The ANU is progressively moving courses online in response to the unprecedented threat of COVID-19. While Canberra has only two confirmed COVID-19 cases so far, the ANU has framed this move as a part of their “role to play” in limiting the spread of the disease within the community.

In a YouTube video uploaded on Sunday, Brian Schmidt, the Vice Chancellor of ANU, emphasised that “the better we do at containing the disease by our actions, the less Draconian measures we will need to take in the future and the safer our community will be”, underscoring the importance of acting before the ANU experiences a significant outbreak. 

“the better we do at containing the disease by our actions, the less Draconian measures we will need to take in the future and the safer our community will be”

Many courses with large cohorts will now be moved online. While some courses seem to be facing difficulties moving online immediately, those that have moved online quickly and with ease seem to be predominately humanities courses. 

The College of Law will move all classes online by Monday 23 March, or sooner where possible, citing the “health and safety of our ANU community” as their number one priority, as well as ensuring that students have the ability to continue their study during this difficult period. Many faculties, including the College of Law, are using virtual meeting room Zoom to give students the ability to remotely watch lectures and participate in tutorials.

Other courses have replaced tutorials with online forums corresponding to their tutorial groups, where students are required to post comments and questions. Other courses, for now, are recording tutorials and making tutors available for online consultation via an app. This is being done for ECON1101 (Microeconomics 1), which has the largest cohort of any course taught at ANU.

The College of Business and Economics has advised that all lectures will now be delivered online, and that all Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics (STAT, FINM, ACST), Research School of Accounting (BUSN), ECON and ECHI tutorials will be replaced with online delivery. However, students studying Research School of Management (MGMT, MKTG, BUSI, INFS), EMET or CBEA courses were instructed to contact their convenor for up to date information regarding whether their in-person tutorials would continue.

The College of Science, Heath and Medicine have also recently announced that all lectures will be moved to remote access, and that attendance at essential tutorials, workshops and laboratories will be reconsidered and that updates will be provided soon. 

While the College of Arts and Social Sciences is yet to release a faculty-wide statement, course convenors have instructed students not to come to class “in line with advice for the CASS Associate Dean of Education who has advised that any courses that can be transitioned online should do so as soon as possible.” Both the School of Art & Design and the School of Archaeology and Anthropology have asked students not to attend classes this week, while the staff investigate and prepare alternate delivery options for Semester 1. Language courses seem to be more slowly moving online. 

 However, many CASS courses still seem to be running in-person tutorials, with many Political Science, International Relations and International Security Studies yet to change their delivery options.

This reflects the fact that the ANU is still working on finding solutions for courses with smaller cohorts and tutorials where social distancing is difficult. For example, Engineering and Maths courses seem to be running as normal for now, presumably because they require significantly more hands-on engagement than many other courses. 

For now, where there is no possibility for recorded or ZOOM tutorials, the ANU is encouraging students and tutors to ensure that there is a suitable distance (1.5 metres) between all people in the classroom.

Despite this, Brain Schmidt said the ANU “may have to move fully online in the not too distant future”, even for courses where outcomes cannot be fully satisfied online. This puts into question whether some courses will be able to be completed at all during Semester 1.

While some changes to course assessments have been announced, it is likely that many more changes will be announced in the next few days. The College of Arts and Social Sciences says that the university is currently investigating suitable technologies to conduct online examinations. 

In an email sent to the entire university, Brain Schmidt stated that “We want to find a balance — a balance where we can do most of our activities – but where COVID-19 spread is prevented, so we can avoid the exponential outbreak that will require us to cease most of our activity for potentially long periods of time.”

“We want to find a balance — a balance where we can do most of our activities – but where COVID-19 spread is prevented, so we can avoid the exponential outbreak that will require us to cease most of our activity for potentially long periods of time.”

The ANU has also recalled all staff and students on university travel, including students currently on exchange. They cited government advice, urging students and staff to immediately plan to travel home or to their home country. 

Students are yet to receive their timetable for the mid-semester exams, which were originally due to be released on Friday 13 March. The ANU website has now been updated to say that the timetable will be available in the week commencing 16 March 2020.