02.05.2020

Further information about teaching at PLUS - 2nd May 2020

We are gradually learning how to adapt to the Corona outbreak, both in our everyday lives as well as at the university. For us, this means changing to online teaching for the duration of the current semester. Courses and exams held in lecture halls and seminar rooms will not be possible, with exception to some special exams. Regulations for this are currently being drawn up; exceptions are also to be made for selected laboratory exercises and practical sports courses.

You will find a clear outline for all information and documents on examinations on the intranet: https://im.sbg.ac.at/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=128125411 (in German). Many of the inquiries that reach me in this regard concern large exams, i.e. written examinations with sometimes hundreds of candidates: For this we are planning to offer an online solution via Blackboard, which allows a wide range of question formats (including multiple choice). However, some technical preparations are necessary for their implementation.

The access rate for Blackboard has tripled compared to previous usage, and experience shows that this will increase significantly towards the end of the semester. This will push our current system to its performance limits. We have been working in close cooperation with the manufacturer, as well as our IT Services, and have decided to bring the system update forward. This was originally planned for the summer holidays. A completely reprogrammed code base will be imported, which will guarantee the platform’s stability for the next few years whilst also enabling a significant performance increase. It will then be possible to carry out more online tests simultaneously, parallel to ongoing platform operation.

Unfortunately, this means that Blackboard will have to be made inaccessible for a short period of time. The update will start on Thursday 11th June (Corpus Christi, public holiday). On Monday 15th June, or perhaps even a bit earlier, Blackboard will be available again. I ask for your understanding for this decision to temporarily shut down the platform; we have considered various scenarios, but I certainly do not want to risk our learning platform not functioning at the end of the semester! Furthermore, we are only able to provide resources for online written examinations after the new version of the platform has been installed. All current data will of course be backed up and there will be no change in the interface after the update. A new interface and additional features will be available for the coming winter semester.

The University Library has resumed operations and the available services will be gradually expanded. However, students who live further away from Salzburg are still having difficulties in getting to the library and are not able to use the loaning service! I ask all teachers to take this into account and to possibly extend deadlines for seminar papers and theses, or to offer some sort of compensation measures. It is in all our interests to help students achieve their learning goals and complete their courses, even if the routes to these goals differ under these circumstances. The goal of increasing examination activity as a central indicator for university funding remains unchanged, meaning that we must continue to try to complete as many courses and examinations as possible by the 30th September!

Over the next few days, various study regulations will be announced via the university bulletin – Mitteilungsblatt – which will be relevant for some of you. For example, this includes details concerning attendance of further courses even if the introductory and orientation phases (‘STEOP’ courses) have not yet been completed, the suspension of certain course participation requirements, or possibly a leave of absence due to COVID-19. Please pay attention to the emails that refer to the respective bulletin, or look it up directly: https://uni-salzburg.at/index.php?id=213721 (in German).

All the best and stay healthy!

Kind regards,
Martin Weichbold

___________________________________________

Ao.Univ.-Prof. Dr. Martin Weichbold   
Vice Rector for Academic Affairs   
Paris Lodron Universität Salzburg     
Kapitelgasse 4-6, 5020 Salzburg   
Österreich - Austria    +43 (0)662 8044-2420   
martin.weichbold(at)sbg.ac.at
___________________________________________

 

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