Queen’s campus may be closed to all but non-essential activity, but our community is more united than ever. Faced with the challenge of COVID-19, we are pulling together to ensure the safety of our students, while continuing to deliver world-class teaching and focussing our research on tackling the virus and its impact on the world.
The strength, flexibility and resilience of our staff has been demonstrated by how quickly we have adapted to delivering our teaching and assessments online.
Remote teaching and lectures delivered through Canvas, our new university-wide Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) has been supplemented by live teaching through conferencing facilities, small group tutorials, one to one sessions - particularly for final year students completing dissertations - and drop in Q&A sessions about the course, as well as general queries or concerns students may have.
Our staff have worked tirelessly to convert examinations to new online assessments, to test systems, to consult with students and to run training programmes for students to ensure that they are familiar with taking virtual assessments.
We continue to support prospective students building provision for online engagement including Virtual Open Days and offer-holder events.
Our people are the lifeblood of our University and we have never been prouder of our community. From our scientists working hard to find therapies for COVID-19 to our students volunteering on the frontline and beyond, we are supporting society from a grassroots level up.
Finding new ways to stay connected
Queen’s has always promoted a sense of community but now more than ever we recognise the importance of reaching out and asking, ‘Are you okay?’. Our staff are staying connected with our students more than ever before.
Staff have continued to support research students remotely, both to assist them academically but also to ensure that they are not feeling isolated working away from their research group. For those who have not been able to continue with their research, they have been encouraged to continue with reading around their subject and to take part in an enhanced set of skills training available through our Graduate School.
We understand this is a worrying time and we are keeping our students as informed as possible through our Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which is regularly updated with common queries from students and staff.
To ensure our students are as supported as possible, our student support resource guide contains coordinated information on our suite of student support services ensuring students are signposted efficiently to the most relevant person.
Meanwhile, we are proactively reaching out to vulnerable students to expediate access to the University’s wellbeing support services and our work to implement reasonable adjustments and recommendations to teaching, learning and assessments for our students with disabilities continues.
Our social media channels remain a useful resource for students, offering daily tips on everything from mental health and wellbeing to managing a routine in lockdown.
Reaching out to those in need
At Queen’s we look out for one another and wellbeing of our students is our top priority. Whether it’s essential care packages or access to hardship funds, we are coordinating and delivering solace and supplies to students and their families who need help most. Our grassroots response to the crisis includes access to Essential Supplies vouchers, through our Stay Healthy. Stay in Touch Campaign, allowing students living on or off-campus to access groceries, toiletries, and anything else they may need while self-isolating or social distancing, and we have been busy delivering hampers of essential supplies to our students in Belfast.
We are working to support our most financially vulnerable students, working collaboratively with food banks to support students in need of their services and adding significant funding to the Student Hardship Fund to support students in need of financial assistance.
Accommodation staff continue to clear rooms of those students who had to leave quickly and redistribute food that was left behind to foodbanks for other students who were struggling, either financially or having to isolate.
Adapting to serve our students during COVID-19
With face-to-face teaching suspended, our staff have embraced the latest digital tools and platforms to ensure uninterrupted support and education to our students.
In addition to the academic support provided by Schools, study support has continued to be provided online through our professional support services, including our Learning Development Service, our Graduate School, our specialist subject librarians and our learning and teaching specialists. Each service has provided virtual one-to-one and telephone meetings, as well as enhanced advice and guidance online.
Recognising that not all students have easy access to computing in their home environments, Information Services has made available computers from our Library stock for students to take home. Where students have not been able to collect these from Belfast, arrangements have been made for these to be delivered to students, including students in other parts of the UK.
By coordinating remotely, we continue to offer ‘business-as-usual’ services remotely to students including a dedicated disability and wellbeing online hub, providing an overview of support continuing to operate; remote teaching and lectures through Canvas, our new university-wide Virtual Learning Environment (VLE); specific Visa advice and a wide range of support for our International students, ongoing support from our Safe & Healthy Relationships Wellbeing Adviser, alongside our online reporting tool for students affected by bullying, harassment, hate crime or sexual misconduct and continued guidance from Advice SU on a range of issues from funding to housing.
We’ve enhanced our Career and Employability service to support current students graduating into an uncertain job market, offering a range of employability skills and opportunities.
Going above and beyond for our students
We’re proud and thankful that Queen’s staff are going above and beyond to support our students during the coronavirus pandemic. Our staff are offering Professional Practice Courses and support to healthcare students working in frontline services; we’re providing students with an Academic Mental Health Tutor to ensure students receive support on studying at home while looking after their mental health and our academic community are offering Lockdown Learning online videos on useful topics including how to sleep like a baby and analysis on curbing a loneliness epidemic.
From donating to foodbanks to offering free cooked meals, wellbeing bags and chocolate deliveries to students in Queen’s Accommodation, we are striving to make life a little brighter in these unprecedented times.
We’ve delivered over 550 meals to students, both on and off-site while children residing with their parents in Willow Walk Accommodation received a personalised Easter activity pack. A further 300 students received a wellbeing activity pack.
If you are considering joining the Queen’s community, we look forward to meeting you online soon.