April 2020, Italy
The Covid manifesto collecting the proposals of Unilab Svoltastudenti Members for the pandemic and the improvements we hope for the future.
1. TEACHING – Covid Manifesto
ENHANCEMENT OF ONLINE TEACHING THROUGH LIVE AND RECORDED SESSIONS
We believe that, in the period of so-called blended learning, it is necessary to especially strengthen online teaching by making it accessible to all students. The accessibility of the lessons, in an equal way for everyone, is the essential condition to allow the effective learning of the subjects studied. At the same time, a level of quality of the teaching must be guaranteed that is not inferior to the one in presence.
We therefore believe that the most effective way to achieve both of these objectives is to conduct live lecture sessions, which are recorded and available online on the student’s e-learning space. It is essential that the recordings are intuitively accessible in the student portals and that it is possible, if there are problems with the recordings, to insert those made directly by the teacher.
RIGHT TO INTERNET CONNECTION
We believe that everyone should be able to connect to the internet and have an adequate connection. It affects the normal course of online lessons, the real possibilities of a student’s learning and, in general, the quality of the education he or she receives.
QUALITY OF LESSONS DELIVERED ONLINE
Just as we firmly believe in quality offline education, we also believe that the same should apply to online education. The service must be delivered in a sensible and usable way: teachers must ensure, as far as possible, that quality video materials are produced, without connection failures and/or missing parts in the lessons. As a solution, we propose deferred lessons, so as not to overload the lesson streaming platforms, and to ensure adequate quality. In addition to deferred lectures, however, we also need collective live lectures in which lecturers can answer students’ questions live.
It is also important that the online lessons follow the structure of the offline lessons, starting with the introductory topics and then moving on to more complex ones.
GUARANTEES ON TEACHING IN THE BLENDED PHASE
For the blended phase of the Covid Manifesto, universities that choose to provide both physical and online teaching must guarantee equal treatment for students using both the physical and online services. It will be up to the universities to instruct their professors to produce materials suitable for both online and distance learning.
ADAPTATION OF PROGRAMMES
It is necessary to adapt the programmes in order to keep them at the same level of quality as the other years and, at the same time, to make the subjects covered as close as possible to online teaching.
ENSURE SERIOUS EXAMINATION METHODS, BUT ALSO GUARANTEE PRIVACY
It is necessary to take into account the need to guarantee the seriousness of the examination, but at the same time to use common sense: one cannot fail or make a student skip the next roll call if he or she only looks at each other during the examination because he or she is supposedly copying. Artificial intelligence is certainly an innovation, but one that is revisable because it is fallible. you cannot play on people’s skins, or rather their careers. Moreover, students cannot be penalised for connection problems.
TIME IS A PRECIOUS RESOURCE
Oral exams cannot last all day: some people do not have so many computers that they can be monopolised all day. We therefore ask for a feasible schedule and very precise slotting of the oral exams.
LET’S TRY ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT METHODS!
We propose to try to think about incorporating assessment methods in itinere. This would certainly provide greater flexibility and a timely and appropriate response. In addition, it would be possible to adopt different and varied examination methods (assignments, group work, essays, discussion of cases, rework, projects) in order to develop new competences beyond the single study of books (soft skills, ability to rework personally and to work in groups).
ATTENTION TO CERTAIN CATEGORIES OF STUDENTS
We believe that special attention should be given to those undergraduate students who have to take exams and lectures in laboratories, gymnasiums or use simulators. We ask that university administrations take this group of students into account. Action must be taken to ensure adequate and safe access to these facilities, perhaps by distributing admission over several shifts.
1.3 MATERIALS and SERVICES
ACCESSIBILITY OF MATERIALS
All useful learning resources must be accessible to students with easier accessibility than in previous years. Students must be able to download the resources needed for the exam directly from the university portal.
In order to make up for unavoidable gaps in teaching, we believe it is also necessary to provide additional teaching material, such as exercises, handouts or in-depth studies. The professors themselves could also produce lists of reliable online sites from which additional material can be obtained.
LIBRARIES AND BOOK LENDING
We believe that libraries should encourage as much as possible the borrowing of books both physically, for students present on campus, and online, for those who cannot access the spaces, through online resources available for a limited period.
PDF BOOKS AND E-BOOKS
The lockdown period has highlighted a number of issues. These include the fact that many students are unable to find textbooks in paper or ebook format. We believe that universities should require book publishers and authors to make ebook versions of all books available at a reduced price compared to the printed version, and to make the digital version of the book available automatically with the purchase of the printed version. Such a measure would avoid problems similar to those that occurred in the spring during the lockdown period, when many students were unable to study from textbooks.
We demand that universities make available, free of charge or at reduced prices, the software needed for learning and used during courses, which is normally only available in universities.
1.4 ADDITIONAL TEACHING-RELATED REQUESTS
TAKING STUDENTS’ OPINIONS INTO ACCOUNT
We firmly believe that it is essential to take students’ opinions into account when designing teaching in the coming semester. Being the ultimate users of teaching last semester, students clearly know about the strengths and weaknesses of teaching. When devising solutions for the next semester, we believe that universities should start from the students’ opinions in order to structure their teaching in the best possible way.
We believe that it is necessary to give the best students the opportunity to tutor their colleagues online.
MORE FLEXIBLE TEACHER MEETINGS
Given the difficulty in managing physical meetings, we believe that more flexible online meetings should be developed, giving students the opportunity to meet the professor as much as possible.
FASTER COMMUNICATION BETWEEN TEACHERS AND CLASSES
To facilitate learning, we believe it is effective to create direct channels of communication between the teacher and the class such as, for example:
- Discussion Board: the benefit would be for both parties, both in saving resources and in having a history of doubts and clarifications;
- Q&A sessions: taking advantage of the use of technology, sessions of exercises, clarifications and collective discussions could be organised in order to stimulate interaction between the student and the subject/teacher.
Moreover, everyone could access and participate in such sessions remotely.
2. INTERNATIONALISATION – Covid Manifesto
We believe that exchange programmes are an extremely important opportunity for the human growth of a student. Since we strongly believe in meritocracy, we believe that those who have applied for the call for applications and have been placed in the ranking list should have the possibility to leave. It should happen in the second semester in case they can no longer in the first.
Since we foresee a substantial increase in the number of students leaving in the second semester, we propose in the Covid Manifesto to increase the European funds allocated to the universities that will have more incoming students in one semester.
We are aware of the fact that doing an Erasmus online from home is certainly not the same as doing it abroad, in fact it is almost against all the objectives of the European Union exchange program. But we also believe that in these times of emergency this possibility should be given to those who want to follow lessons in the language, but this opportunity must remain limited in time.
In this regard, we think that platforms could be implemented for students to interact with each other outside the classroom.
Since the emergency has allowed us to rediscover the beauty of our country and since we believe in improving our university system, we propose the creation of a national exchange programme. We believe it would be a way to strengthen national cohesion and to continuously exchange best practices between different territories and realities.
We also call in the Covid Manifesto for the encouragement of visiting professors, in order to make the system more international for both teachers and students.
We believe that consideration should be given to the fact that a minority of international students may be affected by time differences. We therefore ask that all classes be recorded and that special examination sessions be set up for courses taught in English. All this should be done after an analysis of the geographical regions of origin of the students in the individual courses and if it is not possible to find time slots that are as suitable as possible.
3. UNIVERSITY and JOB WORLD – Covid Manifesto
CENTRALITY OF INTERNSHIPS AND APPRENTICESHIPS AS A LINK BETWEEN UNIVERSITY AND THE WORLD OF WORK
At the time of writing, two thirds of students do not have any work experience before graduating. We believe it is essential to include internships in the course of study in order to avoid further prolonging the training experience, of which the degree should be the culmination. We believe that it is essential to focus on getting closer to the world of work during the university course, in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice that characterises Italian universities, thus training all-round professionals.
TIME WINDOWS FOR INTERNSHIPS AND APPRENTICESHIPS
We are convinced that it is not enough a university general commitment, but rather to reorganise the academic calendar. It has to be done in such a way as to make space for large time windows for internships. It is materially impossible for students to do an internship without significantly extending their course of study. This is one of the reasons of the poor performance of Italian universities, among other things. Therefore, we include in the Covid Manifesto the request that a dedicated period, free of lectures, be set aside for students to carry out work experience.
The proposal to adopt a well-established tradition of the Anglo-Saxon academic world – the placement year – is parallel to the identification of specific periods dedicated to internship activities. This is a university proposal that sees students in their penultimate year of training spend the entire academic year working for a company outside the university. The period lasts between 9 and 13 months, during which the student is accompanied by a tutor who guides him/her and checks his/her progress. At the end of this year of ‘work’, the student’s academic career normally resumes, greatly enriched from a curricular point of view. The university’s role in all this is clearly to enter into agreements with high-level partners in order to guarantee educational experiences for its students.
The approach to the job market for degree courses in the medical area has always followed a distinct procedure. The very fact that these courses of study result in what is defined as a “qualifying degree” implies that the training course for the profession takes place within the university course itself. Although formally present, the organisation of professional apprenticeships has always had serious limitations in terms of usability and usefulness in learning the required skills. We therefore believe that it is necessary to identify the bodies responsible for supervising the proper planning and proper conduct of these professional training courses in accordance with predefined and uniform skills on the national scene.
4. RIGHT TO STUDY – Covid Manifesto
PROVIDE FOR AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF DSU GRANT APPLICANTS
It is necessary, now more than ever, to cover the non-beneficiaries of DSU scholarships.
ENVISAGE FURTHER INCREASES IN THE NO TAX AREA
It is necessary to extend the No Tax Area as much as possible to include more students up to the ISEE threshold of €30,000.
SAFE BUT LIVEABLE UNIVERSITY HALLS
It is necessary on the one hand to ensure that residences are safe spaces for students, in compliance with all health regulations, but at the same time that residents can use the spaces.
5. STUDENT CONDITION – Covid Manifesto
We believe the following measures should be considered:
- introduce additional discounts for students;
- guaranteeing the period from 20th of August to 30th of October, by presenting the university ID card entitled to each student, a substantial discount for transportation to return to the university.
RETURN TO CAMPUSES
We believe that the following should be defined as soon as possible:
- an unequivocal national criterion determining the return of students to university campuses, so as to reduce inequalities and discrimination;
- a national protocol for defining the criteria for opening up universities, so that those that are able to comply with these provisions will be able to resume attending.
We also believe it is necessary that, when returning to campuses, health safety is guaranteed in all spaces, according to the provisions of the legislation.
The issue of spaces is of fundamental importance, therefore we consider the following to be necessary:
- to guarantee access to as many spaces as possible within the limits of student safety;
- a system for reserving places in the library, so as not to create queues and gatherings outside the library, as places will be limited;
- a ‘diffused university’: i.e. using other temporarily unusable spaces that are not being reopened (such as cinemas, theatres and similar facilities) as study rooms to lighten the number of students: this is to ensure social distancing and to give students the chance to fully experience the opportunities that the city offers.
HEALTH AND HYGIENE PROVISIONS
We believe the following hygiene and sanitation provisions should be implemented:
- adequate and due sanitation, carried out in a transparent manner towards university users;
- provide ministerial guidelines to university users with the rules to be respected, in order to create awareness of the rules to be followed;
- providing university users with individual protection devices, making up for any shortcomings in these devices by means of the appropriate equipment;
- organising the distribution of masks on campuses at a point communicated to all users. These should only be available in case of need, as everyone should arrive at the university already equipped.
ON-CAMPUS SERVICES and STUDENT ACTIVITIES
We call for equal access to on-campus services for both students who are physically present at the university and those who cannot be present, in order to avoid unjustified discrimination.
In addition, we ask that student associations and, more generally, all members of the student community, be provided with adequate tools to carry on activities normally carried out physically in the distance.
As requested many other times, we consider it necessary to reiterate in the Covid Manifesto the importance of guaranteeing the vote to all out-of-town students.
EMERGENCY FUND FOR TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT
We request that an emergency fund be set up to support the purchase of technological tools for educational purposes for deserving students without means.
GENERAL PRACTITIONER FOR OUT-OF-TOWNERS: STUDENT-FRIENDLY HEALTHCARE
Today, more than ever, it is essential to guarantee greater flexibility in terms of healthcare domicile, allowing students to keep it both in the region in which they live and in the one in which they are resident.