With new COVID-19 cases being discovered every day, it’s looking increasingly likely that the university will have to cancel in-person classes. But what does this mean for you? Craccum answers your burning questions.
As much as my academic transcript would like it to happen, it’s extremely unlikely that the university will cancel this semester. There’s simply too much time, money, and administrative manpower invested in it to do so. If the university were to completely can classes, it’s likely that the consumers guarantee act would necessitate refunds for all students. How much might that amount to? Conservatively, the university would be staring down the barrel of a $400,000,000 loss. Suffice to say, should the university be forced to cancel in-person classes, we can expect online-only classes to pick up the slack.
It’s not entirely clear. Having spoken to staff, Craccum understands that the university is preparing for courses to be taught via Zoom, a “remote conferencing service” similar to Skype. This could mean that the university is following in the footsteps of the University of Washington, where lecturers now teach classes over drop-in conference calls. But that’s not the only way things could be done. Lecturers could record their classes at home, or even in empty lecture theatres, and upload them via the Canvas recordings tab. Alternatively, they could release old lecture recordings (all lectures have been automatically recorded since 2018, although not all of them were released to students) from the university’s archive of previous lectures.
Smaller classes – like tutorials, workshops, and labs – are a different beast to lectures. It seems likely that tutorials will be conducted over Zoom, with minor changes to the structure of lessons. Labs and workshops are likely to be modified to make them suitable for teaching over videofeed. In science, for example, some students have been told that labs will be replaced by recorded videos of lecturers completing the experiments – students will just have to write a report based on the video.
I wish I had an answer for this. In all likelihood, these classes would just be cancelled, and students enrolled in them would be given a refund for that particular class. Students would have these classes removed entirely from their academic transcripts.
Halls probably won’t be closed entirely, but it is likely that students will be asked to leave.
In the states, where universities have already moved online, most universities have opted to keep their halls running in a limited capacity. Students who are able to return home have been offered financial incentives to leave the halls. Students who have been unable to return home – either because it is logistically impossible, or because they suffer from some kind of disability which would make it dangerous for them to leave – have been allowed to stay, with the expectation that they self-isolate as much as possible. Students who have been allowed to stay have also been warned that they will only have access to essential services.
Craccum understands that students in Canterbury residences have been told they may be sent back to their hometowns if the university is closed. This, coupled with the example set by universities in the USA, may indicate that the University of Auckland will employ a similar approach.
In Australia, Scott Morrison has warned social isolation measures could be in place for up to six months. If New Zealand followed suit – banning all gatherings until August – the university would have to cancel any plans for in-person June exams.
Theoretically, it’d be possible to run exams for most courses through the university’s computer based exam software (the imaginatively named “DigiExam”). But there’s one obvious problem with that: students could cheat by referencing their notes while completing the exam. In the states, there have been rumours that universities are contemplating asking students to video themselves via webcam while taking exams – theoretically, this is supposed to help universities catch cheating students. We at Craccum are extremely skeptical that these reports are true, and we strongly doubt that the university will do this. It’s much more likely that the university will scrap exams entirely. Instead, exams will probably be replaced by extra essay questions, quizzes, and assignments. Your grade would be comprised entirely from these assignments.
Based on what has happened with universities in the states (where many have moved online already) students probably won’t be able to access facilities like lecture halls, study spaces, and more. Universities have been loath to employ staff members to patrol spaces, clean equipment, and generally keep things ticking over, because of the costs involved – I wouldn’t expect this university to be any different.
In terms of the library: it’s likely that the university would encourage everyone to use their online catalogue instead. A number of staff members have told Craccum that the university has been moving towards this for a while anyway – over the past two years the university has been allocating larger and larger portions of the budget to buying texts online (rather than in print) to make it easier for students to access them. The university might see this as a good opportunity to trial an online-only library.