University Of Otago Move Some Courses To Online Learning

The University is remaining open as it currently has no cases of COVID-19 and there remains no community spread in New Zealand.

From this week, the University of Otago is temporarily moving a portion of its courses to online delivery.

The first papers to move online will be the University’s four Semester One Health Sciences First Year papers. Online delivery of these papers has already commenced on Monday (23rd March), with other 100-level papers progressively moving online during the week.

Second year papers and above which have more than 100 enrolments will then be prioritised to move online from the following week (commencing 30th March), along with selected other papers. These classes will be fully online, with no face-to-face classroom teaching.

The University is remaining open as it currently has no cases of COVID-19 and there remains no community spread in New Zealand.

While universities, like schools, are exempt from current restrictions on large scale gatherings, the move is part of a wider evidence-based plan to implement social distancing on all of the University’s campuses and support the national effort to contain COVID-19. The University continues to follow advice from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and its own Public Health Officials.

Planning for the roll-out has taken place over the past three weeks and will position the University to quickly move as close as possible to full online delivery if required.

“We want to provide continuity of teaching for our students and are taking advice daily from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education on this. If the situation changes, we will advise students, staff and other stakeholders as quickly as possible,” says Vice-chancellor, Professor Harlene Hayne.

Next week’s rollout will involve more than 125 of the 850 on-campus papers currently being delivered at Otago across its campuses in Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch and Invercargill. By the end of the following week, more than 300 papers that are normally delivered face-to-face would be provided online.

This total is added to the 150 courses that are already taught online as part of Otago’s distance learning programme.

Online teaching would continue at least until the mid-semester break commencing at Easter. Beyond that point, the University could either continue, scale back or ramp up online delivery depending on how the COVID-19 situation has developed nationally.

All of Otago’s residential colleges will remain open while teaching is delivered online. Colleges are continuing to be vigilant and are taking all appropriate health and safety measures to ensure the safety of their students. Larger colleges are also taking further steps to practice social distancing including staggering mealtimes to reduce group numbers.

As all first-year papers will be online, the colleges will provide additional support in the form of extra tutoring and learning support for residents. An equivalent service will be provided to non-College first-year students via the local programme, along with online tutorial support.

The University is closely following the advice of our public health experts and learning from the experiences of countries and public health systems that have successfully contained COVID-19. By way of example, both Singapore and Taiwan have successfully contained COVID-19 through public health measures broadly similar to those being used in New Zealand, and this successful containment did not require the closure of major educational institutions.

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