The Herring had the opportunity to ask Dr. Murray Pratt, AUC’s Dean, three questions about how management has been coping with the Coronavirus crisis.
Read his responses below:
1 What have the greatest challenges been so far in tackling the crisis?
“The current situation is challenging in almost every way imaginable. At AUC, all of us alike are having to respond to new circumstances, often at pace, and to adapt our approach to learning, teaching and the many processes that support the life and work of the college accordingly. This makes a big demand on us all, precisely at a time when we also need to be in touch with our well-being and, for many of us, make important decisions about our own priorities and safeguard those dear to us. So for me it is vital that we go about these challenging times with care and consideration for ourselves and for all those around us. Uncertainty is not always easy to live with, so finding ways to cope with our worries and be calm and strong are paramount. Our Student life officer has addressed this issue in her video blog for the student newsletter too, and I would recommend her clear advice to everyone.”
2 What are matters currently on the agenda, and how is management coordinating to discuss them in this time of social restriction?
“The management team at AUC is meeting on a daily basis, using virtual platforms just the same as with classes. We have established two clear priorities during this period. The first is the safety, health and well-being of our students and staff. There are many aspects to this, particularly as our community is very international, and we are doing all we can to make sure that governmental and university-level directives are carefully implemented within this context. The second priority is to guide and oversee the transition of our courses to the online learning environment, and the Director of Education and Heads of Studies are working tirelessly to support our dedicated lecturers in this task. At the same time, we are planning for various scenarios and eventualities, and identifying what we need to do keep going with processes that are essential to business continuity, such as the admissions pipeline, planning for the next period of course registration, and ensuring that students approaching graduation can continue to make study progress in good time for the end of semester. The coordination and cooperation shown by all our colleagues at AUC has been incredible.”
3 What sorts of measures is management contemplating in order to accommodate students and maintain the usual academic standard that AUC holds itself by?
“These are in some ways the central questions that we are addressing as we support the transition to online education. For a small-scale and intensive programme such as ours, it is clear that online classes cannot fully capture the interpersonal dynamics of the classroom. However, as we get more used to the format, we will all find ways to make sure that online classes can still generate enthusiasm and channel our students’ intellectual curiosity. Of course things will look and feel a bit different, we have different technical challenges to work with, and we have to be patient with each other as we go. We want to hear from students and lecturers soon about what works well and what needs improving, and we will be surveying the community in the coming weeks to help us understand what more we can do. In some cases, courses may need to make adaptations to assessments, and when this is the case lecturers will discuss their modifications carefully with Heads of Studies and others if required, and make sure any changes are fully communicated to the students in the class. And, to end where I began, we are especially mindful that the current situation is stressful and unpredicatable for us all. While we expect students to participate as fully as they can in the online courses, we also totally understand that there will be times when this may not be possible, for health or other matters associated with the changes we are undergoing. We will be understanding and pragmatic in such cases. It is also important that students communicate as clearly and speedily as they can with their lecturers and tutors if they are unable to participate in classes.”
Note: Featured images are credited to Dirk Gillissen and can be found on UVA’s website.