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COVID-19: Teaching activities and exams procedure run-through

On this webpage, you will find all necessary information regarding ULB's teaching activities.

Oral and written exams

The two University-sanctioned tools used for the exams will be Microsoft Teams for the oral exams (which many are already familiar with) and a reinforced copy of the Virtual University (the ‘VU 2’ platform) specifically dedicated to written exams. By separating the regular VU, which will continue to host your courses, from the ‘VU 2’, which will only host exams, we can significantly increase the system’s reliability.

Microsoft Teams will also be used to provide live support during the session.

If possible, we encourage you to test your access to Teams and/or to the ‘VU 2’ before 11 May 2020, in order to be ready for the exam session.

Written exams: the ‘VU 2’ platform

The VU is already under heavy load due to regular courses, so we have decided to host exams on a ‘copy’ of the VU platform with increased capacity. On the ‘VU 2’ you will find an (empty) page for each of your courses, where you may create exams (tests or assignments) or import them from the VU. The regular VU remains active, and hosts all your course content; please do NOT use it for exams, as the server might not be able to handle the number of connections.

The new platform dedicated specifically to exams is available at ulb-exams.be, and you can sign in using your usual ULB credentials (netID and password).

The interface is identical to the one you are already familiar with.

We ask that you make sure, by midnight on Sunday, May 10:
  • that you can sign in to the VU 2 (apart from the URL, ulb-exams.be, the sign-in process is the same as for the VU; support is available from the home page);
  • that you have access to the various course pages required;
  • to notify us of any problem you may encounter, by contacting  uv@ulb.be.
In addition, please make sure to keep your exams hidden while you create them, as students also have access to the platform. However, do not hide the course page itself, so that students may check that they can access it properly.

Oral exams: Teams

Microsoft Teams is the University-sanctioned videoconferencing tool used for remote oral exams. Important note: this application will also be used for support, so please install and test it even if you have no oral exams.

As for the ‘VU 2’, we advise that before midnight on May 10 you:
  • test your access to Office 365 (the software suite that includes Teams) and Teams;
  • make sure you have access to the various course pages (‘teams’ in Teams) that you need;

What will happen if there is a technical issue?

Many of you have expressed concern about the possibility of a technical problem. The ‘VU 2’ exam platform was specifically designed to handle a massive number of connections in a short time, and to minimize risks. However, if you experience difficulties:
  1. if a major problem occurs, whether ULB or another party is at fault (server failure or general internet failure), the teacher in charge of the course will be responsible for taking appropriate measures (e.g. only mark questions that have been completed and automatically saved, reschedule the exam, etc.) in consultation with the head of the examination board;
  2. if a student experiences a temporary network issue, they should not panic: every time they go to the next page during a test, their answers are saved; when they sign in again, they can resume the test where they left it off;
  3. if the problem persists, phone support will be available to students; they will be asked to identify themselves, specify which course they are having trouble with and describe the problem. All calls will be logged. If the problem cannot be resolved, the teacher in charge of the exam will be notified and will make a decision on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the student’s contact with the call centre and their connection logs. We are, of course, aware of how exceptional these circumstances are; as a result, you are encouraged to show leniency, including in the event of a legitimate technical issue.

Important note: for a technical issue to be considered as a valid excuse, the student absolutely must:
  • have successfully tested, before the exam session, their connection to the VU 2 platform—and Teams for oral exams—; their sign-in attempts can be viewed in ULB’s server logs (students have been informed of this);
  • have contacted phone support during the exam (as mentioned in III. above).

Where to find help?

  • Until May 11, you may use your regular communication channels: teaching advisors in your faculty, CAP (teaching support centre, at cap@ulb.be), the ‘Entraide enseignants’ team on Teams, etc.
  • Starting May 11, these channels should only be used for non-urgent issues. For urgent issues, a dedicated space will be available on Teams, entitled ‘Examens - support enseignants’, with one channel for oral exams and one for written exams. You will automatically be added to these spaces, and may use them to contact the CAP quickly. Due to the lockdown, support will not be available by telephone. We also ask that you not contact teaching advisors by e-mail or telephone, as no fewer than 1,800 exams will be held during this session, 6 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Support will be provided by a rotation of people on call, and there is no guarantee that the specific person you are trying to reach will be available at that moment.
  • Students will have a single point of access: the support call centre (which will forward issues to the CAP if necessary). The call centre’s phone number will be provided at the beginning of the exam session and displayed in various places (e.g. the VU 2 home page).

Useful links

On the VU’s support page, the CAP also offers a number of helpful documents such as:
  • an FAQ on the upcoming exam session;
  • a tutorial on conducting oral exams with Teams;
  • tutorials on the ‘Quiz’ and ‘Assignment’ activities;
  • a tutorial on importing content from the VU and the VU 2;
  • a tutorial on hiding/displaying/restricting activities and resources.
Regarding ethics, students have also been sent a charter reminding them of the rules to follow.

Teaching activities

  • ULB teaching staff are duly invited to follow the Vice-Rector for Teaching's recommendations and adapt, if possible and with the help of the Education Department, their teaching material and provide students with online teaching alternatives.
  • Useful resources created by CAP can be found on the Staff Portal.
  • Nonessential gatherings (conferences, seminars, lectures, etc.) must be postponed or cancelled.

1. Lecture classes

All classes will be held online until June, i.e. the end of the second term. Teachers must adapt to this format, covering less content if necessary, and take into account the fact that students have less access to support resources such as laboratory sessions and illustrations that cannot be provided through online platforms.
Whatever the teaching format used, teachers must keep in touch with students. The regular schedule of classes is the main opportunity for contact with students. You may also plan additional sessions, taking care that they do not overlap with your colleagues’ classes.
While other teaching supports must not be abandoned, it is recommended that classes be given in real-time using Teams, while also recording on Stream. Classes may also be given asynchronously using the VU, in which case you are required to answer questions posted to the online forums at your disposal. It is essential that you stay in touch with your students and keep them informed. You can find more information and tutorials here
Teachers are strongly encouraged to work together in order to avoid overloading students with homework, remedy problems their colleagues may encounter or collegially decide to reduce the courses’ content.

Classes must be up-to-date by the end of the spring holiday. Q2 courses may not extend past May 8 (or May 15 for the Faculty of Sciences and EPB, in accordance with VUB’s calendar).

2. Practical work and architecture projects

Practical work sessions can be divided into two categories:
  1. Sessions that illustrate lecture classes
  2. Sessions dedicated to professional practice
The following alternatives are possible:
  • Replace work sessions by other types of learning activity
  • Reduce the number of category 1 sessions
  • Cancel category 1 sessions
  • Offer online practical work sessions, with a forum for student questions
  • Students may be provided with data in order to work directly on results
  • Equipment may be mailed to students in order to carry out the activities at home
  • Teaching units may be redistributed between two consecutive years. For instance, if a teaching unit that includes two courses (lectures and practical work) is offered in MA1 and MA2, both lecture courses can be offered this year and both series of practical work sessions can be held next year (for students who are not already in the final year).
The goal is to change students’ annual study programmes (‘PAEs’) as little as possible. However, should changes to certain students’ PAEs be required, the dean or president must be notified so that they can request an exception from the government’s representative, pending a more general measure taken by the Minister for Education.
If certain practical work sessions, mostly in the second category outlined above, cannot be held, the dean must be notified. We are scheduling extraordinary meetings between the deans and the authorities in order to solve these problems as they arise.

3. Dissertations and final projects

Dissertations (and other final projects) must be maintained. This is essential for degrees to be valid, as they are required as part of our Masters’ certification process. However, the content of these projects may, and should, be adjusted. Possible adjustments include:
  • Changing the dissertation’s objective, removing fieldwork as a requirement 
  • Shifting to more theoretical work, focusing on protocols and bibliographies
  • Shifting to a theoretical analysis of the potential of various experimental approaches
  • Adjusting how dissertations are evaluated (adding a preliminary note explaining the context)
Regarding possible adjustments in terms of timing, dissertations should be submitted in June if possible—even if the work is not quite as exhaustive—, in order to avoid an overload during the second exam session.
It is also possible to:
  • Push back (by a week or two) the dissertation submission deadline
  • Offer an open first session of exams (‘session ouverte’)
  • Submit dissertations for the second session of exams
As an exceptional last resort:
  • Allow access to the laboratories in small groups in June or July, if the isolation measures are lifted or loosened by then

4. Work placements

The government circular of 18 March 2020 specifies adjustments made to work placements. In this case, alternatives are:
  • The work placement may be maintained by the hosting institution, with its content adjusted if necessary;
  • The work placement may be maintained by the hosting institution and carried out remotely;
  • The work placement may be cancelled by the hosting institution.
If the work placement is cancelled, the following alternatives are suggested:
  • Favour other learning activities 
  • Credit students for their actions in the fight against COVID-19, with two caveats:
    • Credit must be given after the fact, in order for students not to feel obligated to take part in these initiatives, especially considering many are reluctant to do so;
    • Students in the same cohort must receive equal treatment.
  • For students in teaching programmes and AESS, authorities are currently looking into possible solutions. A discussion forum will be set up
  • Reduce the content of the work placement
Decisions may be made on an individual basis, but it is essential that students in the same programme be treated equally and that student PAEs not be reduced.
Generally speaking, you should show lenience and flexibility with student project deadlines.
Updated on May 8, 2020