Durham online learning plans reversed

Written by News

After a report was leaked from Durham University, stating that some degree programmes may move fully to online next academic year, the educational institution has now reversed this plan. 

After most academics made it clear that they did “not want to let go of their courses”, as vice chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge stated, the plans to move online have now been stopped. The BBC have reported that the University and College Union have welcomed this news, alongside academics. 

The report had stated that five-hundred modules were to be moved online, starting from the 2020/2021 academic year. The plan was to increase this number the following year. 

However, the heads of departments have now been told that they do not need to reduce the amount of ‘live courses’ that are planned to start in September 2020. Professor Corbridge said that plans had been to put modules online but to take out 25% of its content, in recognition of the distressing times that students are in and to try to relieve workload. However, the UCU have called this idea “destructive”, and Corbridge has now agreed that the idea was “misjudged”. 

Online learning has proved useful during the Covid-19 pandemic, hence the idea for Durham to move online. But it has not been a perfect transition into remote teaching, and there have also been issues across the country with this form of delivery.

The Guardian have reported that some students have been posting pornographic material during online lectures.

According to Aisha Gill, Professor of Criminology at Roehampton University, abusive images have been used by students during Zoom meetings. 

At the University of Derby, six students have recently been suspended for “degrading and offensive” comments which were allegedly made about fellow female students in an online group chat. With this culture of offensive comments being prominent, there are fears that online learning will lead to increased harassment. 

With Gill stating that she knows of three to four incidents at different universities in only the last week where abusive sexual images have been posted in live Zoom chats, she states that “Action is being taken” against such behaviour. She calls for an improvement in universities’ online security and for stronger internet firewalls. 

All of this comes down to the quick transition from face-face to teaching to online learning. A spokeswoman for Universities UK has said that safeguarding has been an important consideration in moving to online education, and a Zoom spokesman has said that the company “strongly condemns such behaviour and is committed to providing educators with the tools and resources they need on a safe and secure platform”. 

Last modified: 25th April 2020

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