus”, for the purpose of tracking.

The announcement comes after the ACT declared a State of Emergency. This allows the ACT’s Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman to use special administrative powers, including the closure of parts of the city for the purpose of community protection. The announcement also comes with the confirmation of a second COVID-19 case over the weekend. 

Whilst classes will begin to move online this week, it is unclear when some colleges will finalise the move. Faculty-wide emails from the College of Law and the ANU Colleges of Science, Health and Medicine stated that all courses would move online by Monday 23 March or sooner. The College of Law has also waived participation marks for this semester. An email to students from CASS emphasised social distancing practice to be adopted in classes where online delivery was not yet available. A CECS email stated the faculty was “working tirelessly” to find solutions, though courses are yet to move online. CBE stated classes would begin to move online from today.

In a statement to Observer, an academic contact from CAP stated that they were “working across the college” to put in place online delivery “or an appropriate level of social distancing and/or enhanced hygiene” by the end of this week. They also stated that “the majority of classes will be able to move to online delivery” with the exception of a small number. They also stated some internships, as well as overseas programs and fieldwork classes may not be able to run under “containment conditions”. The academic told Observer that a “review of due dates” for assessments that have been changed will be considered. Concerned students are encouraged to “contact their course convener for individual consideration”.

Observer understands that Central IT is experiencing an overload in requests for assistance due to the transition to online teaching. In light of these changes, students have voiced concerns regarding fee structures, in-person assessments, and census day, which currently remains 31 March. 

ANU recently recalled all staff and students overseas on university travel, and has stated they will be supported in their “return home” and subsequent self-isolation. The email also recommended a reconsideration of domestic travel. ANU’s move to remote learning follows the decisions of many universities across Australia, with universities switching to online teaching, or taking a break to prepare for the transition.

 

Brandon How provided additional reporting

 

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