Covid-19: Lest I forget the gritty details (Part 2: Teaching and Learning)

The university put in place a few measures pretty quickly to address Covid-19. Aside from the Travel Declarations, some other measures were rolled out to stop students/staff who may have been exposed to the coronavirus from coming to class, and to facilitate contact tracing of physical presence in the lecture theatres and tutorial rooms.

QR codes and scanned attendance (12 Feb)
Each venue, lecture theatre, tutorial room, and meeting room, was assigned a QR code and the code was pasted at the doors of each venue. Students and instructor had to use their mobile phone to scan in their attendance at the beginning of class.

Class seating group photo taking (13 Feb)
Another step was added the next day, the instructor had to take a photo of the whole class to indicate seating proximity. This is to help in terms of contact tracing and allocating people in close proximity for quarantine, if needed. The group photos would be deleted 2 weeks later. Thankfully, no-one in the classes that I taught came down with Covid. I remember some of my students showing the korean “love” signs with their arms and fingers during photo taking.

No more than 50 per class (14 Feb)
Next, we could no longer have large group lecture and could only have classes with no more than 50 students. So I had to do some additional lectures to my tutorial group because they couldn’t meet with the larger cohort for the common lecture. Scrambled a little to understand the lecture slides prepared by my colleague. Also tried to help out my colleagues as they tried to set up live-streaming using BB Collaborate Ultra for a large scale professional development course. It was messy walking from lecture theatre to the tutorial room, and trying to use WhatsApp to communicate. Thankfully this was settled when the pros from the IT dept finally stepped in.

Things went on like that for awhile. Then the March school holidays (16-20 March) came and havoc came with it. Many teachers and students started traveling, even I had planned to travel to KL. By this time, there were also many returnees from Europe and USA. And then Malaysia implemented the movement control order (MCO) on 18 March 2020.

Leave of absence for students and teachers who traveled during March school holidays (19 March directive, backdate to travel from 14 March onwards)
This created another push to have all uni staff and students to declare their travel. At first, travel to Malaysia via the land crossings was allowed and then that changed when Malaysia enforced MCO. Many students and staff who went for a quick trip to Malaysia were placed on LOA for 2-weeks. LOA became Stay Home Notice (SHN) for some based on location of travel.

This round of LOA affected quite many trainees who were on practicum and had to miss at least one week of school when the school holidays ended. Some masters students had to miss classes because of the LOA. Occasionally for some students, while his or her LOA ended, they would have a family member in the same household return from a trip and thus prolonged their LOA further. Schools reopened with fewer students, and a diminished teaching staff.

Safe distancing, no more than 3 students per table (26 Mar)
Further safe distancing measure was implemented – no more than 3 students per table at the tutorial room. I think the students were rather surprised that I enforced it strictly. After I took the group photo, one student moved to another table to sit with his 3 friend. “No, you have to move back! No more than 3 per table. I must be able to answer honestly that I kept to the university advisory!” Haha.

Fully online classes and “closure” of uni (6-7 Apr)
Uni classes moved to fully online on 6 April. This did not have much effect on my class. By this time I only have one masters class left, and the remaining 3 weeks were allocated for self-directed assignment work and consultation. So I did not have to move my lessons online.

Since classes were fully online and exams have been mostly canceled, local students staying in the student halls were required to moved home by 5 April. Most uni staff must work from home (WFH; 7 April). Schools will go full home-based learning starting 8 April. With that, for the trainees on 10-week practicum, they are the first batch ever to experience a shortened 5.5-week practicum. I’m sure many are cheering in delight 🙂

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