In an email to all students yesterday, Vice-Principal Colm Harmon confirmed what many of us had begun to suspect was going to be the case; that teaching would remain digital for the rest of the semester, except for students on a very limited number of courses.
Citing advice from the Scottish Government as the key reason for this decision, Harmon suggested that even if more students were allowed to return to campus in March, this return would still need to be staggered, and therefore this would only leave “a few weeks at most – a week or two at worst” of teaching before the end of the semester.
In a press-release about the reasoning behind this decision, Harmon said: “The University has taken this difficult decision with the best of intentions – to assist the NHS and keep all of our communities safe at what is a time of national crisis. In taking this decision now, the University hopes to provide as much certainty as possible so that students can plan for the rest of the semester.”
Many students are understandably upset about this, with one third-year English Literature and French student suggesting to FreshAir News that the insistence that students are receiving the same quality of education online is hypocritical:
“Lecturers really reprimanded students for not coming to lectures in person, saying it’s not the same quality, and many courses didn’t record lectures for exactly this reason. Now they’ve completely gone back on what they said and are trying to tell us that online teaching is the same.”
Shockingly, another student told FreshAir News that the experience of studying online was akin to “being battery farmed”.
On the other hand, some students are more content with the decision. FreshAir News spoke to Audrey Byars, a third-year International Relations student, who suggested that having been away from campus for so long, it would be “overwhelming and overstimulating” to return to lecture theatres.
Extra measures have been put in place to assist students adapting to studying online, including a new ‘Scan and Deliver’ service which enables staff and students to request library materials to be sent to them electronically. With this in place, the University have suggested that not having study materials at home is not sufficient reason to return to Edinburgh.
Questions have also understandably been raised about how assessment can take place given that many students will now not be returning to Edinburgh – the University are “actively considering how to support fair assessment given this year’s difficult circumstances” and have promised to provide an update as soon as possible.