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University Of Auckland Teaching Free Week 23-27 March 2020

The University of Auckland has advised staff and students that next week (23 to 27 March) will be a Teaching Free Week, in which teaching across the University will be suspended.

Students will not be required to come into campus (although are free to do so if they wish). This covers all campuses, but does not include teaching for students on placement/practicum and it does not affect research students. All student services will remain open and operating on standard hours, including libraries, Kate Edger Information Commons, AskAuckland Central, Recreation Centre, retail outlets, as well as all our student accommodation.

In-class tests scheduled for next week will be postponed and replaced by off-campus assessment exercises. Students will be notified of the form and timing of these exercises as soon as possible.

The purpose of the Teaching Free Week is to allow staff to focus on completing their plans and preparations for remote teaching in the event of a partial campus closure in response to COVID-19. It will allow an orderly transition to online delivery, if this is to be at scale for any length of time.

The University wants students to continue to receive the best possible learning experience, regardless of the format. The Teaching Free week will enable them to prepare for digital learning via online tools. There will be a range of on-campus support available to help students next week, including support guides and drop-in clinics.

The intention is for the University to be in full digital teaching and learning mode from the following week (30 March) onwards. Semester 1 will be extended by one week to account for the break, meaning that Semester 2 timing may also shift slightly.

Preparations for possible campus closure

Closure of schools and universities to help contain the spread of COVID-19 is a real possibility for New Zealand, particularly as the prospect of community transmission of the virus becomes more likely.

The University is therefore preparing for a scenario in which teaching would continue even if students are unable to come onto campus. A range of remote learning technologies and practices would be deployed for students, while staff continue to work as normal on campus.

The University is well advanced in its contingency planning for this and other possibilities.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dawn Freshwater said that she was very confident in the work already done by teaching staff and support services.

“There has been an outstanding response in recent weeks to support some 2,000 students stranded in China by the travel ban. This has tested our capabilities in many different areas and significantly improved our readiness for a campus closure.

“Of course, providing that level of support remotely to 40,000 + students is a step change, but I am confident it is possible. We are also very aware of the challenges to the continued delivery of our research commitments, which will also need some careful consideration.

“Suspending teaching activities for next week provides an opportunity for our staff to focus fully on these areas of core business and to adapt and adopt through creative problem solving and collaborative working.”

Professor Freshwater said she realised there would be a number of questions from staff and students, and these were being addressed through the University’s Business Continuity Planning (BCP) process.

“Our priority has been to work through a complex range of issues and modelling options that will enable us to continue to deliver and experience the world class education and research experience to which the University of Auckland aspires,” she said.

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