“The decision we made yesterday is fully in line with today's message from Matilda Ernkrans, Minister of Higher Education and Research, that the government recommends universities and colleges to carry out all teaching remotely from 18 March. Given Chalmers’ size as a workplace and study environment, it is important we help reduce the spread of the coronavirus in this way. Of course, it will require great efforts by all staff and students, but the difficult situation society is in requires extraordinary measures and we must all contribute in the ways we can,” says Chalmers President Stefan Bengtsson.
Chalmers had already, in common with many other educational institutions, imposed certain restrictions on visits, business and study trips, and conferences, for example. These are now further tightened – no international business trips, and within Sweden only operationally critical trips permitted. Conferences, meetings and visits with external participants will be carried out digitally format or cancelled, as well as study visits and other student trips. This is currently valid until 31 May.
During the exam week now in progress, all exams are being conducted remotely. Some of the many reasons behind this decision are that examinations mean many people will gather in a small area, in many cases pensioners, who may be at increased risk of complications from an infection.
The students will now take the exams at home and submit through Canvas, the digital learning platform used in many educational tasks, and which is already widely used in teaching at Chalmers under normal conditions.
“So far, it has worked very well, thanks to great efforts by programme directors to transform the original examinations to digital formats, so they can be taken from home. The students also seem to have taken on their responsibility to solve the whole situation, and not just the examinations, in the best way possible. It is gratifying to see how everyone is contributing to managing this,” says Stefan Bengtsson.
The changed way of working also affects the thesis defences. Planned thesis defences which cannot be postponed will instead be held digitally. The requirement for defences to be open for the general public will be fulfilled by providing a publicly available link.
Employees working from home
With Chalmers employees now working from home as much as possible from the 17 – 31 March, and all teaching being carried out remotely, the digital tools will be put to a real test. No one knows for sure how web-based tools which work well in everyday life will behave when used by many people at the same time.
“Although the systems and tools we use are robust, we have to anticipate that there may be times when things do not work as well as desired. I hope and believe that everyone has patience and understanding in such a situation – our technical and administrative staff are working under high pressure to make everything works as well as possible. Of course, not all activities will be able to be conducted in exactly the same way as normal, but I am convinced that with a combined effort, we will ensure high quality of education, research, utilisation and operations support under the current conditions,” says Stefan Bengtsson.