The university is implementing special measures to support our students. The Teacher Education Unit is among the faculties calling around to encourage first-year students.
“We call them to check in and find out how they are doing and whether there is anything we can do to help them during this time”, says Hilde Inntjore, dean of the Teacher Education Unit at the University of Agder (UiA).
The Covid-19 restrictions over the last year have meant that student life has turned out very differently from what was expected. Many students are stuck in their flats, following their courses online and experiencing little social interaction. At the beginning of January, further restrictions were introduced, extending the period of online teaching.
According to Inntjore, it is especially important to encourage and support new students.
“This is their introduction to student life. We want them all to cope well and to succeed with their studies”, Inntjore says.
The teacher education and faculties at UiA have implemented different measures to get in touch with their students.
Staff at the teacher education call their first-year students. They follow a scripted conversation to ensure they inform about available resources such as SiA Health for example.
They ensure the students have understood how the teaching and exams will be delivered this semester. And they remind them about semester registration and course selections which are done online.
“These conversations have been invaluable. Calling each individual student is a good way of connecting with our students”. Also, we have ekstra meeting with students and digital meeting points, says Inntjore.
Many students say the situation is tough. Some experience loneliness. The teacher education and faculties do what they can to support their students and inform about available resources such as SiA Health’s support line.
There are also examples of students who have a positive experience with the coronavirus situation. They say have more time to study and are happy with the new flexibility. Some also give credit for the effort of the staff of teachers.
The Faculty of Engineering and Science also calls their students. Here, student mentors from the buddy scheme FYSE (First Year Student Environment) call first-year students. These mentors have a special responsibility to ensure first-year students are coping well, academically and socially.
The Faculty of Humanities and Education has started calling their first-year students.
At the Faculty of Health and Sports Science, several study programmes have engaged third-year students. The bachelor’s programme in social education invites first-year students to weekly social gatherings. The events are in compliance with social distancing measures and are held outdoors, with hiking, campfires and more.
The Faculty of Fine Arts invites all its students to digital lunches with their departments. The faculty also organises other digital events for their students, such as online yoga and Friday coffee with quiz.
“We encourage all course teachers to check in with their students to see how they are doing, not only with their studies”, says Marit Wergeland, dean at the Faculty of Fine Arts.
At the School of Business and Law at UiA, some course teachers call their students. Bachelor’s students and first-year students have been prioritised.
“We have posted general information about the situation in programme rooms in Canvas, have provided links to SiA Health and encourage our students to contact us should they have any concerns”, says Kristin Wallevik, dean at the School of Business and Law at UiA.
Wallevik also points out that the School of Business and Law has very active student associations that stay in contact with students throughout the semester.
“Our impression is that the students are doing well but want to return to normality, just like everybody else. We have been pleased that many students have reached out to us when they have had concerns”, Wallevik says.
Programme coordinators at the Faculty of Social Science have implemented an ‘open digital door policy’. That means that students can contact them when they want. Many have taken advantage of this.
The faculty dean, Anne Halvorsen, has had meetings with all union representatives. She received feedback on what works well and what challenges exist with regards to digital teaching. Various study programmes have also implemented measures. They organise hikes, go ice skating and offer digital events. Students whose exchange was cancelled have been invited to take part in a digital fieldwork course in Uganda and Sri Lanka.
Our goal is to reach all first-year students by 1 February. That is the deadline for registering this semester.
“Education is an important social responsibility. The region needs our graduates. We must ensure that our students are doing well, that they register for the semester, and complete their studies”, Inntjore says.