The University of The Bahamas (UB) announced its comprehensive COVID-19 contingency Academic Affairs plan on Monday, 20thJuly 2020, replete with a number of initiatives aimed at balancing the facilitation of the University’s robust teaching and learning environment with the health and safety of all in its community during the execution of its emergency remote operations for the next two semesters.
Coming on the heels of UB’s previous announcement that it will continue operating remotely with the exception of a small number of courses for the 2020-2021 academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the new contingencies feature the continuation of multiple workshops designed to provide assistance to faculty and academic counselling and advisement services.
“During Academic Year 2020-2021, the Office of Academic Affairs will continue to facilitate a teaching and learning environment that enriches and engages our students and supports the on-time progress towards degree completion,” said Dr. Maria Oriakhi, Acting Vice President of Academic Affairs. “We will do so in a caring, respectful manner which promotes the health and safety of all persons in our community and with the understanding that high-quality courses in modalities suitable to student learning outcomes must continue to be available to all UB students despite the limitations of physical and social distancing.”
On 20thJuly, 2020, UB President Dr. Rodney D. Smith announced that due to the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, UB’s 2020-2021 academic year will continue in Emergency Remote Operations. That means that all lecture, seminar, tutorial, some laboratories and practicum courses will be conducted virtually for the upcoming Fall and Spring semesters. The only exceptions, Dr. Smith, said, would be clinical rounds; studios; kitchens; specified fieldwork and some laboratories.
Dr. Oriakhi explained that in furtherance of the contingency plan Dr. Smith referred to as “Protecting Mingoes”, UB, and Academic Affairs in particular, has implemented stringent social and physical distancing protocols for each and every class set to be delivered via either UB Face-to-Face, UB Real-Time or the UB Flexinstructional delivery models.Those protocols are consistent with the Ministry of Health’s and World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines.
All faculty and students will be required to wear a mask or utilize a face covering at all times, and hand sanitizing or washing facilities willbe readily available in each and every class set to be delivered via those channels, Dr. Oriakhi explained. That includes studio; laboratory; and practicum courses. Additionally, classroom facilities are due to be assessed to determine a maximum capacity. Mats will also be placed at the entrance of each of the kitchenclassrooms to lessen the spread of germs. Dr. Oriakhi said.
Concerning the Teaching Practice, Dr. Oriakhi said those courses will be planned with the opening of schools within in the country. Discussions with the Dean and Chair remain ongoing to determine further possibilities for Teaching Practice courses, she said.
Nonetheless, discussions with the Dean, Interim Executive Director and Head of Department indicated that every effort will be made to complete the practical components of the kitchen courses by mid-semester, Dr. Oriakhi said. Meanwhile, she said UB officials are still working with industry partners to ensure that Field Work and Internships commence for the Fall 2020 semester. Discussions with the Dean and Chair of Nursing have internships for Senior Nursing students set to be completed this Fall.
Clinical Rounds for nursing students will be dependent on the Ministry of Health. UB officials are continuously working to ensure that those courses can be facilitated, Dr. Oriakhi said.
The first day of classes for the Fall 2020 semester is set to commence on 24thAugust, with 1,154 course sections currently scheduled to be offered. Classes end on 29thNovember, with final examinations to take place from the 2nd– 11thDecember.
“The principles and recommendations [stated above] reflect the work of numerous stakeholders within Academic Affairs representing the leadership team, faculty, staff and students from across the academy,” Dr. Oriakhi said. “As these plans are articulated, we must be prepared to adapt, adjust and react quickly as new and clearer information becomes available.”