Friday 17 April 2020

All student email

Covid-19 update Friday 17 April 2020 - at the end of the first week back

Dear students

We have come to the end of the first week of what has been a very unusual start of term. I hope you are keeping safe and well and you are settling into a new routine of studying online.

As you may have noticed the UK Government yesterday announced a further three weeks of lockdown in the UK, and lockdowns continue in various forms in many countries around the world. I do not underestimate the impact that these restrictions have both on you, wherever you are around the globe, and also our staff who are working hard in very different circumstances than we usually see on the final phase of teaching and assessment this year.

With all that in mind I wanted to write to you with further updates and remind you of the support available from the University.

Extended period of lockdown - your health and wellbeing

Now more than ever it is important that we all take care of our physical and mental wellbeing. Please remember we are still here for you. Pastoral, wellbeing and academic skills support are all available online and you can book an appointment with our wellbeing support staff if you need to talk. YUSU and GSA representatives are working hard to support their membership (check out the online activities they have set up) and sit on all our contingency planning groups to ensure the student voice is heard.

Update on online teaching, learning and assessments

The feedback I have received from departments is that teaching, learning and assessment online are proceeding well. Colleagues are developing innovative and interesting resources, and most of our students are engaging well with them. There have inevitably been some challenges along the way as you would expect with such a huge and rapid change as we have seen, but we have all been incredibly impressed by the willingness and ability of our students to adapt to this new way of learning. So I would like to say a personal thank you to all of you for your patience, perseverance and cooperation in making the change over to digital delivery a success.

Online exams - clarity on 24 hours

The first set of exams have happened (and are happening) this week, and the feedback from students has been that the majority of you have found the process reasonably easy to follow. Please remember however, that the 24 hour period set for exams is a window in which to take the exam - rather than the period we expect you to be working on the examination. Departments will provide a guideline with your paper of the amount of dedicated work time they expect it might take to complete a paper, so please refer carefully to the coversheet. We know that the amount of focused time you might be able to give the paper may vary, so you can organise your time over the 24 hour window in a way that works best for you, but you should definitely not be working for the full 24 hours. Sleep and food are both important too, and we are not expecting a '24 hour answer' to '2 hour problems'. More advice on online exams and guidance is on the Covid-19 pages.

Students with support plans

Several students have written to ask about the status of their Student Support Plans (SSPs) in light of changes to the way they will now be taught and assessed. The Disability Service have recorded a short message for you posted on their page. Alternatively if you have a SSP you would like to discuss with someone you can email disabilityservices@york.ac.uk.

Postgraduate researchers - communications, library and GTAs

I would encourage our Postgraduate research community to keep up with the latest updates through the dedicated PGR Covid-19 pages and your Graduate Research School pages and blog. This is where we will be posting news and announcements. For anyone missing the latest postings on research funding a copy of the email can be found on the covid-19 pages.

I would also like to thank our committed teams of Graduate Teaching Assistants who I know have spent much of the Easter vacation preparing to teach online and who have just completed their first week of teaching. This is no small undertaking and we are very grateful for the time and effort you have gone to in support of our undergraduates.

Some of you have been in contact to ask about books that are not currently available from the Library. The Library continues to provide delivery of online materials wherever possible for all your needs and you can request these materials through the "Tell us what you need" form or by getting in touch with your Academic Liaison Librarian using the subject guides. The Library will purchase electronic books by default, and for any books which are only available in print, a new service running from 20th April will purchase the physical book for you and send it directly to your home. This is a trial service and we will evaluate its usage and effectiveness once lockdown conditions are relaxed.

What happens next

Work will continue through the various contingency planning groups to monitor and assess the success of our online delivery. Departments will continue to work with you and support you in your studies. I and my senior team will continue to work with other Russell Group universities and sector representatives to lobby the Universities Minister to keep the issues and challenges facing our students high on her agenda.

In the meantime please keep following Government advice wherever you are, keep safe, keep well and wherever possible, keep studying.

Best wishes

Charlie

Professor Charlie Jeffery