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UniSA lectures to remain online all year, Adelaide eyes "face to face" learning

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Lectures will remain online-only at the University of South Australia for the rest of 2020 in contrast to its rival campuses, which have flagged a return to face-to-face or “blended” learning within weeks.

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UniSA and the University of Adelaide yesterday emailed staff and students about their plans for the transition back from a first-semester campus lockdown brought on by coronavirus restrictions.

UniSA vice-chancellor David Lloyd unveiled his facility’s “plan for how we will manage teaching and research, our campus facilities and our workplace, over the next period as we look to return to increased on-campus activity”.

“This is a high-level roadmap [which] will also be adapted if we need to at any time to align with the advice and directions of state and federal governments,” he wrote.

“While placing the health and safety of staff and students first, we have designed this staged approach also hoping to minimise disruption to the current study plans of students, and to allow time for preparation of workplaces and facilities.”

Key to the plan is the stricture that “lectures will remain online for the remainder of 2020”.

From June 15, however, other tutorials, practicals, seminars and workshops “will be delivered on-campus… where social distancing guidelines can be implemented” and “staff will begin to transition back to the workplace… in a staged manner and in consultation with their managers”.

Other facilities, such as food outlets, will open progressively from this week, in line with state government protocols.

By contrast, crisis-hit Adelaide Uni says it is “working towards a more extensive resumption of face-to-face teaching in Semester 2, in a manner that is safe and supportive for all”.

The facility, whose vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen is on extended leave after the Independent Commission Against Corruption opened an investigation into allegations of “improper conduct”, also updated staff and students about its short-term plans yesterday.

An email from Chief Operating Officer Bruce Lines says that a working party is “actively considering the arrangements that need to be in place… as we plan for the progressive return to campus of larger numbers of people”.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and students remains of paramount concern,” he wrote.

Teaching will mostly continue in “remote mode” until Semester 1 ends next month, with “over 70 per cent of staff partially or wholly working from home”.

But Lines said that from June 22, staff who have been working from home will be welcome to return to our campuses [as] the buildings that are closed at the moment will be progressively opened” until the start of Semester 2 in late July.

“We are conscious of the need for continued flexibility and even after 20 July there will be opportunities for staff to work from home where this is possible and makes sense for social distancing purposes,” he added.

“To ensure workplaces are safe and that staff feel safe working within them, we expect that our usual ways of working will need to be very different when returning to campus.

“Face-to-face teaching will be particularly challenging and it is possible that a full return to teaching as it was conducted pre-COVID-19 will not be possible for some time.”

It’s understood online options will remain available for those who want it, with most lectures available to stream even before the coronavirus changes.

Earlier this month, Flinders University outlined its own pathway back to limited face-to-face study by Semester 2, with vice-chancellor Colin Stirling noting “we have been seeing increasing numbers of students and staff back on campus suggesting that our community is keen to return to greater normality”.

Flinders staff were all “expected to return to their duties on campus” as of yesterday “unless advised otherwise by their manager”, allowing them “to make arrangements to open staff and student-facing services and facilities by 25 May”.

“Some students will be unable to return to campus due to continuing travel restrictions so all teaching, learning and assessment activities which moved online will stay online for the remainder of Semester 1,” Stirling said.

“Other teaching activities that can’t be done online can recommence in line with the South Australian Government’s roadmap [and] scheduled in ways that will ensure that no student is disadvantaged…

“It is clear that we will enter a so-called “New Normal” [which] requires us to re-think how we do the things we do… Flinders University is extremely well positioned to respond [and] will draw on what we have learned as we plan for the coming months and for 2021.”

The university told InDaily it would take a “blended approach” to learning in Semester 2, with online learning set to continue as the major form of delivery but with some physical lectures and tutorials to take place where it is safe to do so.

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