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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.

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 (FR).

Organisational principles for the first quarter 2020-21

The health constraints (physical distancing, mask-wearing, disinfection, etc.) applicable to face-to-face activities in higher education have been defined in the "Protocol for the resumption of courses in higher education" issued by the office of the Minister for Higher Education, Valérie Glatigny.
This protocol indicates that the so-called yellow level will apply for the academic year 2020-21 until further notice.

This could, of course, change very quickly, either negatively or positively, both before the academic year starts and during the fist quadrimester. We must, therefore, be ready to address these developments.
 


Face masks and shields

As of now, and in accordance with the latest ministry protocol released on August 25, face masks are mandatory for students and teachers, in auditoriums, classrooms, laboratories, workshops, etc.
Regardless of whether they are wearing a face mask, teachers must remain at least 1 metre (3 feet) away from students, including during lab work, practical work, workshops, etc.
Face shields may be worn in addition to face masks. This means that face shields are optional, and cannot replace face masks.

Exceptions to wearing a mask:

  • When the wearing of a mask or any other fabric alternative is not possible for medical reasons, a face shield should be used;
  • Persons who, due to a situation of disability as attested by a medical certificate, are unable to wear a mask, fabric alternative or face shield, are exempted from wearing a mask or a face shield alternative;
  • Due to the difficulty of being audible in a large auditorium, for class groups of more than 50 students, the teacher/speaker is exempted from wearing a mask provided that a physical distance of at least 3 metres is maintained between him/her and the participants.

Organization of classes

The University’s current plans are based on the assumption of a ‘yellow’ scenario; it must be noted that ‘orange’ or ‘red’ scenarios may be activated during the academic year. These scenarios will have significant impacts on teaching activities. It may be worth taking this risk into account as soon as the academic year begins.

Schedule

Classes begin 15 minutes later and end 15 minutes earlier than their regular scheduled times, in order to allow for students to enter and leave, and for the room to be aired and cleaned by the students who are leaving and entering.
E.g. 10:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. instead of the regular scheduled class from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Preventative measures

  • Students must wear face masks
  • Hand-sanitizer dispensers are available at the entrance to each building
  • Keep a distance of at least 1 metre between people (in queues, at the entrance to the auditorium, etc.).
  • Respect the directions for entering and leaving the auditoriums.
 

Ventilation

  • Whenever possible, auditoriums must be ventilated during class.
  • When this is not possible, they must be aired during the 30-minute pause between classes.
  • Teachers shall do this by opening all of the room’s doors and/or windows.

 In-person classes

  • Occupancy: room occupancy must be limited to a maximum of one out of every two places. Audience allocated according to the estimated number of course participants.
  • Other teaching activities, such as practical work, laboratories, workshops, etc. are authorised in "classical" mode (in compliance with barrier gestures).
  • Course broadcasting: All courses must be available at a distance via an audiovisual medium or a medium that is sufficiently effective and user-friendly to ensure equality between all students (e.g. Teams or Podcast, recorded PPT).
  • Audience distribution: Courses involving BA1 students are given priority in the event of arbitration necessary for premises; special case of activities involving less than 50 people, such as practical work, laboratories, workshops, projects.
  • Favour 2-hour classes (in order to optimize the use of auditoriums). Requests for exceptions to the maximum duration of 3 hours can be submitted to the VR in Education (laboratory work, practical work, and workshops).


Technical equipment in auditoriums

During the summer, the University’s audiovisual centre (CAV) has worked to develop high-quality solutions in more auditoriums.
You will find an updated list of auditoriums fitted with equipment.
The existing categories are maintained:
  • Podcast (auditorium with cameras and microphones): in these auditoriums, classes may be recorded, then made available at a later time
  • Teams (in auditoriums with a sound system): classes may be recorded using a PC and the auditorium’s sound system (for recording and live or delayed broadcast)
  • Teams (no camera or microphone): classes may be recorded (audio and video) using a PC (for recording and live or delayed broadcast) – in this case, use of a microphone is recommended.
At the same time, the CAV is developing a user guide for auditoriums for podcasts and Teams (in partnership with the CAP’s Podcast team).
If you record your classes using your PC in an auditorium without a sound system, we recommend you use a microphone (to order at the "magasins généraux")

 

Delimitation

  • The Auditoriums seating 50+ will be divided into 4 easily identifiable areas: green, red, yellow and blue.
  • The 4 areas will be separated by stairs or by two rows of unoccupied seats.
  • Signs will be posted at the entrance of auditoriums.
  • Inside the auditoriums, every other seat will be marked as unavailable using tape of the colour of the corresponding area, making the 4 areas clearly visible.
  • It is recommended that students always sit in the same area or, at least, change no more than once a week.

Cleaning and sanitizing

  • Classrooms are cleaned daily, except for floors, which are cleaned weekly.
  • Writing and work surfaces are systematically sanitized by their users before they leave.
  • However, it is also recommended that students also sanitize them before sitting down.
  • Students are put in charge of sanitizing.
  • Each student will receive a sanitizer spray bottle (Welcome Pack)
  • Shared equipment (in laboratories, computer rooms, practical workrooms, libraries) are sanitized after use (pre-use or at the end of the class).
  • After practical work and laboratory work sessions, the cleaning is carried out by students under the teacher’s supervision.
  • In libraries, equipment (e.g. printers) is cleaned by the students.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers are available at each building entrance








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 the exams start, 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:
  • 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?

 
  • 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.

Updated on September 9, 2020