Statement from the Vice-Chancellor – Update on Semester 2 teaching and delivery

I hope you’re all well and staying safe after two months of lockdown. Thank you for your patience as the University continues to navigate the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19.

In this message, I will provide you with an update on how the University will teach subjects in Semester 2, 2020.

Limited return to essential face-to-face learning activities

We are now managing the return to face-to-face activity at our campuses through a carefully planned COVID-Safe process that is strictly in line with advice from the experts.

The Victorian Government is still advising everyone to work from home if possible, so most learning activity for Semester 2 will continue to be delivered online. However, we will also recommence with a limited number of teaching activities that have to occur on campus.

As you may know, many courses have subjects that include essential face-to-face activities and placements; these need to be completed for students to progress as planned. These subjects have been given priority for face-to-face delivery in Semester 2. We are working hard to organise COVID-safe spaces for face-to-face teaching in Semester 2 to maximise the opportunities for students to undertake these essential activities.

Those subjects with approval for face-to-face activity will have some components such as lectures that will need to continue online.

I want to stress that where face-to-face activities are delivered in Semester 2, all teaching will comply with strict physical distancing requirements and all teaching spaces will be cleaned and disinfected in accordance with COVID-safe hygiene requirements.

Off-campus learning activities such as placements and field trips will continue following all the necessary health and safety guidelines. The safety of our students and staff has been our top priority throughout this crisis.

You will be notified when a full list of the subjects that include essential face-to-face on campus activities is published on our website.  Don’t forget you can adjust your enrolment for Semester 2 if you are unable to come to campus.  

I understand that some of you may be frustrated that some of your subjects will continue fully online in Semester 2. The reality is that strict COVID-19 physical distancing requirements and government workplace health and safety regulations severely reduce the number of students who can attend a tutorial or lecture. For example, a 200-seat lecture theatre may now only be able to hold 40 people and a 30-seat tutorial room only six people.

Ultimately, these restrictions make it impossible for the University to resume all face-to-face teaching activity for Semester 2, 2020. We will continue to adhere to this medical advice and will not take any steps that would put our students or staff at risk. However, we are continuously monitoring government COVID-19 guidelines and adapting our operations accordingly and will continue to do so when Semester 2 commences.

I want to assure you that whether our subjects are delivered fully online or as a combination with face-to-face activities, you will continue to receive the highest quality teaching and education from La Trobe. The University is committed to ensuring that you can make progress with your course as planned, and to do this we need to continue online delivery in Semester 2.

Naturally some of you may be nervous about returning to a classroom environment after months of being away, but I want to reassure you that the University is putting all necessary distancing and hygiene measures in place to protect your health and safety.   There are also steps you can take to protect your own health. Good hand hygiene and cough etiquette is important. If you are unwell, please do not attend campus. The Victorian Government is encouraging anyone with even mild respiratory symptoms to present for a COVID-19 test.

When will all face-to-face teaching resume?

The University will only be able to resume all teaching on campus when it is safe for students and staff and social distancing restrictions permit.

We will ensure that our approach is compliant with the advice of health authorities and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) directives to provide a COVID-safe campus. We will communicate with students as soon as there are updates in relation to teaching, so please check your student email and LMS subject sites regularly for updates.

Student Services available online

Our support services, including Student Wellbeing services and Learning Support, continue to be available online. You can find a full list of our student support services available online here.

Updates and further information

I will continue to update all students regularly through email and the MyLaTrobe channels. For all your academic updates, including your course and your subjects, please regularly monitor your student email and your LMS subject sites. For all community updates I would encourage you to visit the MyLaTrobe blog, MyLaTrobe Facebook page and the student FAQs page.

I look forward to seeing a small number of students back on campus in Semester 2 (from a safe distance), and hopefully further relaxation of restrictions will allow more and more classes to resume on site before the end of this year.

Good luck with your exams and assessments.

Professor John Dewar AO

Vice-Chancellor and President, La Trobe University