I am writing to give you an update on progress with preparing for Teaching next academic year.
The University of St Andrews places great value on the kind of teaching for which it is widely renowned. We have worked hard to adapt our teaching practices and our facilities to the new circumstances imposed on us by the Covid-19 pandemic, and we aim to provide you with a teaching and learning environment that is safe, stimulating, rewarding and interactive.
Planning and delivering teaching in any year is a complex matter, given our rich and diverse range of discipline areas, subjects, and physical infrastructure. Obviously, the uncertainties and constraints that must be anticipated in the coming academic year add considerably to this complexity. The main principles considered when adapting teaching practices, informed by the recent student surveys, are:
- interactive learning is highly desirable
- in-person learning is desirable where possible
- compromises will be inevitable, given the need to simultaneously cater appropriately for students and staff in a wide range of personal circumstances, while complying with Covid-19 restrictions, all of which may change during the academic year
In the outline below, we use the following terms:
- Face-to-face – interactive teaching where students and staff engage in a synchronous live tutorial or seminar; can be either in person or online
- In person – staff delivering teaching are in the same physical space as the students; physically distanced in line with applicable government regulations
- Online – where students can access the teaching through the internet
Small class teaching
We intend to deliver planned small class teaching (such as tutorials and seminars) in a face-to-face format. As far as possible this will involve in-person learning together in a classroom – at a safe distance from one another – being instructed by a member of academic teaching staff, who will facilitate discussion, enquiry and a lively exchange of ideas. These small classes will be available online for students who are not able to engage in person due to quarantine, shielding, self-isolation or travel restrictions. It is also possible that a proportion of small classes will need to take place online in order to comply with Covid-19 restrictions operating at the time. As has always been the case at this University, you will also be welcome to arrange to meet module staff in person (where feasible) or online, to discuss assignments and receive feedback or other forms of academic mentoring.
Large class teaching
Larger teaching events will be delivered using online formats. They will regularly be accompanied by interactive elements based on delivery platforms (such as Microsoft Teams) that allow you to interact with each other and your lecturers and tutors, to ask questions, engage in discussion and share ideas.
We intend to deliver a practical teaching experience for all students expecting to undertake such activities, although the structure and extent of these activities is likely to change due to Covid-19 restrictions. Alternative learning approaches will be used to meet learning outcomes when practical work cannot be delivered in person. If you are not able to engage in person, you will be provided with appropriate online tasks and activities that will allow you to meet the relevant learning outcomes. In some programmes it may be necessary to reschedule modules with a particularly significant practical element, or components of those modules, to later in the programme.
Information about your modules
Pre-advising is now open for returning students, and details about modules and programmes can be found in the course catalogue. We will provide full information about any changes to how modules will be taught or assessed by mid-August.
The August and December 2020 and May 2021 examination diets will take place online, as in May of this year.
The University understands that some students might need to begin the new academic year by studying remotely, because of travel restrictions, quarantine, self-isolation or shielding. In these circumstances, we will allow you to begin the year studying remotely and join us when you are able to do so. You will receive more information by 20th July about the process for requesting to study remotely.
Advising and Matriculation
Advising will take place online; you will be able to make an appointment to speak to your Adviser of studies using Microsoft Teams. The core advising period will be Monday to Wednesday of Orientation Week, as usual. However, the advising system will open earlier than usual, on Monday August 31st, and, subject to Adviser availability, you may be able to make an appointment during the week preceding Orientation Week if you wish. You will receive further details about Advising in August, and more information can be found here.
Matriculation will be completed entirely online for many students, including ID/document checks. However, in-person document checks will still be required for some students for visa purposes. Any in-person document checks will be managed to ensure compliance with government guidance on physical distancing and hygiene measures. More information about matriculation can be found here.
Support and facilities
To the extent that is feasible within any Covid-19 restrictions, when in St Andrews you will be provided with an excellent and supportive setting for academic work. You will have access to study spaces in halls of residence and libraries across the University estate. You will benefit from reliable provision of high-speed internet, access to the full range of electronic resources offered by the University Library, and dedicated technical support for study-related technologies. The University Library will ensure that the essential reading for your modules is available online, while offering a scanning and ‘click-and-collect’ service to enable you to access other library resources. Access to physical collections will be made available in line with COVID-19 advice. Library staff are available to assist you through the chat facility on the library website.
The way you will look to build community, identity and the social and extracurricular elements of your student life will be very different for the start of the 2020/21 academic year. We are currently working with undergraduate and postgraduate students to understand how we can best support you in developing your experience beyond your academic studies. We are also working with Schools and Units to ensure that your non-academic experiences are as safe, stimulating, rewarding and interactive as your academic work. The University is committed to supporting the many traditions that are central to student life in St Andrews and together we will find new and innovative ways to ensure they continue.
Support for students during the summer
Student Services continue to offer appointments via video or audio calls with Student Services Advisers and Counsellors using Microsoft Teams. When making an appointment please indicate your preference for a video call, audio call or online chat. The Advice and Support Centre phone and email accounts are being answered as normal: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/students/advice/.
If you have a disability, long-term condition or specific learning difference, the changes in teaching delivery and assessment may mean you need to review your existing support or wish to explore putting a support plan in place. To discuss options with a Disability Adviser please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Chaplaincy remains available to support any student (or member of staff), regardless of faith or philosophy of life, throughout the summer vacation. Students can talk in confidence to Chaplains from across the Chaplaincy team via Teams, facetime and phone calls, or by email – whatever the issue. You are welcome to email the Chaplaincy at email@example.com or call 01334 462866. Further details at https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/chaplaincy/.
Professor Clare Peddie
Vice-Principal Education (Proctor)