Universities hope to stop distance learning in spring semester

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University of Tartu main building Source: Vladislava Snurnikova/ERR

Universities hope to be able to stop distancing learning next semester but are also prepared to carry on if the epidemiological situation with coronavirus has not improved.

Berta Leesment, study director in the Office of Academic Affairs at TalTech, told ERR all class have moved to distance learning until the new year, the only exceptions are students who cannot undertake practical tests or training online.

"If the government's decision in this form remains valid after the end of the year, then examinations and assessments are allowed on the university premises, but web-based examination assessments are preferred," she explained.

Leesment said the university would prefer to go back to teaching in the classroom but the coronavirus must be taken into consideration.

"If the epidemiological situation in the country does not improve, then we are ready to start teaching in the form of distance learning in the spring semester," she said.

EKA is preparing a detailed plan

Head of Communications at the Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA) Solveig Jahnke told ERR all lessons are taking online but exams are taking place at the university.

"Only unavoidable activities are allowed in the house, such as exams or doctoral theses defenses. The spring semester only starts for the majority [of students] on January 25. Before that, there is a week of research, electives, master classes," she explained.

Jahnke said the experience in spring showed them that distance learning can be done well, but it is difficult to carry out practical subjects where using workshops, studios and laboratories is unavoidable.

"There is also a plan for this, the principle of decentralization is used or teachers see students one-by-one and all users are registered. Now more detailed plans for the new semester are being developed which give a framework for any situation that a pandemic could cause," she said.

University of Life Sciences has two spring scenarios

Head of the Marketing and Communication Department of the University of Life Sciences Risto Mets told ERR students will be distance learning until the end of the semester.

He said the rector will decide whether students will be allowed to attend the exams physically in January based on the epidemiological situation.

"Both teachers and students prefer face-to-face learning. It is also often not possible to teach practical skills online. Especially in veterinary medicine, but also in many other areas," Mets said.

The University of Life Sciences has created two scenarios for the spring either moving to regular studies or continuing online.

"If it is not possible to carry out studies and internships physically until spring, the university may allow graduating students access to laboratories to perform the tests required for dissertations. Of course, these will be cleaned after each visit," Mets said.

University of Tartu and Tallinn University have not published plans

At the University of Tartu, distance learning is taking place until the spring semester starts in February and the majority of exams and assessments will be carried out online.

However, no final decisions have been made yet about the spring.

"The university is already thinking about the spring semester, but it is still too early to give more detailed guidelines today. We constantly follow national guidelines and make decisions on an ongoing basis, according to the epidemiological situation," said communications manager Viivika Eljand-Kärp.

Sulev Oll, communications manager of Tallinn University, told ERR distance learning is in place until the new year.

"We have plans for spring, but we want to make them public at the university first. We will do it at the beginning of the new year," he said. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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