Another year, another semester, another O-Week. University has begun again and while COVID-19 still circulates around the country, this year marks the first with very few restrictions. Woroni has collected what could be some recurring issues this year, and which will be, at the very least, things to look out for.
A familiar face leaves
In case you missed it, iconic ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt announced he was stepping down from the position at the end of this year at the State of the University address. On his way out, Schmidt noted challenges currently facing the Australian research sector. Enterprising students have already begun a petition to rename Badger and Co’s chicken schnitzel in honour of the Nobel laureate.
Old faces return
The beginning of 2023 also signals a continuation of the ANU’s stance on in-person classes. An ANU spokesperson told Woroni the University “…hoped to see a majority of ANU students return to in-person classes for the start of Semester 1…” although they will offer limited remote options aimed at students arranging travel plans.
The University reiterated their December 2022 announcement outlining a return to pre-pandemic modes of study throughout 2023, adding that they expect this transition to be complete, “with all our students on campus”, by Semester 2.
The choice by the ANU to return to “pre-pandemic modes of study” may prove controversial. During COVID-19, the benefits of online learning, from accessibility in teaching and learning, to flexibility for working students, became apparent. Student groups on campus have expressed equity concerns at a return to pre-COVID policies. Both the student union, ANUSA, and the Disabilities Students’ Association worry “…immunocompromised students and students with pre-existing conditions who may have to expose themselves to danger to study.”
As the government insists on a return to business as usual, international students can only study 25% of their course load online. This restriction had been loosened during COVID-19, but enforcement of it is likely to return this year.
Someone, or something, new, arrives
We need not fear our AI overlords, but professors and teachers certainly do. While students were relaxing over summer break, artificial intelligence (AI) made a resurgence, with ChatGPT’s advanced capabilities stoking fears of AI (ab)use across the academic sector.
ChatGPT is an AI-powered chatbot, which responds to user prompts. Some students have used ChatGPT to generate answers to essay prompts and other academic tasks. Because of the chatbot’s advanced capability, answers generated by the AI are difficult to detect.
As a result, some universities are choosing to embrace the bot, asking students to reference its usage in tasks. The Guardian reported that the ANU has “changed assessment designs to rely on laboratory activities and fieldwork, will time exams and introduce more oral presentations” in response to the AI’s presence.
More broadly, the Deputy Chief of the Group of Eight universities, Dr Matthew Brown, cited potential responses as “including supervised exams … greater use of pen and paper exams and tests … and tests only for units with low integrity risks.” Woroni understands the return to in-person learning will also mean an increase in the number of in-person examinations.
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