University of Helsinki: Contact instruction available at the University in the autumn – Safe encounters enabled through safety measures

Planning for the autumn at the University of Helsinki has been based on making it possible for students and staff to return to the campuses in spite of the uncertain epidemic situation and insufficient vaccination coverage. For students and degree programmes, this means combining a range of learning methods and teaching strategies, as well as safe social distancing.

Vice-Rector Tom Böhling of the University of Helsinki says that while lectures for large student groups will not yet be organised this autumn, roughly one-third of all courses can be held on University premises in addition to instruction that requires presence on site.

“In small group and contact instruction, special priority will be given to the first-year students of bachelor’s and master’s programmes as well as second-year students of bachelor’s programmes, since they have had least contact with the University due to the exceptional circumstances. It’s important for them to have an experience of inclusivity at the beginning of their studies,” Böhling says.

Teaching in the autumn will be provided in various forms, with hybrid teaching and blended teaching as options where either the students or the lectures are divided between remote and contact instruction. Teaching and examinations in the autumn are also planned with a more spacious use of facilities in mind to enable compliance with the relevant social distancing rules.

“The coronavirus period has put students’ coping to the test, making it extremely important to support their wellbeing through various means,” says Director of Development Susanna Niinistö-Sivuranta.

“We will be making student services available on the campuses in a safe manner. The counselling psychologists and the Guidance Corner service platform will organise events both on site and online in support of wellbeing,” she adds.

The libraries, UniSport, the sports and fitness service provider, and some of the self-access facilities are open, but the number of people allowed in these facilities at the same time can be restricted.

Safe encounters enable inclusivity
In addition to the provision of teaching, a hybrid model for work will be introduced at the University in the autumn. While the telecommuting recommendation remains valid until further notice, agreements about working on site or telecommuting will be made more flexibly after the exceptional circumstances brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have ended. Already at the moment, working on site part- or full-time is possible if the employee and supervisor consider it the best solution, for example, to ensure coping or the smooth progress of work, or due to challenging telecommuting conditions.

As of August, University facilities will be opened for studying, teaching, services and cafeteria operations. For the time being, no public events will be held, and any gatherings must comply with the relevant restrictions.

All activity is based on compliance with the valid safety guidelines. Vice-Rector Böhling considers it important to have opportunities for safe encounters. He is looking forward to the beginning of the autumn term with confidence.

“We can now safely meet one another on the campuses by wearing protective masks, ensuring safe social distancing and hand hygiene, as well as by getting vaccinated. Our community needs encounters, so let’s do our best to make them possible in the current coronavirus situation,” Böhling says.

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