Eirian Jones, President NZPPS
Associate Professor, Lincoln University
It seems like a long time ago that New Zealand went into Level-4 lockdown on 25 March, which changed our country forever. For me as a Lecturer at Lincoln University, it was a bedlam with overseas students trying to get back into the country to start university, students having to leave their accommodation and return home – flights booked out, ferries booked out and stressed students and parents. Most academics gave up their Easter break as we were frantically moving/adapting our teaching to an online platform including learning how to use a suite of new programs (Screencast-o-matic or Panotpo anybody!) to enable recording and delivering lectures, tutorials and assessments in a new way.
Once semester started on 27 April, we were nearly in Level 3 but we had to teach in a different way with delivery of all course material being online. One of the difficulties we encountered is that many of our students, especially the rural students (of which we have many at Lincoln University), did not have adequate internet connections to allow downloading lecture material, attending Zoom tutorials or online assessments. Our tutor conducted many a test by phone with students, usually after having to calm a stressed-out student first!
We are now at Level 2 and Lincoln University started to reopen on 18 May and business is gradually coming back to normal for our research postgraduate students at least – as our teaching is still continuing online. We are now preparing frantically for the final exams which will all be online this semester introducing an added challenge for both students and academics. This has required a change in the exam format and the type of questions being included as these will be akin to ‘open book’ exams. What I must say is how well our students have adapted and risen to the new challenge, and this bodes well for the future as these students enter our workforce where their ability to adapt and their resilience will be of immense value to New Zealand’s changing landscape post COVID-19.