You will have seen the email from the Vice-Chancellor earlier today signalling escalating concern regarding the current outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia and some specific actions we are taking to ensure we stay ‘ahead of the curve’ in coming days and weeks.
We continue to follow the best and latest advice from Federal and State authorities. This advice can and does change often and at short notice. I understand that this can be difficult, but I am reminded everyday of the innovation and responsiveness of staff. I am confident that we are prepared, not only for known likely scenarios, but also to respond with agility to each new challenge.
Flinders does not conduct any teaching activities involving more than 500 people in one place at the same time, and university activities such as lectures were explicitly excluded by the Government’s restriction on non-essential mass gatherings for now.
We are aware, however, of increasing concerns from staff and students about attending classes at this time and also anticipate that increased restrictions could come in at very short notice.
This is why the Vice-Chancellor announced today that lectures will go online from tomorrow, Tuesday 17th March, with plans for other classes to be online shortly after where possible.
What this means in practice is that where our scheduled lectures are automatically recorded and available for students to view afterwards through the topic’s FLO site then students should not attend the lecture in person from tomorrow, but should view the lectures online only.
I am writing to students today to advise them of this decision. Lecturers are asked to share this information through their FLO sites.
I know many staff are well versed in the use of technology for teaching. There are technologies such as Collaborate and Kaltura which will give students a much better experience than they would get from a recording in an empty lecture theatre. Staff are encouraged to implement these as soon as they are able and share their knowledge with colleagues so we can keep supporting our students’ learning.
For staff who need a refresher or update on the use of technology, there is a new Teaching Online self-paced training module now available as a topic through Flinders Learning Online (FLO). Staff can self-enrol online. It also has advice on how to use online models of delivering most effectively to support student learning.
You can also sign up for face to face workshops which will start this week. Dates, times and enrolment into these workshops are available through iEnrol.
This was a difficult decision as we understand how much the staff enjoy speaking to their students in the lecture theatre, and how much this is valued by students as well.
College Vice President and Executive Deans will from today lead each College’s plan to identify how other teaching and assessment activities can be conducted online, or undertaken in ways which meet recommendations from health authorities relating to social distancing.
I will be reminding all students that they should not attend face-to-face classes if they are unwell.
I ask you to ensure that students are not penalised as a result of non-attendance for health reasons.
The latest recommendations from the Department of Health are designed to limit the spread of coronavirus in our community and to delay COVID-19 from impacting normal activities.
We all have a role to play.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitiser
- Use a tissue or the crook of your arm if you sneeze or cough
- Do not attend work or study if you are unwell
- Follow current advice on self-isolation which can be found here
A number of staff and students have been tested for coronavirus over the past week; thankfully none have tested positive.
The current recommendation from the Dept of Health is that testing is for people who have developed cold or ‘flu-like symptoms’ and have travelled overseas to ANY country in the past 14 days or been in close contact with someone who is confirmed to have COVID-19.
If you are unsure, call the Coronavirus Information Line on 1800 020 080
If you need to be tested you must RING your GP or usual health clinic to confirm when and where the test will be undertaken.
If you have been tested, you will be asked to self-isolate at home until the test results are known which usually takes 2 days. If this is the case, please advise your supervisor and VPED/Head of Portfolio (for staff) or your course coordinator (for students) so that the reason for your absence is known and we can check you are OK.
If a member of staff or a student does test positive, the Department of Health will work with the University to determine next steps. This may require closing a building or area for 1-2 days to ensure thorough cleaning is undertaken. The Department of Health will work with the University to identify if there are any close contacts amongst staff and students who need to be tested or to self-isolate at home.
We have decided that our Graduations ceremonies scheduled for mid-April will not take place. It is disappointing to cancel these wonderful celebrations of our students’ achievements, but I trust that our staff, graduating students and their families and friends will understand the need to put health and safety first.
We are writing to all those who expected to attend a ceremony to explain how they can receive their academic documents and we hope to arrange a suitable celebration of their achievements at a later date.
The Federal Government has announced that:
- Everyone entering Australia from ANY country on or after 16th March will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon return to Australia.
The University is currently contacting all students who are on study experiences overseas and is making arrangements for them to return back to Australia.
Staff who are overseas will also be contacted in coming days to assess their situation and make arrangements to return to Australia where possible and considered necessary.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has advised against ALL International travel.
All non-essential international travel on University business by Flinders staff or students is banned at this point.
If you believe your University-related travel is essential, please discuss with your VP&ED or Head of Portfolio. All International travel deemed essential needs Vice-Chancellor approval.
Whilst not currently restricted, we recommend reconsidering all domestic travel, especially interstate, or to communities with specific vulnerability.
Ongoing updates, information and support
Please check our staff and student websites for regular updates.
The websites will include the information in this email, links to resources and to the recordings of the information sessions held in the past week. These will also include daily updates and bulletins.
Take care and look after each other.