Teaching with social distancing – challenges and guidance

Our campuses are open and operating under COVID safe conditions, including the requirement from 14 February 2022 that anyone attending UQ campuses, sites or facilities is to be fully vaccinated, with a TGA-approved vaccine against COVID-19. With borders now open, students who were previously unable to travel to Brisbane are beginning to return and able to access our campuses.

UQ is adhering to all Queensland Health guidelines to ensure the safety of the UQ community. Students on campus are also required to adhere to the following conditions:

  • Maintain physical distancing where possible (1.5m)
  • Wear a mask when they are indoors, and outdoors where physical distancing is not possible
  • Maintain good hand hygiene
  • Stay at home when they are sick.

Some students are particularly struggling with the impacts of the pandemic. UQ offers a range of support services, many outlined in these slides (PPTX, 847.4 KB) you can share with your students. Student Services also offers support for staff helping students in crisis.

The resources below may assist with the challenges of teaching in this context.

Evaluating and promoting student engagement (HaBS) (PDF, 107.9 KB)
Switching on learning (BEL) (PDF, 130.5 KB)
Student support services slides (PPTX, 847.4 KB)

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Teaching on campus

Teaching on campus may be different this semester. Social distancing will have some impact. Some students and staff may not be able to attend classes on campus for many reasons including travel restrictions, illness or being requested to self-isolate. Classes will finish at 10-minutes to the hour to allow for safe transition in and out of learning spaces. Central teaching spaces have upgraded AV systems with microphones available in the room.

Creating a safe teaching environment

UQ academics have always had a responsibility to make their classes a safe place for students to learn. This semester, we have extra reasons and responsibilities to support our students to engage in a safe and healthy way in our classes. UQ has developed a Safe teaching checklist (PDF, 131.9 KB) to help you.

Staff are not required to check a student’s vaccination status. However, if you are concerned that a student may not be vaccinated and may impact on the welfare of others, you are able to request this evidence. Similarly, you can and should request students to wear a mask and/or socially distance where appropriate.

If a student refuses to comply with these types of requests, politely ask the student to leave the class for the safety of all members of the UQ community. However, you are not expected to enter long discussion or arguments with students. If a student does not leave the class when requested to do so, please call Security, who can assist.

You will need to set expectations, a set of Staying healthy PowerPoint slides with speaking notes (PPTX, 0.9 MB) is available. Model the behaviours you want from your students, and if you see behaviour you don’t think is appropriate, please intervene. In classes such as labs, where physical distancing may be compromised, a risk assessment must be undertaken and additional safety measures put in place. Specific guidance is available in the Safety Note – Teaching Space (PDF, 462.1 KB).
UQ has a range of campus wide and local initiatives to make our campuses safe.

As government guidance changes, UQ will provide updated guidance and support to ensure our campuses are safe for work and study.

Class density

UQ has allocated learning spaces in accordance with Queensland Health guidance, which allows 100% seating in large lecture settings (100+ people). Physical distancing, density requirements, masks, enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols and venue check-ins have all become part of everyday life at UQ. Our return to campus and sites guidelines provide more advice and support for staff to safely transition back to working at UQ.

Timetabling has allowed some capacity in rooms for late student enrolments. Each learning space is equipped with QR codes at each seat for this purpose which students can scan using their smart device. Instructors do not need to scan a QR code. Smaller education and teaching sessions do not have any density limits, however physical distancing should be observed to the extent possible. Each learning space also provides equipment for sanitation.

Labs should follow the COVID-safe plan developed for the relevant activity. Reducing density may be a strategy in these plans but should be considered in the context of the space, class length, ability to wear masks and activities planned. 

Parallel teaching with Zoom

View the Parallel teaching page.

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Reviewing your course

In the current situation, you are required to:

  • recognise the need to be flexible in this uncertain time
  • explicitly provide ways for students to meet the learning objectives of your courses and how those objectives are to be assessed
  • provide alternatives for on-campus activities for external students
  • ensure students have adequate and equitable access to consultation with staff
  • communicate any changes in your course to all students, including in your ECP
  • be prepared if you, or members of your course staff, need to take leave or self-isolate due to illness or caring responsibilities.

Be realistic about your goals for teaching and learning at this time.

As you think about continuing teaching and learning during COVID times, consider what you can realistically accomplish.

  • Will you be able to maintain your original curriculum and timetable?
  • Will your students be in different situations or time zones? 
  • What assessment, learning activities and resources are essential in your course?
  • What do you expect your students to do?
  • How will you keep students engaged with the course content? How can you generate a sense of belonging within the class?
  • What measures can you put into place to ensure accountability and a sense of progression?

Reconsider your expectations of students.

View Setting expectations for students in different learning environments and delivery modes.

Use familiar tools

Consider using tools and approaches familiar to you and your students, to begin with. As you and your students become more comfortable, consider expanding your repertoire. 

When using new technologies, start simply and expand on the features and complexity of interactions as you and your students become familiar with the tools. Most students will now have a working knowledge of new technologies, including Zoom. Consider expanding your use of these platforms to further enhance teaching and learning.

ITS continues to work with vendors to expand the free student software for use at home.

Designing learning (BEL) (PDF, 156.5 KB)
Rethinking contact time (BEL) (PDF, 154.9 KB)
External resources to support your transition to online teaching (PDF, 181.7 KB)

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Communicating with students

Communication is essential for creating an effective learning environment and a sense of belonging. For more information, view Communicating with students.

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Motivating students

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Online lectures and videos

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Zoom lectures, tutorials and workshops

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Lecture recordings and privacy

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Preparing for staff absence including your own

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Alternative professional activities (labs, practicums, placements)

Consider whether these experiences are essential for accreditation or achieving learning objectives.

UQ provides access to laboratories, placements, field trips and more that add value to our students' learning experiences (see Teaching off-campus). Refer to Types of spaces and Learning space development at UQ for a range of options. 

In the current situation, we need to consider which of these experiences are crucial for achieving learning outcomes and providing more authentic experiences for learning.

Can the learning objectives be met using online/remote delivery?

Some potential options may include:

  • using online resources (e.g. YouTube videos, Khan academy, Anatomy atlas or other virtual lab/practical experiences)
  • running practical sessions via Zoom, or
  • providing videos of experiments/practical examinations with supporting resources (e.g. protocols, experiment data, articles, literature, etc.). Students can then use this information to complete any related assessment (e.g. lab reports, quizzes, blogs).

Your Librarian can help you access high-quality resources.

Where these experiences are essential for accreditation or achieving learning outcomes:

  • Can students catch up in a block or accelerated experience?
  • Can some of the activities be supplemented with online resources to minimise the intensive load?
  • Can booster activities be run at a later stage? (i.e. to catch students up on the desirable content/skills/knowledge that may have been dropped)
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Promote an inclusive learning environment and encourage interaction

Be open about the impact of COVID-19 on students in your course.

Acknowledge the emotional impact on those students and call on everyone to exercise empathy and understanding.

Explain what equity and equality mean in your course. Do this to address concerns and beliefs some students might have about standards and quality in the course (i.e. perceptions of advantage or disadvantage amongst students). See Inclusive practice for more information on equity, diversity and accessibility.

Teaching Strategy 1: Ensure universal access to course materials

Universal access to all teaching materials and information underpins an inclusive course. Take care to share online materials in ways that are universally accessible to all students.

  1. At a fundamental level, ensure all students have access to the knowledge shared and discussed in classes. This is easier in the context of a lecture/workshop/seminar than laboratory/fieldwork settings.
  2. Upload transcribed recordings and invite students to discuss. Ask questions and monitor responses in the Blackboard Discussion Board within 48 hours of uploading the content to encourage students’ engagement.
  3. If a significant number of students are unable to attend your class, divert some tutor time to Discussion Boards.

Linking to resources in courses explains how to link to Library resources, videos and Open Educational Resources (OER) in your courses without breaching copyright. Contact your Liaison Librarian for help with accessing and linking to resources.

Teaching Strategy 2: Leverage informal peer-to-peer-learning to encourage interaction

Fostering informal (or even formalising) peer-to-peer learning can foster an inclusive culture in your course. It also enables students on campus feel they are supporting fellow students to keep up with their studies in a difficult time.

This is how you can incorporate peer-to-peer learning into your course:

  1. Openly address the impact of the coronavirus in your course to all students (see above).
  2. Articulate the value of peer-to-peer learning across cultures and contexts, enriching the depth of learning.
  3. Explain why you are encouraging peer-to-peer learning (i.e. to be inclusive of students who are not able to come on campus).
  4. Come up with a plan to use and organise activities (e.g. Discussions Boards by topic, day or week) either for the whole class or in groups (see the group feature in Blackboard) – assign students to smaller groups that comprise on and off-campus students.
  5. Explain your expectations on the use of Discussions Boards to students (e.g. expected response time).

Refer to Inclusive teaching and classroom management practices for more information on creating an inclusive space.

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Evaluating your course and teaching

Check-in survey

The Check-in survey is optional and runs during Teaching Week 6 and 7. It allows you to evaluate your students' course and teaching experience early in the semester. Please note: the Check-in survey responses belong to course coordinators who request them – they are not recorded institutionally. Refer to the Check-in survey web page for key dates and how to order a survey.

SECaTs and SETutors

Adjustments to the Student Evaluation of Course and Teacher (SECaT) and Student Evaluation of Tutor (SETutor) surveys were made in Semester 2, 2020 to suit different course and teaching modes. Refer to the SECaT and SETutor web pages for key dates and more information.

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Creating a sense of belonging in your courses

Fostering a sense of belonging for our students is a top priority at UQ. Please review how you can help create a sense of belonging in your courses – some ideas may be relevant for your students in your context.

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ITaLI support team

+61 7 344 31348

COVID-19 Updates

The coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is evolving daily. Please review: