Greeting from the Vice-dean with information about teaching in the autumn semester 2020

The Vice-Dean for Education, Niels Lehmann, informs about how the teaching will be held at the faculty of Arts in the autumn of 2020

2020.07.06 | Karoline Munk Hansen

Dear students at the Faculty of Arts, 

I have wanted to send you a greeting for a while now, but I thought it was best to wait until the ministry had issued its guidelines for how we should conduct our teaching in the autumn semester. These guidelines have now arrived, but, before I talk about the future, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your efforts this semester.

Many thanks for your efforts in Spring 2020

It has been something of a spring semester. For all of us – but not least for you students, who suddenly had to adjust to online teaching, IT-supported assignments, different exam forms, virtual study group meetings and independent study at the kitchen table.

As vice-dean for education with overall responsibility for the faculty's degree programmes, I have led the work of finding the best possible solutions to the many challenges the Corona lockdown presented us with. On behalf of the faculty, I would like to thank all of you for doing everything you could to make the best of the situation. Your teachers have been working hard to find good new ways to support your learning processes, but, of course, not everything could be re-organised to function equally well. I am genuinely impressed by the way that both teachers and students have gone about the task of forging new paths in the virtual world, even though everybody missed being able to meet in person.

I would also like to thank you for the patience you have shown. It was not always possible to make decisions at the pace we would have liked. The playing field has been continuously changing – first with the lockdown and then with the gradual reopening, which has changed the terms on which decisions are made on a weekly basis – and we have had to strike many balances. I know that the periods where there have been more questions than answers have created uncertainty and frustration. Under very difficult planning conditions, our goal has been to create as much clarity as possible with a view to ensuring the quality of your education, avoiding discrimination and creating the best possible conditions for your studies.

So, in other words: Many thanks for your constructive contribution that meant that, in spite of everything, we could land on our feet in Spring 2020.

Planning of Autumn 2020

Unfortunately, Autumn 2020 will also be marked by the Corona pandemic. This is mainly due to the difficulties of matching our available rooms with class sizes and year groups. We now have a little more flexibility, but, as a general rule, we should continue to plan around the one-metre distance requirement. To give you an idea of what this entails, as a rule of thumb, it means that our classrooms can only accommodate approximately half as many students as usual.

All our academic departments are in the process of planning the autumn semester with this in mind, but, as you can probably guess, this challenge means that, in the autumn, you should unfortunately expect a mixture of campus teaching, online teaching and various combinations of campus and online formats. In order to incorporate experiences gained from the digital reorganisation of teaching in Spring 2020, a request was made for students and teaching staff in the degree programme boards to qualify the planning on the basis of an initial round of experience follow-up. Although each individual degree programme board has handled this task slightly differently, we have endeavoured to give your representatives the opportunity to present your opinion.

The task of planning the autumn semester is made difficult by the fact that conditions can change before we reach the beginning of next semester. If the reopening of society goes well, the one-metre distance requirement might be lifted. If it goes badly, we may have to lock down again. If the latter occurs, we will have to once again rapidly find the necessary solutions. But, if the distance requirement is lifted, we will conversely have to be ready to return to more usual conditions.

In order to facilitate the work of the academic departments, I and the faculty's other degree programme management, in dialogue with (among others) the Arts Council, have formulated a set of basic principles to take into consideration when prioritising which courses should be taught on campus. In order to avoid the situation that certain courses run into difficulties (like they did this semester), courses that require physical attendance (for example, because they require use of specific rooms or equipment) have been prioritised for on-campus teaching. This is our first principle. Then it is important to do all we can to ensure that your future fellow students can start their studies in the best possible way. Ensuring that new students receive on-campus teaching is therefore our second principle, and our third principle is that all students should have at least part of their teaching on campus. As I mentioned earlier, there are major challenges regarding room capacity, and the academic departments do not have an easy task when finding the best possible ways to use the available rooms. We hope you will bear with us.

Information about your timetable for the autumn and how you should proceed with it will be put on the study portal. Please keep an eye on the website, which will be updated on an ongoing basis if things change.

The need to follow-up

There is no doubt that the spring semester required you to adapt to an imposed restructuring of teaching. As you can understand, the autumn semester will also be characterised by necessary changes. Fortunately, the very steep learning curve in terms of IT-supported teaching has been hugely informative, and I am confident that your teachers will draw heavily on these experiences when planning your courses for the autumn.

Nevertheless, it is important to follow-up more systematically on our experiences during the spring. An initial discussion of the spring semester in the faculty's Forum for Education in June made it clear that your representatives in the degree programme board and the board of studies have already contributed significantly to making us wiser, but there is reason to follow-up much more systematically on our experiences of what works well, what works less well -- and perhaps what doesn’t work at all. At AU level, a large-scale evaluation has therefore already been initiated. In continuation of this, after the summer holidays and in dialogue with the Arts Council, I will examine how we can ensure a slightly more systematic follow-up at faculty level. For this, we will need to hear your voices in particular.

But NOW we certainly all need a break. I hope that, despite everything, the autumn semester will be a little calmer so that you can focus on your studies, which are what it’s all about. I hope you enjoy your well-deserved holiday and come back with renewed energy for the next step - despite Corona. 


Kind regards, 

Niels Lehmann 
Vice-dean for education