University of Tartu going to remote learning after rise in COVID-19 cases

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University of Tartu Source: Andres Tennus/Tartu Ülikool

The University of Tartu is to switch to remote teaching from Tuesday, in response to growing COVID-19 numbers.

"Since as there were as many patients [due to all causes] in the university as in the entire previous autumn, and in an effort to keep the matter under control, we have opted for stricter measures," said Aune Valk, the university's vice-rector for studies.

The development also means that a planned torchlight procession to mark the university's anniversary on December 1 is canceled.

Valk said: "The open air torchlight procession in the could in theory still take place, but most of the time the torchlight procession doesn't end there and then – afterwards participants gather in their student body groups, and in order to avoid these gatherings taking place, we decided this morning to cancel the anniversary events."

Exams will need reorganization

The university will remain on distance learning until the beginning of the next semester after the new year.

Reorganizing studies online will need to take place, the rector's office says, though exams and assessments can still go ahead in-class, if students register and wear a mask.

How this will work out is down to individual faculties and lecturers, the office says, with the medicine and some science faculties in practice likely to see a greater face-to-face component in its learning and teaching. This also depends on how the exam period, which follows the winter break, will fall for the various subjects studied.

"[After Christmas] comes the exam period, and when the new semester starts in February, we will reexamine the situation," Valk said.

The original coronavirus wave in spring had already given the university good experience in distance learning and taking exams remotely, which is to say that the latter still required monitoring as a way of heading off potential cheating.

"Let's just say that in all subjects, there is no way to take a long-distance exam without checking - though still depends on the nature of the substance that needs to be checked. There are monitoring options, but they are not always the easiest and there may be data protection issues," Valk went on, adding there is no uniform approach to exams' organization yet, though there is still time for this to take place.

Masks are in any case mandatory in the university and on Tartu's public transport, following a government order to that effect coming into force today, Tuesday.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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