A social start to the new academic year

Text: Line Lauvsnes Oddekalv

- Updated

Primarily in-person teaching, many different arenas for social interactions, and getting to know your fellow students in a safe surroundings – welcome to the semester start in Volda!

The pandemic is far from over, but the management of Volda University College is confident that experience from the last year and a gradual re-opening of society means that we can start the new academic year in a good way. This year, we know more what to expect from infection control measures and it is easier to plan and make choices depending on the regulations we have to work with.

-The semester start last year went well and we hardly had any cases of Covid-19 on campus. The Buddy Week board did a great job to plan for a safe orientation week and the management at VUC made good plans which enabled some social interactions. The students maintained social distancing  and followed infection control measures in an exemplary way and we hope this will also be the case in the autumn of 2021.

It is reassuring that the Buddy Week spends so much time preparing and planning for a safe semester start, says Odd Helge Mjellem Tonheim, vice-Rektor at Volda University College.

Warm welcome

According to the best scenario, we could at the time of the semester opening (August 17th) be at step #4 of the government’s plan for re-opening society. If so, students would be more free to interact than what was the case last year.

-We hope that the situation this autumn will be better than last year. We hope to include more students at events and perhaps open the Rokken Student House for more students, says Tonheim hopefully.
Tuesday August 17th is the official the start of the new academic year at VUC and this is the date for the opening ceremony. The opening ceremony will actually be a number of separately held ceremonies for the different academic departments and study programmes.

This means that students in a given study programme will meet up with other students in the same programme. All ceremonies will include the screening of a welcome greeting, before new students are introduced to the staff responsible for their study programme and are met with their Buddies. 

Online- and part-time students will for the most part have a different programme for the opening week. Information about your semester start programme will be available in Canvas after you have registered as a student for autumn 2021 (possible from 1. August). 


More in-person teaching 

Due to the low infection numbers in Volda, VUC was able to hold a lot of classes in person during the 2020/21 academic year. 

-We had a lot more in-person classes than the average for universities and colleges in Norway, something we see from for example responses to the national SHOT-survey (student wellbeing survey) and the Studiebarometeret (student satisfaction survey). This is something we are very happy with, says Tonheim.

The management at VUC does everything in their power to provide students with as much in-person teaching as possible for the autumn of 2021. Even if we are at stage #4 in the re-opening plan by the start of the semester, the 1 meter social distancing rule will still be in force. This again means that lecture rooms can seat fewer students than normal. As a result, VUC will continue to rent larger rooms off campus in order to have more available lecture rooms.

-We want the students to have as much in-person teaching as possible, and plan for a minimum 50% physical classes for students in all regular study programmes. Some students will have all classes in person, while others about half. For the most part, students should expect between 50-70% of all classes to be in-person, says Tonheim.

In order to achieve this much in-person teaching, we are forced to “stretch” the school day in both ends. This means that teaching hours at VUC will be from 08:30-18:15 in the autumn term of 2021. This longer school day will be in place as long as social distancing requirements are in effect.

Social and safe

The campus and all of its buildings will be open in the autumn, and Tonheim urges students to make use of the buildings and facilities.

-We see that in-person classes is important for the learning environment, but also for the general student environment and the well-being for individual students. A number of new students are moving to Volda and away from their friends and family, and therefore the social aspect of the semester start is very important. An open campus makes it easier for students to find arenas for interaction and academic cooperation. We hope new students will experience the great student environment that Volda is known for, says Tonheim.
VUC has gained much experience in the handling of infection control measures and has close dialogue with local health authorities. 

-It is safe to come to Volda and to study with us. New students will feel welcome and well looked after, promises vice-Rektor Tonheim.

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