Tuesday, 31 March
First of all, I hope that the epidemic did not directly affect you and your beloved ones. If this unfortunately happened, I wish to express to you the solidarity of the whole university community, which always cares about you throughout your lives and concerning those who are part of your life.
There is no particular news that I need to communicate to you, but I am pleased to point out the attention paid to you beyond the provisions and procedures, the most recent of which I do not wish to sum up since you are already aware of them by other means.
We have now entered a system of "anomalous normality", with the courses that have settled in the most appropriate formats, the experimentation of the formula of the tele-graduation sessions, and the modalities of interaction with your professors that have been strengthened. In short, it seems to me that we are equipped to continue for another few weeks, if necessary, in remote working, ensuring productivity. Also, for the didactic devices with a high experiential rate, we have identified how to maintain their educational scope in case frontal lectures cannot be resumed in the near future.
Forstudents, now that there is no stable timing and tasks dictated by outside needs, I believe that the challenge is above all to know how to self-regulate yourselves so as to draw up plans for your days that allow you to keep your study commitments and to pay attention to what you may tend to neglect. I recalled a novel I read a couple of summers ago: "A Gentleman in Moscow". It is a fictional novel about Count Rostov, who, at the beginning of the Soviet regime, was forced to stay in the hotel where he had a suite.He had to trade it with a closet soon enough, and ended up working as a waiter. He would never leave the hotel again (except as an elderly man), but he managed to spend his life happily in that one place. This was the approach he adopted: "Having recognized that a man must know how to govern his circumstances, otherwise circumstances would govern him, the Count thought what was the most likely way to achieve this when he was condemned to a life of imprisonment. For the Count of Monte Cristo it was thoughts of revenge that kept him healthy in his mind. For Cervantes, enslaved by pirates in Algeria, it was the engagement of Don Quixote's unwritten pages that spurred him to continue. For Napoleon on Elba island, it was the vision of a triumphant return to Paris that galvanized his will to persevere. The Count, however, was not driven by revenge; he did not have the imagination for epic deeds; he certainly did not have an ego that induced him to dream of new empires. His model for governing circumstances would have been a prisoner of a different kind. Like a Robinson Crusoe, the Count would have maintained his determination by devoting himself fully to the issue of feasibility. As they soon forget their dreams of being saved within a short time, the Crusoes of this world seek refuge and a source of fresh water; they learn to make fire with flint; they study the topography of the island, its climate, flora and fauna, but always keep an eye trained to see footprints on the sand and a sail on the horizon.”
Our period of " confinement" is much shorter and less dramatic than those mentioned in this passage, but the criterion of feasibility, which in the novel makes the Count a good model of resilience and ability to turn adversity into opportunity, can be of inspiration. By now, you will have found interesting ways to make use of the time you spend in your homes (which, thanks to technology, virtually opens to larger places and communities) and you will have had various ideas on how to put it to use, developing new sensibilities and learning new things. To this end, we tried to stay in touch with you and give you some ideas through the Facebook group "Coronavirus and Quarantine: Let's grow up together" (Coronavirus e quarantena: Cresciamo insieme). But of course many of you have found their own way to explore the experience of the present moment and the hope is that this period - which involves restrictions, sacrifice, effort, and unfortunately for some people also pain - will allow us to become better persons. Some of you may also be devoting themselves to initiatives dedicated to the benefit of others. In this regard, for those who want to commit themselves on this front, I enclose the suggestions of a professor of the University who holds courses in our Faculty. If anyone has any particular volunteering stories to tell, you can report them directly to the University's Press Office and Communication Services by writing to email@example.com.
Let's read the footprints that the present time leaves on our streets and look at the horizon. Waiting for the sails to come.
Friday, 13 March
We have realised that what was initially intended as a temporary suspension of frontal lessons will instead persist at least until Easter. Thus, I would like to give you an update on what the Faculty has planned for this period.
Perhaps you have noticed that the courses planned for the second semester include a wide array of activities:
- Video lectures: perhaps it may seem uncomfortable for you to break down a lecture into short videos, but this is necessary in order to make it easier to upload on and download from the platform;
- Streaming lectures (or webinars) (i.e. with the possibility for the student to attendlive from home), which are video-recorded to be made available later to those who, for various reasons, could not follow them live.
- Slides with audio (embedded in the slides or made available on separate audio files). Also in this case it has been suggested to professors and lecturers, for the same reasons mentioned above, to create several small files;
- Homework(texts, videos, links to internet sites, etc.) accompanied by a description that explains the type of work that the student has to do, showing what has to be achieved at the end of the work;
- Interaction with the student(s). This can be done through the forum section, chats, remote conversations, etc.
For Methods and Techniques courses, the Specialist Modules with Graduate Degree Laboratory and practice sessions - initially not considered for remote activities, since the suspension should have been of only one to two weeks (recoverable during the semester) - are now active (or are about to be activated) forms of distance learning that, although incomparable to frontal lessons, will try to help you achieve the same learning objectives.
Our Faculty decided to consider a range of opportunities to start the courses in case it was impossible to hold frontal lectures. Video-lessons and streaming lessons –on which other universities have already invested their resources (although not always effectively: be careful not to fall victim to the effect "The grass is always greener on the other side") - are possibilities, but not the only ones. They are those that come closest to the traditional classroom lecture, but still have limitations (e.g. no or reduced possibility for the student to interact) and are subject, as reported by those who elsewhere are following video courses, to interruption of the connection, poor audio or video quality, etc... For this reason other paths, although with less media impact, may be more effective. For example, a forum, even if not supported by audio and video communication, gives students the possibility to react to what is proposed. Each teacher has been asked to identify the forms of work he or she considers more suitable according to the type of content he or she needs to pass on and the methodology he or she wants to follow. Each coordinator is monitoring how the activity is set up in their course of study and will be able to identify corrective measures if necessary. Based on the elements I am aware of, it seems to me that the Faculty's professors are working hard to think about what is best to do (it would have been easier to convert all of us indiscriminately to video lectures) and equip themselves accordingly. This does not exclude that some critical points can be highlighted and that it is good to report them. Thanks to these reports we can understand how to better respond to ongoing requests.Within the framework of an inevitable perfectibility of what is being done, it is necessary to consider that a change of perspective is required from everyone. For a professor, holding a lecture in front of a monitor, trying to compact content and speech as much as possible, is not the same as talking in a live classroom, and so commenting on slides outside of a real relationship with the speaker. If a change of perspective is required for professors and lectures, it is also required of you to adapt to these new forms of communication.Therefore, you cannot ask from these tools what you would normally expect from a traditional lecture. For this reason, I invite you to identify the methods of study that are now more appropriate, which may be different from those you were used to. Also, do not underestimate the potential of work based on texts which, when presented in a focused manner, can exert analytical and reworking skills. I am not saying that you must perforce look on the bright side of things, but keep in mind the opportunities that the present moment provides.Do not run away from fatigue and changes in mental model that can have a formative role. We are all learning.
For Learning Groups (GA), EPGs and EPs it has been verified that, by reducing the number of meetings and increasing their duration, they can be carried out in full after Easter, so as not to give up the benefits of presence. If after Easter meetings could not be held in attendance, alternative forms of distance learning activities are being investigated.
For the exams, the wish is that they can be regularly held in presence in the next summer session. If this is not possible, alternative methods have already been devised to ensure that they can be held.
For graduation sessions we are working to hold them in telematic mode, on the established dates of March and April (which are confirmed), with the physical presence of commissioners. The deadline for the delivery of the thesis application has been extended (which can now take place without the student going physically to the secretary's office) and the deadline for delivery of the dissertation to the Advisor and Co-advisor has been extended. Also for the theses of master's degree thesis will be delivered in digital format. For those who graduate in telematic mode, in summer or September will be organized a Graduation Day in the presence of friends and relatives.
For ongoing theses, Advisors are aware of the current limitations (difficulties with data collection, not being able to go to external institutions or to the library to borrow books, etc.) and therefore will not ask for the impossible. If necessary, thesis projects will be reorganisedfrom a realistic perspective and this will also be taken into account during the evaluation.
As far as international mobility (inbound and outbound) is concerned, there are already solutions in place both for those who want to return home and those who cannot travel abroad.
I leave you with the verses of a poem by Fernando Pessoa:
In all, there were three things:
the certainty one is always beginning
the certainty one must go further
and the certainty that one will be interrupted before finishing.
From the interruptions, to make a new path,
from falling, a dance step,
from fear, a ladder
from dream, a bridge, from search...the encounter
[translation by C. Ramon, S. Packa]
Thursday, 5 March
I would like to give you a new update in the light of the recent measures that impose an additional week of suspension of teaching. On the basis of what stated by our Rector, I share the following guideline.
We will continue, as indicated by our University, by adopting online distance tuition until 15 March, or in any case until the return to frontal lectures in our classroom. Last week, professors and lectures of our faculty began to propose the start of the courses through activities to be carried out at home in different forms. The invitation to refer to the Blackboard platform remains valid, or alternatively (if the teacher does not use this platform) the Professor/Instructor's personal page on the University website, to receive materials and working instructions.
Student reception hours
You can contact professors and lectures and agree with them how to communicate.
Graduation and exam sessions
As far as exams and graduations are concerned, we have no short-term deadlines. The University is preparing to manage these moments in alternative forms to the traditional ones if necessary, ensuring everyone the possibility to take the exams and in the scheduled sessions and to graduate on time.
The national and regional provisions, adopted by our University, to contain the spread of Coronavirus impose the suspension of lessons also for the second week of the second semester. On our University' s website, you can consult the official updates on this issue. In the meantime, the Faculty's lecturers deem it important that students be engaged in university activities. For this reason, they are developing "remote" solutions to start courses, beginning from this week.
Alternative forms of teaching that you may be offered are:
- texts, slides, videos, references to sites or other material made available with an indication of the work assigned;
- support slides and audio files with commentaries;
- video recordings of lessons;
- activation of chats, forums, debates.
The above is already part of the degree programme and I invite you to commit yourselves to it.
I therefore suggest you:
- consult the Notices section, in the Lecturer page, of the lessons to be followed in the second semester on the University website, where you will find a description of what your lecturers are proposing for this week;
- join (where available) the Blackboard courses for the second semester, so that you can find the instructions and materials related to the work proposed for this week.
The University is in any case considering technological solutions and user support to enhance distance learning.
I want to reassure you that the semester will not be missed. Examinations, graduation sessions and ceremonies at the end of the degree programme will take place as scheduled. The University is taking care of the entire academic community and is studying solutions for the different scenarios that could arise, while the Faculty colleagues are willing to try and meet the needs that will arise with flexibility.
At the same time, I encourage you to resume your commitment on the university front: even if classes are suspended, there is work to be done. I think that for most courses you can start and dedicate yourselves right now to studying and processing contents useful to the development of the syllabus.
Finally, an invitation to seize the difficult and uncertain present moment as an opportunity: the situation in which we find ourselves is new and anomalous, but we can discover and learn new things. Among these, to try - it is true for students and lecturers – and use alternative forms of learning, an experience that may initially be perplexing and not very efficient, but that could be useful for other purposes in the future.
With confidence we begin the second semester of this academic year.
Good luck with your work.