UC limiting class sizes to encourage physical distancing, health on campus

20 March 2020

The University of Canterbury is reorganising its teaching timetable in order to reduce class sizes, and to offer many larger lectures online, to further encourage physical distancing and health safety.

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    “Numerous measures are being put in place to protect the health and safety of our UC community. We urge our students and staff to seek evidence-based information and advice on our website. The University is going beyond the required steps to reduce class sizes and enable on-campus teaching and learning to continue as long as practically possible,” UC Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Catherine Moran says.

The University of Canterbury is reorganising its teaching timetable in order to reduce class sizes, and to offer many larger lectures online, to further encourage physical distancing and health safety.

“We’re taking a calm, balanced and organised approach to this evolving global event. Most of our students want to successfully complete their studies and of course we’re taking every precaution. Many of our large lectures will be offered online while maintaining small group labs, tutorials and workshops,” says UC Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Catherine Moran.

“It is important to give the students a sense of normalcy with BAU, in-person, on-campus options while we can, particularly for consistency, social and wellbeing reasons. Being isolated away from friends and loved ones is difficult, so our strong preference is to keep to regular routines as long as possible. An actively engaged and learning mind is best at a stressful time from everyone,” she says.

“We’re intending to keep teaching and researching at UC as normally as possible, for as long as possible. If Government advice changes and we need to do things differently, we will do that. It’s great to see hundreds of our academics finding ways to make interesting online teaching resources available.”

Despite a university exemption from the Government ban on mass gatherings, there will be changes to timetabling to reflect changes to smaller lecture sizes and to enable greater physical distancing in UC teaching spaces starting Monday. The new schedule will be released as soon as available on Sunday evening to the UC community.

Physical distancing, hand-sanitiser stations, and other Ministry of Health-recommended preventative measures are in place in the University’s libraries, dining halls and other shared student spaces over UC campuses.

The UC Arts Centre city location, including the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities, remains open with Music and Classics lectures and classes running as usual. (The Teece Museum has maximum of 30 people visiting at any one time.) Increased cleaning includes the hospital-grade surface spray used at UC’s Ilam and Dovedale campuses on high-use areas and weekend cleaning.

“Numerous measures are being put in place to protect the health and safety of our UC community. We urge our students and staff to seek evidence-based information and advice on our website. The University is going beyond the required steps to reduce class sizes and enable on-campus teaching and learning to continue as long as practically possible,” Professor Moran says.

“Our health advice remains: stay at home if you’re unwell, wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, and reduce physical contact. If they are well, students should attend class as usual.”

“Staff can meet in person with students until advised otherwise, as long as they are comfortable to so do. If anyone feels unwell they should not be on campus.”

As the situation regarding COVID-19 continues to escalate globally, the health and wellbeing of UC staff and students remains our top priority, she says. UC is working hard to deliver and maintain a safe and healthy environment for our UC community on campus, amid annual “fresher flu” and the upcoming influenza season, as well as COVID-19.

Campus cleaning staff have been provided with additional protective materials and are also applying hospital-grade surface spray for common areas that provides a protective layer helping prevent germ transmission. Hand sanitiser is provided in more than 70 locations throughout the UC campuses, and we encourage regular handwashing with soap and water as well. Misting machines have been purchased to disinfect large areas, such as libraries and lecture theatres (watch them in action).

UC is following its Emergency Response Plan and convened a strategic response group some time ago to actively monitor and implement actions as required. UC is being advised by Education New Zealand and the Ministry of Health.

It’s important to ensure we are well-informed so that we can support those in our community with the right information to take responsible steps to protect themselves and others. The Ministry of Health advises that with continued vigilance the chance of widespread community outbreak is expected to remain low. The COVID-19 outbreak is a reminder to us about how we can help keep ourselves and everyone around us healthy.

Advice for students and staff on Covid-19 is updated daily on the UC website and shared via other UC apps and communications channels. We release further information as it becomes available, please monitor the UC website (www.canterbury.ac.nz) for the regular updates for UC students and staff.

At this time, when fear and anxiety levels are high, we know our community is feeling worried and we encourage people to visit www.health.govt.nz for more information about COVID-19, how it affects people, and the precautions on how to protect yourself and others.

For further information please contact:

UC Communications team, media@canterbury.ac.nz, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168

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