Dangerous liaison

The Australian Skills Quality Authority and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency have come to an understanding. There is no word (at least that CMM has heard ) what is in their MOU but the very idea that they are cooperating will worry readers who know what hell each can raise separately.

There’s more in the Mail

In Features this morning

Michael Sankey (Griffith U) on what you need to know about teaching on-line in the present crisis. It follows his   essay  on Monday on why teaching on-line isn’t rocket science, but it is different to face-to-face.

Plus Sean Brawley (Macquarie U) on when we were here before: Australian unis and the Spanish Flu.

And Merlin Crossley (UNSW) on the need for stupidity in science research.

Appointments, achievements

Jane den Hollander has started as acting VC of UWA. She will be in position until new VC Amit Chakma arrives in July. Professor den Hollander finished as VC of Deakin U last May.

Jennifer Biddle (UNSW, social anthropology) and Andrew Schultz (UNSW, music) are appointed to the Australian studies chair at Harvard University for its 2020-21 academic year. The chair was created by a gift from the Commonwealth Government in 1976.

ICAC asking about anything untoward in Adelaide unis

South Australia’s anti-corruption commission is looking at the state’s three public universities

It’s an “integrity inquiry” rather than an investigation into anything specific and the three vice chancellors of the state’s public universities jointly urge staff to participate. Which many will given, they can make concerns known in an anonymous survey.

So why is the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption bothering you ask, (oh, go on, indulge me)? Because ICAC surveyed the state public sector a while back but not universities – which are agencies governed by state acts.

“The survey will play an educative role in helping staff better understand the role of ICAC and their personal obligations as public officers under the ICAC Act. It is also an opportunity for us to reflect on the nature of our operations and highlight any areas for improving how we do business,’ the three public university VCs say. Clearly ICAC is not expected to find anything – after all it isn’t NSW.

Brian Schmidt calculates the virus risks

Society just can’t shut-down to a vaccine comes along,” says ANU VC

“We really will run out of toilet paper by then, and everything else. The objective is to find a balance between maintaining university activities and where COVID-19 spread is strongly limited.”

ANU says “with strong public measures,” (think Singapore, Taiwan Hong Kong), “it is possible to continue with some form of business as usual while containing the spread of the virus.”

Much of our future is in our hands, the better we do at containing the disease by our actions the less draconian measure we will need to take,” he told the university community yesterday.

However, Professor Schmidt added, “we may have to move fully on-line in the not-too-distant-future, I am afraid” and that while there is no infection on campus yet, “it is bound to happen soon.”

And he told the community not to go to work if sick. “No matter what your circumstances, I promise you, you will not be penalised for doing the right thing.”

For teaching, Professor Schmidt says, ““this week we are going to start to push for fully on-line delivery of many of our large classes and look at those smaller classes and tutorials, where social distancing is hard. That way we can find appropriate solutions.”

COVID-19 response: unis embrace e-learning

Universities are moving fast, here’s what happened across the country yesterday

ACU steps-up for staff

A status update from Australian Catholic University was expected last-night but casual staff had already received the news many were waiting for; “if the university closes staff can work from home but for those who can’t, “ACU will continue to pay sessional academic staff their programmed work for the current teaching session.”

La Trobe U also commits to casuals

Face-to-face classes are “paused” for the rest of the week, to create time, “to make a transition to on-line delivery where it is possible.”

“This will minimise the time students need to spend on campus, support social distancing measures, and will enable us to test and refine our online delivery.

Staff not required to support teaching and research on-campus can work from home.

The university also advises that if “we are required to close our campuses,” continuing and fixed-term staff will be paid “during any shut-down.”

“Casual staff will continue to be paid for up to four weeks based on the work they would have performed if not for the shutdown.”

Uni Wollongong announces a two-week recess before courses go on-line

The mid-session break from classes is being brought forward to next Monday and extended to a fortnight. When teaching resumes on April 6 all classes will be by “remote delivery mode.”

Campus teaching continues for the rest of this week and all locations, with their research and admin and facilities, will be open during the recess.

Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings signals further possible changes to the 2020 academic calendar, “as the COVID-19 outbreak develops.”

U Tas is beginning, “a staged transition” to teaching on-line “where possible”

Work units will divide into teams in two, so that each group rotates a work week at home and then a week at work. International travel is to cease, interstate “if strictly necessary.” Public events are considered case by case.

Swinburne U isn’t open for teaching, preparatory to teaching on-line

There is a “pause” of all on-campus teaching for the rest of the week, “to enable staff to prepare for on-line delivery.”

From March 23 “the majority of our courses will be delivered on-line” Vice Chancellor Linda Kristjanson tells staff.

She adds “university facilities remain open” and teaching, research and professional staff “should continue working on campus.” Unless they don’t want to, in which case people should speak to their manager and look at the university’s on-line working from home advice.

Lectures on-line at Flinders U

Students were advised yesterday there are no in-person lectures from today, “any other form of teaching that can be delivered through on-line modes will also be transitioned in the coming days,” Vice Chancellor Colin Stirling says.

Classes that “require physical presence” continue with protocols to ensure “social separation.”

Curtin quick

Last night Vice Chancellor Deborah Terry said while Curtin U is “very much open for business” it will have “all lectures available fully on-line by Friday March 20.”

UTS out for the week as well

Late Tuesday UTS cancelled all “coursework” teaching, for a week from today campus watchers tell CMM. The move is to “enable the re-design of face to face delivery to modes which support social distancing.”

Last night Monash U VC Margaret Gardner escalated the university’s virus response

She announced tutorials, practicals, workshops, studios, applied sessions and laboratories are off for the rest of the week and that work is underway to “transition” tutorials on-line. This is necessary because “social distancing” is not possible for most tutes.

There will be no first-semester face-to-face exams and May graduations are deferred until further notice.

These, among other new moves, heighten the university’s response from last week when classes were set to continue but lectures were , (and are) all on-line.

James Cook U carries on

James Cook U is cancelling graduation ceremonies in Cairns (late this month) and Townsville (early next). Grads will be “provided” their testamurs and “will be offered an opportunity to attend a graduation ceremony in the future.”

But otherwise the university is carrying on. Classes continue because JCU has no lectures exceeding the government cap of 500 people. The university will also “support students living in on-campus accommodation.” Staff are not required to work from home, but those with health issues or caring for high-risk people, “are welcome to,” “following discussions” with their supervisor.

However, “active planning and work is being undertaken regarding on-line and other study options, where possible.”

Uni SA cancels all graduations for April-May, with additional ceremonies in September

The university says degrees will be awarded in absentia with “parchments” sent by “post,” – which reference will have had graduates with no knowledge of snail-mail googling to see what a stobie pole has to do with anything.

While in-person classes continue, Vice Chancellor David Lloyd advises that “in the coming days” there will be advice for teaching staff on how to, “progressively reduce face to face teaching levels over the coming weeks.”

UNSW is open

The university advises that NSW Health’s advice “is NOT to close the campus.” It is taking three steps; on-line learning and participation available wherever possible, staff encouraged to work for home where appropriate and non-essential events cancelled/postponed until Easter when feasible.

Uni Sunshine Coast kicks-on

It’s business as usual today – although the university makes no mention of tomorrow.  The brand-new Moreton Bay campus is ok, with USC reporting that cabinet member (and near-by local member) Peter Dutton, now quarantined with COVID-19, was not infectious when he opened it last Monday.

As to why there is no word on tomorrow it’s not that management fears bad news on campus, just that the PM is scheduled to speak today and USC does not want to make it promises the feds will not want them to keep.

But not faculty of health and medical services staff at UWA

Executive Dean Jon Watson advises them the faculty board meeting on Thursday is off.  “I don’t want to put anyone at increased risk by being in an enclosed space with a larger group of people.”  Good-o but classes continue at UWA. Perhaps the meeting was going to have more than the maximum 500 people the government specifies for a confined space.