There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at any University of Wollongong campus in Australia but management refuses to let complacency set in while dealing with the rapidly evolving pandemic.
On Tuesday UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings outlined the measures already taken and procedures to come to help the institution moving forward.
His address to the media came hot on the heels of telling staff and students that graduation ceremonies planned for UOW's Wollongong (April 14-17) and Shoalhaven (April 22) campuses were cancelled, in response to government advice regarding non-essential events of gatherings over 500 people.
Professor Wellings said the university had not taken the decision lightly.
"We recognise the inconvenience it will inevitably cause, however promoting the health and safety of the community is our primary concern," he said.
Students graduating at the April ceremonies at Wollongong and Shoalhaven won't be hindered, as they will receive their testamur through registered post.
The announcement to cancel the graduation ceremonies came a day after UOW stated it would bring forward its mid-session recess to March 23 and take a three-week break before resuming autumn session on April 6.
"This decision is in part designed to reduce the level of footfall, the level of activity on campus," Prof Wellings said.
"But it is important to note this is not a campus closure. This is about a transition to a new form of learning and teaching for our students.
"Our library, research laboratories and administrative functions will remain open during this time and the foreseeable future or until there is a major change in policy direction."
Prof Wellings said since COVID-19 became part of our vernacular, "the safety and wellbeing of our sudents, staff and our communities has been at the forefront of our thoughts and actions".
"We understand the anxiety this is causing and we will continue to do all we can to minimise the impact on our activities," he said.
"This outbreak will have financial and economic impacts which we are working to mitigate but those calculations are for a later date. Right now this is a public health crisis and our priority is protecting the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and our communities while enabling all our students to progress their studies and our vital research to continue."
Professor Theo Farrell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education is in charge of transitioning all undergraduate and postgraduate programs to remote study delivery.
"What we are seeking to do as we move to remote study is to ensure that our students continue to enjoy a really high quality learning experience," Professor Farrell said.
"In terms of remote study it means using our virtual learning environments, using recorded lectures, interactive online discussions and tutorials and classes from our various online resources.
"One thing I want to say is a lot of this is not new. We have been using these technologies and teaching techniques for many many years.
"Many of our academic staff are experts in online learning and teaching."
Prof Farrell was confident that most of the curriculum would be online by the time students return to campus on April 6.
"I'm very confident that by the end of the three-week period we will be in really good shape," he said.
"It is not to say there won't be a few problems.
"I'm confident as we move into the period of disruption we will get better and better so we can ensure across all our courses the students are having the best possible experience in terms of remote delivery."
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