THE University of Newcastle will not hold its traditional pen and paper tests during its upcoming rescheduled exam periods, saying it's not worth risking the health of students and supervisors.
Pro Vice Chancellor Learning and Teaching and COVID-19 Response Leader, Professor Liz Burd, said she had asked staff to consider five options for upcoming tests, including individual problem based exercises in take home exams, and oral exams or viva voces.
"We cannot afford at this period of time to have that many people sitting in a room," she said.
"With social distancing measures we would have to spread them all over the campus, because we can't have more than 100 in a room at a particular point of time.
"Every room would come under the four square metre rule.
"I think it's too risky because if somebody had an infection we'd have to quarantine everyone in that exam room."
She said she would discourage proctored or online exams that required every student to be supervised over webcam, saying it might overload the National Broadband Network.
Vice Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky AO told staff on Wednesday a colleague recently returned from overseas and has the virus.
They have not been to any UON sites and are in self isolation. He said another person with a confirmed case was "traced" to a campus.
"NSW Health deemed the visit to be of very low or no risk, as the person did not come into contact with anyone, so there is no requirement for self-isolation or testing of anyone else, but we did undertake a precautionary clean of the building."
UON announced last week it was pushing its exams back and preparing for remote teaching and learning.
Professor Burd said around 800 of UON's 1100 courses had moved mostly online, starting with courses with the largest student cohorts. She expected all would transition by the end of this week.
She said many lecturers were working from home and those who were going to campuses were using lecture theatres as recording studios and only delivering to very small in-person cohorts, if at all.
"Labs are still running while we can, because those hands-on practical skills are the things you absolutely value as a part of your education, because some of them would be accreditation requirements."
Some have been brought forward. UON will plan intensive sessions of practical classes when safe.
Professor Burd said the changes had provided certainty for international students.
She said under the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act, international students couldn't study more than 30 per cent of their course online or by distance education and must be enrolled in at least one face-to-face subject in each compulsory teaching period.
But she said this rule was not in place for trimester and semester one and this arrangement was likely to continue as is, if needed.
She said fewer than 20 international students had withdrawn before the March 20 census date.
She said the number of domestic withdrawals followed the same trajectory as over the past two years.
"It's amazing and really good news," she said.
"But we absolutely are [looking at budgetary measures].
"There are additional outlays that we are needing to take into account with regards to supporting students online, we're going to recruit some more casuals to help with that.
"There's a lot of things we will need to change and each of those changes go at cost."
She said the inability to attend overseas education fairs coupled with travel restrictions meant UON was unlikely to see as many new international students join next semester, when the combined new international and domestic intake is usually around 300.
She said UON was expecting "a financial dip".
"It won't be a detriment to the university's ongoing position, but it will be income we won't have."
Professor Burd said campuses remained open, as did facilities including critical services, health services and the Auchmuty Library. NUsport has shut.
"We're trying to find ways we can help," she said.
"Engineering are exploring the ability for us to either loan or help with generation of respirators. I believe there's some discussion about whether we can do 3D printing of masks."
Residences also remain open, although some students have returned to parents.
"We have done some things where we know students are sitting very closely together in dining rooms, starting to look at how we can spread those out more, perhaps having sittings," she said.
"If there is a risk of too many people in the room we've had counters on the door."
Students have already been told not to use other common rooms.
Professor Burd said some of the 10 single apartments being reserved for students needing to go into isolation are being used by students who have recently returned from overseas.
We have removed our paywall from our stories about the coronavirus. This is a rapidly changing situation and we want to ensure our readers are as informed as possible. If you would like to support our journalists, you can subscribe here
- Elective surgeries cut during virus crisis
- Extra 31 coronavirus cases in Hunter New England region in 24 hours
- Virgin cuts all Newcastle flights, FlyPelican reduces frequency
- The coronavirus crisis in Newcastle and the Hunter
- Who's open? Hunter businesses adapt amid coronavirus chaos
- TAFE NSW to suspend classes for a month to prepare for online delivery