Starting the semester in lockdown isn’t what any of us had in mind, so here’s what you need to know about how your classes are going ahead and what social activities you can take part in at UniSA in the coming weeks. (Image Source: iStock)

By Helen Karakulak | @helen_karakulak

Due to South Australia’s current lockdown, the University of South Australia (UniSA) has directed that all teaching and learning activities will be delivered online for the duration of the restrictions.

The current restrictions came into place as the university’s mid-year orientation activities were underway, gearing up for new and continuing students to commence Study Period 5, the main study period of the second semester.

Initially, orientation activities – such as program information sessions and student panels – were shifted online, and the directive given suggests a return to campus when state restrictions deem it safe to do so. 

As of Sunday July 25, State Premier Steven Marshall says that despite three new cases today, the state is expected to ease out of lockdown restrictions as planned on Tuesday July 27.

“The good news is that these three have been in strict quarantine,” Mr Marshall says in a press conference on Sunday.

“There are a large number of people in SA, because of their diligence and compliance, we are still on track to lift the lockdown order on Tuesday night this week.”

For most cohorts, Tuesday July 27 falls in their first week of study for the semester, meaning that, at a minimum, their Monday and Tuesday classes will be going ahead online.

This follows the directive that all university buildings and campuses will be closed to all but essential staff for the duration of restrictions, as announced by Vice Chancellor and President of the University, Professor David Lloyd in an email to all staff and students on July 20.

Students are advised to follow the directions of their individual class tutors and course coordinators regarding how their classes will be carried out for the first week.

In some cases, it is a matter of “let’s wait and see”, but staff make the effort to let you know either way as delivery may differ from course to course. For example, tutorials may run on Zoom earlier in the week, and while the hope is that from Wednesday onwards we can return to campus, back-up Zoom links may still be provided.

It’s recommended that you check your emails regularly, and access your courses’ Learn Online (Moodle) pages for any announcements from staff regarding your specific classes. For more general COVID-19 information, you can access UniSA’s social media and COVID-19 update webpage.

This isn’t the first time that UniSA students have had to adapt to online learning, with the pandemic’s effect on the first semester of 2020 demanding a shift to online study.

UniSA journalism and language student Lorenzo found that online delivery suited some of his courses better than others.

“In 2020, due to COVID-19, the final year of my double degree was conducted online, and its course content suited the delivery platform,” Lorenzo says.

“I found educators at UniSA to be extremely helpful and understanding of the cards we were all dealt. However, with my third degree [a Diploma of Languages] the nature of online learning in 2020, in my opinion, didn’t suit me.

“I decided to defer it for a year, hoping for COVID-19 to settle in 2021.

“It is one and a half years on from that decision and we are experiencing lockdowns again… Hopefully lockdowns decrease, and herd immunity increases to let nature heal.”

UniSA architecture student Jessica* agrees that there are pros and cons to online learning but found that beginning her degree online was particularly difficult and has had consequences for her continuing study.

“We definitely missed important things that we should of learnt which have had an ongoing problem as in second year they assumed we knew them,” she says.

“I have spoken to people that are now not coming back for SP5 as they don’t want to be online again…Some things you just can’t teach online, and I think this is the case here.

“If you don’t understand, drop out before census. It’s sad but that is the reality.”

UniSA psychology student Carolyn has also found herself slowing down her studies due to there not being as much in-person support because of COVID-19. She notes that the shift to online has a significant impact on neurodiverse students that warrants clearer communication strategies.

“COVID is just the catalyst for increased burnout, and not the only reason we should improve,” Carolyn says.

“If anyone feels as if they need to slow down, I highly recommend doing so. There is nothing wrong with taking a semester off or doing less classes.

“Otherwise, I think keeping up some form of routine might help. Keeping up with daily care…basically, everything you would do outside of lockdown, including taking rests when needed.

“I’ll be taking things slow as my ADHD has been hard to handle. So, my biggest advice is to always have self-compassion. There’s a lot that isn’t in our control at the moment.”

Outside of course delivery, a university’s social activities play a large part in student engagement, particularly at the commencement of the semester for those new to their degrees.

UniSA’s student association, USASA, play a large role in championing connections between students, and do so through their advocacy services and events such as Clubs Fest, which is planned for the first week of August to introduce students across metro campuses to existing clubs.

USASA President Noah Beckmann said they are currently reviewing whether Clubs Fest can go ahead physically to comply with health advice, but that students have proved how adaptable they can be to various methods of connection.

“Obviously, it’s not ideal, however, students seem to adapt to whatever the norm is at that current time,” Noah says.

“There always seems to be a drive for connection and camaraderie within the student community and they will typically find a way to build community, and we’re always keen to support that through our various services.”

Regardless, for Clubs Fest particularly, USASA has an online program planned to engage with students that study externally, and this will be available to all students in the case that the physical event is unable to go ahead.

“Our student clubs in particular are doing a fantastic job of adapting events to an online environment, which is vital in us being able to maintain social connection in this locked down environment,” Noah said.

USASA deliver up to date information via their social media pages, website and newsletter to inform students of changes to their services.

USASA have also increased their financial counselling service due to the lockdown and have worked to expand their support for UniSA’s international cohort, particularly South-East Asian and Indian students who are facing tough situations in their home countries.

“This expansion will also help us respond to anyone who needs help due to lockdowns affecting our on-campus, external, and online students,” Noah said.

“We, as always, will be advocating for you to ensure that your health and wellbeing is supported, and that if study changes need to be made that they are made in your interest.

“Whilst this situation is probably not what you envisioned your second semester looking like, we do need to adapt to ensure the health and safety of each other in this trying time.”

*Names of a person has been changed or omitted for privacy reasons.