20.03.2020

FAQs Teaching

Further information about teaching at PLUS

Commission board examinations now made possible!

The general suspension of examinations must remain in place for the time being (this also applies to examinations via Skype etc., as these are not permitted for legal reasons!) However, we would like to make an exception for students wanting or needing to complete their bachelor, master, diploma or doctoral studies with a commission board examination before 30 April 2020 (end of the grace period). The candidate and at least one member of the examination committee must be present at the university. Other members of the examination board can also participate in the examination via video call. Thank you to all those who have worked hard in the last few days to develop a solution that is not only legally sound, but also organisationally feasible. For further details please refer to the document attached.

The University Library is here for you!

·         NEW: you can now find a compact summary of the most important online resources for your subject using this link: Subject Guide/Information Transfer. The extensive range of ONLINE RESOURCES (e-books, e-journals etc.) is still available. Please note the information regarding remote access; the University Library provides students, researchers and teachers of PLUS with over 3 million e-books, 40,000 e-journals and 300 licensed databases.

·         NEW: content from publishing houses now activated
Thanks to the library initiative, more and more publishers are showing more content online. We will keep you up to date.

·         Full newspaper and magazine issues
A large selection of current national and international newspapers and magazines can be found in Pressreader

·         Please keep yourself regularly informed on our homepage at https://www.uni-salzburg.at/bibliothek

Submission of final academic papers

The submission method for master/ diploma theses as well as dissertations will be made exclusively via PLUSonline/PAAV. The submission of printed copies can be made later. This will not cause any delay for students, as supervisors will be able to download theses from PLUSonline and upload their feedback after marking the paper.

Community Service (“Zivildienst”)

The government has called on former civilian servicemen to support the care and medical services. If students are required to take part, they can take time off from university. The semester will not count, and students will be exempt from tuition fees if the regular duration of study is exceeded. This means that no examinations can be taken during this semester. If no leave is granted, participation in courses and examinations is possible; individual arrangements can be made with the lecturers regarding different examination methods. However, please keep in mind that you will only have time for a few courses in addition to your community service, and that the semester will count towards your study programme if you do not take leave!

Grants

Many students are worried about losing or having to repay their grants because they cannot provide the required evidence after having to cancel exams. According to information from the scholarship office, two cases can be distinguished: (1) If the entitlement period per study programme or per level of study is exceeded, the Study Grants Office (“Stipendienstelle”) may extend the entitlement period if it can be proven that the cancellation of course or exam dates has caused this prolongation. If courses are cancelled, we will issue a confirmation to the person concerned. The scholarship office is also aware that no examinations are currently possible. (2) However, if the student is not able to prove the required academic achievement required after the first two semesters, no extension can be applied for; without enough proof there will be no money granted for the third semester! However, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) can provide one-time compensation by means of study support if it can be proven that the absence of courses or examination dates is the reason for the lack of academic achievement. We will try to keep up a good teaching practice given the situation so that you are able to successfully complete all planned courses this semester.

Many students have been requesting an extension to the grace period (currently the 30th April) or the waiving of current summer semester for tuition fees or scholarships. These decisions are not made by the PLUS, but by the minister or legislator. We are in contact with the ministry, both directly and through Universities Austria (uniko), and are trying to find a good solution whilst keeping the best interests of the students in mind. We will inform you as soon as there are any decisions made on this topic.

We have previously recommended the online learning tools echo360 (for lectures), Webex Teams, Google meet (both for seminar-like courses) as well as the well-known learning platform Blackboard. I ask teachers to use only these tools, as using other programmes only creates confusion; if students are asked to use a different platform for each course, they must create multiple accounts and familiarise themselves with many different programs. In addition to this, we have assessed the programmes mentioned above and were able to approve them regarding data protection regulations.

In general, I ask both teachers and students for mutual understanding and trust. Students should keep in mind that even teaching and administration staff cannot answer every question, as many things are simply not predictable at this time. However, please be assured that all staff are making every effort to continue study and examination procedures. If there are any problems, please contact the course leader. Should you require further clarification, students can contact the head of department, then the dean or the faculty office. The student representative bodies (“Studienvertretungens/StVen”) can give you important support when required.

I ask teaching staff to remember that, like themselves, students must also juggle other challenges aside from their university courses in these exceptional circumstances: they may have insufficient equipment, slow internet access or may have to share a PC with others. They might also have to supervise younger relatives, and many may experience existential worries during this stressful time. It is not only the teaching staff who have extra work with online learning, as following and writing discussion topics in Blackboard is more time-consuming than in a seminar environment. Tasks may be set quickly but might not be completed as easily. Please consider additional work that students may have been asked to complete under the given conditions! Teachers can also support students with more flexible deadlines and good feedback.

The measures to contain COVID-19 will continue after the Easter holidays; Minister Faßmann has now extended the suspension of classroom teaching until 30 April, but we must assume that it will take much longer before normal university operations can be resumed. The aim is to enable as many students to take the planned examinations and complete courses as possible, even under the current circumstances. The following measures will be taken to achieve this:

·         After the Easter holidays it will be possible to organise oral exams to take place completely online. This will apply for both class and individual exams, which includes commission board examinations. A guideline regulating the exact procedure is in preparation and will be published in the newsletter („Mitteilungsblatt“) in due course.

·         Conducting written examinations online, on the other hand, is much more difficult, but here too there are various options for performance assessment. We are currently working on an overview of possible examples and will send them to you as soon as we can. I ask course leaders to consider alternative assessment options for any planned written examinations and to offer them to their students. Remember that there may be students who have difficulties with these alternative forms of examination, for whom the option to choose the original format should remain a possibility (perhaps held on a later date). It should also be noted that there will not be a viable alternative for every form of written examination, for example, if there is a very large number of candidates or for some final subject examinations. These exams will be postponed for the time being. One could assume that exams will be able to take place as normal at the university towards the end of the semester, although there is no guarantee of this.

·         STEOP exams are an important topic, because they remain as pending in several subjects. I ask examiners to find ways in which students can complete these courses! The STEOP exams are not so much about the assessment of subject knowledge, but rather about giving an overview of the course of study and inspiring first-year students to continue pursuing the subject; in this respect, I am convinced that adequate forms for the courses’ completion can be found. If, contrary to expectations, this is not possible, I would ask those responsible to handle any curriculum prerequisites and early withdrawal regulations very liberally; we are still working on a legal regulation of these points.

·         It is particularly important, especially in the current situation, to establish clear lines of communication: I ask teaching staff to inform all students clearly and comprehensibly (i.e. documented in PLUSonline and Blackboard) about the procedure within the course, as well as the form of the examination (as soon as this is determined). This is the only way students can prepare themselves appropriately. Another problem that has been brought to my attention is the right for students to view their completed exams: students will still have the right to do so, even if it is currently more difficult to organise. If it is not possible to send a scan of the exam paper, the allotted time for this past-paper inspection must be extended until the students can come to a regular office hour.

·         If students have questions concerning certain courses or exams, I ask them to contact course leaders directly. If they are unsuccessful in reaching the course leader, they should contact the relevant student representatives (“Studienvertretungen”), who will then deal with the students’ concerns and, depending on the circumstances, clarify it with the faculty, the examination office, a specific administrative department, the dean or even directly with me. By doing this, we can avoid numerous individual e-mails, which often go to the wrong offices and whose forwarding and processing takes a lot of time. Students should be assured that everyone will do their best to find a solution to their problem.

Allow me to conclude by addressing another important issue: the current situation has the potential to cause enormous psychological strain. If you have the feeling that you are overwhelmed and don't know what to do, don't be afraid to ask for professional advice. The Psychological Student Counselling Service is there for you, especially in this time of crisis. Telephone numbers and contact details can be found on their homepage: www.studierendenberatung.at

I wish you a happy Easter time and above all: Stay healthy!

Ao.Univ.-Prof. Dr. Martin Weichbold
Vice Rector for Academic Affairs

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