Online mass exodus: How Australian unis are coping with COVID-19

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Online mass exodus: How Australian unis are coping with COVID-19

Virtual classes become the norm.

Australia's universities continue to rapidly move operations online and introduce flexible tuition options as part of national efforts to slow community transmission of COVID-19.

Many institutions have extended or brought forward the mid-semester break to prepare for the move to online-only classes.

“Things are moving very quickly, and all universities have mobilised staff and students in what is a national effort,” Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson said in a statement.

“None of this is easy and we recognise the challenges faced by our students and staff. But it is vital that as individuals and institutions we work together to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect the community. People’s lives depend on how we respond now.”

Below is a roundup on every Australian university's plans to continue teaching during the epidemic.

[Note: While it would have been nice to have links pointing to university web pages detailing changes, the situation and locations of up-to-date information is so fast many would be out of date. Readers should check with individual institutions to confirm information.]       


Australian Catholic University: Pausing classes to prepare for shift to online.

“ACU will pause all face-to-face and online teaching from close of business Friday 20 March, with teaching to resume on Monday 30 March... During this time our academics and professional services staff will work to adapt campus-based delivery of our units to modes of online delivery, wherever feasible. The majority of ACU courses will be fully online. While most of our courses will be online, the campuses and their facilities will remain open and appropriately staffed.”

Australian National University: Pausing classes to plan for coming months.

ANU is pausing all coursework teaching for a week from Monday 23 March to plan for the coming weeks and months. Students are warned, however, “next week may be a break from teaching but is not a break from learning. The libraries will remain open with appropriate social distancing and the usual services will be running on campus.”

Bond University: Optional online classes.

Classes for the week ending Friday 27 March will be delivered as per the normal timetable however students may choose to attend in person or remotely via Collaborate. New final assessments will replace end-of-semester examinations. Most campus-based examinations will be replaced by a mix of online tests, take-home examinations or alternative assessments. Additionally, some existing assessments may be re-weighted to reduce the number of required assessment tasks. The University is contacting all students currently on an outbound international exchange or placement.

Carnegie Mellon Australia: All classes delivered online.

From 18 March all classes are being delivered remotely. “Even though there are no cases of the COVID 19 virus on campus, the transition to remote delivery ensures that students will not be inconvenienced in the event of a sudden deterioration of public health situation,” Profesor Emil Bolongaita, head and distinguished professor of public policy and management of CMU Australia said.

Central Queensland University: All classes delivered online.

Effective from Monday, 23 March, CQUniversity will commence the transition of all face-to-face teaching to online until the end of Term 1. “As industry leaders in online education, the University is well-placed to provide an excellent online service to our students.” While face-to-face teaching will halt from 23 March, All CQUniversity campuses remain open and students can still access our full range of student support services including continued access to the Academic Learning Centre, computer labs and the library.

Charles Darwin University: Operating as normal.

No word of closures. “If you are experiencing typical symptoms of COVID-19 – fever, flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and fatigue, and shortness of breath, you should remain off campus and seek medical advice and testing.”

Charles Sturt University: ‘Imminent’ shift online.

CSU is planning to move classes to online delivery “imminently”. We will be emailing students more information on Thursday 19 March 2020. CSU continues to provide information directly to staff and students via dedicated online portals. Staff will also have the ability to work from home if required.

Curtin University: All classes moved online.

All formal lectures will be available to students through iLecture only by Thursday 19 March and we will be moving to other modes of teaching online shortly. “This is a physical distancing measure to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.” All events at Curtin’s Perth campus have been cancelled.

Deakin University: Classes paused.

Deakin has paused all on-campus teaching, including classes (lectures), seminars and pracs. The decision has been made to ensure the university remains aligned with the advice of the state and federal health authorities and meets current social distancing guidelines. Its campuses remain open and online learning at Deakin’s Cloud Campus continues undisrupted.

Edith Cowan University: Operating as normal

All ECU campuses and services are operating as normal. At this stage, examinations will proceed as scheduled. Students scheduled to sit examinations will be informed if arrangements change. ECU is preparing to move to online teaching and other flexible arrangements as and when these are required.

Federation University Australia: Moving online from March 30.

Federation Uni is preparing to transition to online learning and alternative non-face-to-face teaching for our higher education programs beginning on March 30. This will mean that traditional face-to-face teaching activities such as large lectures and tutorials will largely be replaced by on-line teaching and study. However, some limited face-to-face teaching may still occur. Most placements will continue as scheduled unless advised by the Registrar or School Dean. All university events are under review and some may be cancelled

Flinders University: Moving online.

From Tuesday March 17th if the lecture students attend is usually recorded and uploaded onto Flinders Learning Online, then they should not attend the lecture in person. All other classes, including tutorials, workshops and seminars, will be moved online as soon as possible.

Griffith University: Operating as normal.

All Griffith University campuses are currently open and operating as usual. While new non-essential mass gathering requirements do not apply to universities, Griffith decided to suspend all classes with over 100 people from Thursday 19 March 2020. The University is transitioning these classes to remote/online learning, wherever possible. Where this is not possible, impacted students will be contacted directly. For the time being, library, food outlets and child-care services remain open on our campuses. Non-core teaching, learning and research events of more than 20 people will also be cancelled or postponed.

James Cook University: Pausing classes to prepare for shift to online.

All face-to-face teaching scheduled to be delivered on the Townsville and Cairns campuses will be paused from Monday 23 March to Friday 27 March, inclusive. This includes lectures, tutorials, practicals and assessments. This time will allow relevant lecturers to fast-track transition to online delivery of subjects and for the University to implement additional social distancing measures. JCU Online (Keypath) courses, the JCU GP Training Program, non-coursework postgraduate programs (including HDR programs), student work and clinical placements, and internships as well as off-campus course-related rotations that do not require in-person attendance at JCU Townsville and JCU Cairns are not impacted by the pause.

La Trobe University: Pausing classes to transition to online.

From Tuesday 17 to Monday 23 March, La Trobe is pausing its teaching in face-to-face classes and will be using that time to make a transition to online delivery where it is possible to do so. This minimises the time students need to spend on campus, support social distancing measures, and will enable us to test and refine our online delivery. During this pause in face-to-face teaching, placements and fully online subjects will continue as usual this week.

Macquarie University: Pausing classes to transition to online.

We have now decided to make a substantial move towards online learning to support ongoing study. All face-to-face and online teaching is paused as the University transitions to online delivery. Teaching will resume on Monday 30 March 2020.
The break previously scheduled for 13 April - 26 April will now be part of the normal study period. April 13 remains a public holiday.
Staff who can effectively perform their roles from home are encouraged to do so.

Monash University: Flexible remote delivery.

For affected students, Monash has introduced a flexible semester one model with the first half of the semester delivered remotely for some units. It is also working with affected students individually to determine a personalised study plan. Students who can’t fit into lecture theatres due to social distancing requirements can catch up on recorded material.

Murdoch University: Extending study break to prepare for switch to online.

The planned study break due to commence Monday, March 23 will be extended by one week to allow the University to prepare for a transition to more online learning. Therefore, the Semester One break will now run from Monday, March 23 until Friday, April 3 inclusive.
In order to ensure continuity of student learning, the study break planned for Week 15 in June will become a normal teaching week. As large-scale end-of-semester examinations are likely to be affected, Murdoch University will use the upcoming two-week study break to review its approach and implement alternative assessment protocols. Alternative plans for units that have labs, clinics, studios and other face-to-face requirements that are difficult to replicate online are being reviewed.

Queensland University of Technology: Pausing to prepare for switch to online.

From Monday 23 March 2020 all lectures will be delivered online. For one week, all tutorials, workshops, laboratories, studios and small team-based learning activities will be paused, unless otherwise advised by your particular faculty. Student placements and internships during the week will continue unless otherwise advised. The university’s mid-semester break for students will be extended by one week.

RMIT: Mixed online, face-to-face delivery.

As a precaution, effective 16 March, RMIT has cancelled, postponed or created alternative modes of delivery for events that are not related to the University’s core business of learning, teaching and research. While some classes are continuing as scheduled with social distancing measures in place, online learning and alternative study options are being made progressively available where possible. RMIT is already delivering hundreds of courses online for many of its impacted students overseas and these courses have now been rolled out to students in Australia.

Southern Cross University: All classes moved online.

As agreed by Deans and Directors, all teaching will convert to online mode by Monday 23 March. Clinical placements, practicums, internships and other forms of work integrated learning will continue as planned. Most campus facilities and services such as the Library remain available.

Swinburne University of Technology: Classes paused in preparation for switch to online.

Swinburne is pausing all on-campus coursework teaching, including lectures, teaching labs and tutorials, from Tuesday 17 March 9am until Friday 20 March. This is to enable staff to prepare for online delivery. University facilities remain open.

Torrens University: Classes paused in preparation for switch to online.

The decision has been made that all our teaching will be delivered online and remotely, effective Monday March 23, 2020. This means that from Monday March 23, all Torrens University and Think Education campuses will be closed and there will be no face-to-face classes across all programs. This is effective for the rest of Trimester 1.

University of Adelaide: Gradual transition online.

Enrolments and classes are continuing, and online options are now available for students who do not wish to attend campus. From Monday 23 March, all lectures will be delivered online only. For the small number of lectures that are not currently online, new arrangements will be put in place by Monday to make them available. This approach will free time for our academic staff to focus on the design and delivery of high-quality online tutorials. Tutorials will be moved online progressively. All tutorial classes will be available online by Monday 30 March. Students will then have the choice of whether they attend tutorials face-to-face – observing social distancing requirements – or attending the tutorial online.

The University of Canberra: Phased transition online.

Online teaching will be implemented in a phased approach and will be faculty-specific. Students will receive advice directly from their faculties regarding the faculty’s online environment, capabilities, the effective online transition date, assessment and exam variations. There will be some instances where online learning and teaching will not be possible due to the nature of the units being offered.

The University of Divinity: Pausing classes to transition online.

Monday 23 March through Friday 27 March, to allow staff to complete adjustments to unit delivery arrangements. Intensive units with sessions in this week will continue. All units except those with a practical field-based component will move to online delivery for the remainder of first semester, commencing as soon as practicable. Alternate arrangements for field work units, where required, will be advised later

University of Melbourne: Extending break, progressively moving online.

All face-to-face lectures and classes with more than 500 students have ceased and are recorded for online access. We are also progressively transitioning other lectures, face-to-face tutorials and other forms of small class teaching to online delivery to provide students with continuity while minimising disruption to their studies. Mid-semester break will be extended and will now take place from Monday 6 April to Sunday 19 April inclusive.

University of New England: All courses moving online.

All academic programs are still running and will continue to do so. UNE will postpone, defer or re-profile all intensives starting from April 2020. All UNE courses will be moving to an on-line modality including assessments and exams. Programs which are affected will be announcing their plans to accommodate these changes in the coming days.

University of New South Wales: Ceasing all in-person classes.

Teachers will deliver classes, where possible, by online or other means that can be accessed remotely from Friday 20 March. Students should access online teaching material remotely and participate by remote means. This is achievable for lectures and for many tutorials and discussions. In addition, steps are underway to convert some laboratory practicals to video demonstrations or other methods that can accessed remotely.

The University of Newcastle: All classes moved online.

UON is transitioning to remote learning and teaching, and expect to commence as soon as Monday 23 March. It is also enabling staff to work from home in suitable circumstances.
Even with these measures, UONexpect to keep our campuses open for those students, staff and community members who wish to use these spaces.

University of Notre Dame Australia: Staged introduction of online classes.

From 16 March Notre Dame began a staggered transition from face-to-face teaching to online delivery, expected to be complete across its three campuses by 28 March. Some clinical and or creative classes/laboratories require a form of alternate on-campus attendance as notified by the respective school. Practicum and clinical placement information will be available from the schools.

University of Queensland: Pausing classes to transition to online.

UQ has made a decision to pause in-person and online teaching and assessment for one week – 16 March to 23 March. The University will use this time to fast-track transition to the online delivery of lectures. However, campus remains open. Libraries, study spaces and eating areas will still be staffed and accessible.

University of South Australia: Moving all lessons online.

All currently timetabled face-to-face teaching including lectures, workshops, master classes or seminars will move to online delivery. All UniSA Online programs and other existing online and external offerings will be offered as normal. All currently timetabled face-to-face tutorials will move to online provision via Zoom or equivalent, targeting full transition to online tutorials in all instances by 30th March 2020. During the period 23rd-30th March, as tutorials transition from face-to-face mode to wholly online, tutorial rooms will be set up to ensure appropriate social distancing. That is, at least 1.5 metres between all participants. All attendees at face-to-face tutorials during this time should be encouraged to practice good hygiene. All currently timetabled practicals, laboratories and studios will continue to be delivered on campus.

University of Southern Queensland: All classes moved online.

“Business as usual, just online.” The university will now move all classes to their online equivalent from Monday March 23, with digital classes held according to the existing on-campus class timetable. Any practical elements replaced or rescheduled on a course-by-course basis. Work continues to replace final paper-based exams with alternative assessment items later in Semester 1.

University of the Sunshine Coast: Pausing classes to move online.

USC will pause all coursework teaching and assessments at our Queensland campuses for one week from Monday 23 March. This will enable face-to-face teaching and assessments to be redesigned to technology-enabled learning and teaching modes which do not require students to attend campus. The pause means that next week there will be no lectures, tutorials, lab classes, fieldwork or exams, including online exams. Placements will continue unless government advice changes.

University of Sydney: All classes to move online.

From Monday 23 March there will be no face-to-face teaching on campus. All teaching and learning will be delivered online. Assessments and examinations will also be conducted online. Details will be updated on the Canvas page. Some clinical placements and workshops will continue to be taught on campus. In these units, social distancing and other health precautions will be put in place.

University of Tasmania: Staged transition to online.

The university is implementing a staged transition to delivering our teaching online where possible and introducing a split-teams model of staffing, with parts of its teams working from home on a two-week rotation. A case-by-case review is underway of events where people gather – in line with new national guidelines – which may affect occasions such as graduations and open day;

University of Technology Sydney: Pausing classes to redesign face-to-face teaching.

As part of this response UTS is pausing all coursework teaching (lectures, tutorials, lab classes etc) for one week from Tuesday 17 March 2020. This will enable the redesign of face-to-face delivery to modes which support social distancing. All UTS campuses remain open. The library and study spaces will be operating as normal and staff will be working.

The University of Western Australia: Online learning with the possibility of blended delivery.

The university is working on the possibility of continuing to deliver units to students via a blended learning model throughout the remainder of Semester 1. If this is not possible it will find other ways for students to catch up on content. In such a situation this might include:
Completing two units in an intensive flexible learning mode, and then catching up on other units once they arrive in Perth; completing the first four weeks of four units in a flexible learning mode, and finishing these units through face-to-face classes in Perth during non-standard teaching periods; cross-institutional enrolment as appropriate; and summer and/or winter catch-up units.

University of Wollongong: Mid-session break brought forward, classes moved online.

Autumn mid-session break will commence on 23 March. Classes will recommence in remote delivery mode from 6 April. Teaching will continue as normal this week (16-20 March). However, to support students and staff who feel or are particularly vulnerable, the university is introducing flexibility with immediate effect. Tutorials and other classes will not be mandatory this week. April Graduation ceremonies have been cancelled.

Victoria University: Classes suspended to move online.

The university has suspended on-campus learning teaching for the week of 23–27 March (with some limited exceptions). From 30 March, it is prepared to move into a digitally supported remote course delivery model where possible and practicable.

Western Sydney University: Progressive shift online.

Western Sydney University is progressively move most classes and learning support online – it aims to have moved all possible units online by Tuesday 31 March. It is also cancelling all events not directly related to teaching and learning for the foreseeable future. This includes major events, such as April graduation ceremonies.

All information is up-to-date as of 4pm AEDT 20 March. For more detailed information on an instution's responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit its own website.

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