‘We are constrained on space, there is no doubt about it’: New details for 2020/21 at Lancs

The Faraday LT will be using less than 20 per cent capacity

A Q&A event regarding Lancaster University’s academic year 2020/21 took place this week, surrounding provisions for the coming academic year. This meeting is perhaps the most comprehensive information students have received so far in terms of what the next academic year will look like.

The event can be streamed but in case you don’t fancy listening through 12 PowerPoint slides followed by a whopping 40-minute audience survey, these are the key points from the meeting summarised.

A “blended” approach to learning.

The university remains adamant that the blended learning is not the same as distance learning. Reduced room sizes and reduced staff on campus means that not everything can be delivered in person as the university would wish. Blended learning allows the university to maximise educational by providing flexible learning.

“There’s always been students on campus and essential support in place. But because of the situation we’re in, we have at all times adhered to a socially distant approach and this has meant in really practical terms that we have a lower density of people on campus and in the rooms that are available for teaching.”

How will lectures and seminars work?

Lectures are being frequently described as “asynchronous.” In plain English, this means lectures will be recorded by staff and made accessible on Moodle for us to access when convenient, rather than it be a live lecture. Real-time lectures will be supplemented by interactive elements such as quizzes, discussion boards and interactive videos.

Seminars and workshops will be face-to-face but won’t be exclusively delivered in person. Instead they will involve a mixture of online and in-person delivery.

However it was stressed that appropriate interaction with staff will be achievable in new class sizes. Group work can still occur on Microsoft Teams as there are ways of creating smaller groups within the call. Online learning will exclusively take place on Microsoft Teams/

There may be smaller teams meetings for some seminars. There will be no lectures taking place on a weekend despite suggestions that this could be used as a method to spread out the amount of students in a lecture hall at one time.

When it comes to practical subjects, laboratories and other specialist spaces (such as theatre) will be socially distant. These departments are working closely to create solutions and ensure as many practical sessions in the timetable as possible.

Teaching will be as “accessible as possible.”

Transcripts will be provided for all lectures or other online content (including the seminars that take place online). Material will be available on Moodle in a “fully-accessible format” which allows for text renders.

It is highlighted that both the Disability and Accessibility Teams are working alongside the university in order to develop a teaching strategy and that Independent Learning Support Plans will advise departments on the assistance needed for individual students.

There is a preference for students to be on campus.

But there will be provisions if this is not possible for some. The university has said they “are working on things and will get things out when we can.”

Attendance and engagement will be monitored but there’s no word as of yet as to how this will be done.

Study space capacities are being reworked.

A gap of one metre between people does not alter capacity as much as what might be expected, meaning that reducing distancing to one metre may be insufficient for bigger class sizes, even with the introduction of masks.

A lot of the social distancing with masks is designed for short-term activities (such as shops), so the danger is considered to be different.

Faraday LT will be used in under 20 per cent of its capacity

There is no plan to offer a fee reduction.

Due to the fact that the library frequently reaches maximum capacity without social distancing it was suggested that it is unfair to ask students to pay full price for inadequate study spaces. This implies that other study spaces will have to be utilised.

Students were reassured that concerns regarding the library would be answered but those that the panel only had the expertise to answer academic queries.

However, with regards to refunds the panel did not feel one would be necessary. The goal is the the provisions would be strong, they feel that this position is in-line with most other universities. Expanding on this, Lancaster has said that no fee reduction is “in line with government advice.”

Teaching will be regulated.

The teaching aims to be better quality than during the Lent term strikes. Each course will go through a quality check done by a teaching committee. This is in addition to new staff training which will ensure that staff are able to create learning materials in an online format.

Shorter lectures are being recommended with live transcripts to avoid staring at screens for prolonged periods of time. Supplementary resources will be made available and timetabling is currently being worked out.

Some modules may be suspended.

A survey is due to open in order to capture student views which will close at 17:00 on the 31st of July. Results from this survey will then be announced one week later.

Modules which cannot take place will be suspended. There may be adjustments made to some. This has to be reduced in order to avoid sacrificing quality.

If any changes to individual modules are determined to amount to a major change to the programme of a course students will be consulted once again for their views on that.

There are no answers with regards to assessments as of yet.

Will sports return?

The university has confirmed that it wants student sports to return as soon as possible, which will be a welcome relief to many Lancs students. With the confirmation of the Sports Centre extension coming in the past few weeks, it makes sense that the university wants sports to return as soon as they are safe to do so.

However, it was pointed out by VP Education, Bee Morgan, that sports are a Students’ Union issue, and therefore it is out of the university’s hands as to when sports will return. Despite this, it is stressed that sports that will be against York uni are being prioritised.

What ISN’T happening?

One rumour that Lancaster University addressed when we contacted them was whether or not there would be reduced parking fees on campus, encouraging people to drive to university rather than use public transport. The university dismissed this as incorrect, and it appears there are no plans to reduce parking fees on campus for the time being.

All measures implemented or talked about by Lancaster University are subject to change, and measures will be reviewed on a termly basis.

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