The recent advice from the panel of experts for the handling of the pandemic, also known as the GEMS, was to return universities to online learning starting Monday.
VUB and UGent announced that they would be drastically reducing the number of students on campus. In an email sent last night to all students and staff, KU Leuven announced they had a different approach in mind.
Freedom of choice
KU Leuven made the surprising decision to keep students away from their computers. Students have the freedom to choose to either go to class in person or follow online. Luc Sels, rector of KU Leuven, recommends that those who do attend lectures in person make use of the coloured stickers on the seats to space themselves out.
Professors will be required to record and livestream all content as long as the facilities allow for it.
According to the university, professors report that attendance in most of the courses is already at a reduced capacity. It would seem that students themselves are taking full advantage of the online resources and following classes online when necessary.
Professors will be required to record and livestream all content as long as the facilities allow for it. The university recommends that if this is not possible, then the class be moved to either Blackboard Collaborate or MS Teams, with an in person attendance option still possible.
If there are good reasons, such as a systematically high occupancy rate in the auditorium, some educational activities will nevertheless take place completely virtually after approval by the faculty.
The chosen measures are not set in stone.
If attendance remains unreasonably high, the professor can request permission from the faculty to move the course fully online. However practice sessions, laboratories, and seminars are exempt from this rule. They will always take place in person at full capacity.
Libraries will remain open, but students will need to make use of the KURT reservation system again. The university stresses that the chosen measures are not set in stone and could change and become even stricter if necessary.
Against the grain
At VUB a full online model has been announced, effectively ‘code red’. UGent is a bit more moderate, switching to ‘code orange’ which is more in line with the GEMS recommendation. This means that at UGent, a maximum in-person attendance of 1/5th has been allowed, all others will follow online.
‘Usually code orange is just a preparatory step for fully online classes.’
Exams are the reason
The upcoming exams are a major reason for this decision. ‘We want to prevent the situation where students are forced to drastically change their study approach in the last weeks of the semester.’
KU Leuven wants to allow students to engage as much as possible. According to Sels, ‘by giving students a choice, we are also helping students take better care of their mental health.’