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UPF to start the third term in total virtual mode
The second term exam period, which coincided with the start of the closure of the campus, is being carried out satisfactorily online. In all, from 18 to 28 March, 188 exam sessions will have been sat online.
On 30 March 2020, UPF will begin teaching the third term online since the measures restricting citizens’ mobility have been extended and, consequently, the University will remain closed. This exceptional measure does not, however, involve the loss of teaching activities as they will all be converted to virtual.
The University plans to organize all the teaching of the third term in virtual format, aware that there is no guarantee that face-to-face classes will resume and the campus re-open before the end of the academic year. However, if things return to normal and the authorities lift the restrictions on mobility and the closure of facilities, the face-to-face system will be reverted to.
The University has been working for weeks on a contingency plan to facilitate the move from face-to-face to virtual teaching. Tools and resources have been enabled for teachers and students.
To make the change-over more efficient, the University has been working for weeks on a contingency plan to facilitate the move from face-to-face to virtual teaching. Tools and resources have been enabled for teachers and students and services to support teaching have been reorganized to provide remote support.
Cristina Gelpí, vice-rector for teaching projects, said: “we are very proud of our teaching and research staff at UPF. They are extremely aware of the exceptional situation in which we find ourselves”. She adds that “they are facing two main difficulties: having to deal with their personal lives while undertaking their responsibilities as teachers and in a format they had not envisaged; but all of them, without exception, will do their utmost so that teaching is of the highest quality”.
“Students should rest assured that the entire University is engaged so that teaching is of the highest quality offering every assurance for all”
With regard to students, the vice-rector reassured that “they are aware of the uniqueness of the moment and, despite the uncertainty, they are mostly calm”. Obviously, she stressed, “they want to bring forward as much as possible the normal running of the term, with classes, assessable activities, skills achievement and so on, but they must rest assured that the entire University is engaged so that teaching is of the highest quality offering every assurance for all”.
Planned digital transformation
The conversion of in-classroom to online teaching in such a short time has been possible, among others, thanks to the ICT strategy driven by the University to take all applications and infrastructure to the cloud (cloud computing). This strategy began in 2010, when email was restructured moving to Google, and this has enabled increasing the availability and provision time of features, increasing the flexibility of the University, and becoming more competitive as an institution.
Some of the most relevant practical examples of this digital transformation are the redesign of Aula Global (virtual teaching space for each subject) in 2017 and the launch of MyApps, in 2018. This is a cloud platform that provides access to all applications that UPF offers students remotely via internet, without having to download them to the computer.
This transformation is reflected in UPF’s new educational model, EDvolució, which the University has been working on since the 2017-2018 academic year. It deals with the need to reorganize the University to adapt to digital natives: eliminating fixed working environments and replacing them with fluid, flexible spaces that allow total mobility and connection with a key role of the use of digital environments and applications.
Support for teaching and research staff
Virtualizing the term implies a significant effort by teachers, changing their teaching methods, changing their routines and dynamics... For this reason, “the University offers its full support for teaching staff in this transformation we must implement”, said Gelpí. And she adds that “technological tools are very helpful, but above all they need support in the changes they must make to adapt a subject from face-to-face to virtual”.
For this reason, during these weeks online training has been organized by La Factoria and the Center for Innovation in Learning and Knowledge (CLIK) at UPF, with a huge response. The webinar “How to create a virtual class from Aula Global using the Collaborate tool” was attended by over 200 teachers, while “How to go over exams online” enjoyed over a hundred participants.
For several weeks now the teaching staff has disposed of a web with resources for virtual teaching and assessment, a single space where they can find everything they have at their fingertips
In addition, for several weeks now the teaching staff has disposed of a web with resources for virtual teaching and assessment. A single space where they can find everything they have at their fingertips and where they can connect via videoconference with the support service to clear up any doubts. Also, some basic recommendations have been added about virtual teaching in the most efficient and effective way possible.
Success of 2nd term assessments online
The closure of the campus, declared as of March 13, coincided at UPF with the 2nd term exam period. During this period, which ends on 28 March, no teaching takes place. This has forced the University already to adopt specific measures during these two weeks. Exams are not sat in situ and an alternative assessment system has been established involving exams conducted online and the evaluation of out-of-classroom activities.
In all, during this period, 188 exam sessions will have been sat online. For exams that were initially postponed pending reopening the campus, work is already underway to update the calendar so they may be sat online. “Students must be reassured that their deans and directors are anticipating how pending exams can be sat problem free”, said vice-rector Gelpí.
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