Supporting Your Education

Kate Roberts, VP Education

We have been working hard over the last few days to ensure your education is supported during this unprecedented time of numerous changes.

The most important thing at the moment is to ensure your health, and that of your loved ones is cared for during this time. The University will continue operating as much as possible online but you need to ensure you are well and supported first and foremost before focusing on any academic work.

In this article, I am going to give you some updates on your education for the remainder of this academic year and some advice on where to go for support if you need further guidance.

What have the Officers been up to?

As the Students’ Union is now closed, the Officer Group have been working remotely from home. We will continue to work on our projects and attend meetings virtually with relevant College staff, if you need to get in touch please utilise our emails or work social media accounts.

On Tuesday 17 March, I virtually attended a full day of College meetings via Microsoft Teams to discuss teaching for the rest of Term Two, upcoming assessments, and Term Three exams and assessment arrangements. The senior management team at the University have been in regular contact with us to ensure we are updated and the student voice is heard in these important conversations. I also have regular phone calls with James Knowles (Senior Vice Principal Education) for updates on the situation and to find answers to questions from students.

What is happening with my teaching?

Where possible, all teaching has been moved online for the remainder of term 2 after face to face teaching was suspended on 17 March. Information on how to access your classes online can be found on Moodle. Lectures will be available via Moodle, with smaller group teaching and even individual appointments available via Microsoft Teams. MS Teams will be accessed via Moodle and you will not need to download the app to attend online classes. You can find more information on how to access and use Microsoft Teams here.

Some departments will find it more difficult to move online straight away, running practical work, such as labs and performance-related activity is more of a challenge. The College is looking into ways to best provide these, and potential alternative teaching activities to support your education.

If you have concerns about being able to access this online material, due to disability requirements, access to suitable broadband and Wi-Fi, due to returning home to a different time zone, or any other particular situation that has occurred due to the current outbreak, please get in contact with your module leader or Head of Department as soon as you can to explain your current access needs. It may be possible for departments to provide content in a different format for you to access if they are aware of these requirements.

What is happening with upcoming assessments and exams?

As mentioned above, I spent all day Tuesday discussing alternative assessment arrangements for the rest of Term Two and the assessments in Term Three.

Term Two assessments

You should be updated by your department as soon as possible regarding potential changes that need to be made, I would advise working towards your assignment as normal if you are able to. If you have specific issues that mean you will struggle to work towards assessments as normal, again please inform your module leader or Head of Department as soon as you can to explain your current access needs.

Term Three exams and assessments

All end of year exams and assessments will be conducted online, specific details about how this will happen will be shared with students on 3 April. I was involved in these discussions, it is very discipline and department-specific so requires time to ensure the right approach which supports all students and allows an equal opportunity to succeed. Considerations about students who may now be in challenging situations has been taken into account in all of these discussions, including students who may struggle to access online material, those who have disability requirements, those without access to suitable broadband and Wi-Fi, and those who have returned home to a different time zone. As I have mentioned, if you are concerned about a particular situation that has occurred due to the current outbreak and how this may impact your ability to complete an assignment online, please get in contact with your module leader or Head of Department as soon as you can to explain your current access needs.

Can I apply for extensions or extenuating circumstances due to the current situation?

We have been lobbying the collective voice of students and taking issues directly to the University. This has resulted in us securing a blanket extension for all assignments due up to and including Friday 27 March. This means all assignments due in this window now have a new deadline of Wednesday 15 April. We believe that given the current circumstances and pressures on you, this is a crucial step in ensuring that you are able the additional time to complete assignments during this period.

If you have a deadline later than Friday 27 March and, for any reason, you are not able to submit your work on time, you should apply for an extension using the normal process. The limit on the number of extension requests has been lifted, as have the requirements for medical evidence. Early next week, the University will be reviewing deadlines that fall between Saturday 28 March and Monday 27 April and will email you directly with an update. Find out more here.

The University has asked that you do not currently submit applications for extenuating circumstances as they are unable to judge the impact that the current situation has and will have on students at this time. There will be the opportunity to do so at a future date, if appropriate.

What financial support can I get?

Students may find themselves in difficult situations due to the current pandemic, unfortunately you may have lost your income for now or be in need of resources to be able to access University online. If you have any concerns, please get in touch with Financial Wellbeing at moneymatters@royalholloway.ac.uk. You can also apply to the Study Support Grant, more information can be found here.

What is happening with the Library?

The Library have shifted their services online to reduce face-to-face interaction. At present, the Emily Wilding Davidson Building is open, if this changes updates will be communicated to students. In order to help with social distancing, group study rooms are no longer able to be booked.

If you have any books on loan, please keep hold of them, do not return them to the library. All books currently on loan will be automatically renewed until 1 May 2020 and all outstanding reservations will be cancelled. The Library will review the return date in light of the situation closer to the time. The Library are working hard to provide as much material online as possible, ensuring firstly that items listed as essential on reading lists are available electronically. If you have any questions about this or need to access a specific resource, please contact LibraryLiaison@rhul.ac.uk.

The Library are also offering appointments via Skype on accessing their resources, evaluating information and referencing. You can also access resources related to your studies through the individual Subject Guides and the Library’s Moodle space.

They are planning a series of webinars going through how to access our resources online so you can continue studying without having to visit the physical library. You can book your place here. All webinars will be recorded and available on the library’s Moodle page.

The Library Twitter is also sharing open access resources and content publishers which have been made freely available during the current situation.

What is happening with summer graduation?

Unfortunately due to the current situation summer graduation has had to be postponed. This is of course a distressing time for students but a necessary change based on maintaining collective safety during the pandemic. The University will endeavour to ensure a physical ceremony on campus is organised when appropriate and possible to do so, the timing of this is unknown due to the global pandemic.

Who should I direct concerns and questions to?

The numerous academic services, such as the library, DDS and International Student Support can be contacted via their usual email address and phone numbers. If you need to talk about a specific issue please contact your module leader or Head of Department. The University are continuing to provide updates over email and on the student intranet, with a number of answers to common questions answered on their FAQs page. If you have a question that is not answered here, please email intranet@royalholloway.ac.uk. My email inbox is always open at vpeducation@su.rhul.ac.uk and I will endeavour to find the answer to your questions.

How can I access the Students’ Union Advice Centre?

The Advice Centre has now ceased all face-to-face appointments. However, it is critical that you are still able to access our advice services and we will continue to deliver this digitally through our website, by email, and via phone. Please email the Advisors at advice@su.rhul.ac.uk with any questions or to ask for a phone appointment. The Advice Centre is a free and independent service for all students at Royal Holloway.

A final message from me

We all may feel a little lost right now due to the current global pandemic, but most importantly please ensure you take care of yourself and your family and friends during this time before focusing on academic work. If you have any worries at all, please reach out, University staff and staff at the SU are doing our best to support students during this time and adapting to whole new ways of doing things. Please ensure you try to keep up to date with communications so you are fully informed of changes when these occur. Thank you for your understanding and patience during this challenging time.

Kate Roberts // Vice President Education