KSU released a statement on the 17th of September 2020, with regards to the University senates’ decision discussing how University lectures will be held moving forward with regards to Covid-19. It should be pointed out that these measures do not adhere to practical/lab sessions as those will be dealt with differently. But as FEMA students do not have any practical/lab sessions, apart from a very few exceptions, this means that students are not technically required to be physically on campus during lectures, allowing them to follow the entire course online from home if needs be. Semester 2 of the last term was the first attempt at an online educational system. This is why it was not perfect and ASCS made sure to gather feedback from students and lecturers to make sure that online learning is improved moving forward. KSU posted a “Pandemic Response Policy” paper which was compiled from feedback from different organisations and students including ASCS, where we gave feedback received from FEMA students regarding their online learning experience. The “Pandemic Response Policy” paper was voted for in favour by ASCS - (https://bit.ly/3c9zKhy). The general feedback received from students was quite positive. Most lecturers adapted quickly to the changes and were very understanding with students, responding to their emails and queries quite quickly. The main advantage of online lecturing would be regarding the safety of both students and staff. Due to the ongoing pandemic, limiting contact with other people as much as possible would be safest as this would reduce the possibility of transmitting the virus by a great percentage. Other than safety reasons, online lectures are also effective as these lectures have the possibility to be recorded and re-watched at any point when studying. Given last term’s feedback, students found this feature quite helpful. Other positives to online learning include no commutes for FEMA students. If a Faculty as large as FEMA were to be completely online, this would reduce the student density on campus, alleviating certain pressures, especially for those students in other faculties who are required to attend physically for lab/practical sessions. We as ASCS, are aware of the disadvantages that online education brings and that they are unfortunately quite severe. University should not only be about learning, but also a social experience. This is unfortunately being tainted as the “campus-life” cannot be experienced. This is especially difficult for first years yet to come to university, as these students will not have experienced it at all. First year students will be required to adapt to life at a new school and a new environment, whilst having to focus on their studies. This will not be easy at all as these students will not be given enough time to adapt accordingly. As ASCS, we will be there for the students, helping them in every way possible to make their transition simpler and less stressful. Other difficulties that might be faced during online learning would be the poor conditions one could have at home. This could include a noisy environment (construction nearby/smaller siblings) or poor internet connection which would lead to disruptions during a lecture. These issues are especially problematic during exams. Another difficulty would be the technical issues with teaching systems, but this should now be fixed after the feedback given to the Faculty and the lecturers. ASCS Recommendations: · Most if not all lectures should be shifted online, for the safety of all students, especially from a FEMA standpoint, it would not be safe to have so many students on campus given the size of the Faculty. · All large classes should be online, recorded and uploaded for students to view at the time of the lecture as well as any point after. · Small classes including tutorials should have the possibility to take place on campus. This would be done with the social distancing regulations and ensuring student clusters are not mixed. These small classes should still have an online option for students unwilling to attend. · When it comes to exams, students should be well informed at the earliest point possible on how they will be assessed and examined. This clarity is needed so as students would know how to prepare for their exams from an early stage. It is also important that the method of examination is not changed at the last minute as this would be very stressful for students. Because of the Faculty’s size, exams are usually held in big halls containing a large number of students. In this case, students might feel worried about being among so many students and therefore, online exams would be safer. However, if the physical exams system is chosen, we would expect that it is well thought out as to avoid any last-minute changes, whilst also being safe.
Overall, ASCS agrees with the senate’s decision to shift most lectures online as this would be the safest option for all students and staff. As an organisation and fellow students, we also believe that more detail should be given on this behalf, like for example, which lectures will have the option to be held on campus as well as the safety measures and precautions that will be taken for students on campus.