at the University of Trento we are strenuously working to allow a gradual return to safety in the classrooms, laboratories and other rooms and spaces of our university and to better organize the restart of the teaching activities in September.
As you know, the national rules currently in force provide for the extension to the entire first half of 2020/21 of the provisions for the containment of the infection: distancing of one meter between people, interdiction of gathering, disinfection of spaces at each change of user, definition of separate flows of entry and exit of people.
We are also called to limit travel on the national territory in order not to overload public transport and create situations of risk of infection.
Universities must guarantee distance teaching to students in quarantine and to those who, for safety reasons, deem it preferable not to move from their homes.
Restarting in these conditions is difficult, but possible.
Compliance with the rule of classroom spacing alone reduces the capacity of our classrooms to less than 25% of usable places. In these conditions, the way we have chosen is to guarantee distance teaching always for everyone and, at the same time, to allow classroom attendance in turn. As you can imagine, the balance between distance and face-to-face teaching depends on many factors: the teaching model of each individual department, the equipment and streaming capacity of each available classroom, the number of participants involved in the lessons.
In the organization of the teaching activities, we will try to pay particular attention to those who, for the first time this year, find themselves following a lesson at our university.
We ask our most veteran students to make a little more effort to give a better welcome to those who for the first time enter our university.
As you can imagine, the complex situation does not allow us to have simple answers, nor a single model.
In addition to the general guidelines, therefore, the various departments will organize themselves according to their specificity and for the first half of the year they will adopt a mix of three different solutions:
Shift attendance – Students' participation in the classroom will be rotated. Who was not present in a certain turn, will follow the same lesson in streaming. The estimated average shift could be one in three lessons in attendance.
Selection of courses – The courses to be delivered in presence will be selected, replicating them several times. Other courses, on the other hand, will be delivered remotely by choosing on the basis of the number of students, the teaching approach or the year of the course.
Online courses and discussion groups – Part of the course will be made available online for everyone (for example 50-60%) and face-to-face teaching will be guaranteed to comment and integrate the online material in small groups, repeated several times. This model seeks to take advantage of both the potential of distance teaching and the method of comparison and active participation in small groups. For those who cannot be present, alternative remote activities will be organized.
Generally speaking, we estimate that for the first semester the average attendance to face-to-face lessons for each student will be around one third. It is a rough figure that may vary depending on the choices made independently by the individual departments in light of the different circumstances and needs, but also depending on the number of students who will decide, in full autonomy, to be present in Trento or to remain at home.
I am confident that there is a good chance that the restrictions that are imposed on us today will, before the start of autumn, be relieved and will allow us to do more than we can plan today.
To understand in detail how your lessons schedule will work, I invite you to check the website of your department. We have set up a special section with all the information and references to find out more. You can find this info under section "Teaching and learning" on the website of each department.
As you know, we live an exceptional phase of our lives, and the attendance of the university, as we have always known it so far, is conditioned by it. However, this is also a re-start phase, never experienced before, which needs courage and creativity. Even on your part. I therefore invite you to provide a feedback on any problems that you may encounter, and to participate constructively in the building of this new teaching approach. You may find it a bit “colder”, but it will certainly be effective (almost) as before, thanks to the effort of our teaching, technical and administrative staff.
I thank those who, for the first time, have chosen to study at the University of Trento and those who continue their journey with us by trusting us, despite the current difficulties.
I hope to meet you in person soon and wish you a good summer and a peaceful new start in autumn.
Rector of the University of Trento