Blended learning, additional safety measures and a joint protocol for COVID-19 to be implemented at the UA the next academic year
UA President Manuel Palomar informed the Governing Council of plans on teaching and safety.
Palomar announced that the UA will design and implement its own technology tools to “swiftly, safely and effectively” adapt to all scenarios.
Alicante. Tuesday 28 July 2020
UA President Manuel Palomar informed the Governing Council this morning of the work the institution is undertaking to swiftly adapt to any possible scenarios at the start of the next academic year. The President, who did not rule out convening an extraordinary Governing Council meeting over the next few days, explained that the five public universities have produced a common protocol that they expect will soon be approved by the regional departments of Health and Universities. “The document contains only basic measures, to be completed with the specific protocols of each university. We hope the final version will be ready by the end of the week,” the President said. He also highlighted the excellent work carried out by the universities’ medical services.
One of the aspects the universities insisted on including in the joint protocol, according to Vice President for Campus Facilities and Technology Ferran Verdú, is how to act if there are symptomatic cases within their premises. Mr Verdú, who stated that anyone with symptoms compatible with COVID should stay at home, explained that the universities have created a new position, the “person of reference” (one for each centre), who will be tasked with triggering the protocol and accompanying those who might be infected. For those cases, all universities will also prepare provisional isolation rooms within their premises.
Other key points of the protocol are staggering class start and end times by rearranging timetables and monitoring the number of people in all rooms and facilities to avoid crowds and keep safe distances, as well as making the use of personal protective equipment mandatory.
The Vice President pointed out that the joint protocol agreed on by the Valencia Region's public universities sets out different action profiles for students, research and academic staff, and administration and service staff. He also announced that, once the final versions are approved by the regional government, a specific plan will be launched to provide all necessary information on such profiles. The President noted that, from 14 September, the UA will offer face-to-face training and information sessions on the safety protocols in place due to the pandemic.
The President also explained that the heads of university centres, who are responsible for organising teaching, in coordination with the Curriculum Adaptation Committee, are working on the final details of the teaching adaptation plan for the 2020-2021 academic year. Palomar highlighted that blended learning will be implemented: there will be as much face-to-face learning as possible, in both theoretical and practical lessons, but it will be combined with online learning, taking into account all potential changes that may arise in the situation.
With this in mind, the approximately 500 lecture rooms at the University of Alicante have been equipped with the technology needed to deliver blended and synchronised learning. Screens, tablets, microphones, speakers and other equipment have been installed to easily and swiftly adapt teaching if needed.
Moreover, Manuel Palomar announced that the IT Service is developing the UA’s own technology tools, tailored to the new situation, some of which are already working successfully on test mode. Palomar said these IT tools will allow for “swift, safe and effective” adaptation. These include an application for monitoring the maximum number of people who can access each facility as per health regulations; a new, free software-based virtual classroom, hosted on the virtual campus, which will not require any proprietary platforms; or an application for submitting theses.
The President insisted that “despite the uncertainty of the situation, we are ready to adapt” and that “thanks to these new UA-developed applications, the scenario will change if needed, but class hours will remain the same,” with no negative impact on teaching planning or the teaching-learning process.
Yesterday, Monday 27 July, the Amendment to the Instruction on Occupational Health and Safety (IRPL-26) was published in the Official Journal of the University of Alicante (BOUA). The amendment adds a new section on vulnerable or particularly sensitive staff. The Vice President for Campus Facilities explained that a new application is available on the UA’s virtual campus, UACloud, for studying these cases. Under this procedure, approved by the national ministry and ratified by the Valencia Region Government, each case will be examined individually by the Medical Services based on previously established tables.
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