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The decisions about teaching in spring must be made together

commitment | 13.10.2020

The coronavirus situation continues, which puts pressure on deciding about how teaching is organised in spring. In the spring of 2020, quick decisions had to be made without open preparation due to the unknown and new situation. Now that the exceptional situation has been ongoing for six months decisions should not be made without sufficient and open preparation. This kind of preparation has not been done, and there is a threat that the decision to continue to organise teaching in the spring in the same way as in the autumn is made too early and with too light reasoning. The Faculties and the Student Union must be heard when these decisions are made. 

The teaching in the autumn has been organised based on management’s instructions. The Faculties have interpreted the decision in varying ways and often in a more restricting manner than the instruction states. The interpretation has been that teaching requiring the physical presence of students has been made only when essential, even though it would have been possible to organise this kind of teaching safely more often. As a result of this, most of the students have not been offered this kind of teaching. The guideline is different than the one that for example universities of applied sciences follow. The issues that concern the autumn have not been solved and now the management is considering similar guidelines for the autumn.

The Student Union opposes this kind of decision at this stage of the autumn. The decision would give a false signal that most of the students would not have a reason to be at their campus city during the spring. As a consequence, it would be impossible to maintain a sense of community and student culture even in the current state. If the management’s instruction would be interpreted as it has been interpreted this autumn, students in many fields would receive teaching that requires physical presence in autumn 2021 The amount of teaching that requires physical presence should be communicated clearly to the Faculties and the students. This enables students to prepare for the amount of this kind of teaching and commit to full-time studying. 

There are clear implications that mere distance teaching decreases the quality of education and the students’ well-being. The fact that teaching should be organised at the campus has before been reasoned by ensuring the pedagogic quality of teaching, and this reasoning is still true. The Student Union understands that it is necessary to plan how the teaching in spring is organised in a timely manner, but the plans must take seriously the needs of students and the tasks of the University. 

TYY suggests that the organisation of teaching should not be decided on before the community is heard. Furthermore, the infection situation should not be evaluated too early and in a too restricting manner. The Student Union sees that the prolonged situation must be recognised and that the University must aim to carry out the study plans in as normal way as possible. The risk of the university’s reputation regarding the infections can not be a justification for too restricting instructions. 

Concerning the spring it should be decided that teaching that requires physical presence should be organised always when it is possible. TYY sees that it is reasonable that the mass lectures are held via remote access. This enables the large lecture halls to be used for teaching smaller groups with safety distances. To make studying easier, rooms for group studying must be opened since there are not sufficient grounds on why they should be closed. The students must have the possibility to book the university's spaces. 

For a student, the period of studies is not just a performance that one can settle just by receiving information via Zoom. Period of studies includes a sense of community, exciting learning experiences, interaction, and excellent learning outcomes. A year of studying via remote access is too much and it takes the University far away from its goals.

The Executive Board of the Student Union of University of Turku

For comments and more information contact the Chair of the Executive Board Sofia Engblom (045 3205125, tyy-pj@utu.fi) or the member of the Board responsible for Academic Affairs Camilla Saarinen (tyy-kopo@utu.fi)