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Information from Hans-Ulrich Heiß, Vice President for Education, Digitalization, and Sustainability

Monday, 23. March 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Dear Teaching Staff and Examiners,

In the past days and weeks we have been confronted by the developments surrounding the coronavirus and we have done everything possible to communicate essential information as quickly as possible. A number of far-reaching decisions have now been taken: Cancellation of in-person courses and examinations, closure of buildings, (almost) all staff working from home. Nevertheless, despite the circumstances, we are all committed to providing a restricted teaching program for summer semester 2020 and to offering canceled examinations at a later date. As yet, we do not have a concrete plan and much will have to be done on a basis of self-organization. However, central support and coordination will be made available. We would like to present some key considerations.

Online teaching in summer semester 2020

Special focus should be placed on compulsory courses, particularly in the bachelor´s programs. A restricted offer of courses in compulsory elective programs is something we can live with. Deans of studies and degree program representatives are requested to coordinate teaching within the degree programs and to prioritize in terms of the allocation of resources. Erhard Zorn (innoCampus) will be providing the advisors for studies and teaching with lists of courses as well as information concerning the number of attendees. These can be used as a basis to create a priority list of courses for which online material should first be produced. The hardware we have purchased will then be lent out on the basis of the prioritized courses. I would also request that contact persons are appointed for all degree programs, with telephone numbers and emails where they can be contacted by students. We have set up a weekly web conference across the entire University for questions relating to studies and teaching. These will be attended by advisors for studies and teaching from the faculties and central institutes.

InnoCampus and the online teaching team (OLT) from the Center for Scientific Continuing Education and Cooperation (ZEWK) are working closely together, with innoCampus taking the leading role for the introduction of tools for online examinations and the online teaching team supporting teaching staff with the preparation of online courses. What we have in mind are relatively simple solutions which can be put together working from home without any great technical requirements, rather than filming lectures in an auditorium. You can find further details at praxisblog.zewk.tu-berlin.de/online-lehre/. Equipment (cameras, microphones, laptops) and software licenses have been ordered which can be made available and which are also suitable for working from home. We will inform you as soon as possible concerning exactly how and when these will be made available. It would of course also be a great help if the faculties are able to directly support their teaching staff with both equipment and personnel.  

In addition to “asynchronous” options, where the registered teaching material can be downloaded and viewed at any time, we will also plan to use “synchronous” options, where a small number of teachers and learners can meet in a virtual space, such as for seminars, tutorials, etc. The WebEx conference tool, which is already being used for other types of meetings, is suitable for this purpose. The number of licenses is currently being increased, but WebEx will have to be adapted if it is to be used widely for teaching. We are currently testing other options for their efficiency and usability.

There are also good online teaching materials (e.g. MOOCs) which are already available and which can be recommended for a number of introductory and basic courses. We will be putting together a collection of Open Educational Resources (OER) for this purpose. Every university in Germany is in a similar situation and as such, an exchange with the relevant subject communities is very much worth pursuing in order to make use of sharing and cooperation to reduce the workload. We will also be examining the options for cooperation within the Berlin University Alliance. The University Library will be responsible for this.

Please use the ISIS learning platform to upload materials and inform students in good time concerning procedures. A course can be offered in a compact format and does not need to be spread over the entire semester. It is important, however, to avoid bottlenecks in the overall teaching program to ensure that students are not overburdened at any time. 

Please also consider how to make best use of your tutors and arrange for them to be trained in advance in the use of the various tools to be employed. The online teaching team and innoCampus could help you with this.

Labs requiring physical presence and the use of equipment cannot be conducted at the moment. We will provide you with further information concerning labs at a later date.

Orientation events

We are also expecting a number of new students in some bachelor´s programs and many master´s programs in summer semester 2020. Enrollment is still taking place and, due to the current situation, will not be complete before the start of the lecture period on 20 April 2020. I would kindly ask you to prepare online versions of the usual live events to welcome newly enrolled students. These should be made available on the website and include a welcome video from the head of the faculty and the important information students require at the outset of their studies. It is important that you include details of contact persons. 

Examinations

We are currently developing options for online examinations, though there are no concrete solutions as yet. However, you do have the option, as an exception, to choose to offer oral examinations in online format. If you do so, please ensure that

  • you inform the candidates in good time and let them know which technical requirements they need to be able to fulfill,

  • it is technically possible for students to choose this option and that it is their right of choice to do so,

  • examinations taken as a result of a free choice are binding and will be recorded unless technical problems arise,

  • an observer or second examiner must be present and maintain a record (as with in-person person examinations).

You can find information about suitable tools in the online teaching team´s blog referred to above.

Communication

We will endeavor to intensify our information service throughout this period of restricted operations and keep you informed of any developments. Your first points of contact as a member of teaching staff are the dean of studies for your faculty, the degree program coordinators and the advisors for studies and teaching. 

For further questions relating to

  • the creation of online material: the online teaching team of the Center for Scientific Continuing Education and Cooperation ():  

  • online examinations, using the ISIS learning platform, borrowing digital cameras, support in the use of the Open Software Broadcaster and recording selected courses in the Math Building: Corona-Support von innoCampus

  • open access to digital teaching material (ebooks, MOOCs, etc.):

Our aim is to provide as many as possible of our scheduled courses for the summer semester online. With the necessary creativity and flexibility, this is something we can achieve. Please help us and let us know how we can help you. And above all – stay healthy!

Sincerely,

Hans-Ulrich Heiß

Vice President for Education, Digitalization, and Sustainability

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