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MU transitioning to remote learning, with some exceptions

Classes at Masaryk University (MU) will primarily be held remotely in the autumn semester. In-person classes will be offered mainly to first-year students.

However, laboratory classes and small seminars that are part of practical and clinical courses will also be allowed for older students. These measures will be in place for at least the entire autumn semester, which is set to begin on 5 October at MU. The university will continue to operate based on its traffic-light system. As of Monday, 21 September, the university is at the yellow alert level.

“Synchronous online classes meet the requirements for accreditation during the currently bleak epidemiological situation. Many students are in quarantine or abroad. Some have chronic health issues, and others don’t want to risk infecting their loved ones. We must ensure that such students have access to high-quality instruction, and synchronous online classes are a suitable solution. Of course, we will face many barriers, but the epidemic has led us to think and act ‘outside of the box’”, says MU rector Martin Bareš in response to the National Accreditation Bureau’s statement calling into question the widescale introduction of remote learning. The rector notes that prestigious universities in other countries have already announced plans to go online for the entire academic year.

Holding classes remotely will be beneficial to foreign students who were supposed to come to MU to study as part of mobility programmes or long-term study placements. Academic ceremonies and other social events will be held online. People with symptoms of viral infections are prohibited from entering university buildings. Students and employees who test positive for COVID-19 or have been ordered into quarantine must report their status to the university.

In-person classes at MU will be primarily limited to first-year students, who need to get personally acquainted with academic life, their field of study, their teachers, and their peers. Student evaluations of online courses held in the spring semester revealed that students most often missed lively classrooms, meeting people face to face, interacting with their peers and teachers, and having discussions. For older students, in-person classes will only be held where online teaching is impractical or impossible, such as for practical or clinical courses. “In such cases, we will do everything it takes to make sure that in-person classes are held. Of course, strict hygienic rules will be in place,” says Radim Polčák, MU vice-rector for legal and policy affairs, information technologies, and corporate relations.

“In March we were forced to bring classes online essentially overnight in an unprecedented scope. Over the past few months, the university has adapted to the situation and is thus well prepared for another extraordinary semester,” states Michal Bulant, MU vice-rector for studies and quality. He also promises that in the upcoming academic year the university will heavily support the creation of high-quality study materials for online courses as well as the sharing of practical experience among teachers.

On Monday, the university and all of its constituent parts moved to the yellow alert level of MU’s coronavirus traffic-light system, which means that all buildings are now closed to the public and all students and employees must wear facemasks. The yellow classification also means that the number of people in research laboratories will be limited and that computer labs and indoor sporting facilities will be closed.

Information about the current alert level will be placed in a visible location at the entrance of all buildings and in suitable spots inside buildings. Information will also be regularly updated on MU’s website here.