Coronavirus: University teaching to move online from 9 December

Universities in Northern Ireland are to move all teaching online by 9 December to allow students to return home for Christmas.

Students have also been advised to take a Covid-19 test before they return to their family home.

testing is being offered to students
at Queen’s and Ulster Universities.

The Christmas guidance for students in Northern Ireland was published by the executive on Friday.

Many students were already learning remotely as many degree courses were being taught online, although thousands remain on campus.

Face-to-face teaching has continued in some subjects where it is regarded as necessary.

A small number of those courses may be able to continue to hold classes on campus after 9 December.

But students have been told that if they remain on campus after 9 December they may be in a situation where they have to self-isolate over Christmas.

Rapid Covid-19 testing is available for students at Queen’s University’s main campus and the Magee and Coleraine campuses of Ulster University.

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Queen’s has been offering testing to students

“This will reduce the risk to your friends and family,” the new guidance said.

“These tests are only suitable if you do not have any symptoms of Covid-19.

“If you have Covid-19 symptoms must book a coronavirus test in the normal way.

“If you remain at university after 9 December you are at risk of having to undertake a period of isolation if you contract Covid-19 or are identified as a close contact of a confirmed case.

“This would result in you being unable to travel home in time for Christmas.

“All students should aim to reduce their social contacts during the 14 day period prior to their intended travel date.”

Thousands of
Northern Ireland students at universities elsewhere in the UK
have begun to return home for the Christmas break.

Some may not return to university until February as
start dates for the new term have been staggered

But it is still not clear what arrangements for the start of the term of the university term in January will be in place in Northern Ireland.

‘Students deserve better’

While the guidance on Christmas travel has been welcomed by the National Union of Students and Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI), its president Ellen Fearon has criticised the absence of a plan for January.

“It is now crucial that the government turns its attention to semester two by developing a national strategy to support students through the rest of this pandemic and creating clear guidance for the higher education sector,” she said.

“Students who are making plans to travel home need to know now what their studies in January will look like so that they can decide where the best place is for them to continue their studies.

“Students deserve better than a repeat of a chaos and confusion we saw in September.”

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Behind screens and in hospitals, South Korea students sit college exam amid coronavirus

SEOUL (Reuters) – Nearly half a million South Korean students took university entrance exams on Thursday, with COVID-19 students sitting in hospital and others separated by transparent screens.

South Korea is battling a third wave of coronavirus infections and authorities have taken strict steps to ensure all students can safely take the test, deemed a life-defining event for high school seniors to win a degree that could help land a good job.

Police and school officials guarded some 31,000 test venues across the country, which in normal years are usually filled with praying parents and cheering squads distributing hot drinks and snacks.

“It’s my second test, and I just wanted to get it done despite the risks of contracting the coronavirus. That’s all I was thinking about coming here,” Jeon Young-jin, 19, told Reuters in front of a test venue in Seoul.

Of the 491,000 applicants, 45 confirmed COVID-19 patients sat for the test at designated hospitals, while special rooms were provided to help another 616 who were in self-isolation. Almost 65,000 did not show up, marking the highest-ever absence rate at 13.2%, the education ministry said.

Proctors for the confirmed and suspected cases were required to wear protective equipment and collect exam papers in plastic bags and wipe them before handing over to the staff outside.

At a high school in central Seoul, students lined up for temperature checks and disinfection before entering the venue, and transparent barriers were installed at all desks, according to video released by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

Won Seon-hun, father of a high school senior, said he had not even had a meal with his son over the past week though he minimised outside activity due to coronavirus concerns.

“My wife bought all the groceries online, and I never went out except for work – no friends’ gatherings, just staying home,” Won said after sending off his son.

The test is a major event in South Korea, with businesses and the stock market opening later than usual to reduce traffic for test-takers, while flights from airports are suspended for a brief period during a language listening test.

The annual exam came as South Korea grapples with a resurgence of coronavirus outbreaks, with the number of daily cases hovering around 500 over the past couple of weeks, a level not seen since March.

The government has tightened social distancing curbs, and declared a two-week special anti-virus period ahead of the exam.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 540 new cases on Friday, including 516 domestic infections and 24 imported.

Authorities were vigilant as more than 81% of the locally transmitted infections, or 419, were from the capital Seoul and surrounding areas, a record high since South Korea confirmed its first case in January, KDCA data showed.

The country’s total tally rose to 35,703, with 529 deaths.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Soohyun Mah, Daewoung Kim and Minwoo Park; Editing by Michael Perry and Angus MacSwan


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Coronavirus issues cancel Michigan vs. Maryland

The Michigan Wolverines will not play this weekend, as their contest against the Maryland Terrapins has been canceled after COVID-19 issues within the Michigan program, which will pause practices until Monday. 

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All of college football will now wait to see if the Wolverines will be healthy enough to play next weekend against the rival Ohio State Buckeyes, who need to play each remaining game on their schedule to reach the six-game minimum to be eligible for the Big Ten championship game. 

a stadium full of people with Michigan Stadium in the background: General view at Michigan Stadium prior to the game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans.

© Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports
General view at Michigan Stadium prior to the game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans.

The Buckeyes currently hold the No. 4 spot in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. 

This is the first cancellation for Michigan, but Big Ten teams that have experienced outbreaks during the truncated season have usually missed two consecutive games as a result; Wisconsin, Minnesota and Maryland have experienced such layoffs. 

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Conference-USA shake-ups

Saturday’s game between Charlotte and Florida International has been canceled, but Charlotte will play this weekend. The 49ers will play Western Kentucky on Sunday at noon ET. That game had been moved to Dec. 1 before it was called off.

Also, the game between Alabama-Birmingham and Middle Tennessee State scheduled for Saturday is off.

Ole Miss cancels practice Wednesday

For the first time this fall, Ole Miss football has had to cancel team activities because of COVID-19.

The team released a statement Wednesday morning saying Wednesday’s team activities were canceled out of an “abundance of caution.” The team is using the time to conduct contact tracing after a small number of players tested positive for COVID-19.

Pending additional tests, the statement says, practice is expected to resume Thursday. The Rebels are off this weekend. 

— Nick Suss, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

San Jose State vs. Hawaii moved on-island 

The same health orders in Santa Clara County that forced the Stanford Cardinal and NFL’s San Francisco 49ers to relocate also led to this matchup, originally a home game for the Spartans, becoming an on-island affair hosted by the Warriors. 

Kent State vs. Miami (Ohio) canceled 

Coronavirus-related issues and contact tracing among Kent State players canceled the team’s matchup against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday. Kent State is preparing for its season finale at home against Ohio on Dec. 12. 

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Kent State University will have no in-person classes after spring break 2021, mandate coronavirus testing for spring

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Kent State University officials are planning ahead for spring while finishing out the semester, with officials planning to halt in-person classes after Spring Break.

a young child riding on the back of a car: Kent State University mascot Flash the Golden Eagle greets cars at the Aut-O-Rama drive in before a movie for future students, giving them a virtual tour of the campus.

© Joshua Gunter, Gunter,
Kent State University mascot Flash the Golden Eagle greets cars at the Aut-O-Rama drive in before a movie for future students, giving them a virtual tour of the campus.

For fall semester, in-person classes will not take place after Thanksgiving break. Colleges across the state are taking the precaution as travel for Thanksgiving can increase the spread of the virus. The university already moved Spring Break from late March to April.

Trustees approved adjusting housing and dining rates to reflect the change, which would reduce time in residence halls by about four weeks.

Kent State will also step up coronavirus testing as part of its spring semester plan. The semester will begin as normal, and there will be a blend of in-person and remote classes.

Students moving into residence halls must be tested on move-in, and will be tested initially bi-weekly. Random tests for groups of faculty and students attending class in-person during the semester will also be required. Kent State is also part of a project to monitor wastewater in hopes of catching viral material in sewage, which could indicate cases in buildings.

a person riding on the back of a car: Kent State University mascot Flash the Golden Eagle greets cars at the Aut-O-Rama drive in before a movie for future students, giving them a virtual tour of the campus.

© Joshua Gunter, Gunter,
Kent State University mascot Flash the Golden Eagle greets cars at the Aut-O-Rama drive in before a movie for future students, giving them a virtual tour of the campus.

The university partnered with CVS to expand testing in October and announced plans to test 450 random students a week for the virus. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine previously recommended colleges devise plans for random testing, as many coronavirus cases can be asymptomatic.

Testing through the school’s program with CVS, the Ohio Pandemic Testing Team or through athletics is free. Testing is available for students at the campus health center, with no out-of-pocket cost.


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Spring semester classes will remain virtual at Huston-Tillotson University due to coronavirus pandemic

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Citing ongoing health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic, classes for the upcoming spring semester will remain virtual for students at Huston-Tillotston University in Austin.

The university’s president and CEO, Colette Pierce Burnette, made that announcement Monday in a letter sent to the school community. She wrote that the university based its decision on scientific advice about the expected surge in cases and deaths as well as the anticipated release of a vaccine for the general public next year.

“The safety and health of the entire campus community remain paramount as our top priority,” Pierce Brunette wrote. “Please understand that the decision to be fully online was by no means an easy one. Unfortunately, the key factors leading to our decision for the fall term are still prevalent, and in some cases, even more daunting. Continuing with fully online teaching and learning is the best decision for our campus.”

She reminded students about the online support services that remain available to them during the next semester, including one-on-one virtual tutoring and emergency grants.

Pierce Burnette also shared Huston-Tillotson University will soon provide what she called a “persistence grant” to registered students. She said this will help them with “costs of obtaining an education during such a tumultuous time.” More information will be released later this week, she wrote.

Huston-Tillotson Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Wayne Knox said his team was monitoring the effects of the pandemic is having on Black and brown communities, in particular. Seeing a continued increase in cases, plus a vaccine forecasted to be distributed to the general public in the spring, at best, the decision was made to go fully virtual.

“We just did not feel comfortable running the risk of having a surge here on campus,” Knox said.

“Continuing with teaching and learning virtually for the spring semester is a crucial step in keeping us healthy, stopping the spread, and defeating the virus so we can all be together soon,” Pierce Burnette said in her letter. “Please remain vigilant in protecting yourselves and your loved ones from the spread of COVID-19 — wear your mask, wash your hands, avoid crowds, and maintain a safe distance.”

Huston-Tillotson junior English student Dymon Moore said she misses the camaraderie and fellowship with students on campus, but feels thankful the school is being proactive to minimize harmful risk of transmitting COVID-19 among the population.

“It shows that the school is taking the pandemic seriously. They are valuing their staff and faculty health. They are valuing their students health,” Moore said.

Knox said there may be a drop in enrollment, but he doesn’t believe it will be substantial. He said the University, which has held its spot in Austin for nearly a century and a half, isn’t going anywhere.

“With us being here for 145 years, we have weathered storms before. We will weather this one, as well,” Knox said.

Other local higher education institutions are announcing changes for the spring semester because of the ongoing pandemic.

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Coronavirus Impact On Students’ Math, Reading Growth : Coronavirus Updates : NPR

A student raises his hand while attending an online class from home in Miami on Sept. 3.

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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A student raises his hand while attending an online class from home in Miami on Sept. 3.

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A sweeping new review of national test data suggests the pandemic-driven jump to online learning has had little impact on children’s reading growth and has only somewhat slowed gains in math. That positive news comes from the testing nonprofit NWEA and covers nearly 4.4 million U.S. students in grades three through eight. But the report also includes a worrying caveat: Many of the nation’s most vulnerable students are missing from the data.

“Preliminary fall data suggests that, on average, students are faring better than we had feared,” says Beth Tarasawa, head of research at NWEA, in a news release accompanying the report.

“While there’s some good news here, we want to stress that not all students are represented in the data, especially from our most marginalized communities.”

Until now, estimates of learning loss have been just that — estimates or projections, based on the kind of academic backsliding schools see after a long summer. This report offers the clearest picture yet of the impact that the past eight months of disruption have had on student learning.

The MAP Growth test

The data at the heart of NWEA’s report come from what’s known to teachers and children alike as the MAP Growth test — a check-in assessment used to measure kids’ math and reading skills that’s generally given three times a year, in fall, winter and spring.

While millions of students took these MAP tests in the winter of 2020, few took them again in the spring as schools raced (and many struggled) to provide learning online. But this fall, nearly 4.4 million children did take the test, either from home or back in a classroom. And the results give researchers a vital new data point: a measure of where students are right now.

Tarasawa and her research team studied the data a few different ways. First, they compared students’ performance this fall — in, say, third-grade reading — with the performance of a different group of students who took third-grade reading in the fall of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

Tarasawa tells NPR that with this method of comparison, the results in reading were “relatively optimistic” because “kids on average are performing similarly to how [other children] did pre-pandemic.” In math, the current pandemic class of students performed about 5 to 10 percentile points lower than the pre-pandemic comparison group — what Tarasawa describes as a “moderate” drop.

In addition to comparing two different groups of students, researchers also studied students’ individual growth over time, looking at where they were when they took the MAP test in the winter of 2020 and comparing it with where they are now, in the fall of 2020.

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Coronavirus: Stagger university students’ return in new year to avoid spikes, Labour says

The party is calling for those on placements – or whose face-to-face teaching is essential – to come back first in the new year.

Universities faced coronavirus outbreaks this term after welcoming students back for the start of the academic year, with hundreds of students testing positive within the first weeks of term.    

Labour has said the government needs to “urgently” address the January return to avoid “spikes in infection rates of the kind seen in September”.

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However, guidance has not yet been published for going back next year.

“The government have said nothing about the return of students to universities in January,” Labour’s Emma Hardy said in a letter to universities minister Michelle Donelan.

“This urgently needs to be addressed to ensure the movement of almost two million students across the UK does not lead to spikes in infection rates of the kind seen in September.”

Ms Hardy, the shadow minister for universities, added: “The government was late in realising there was a crisis in September, and it is deeply concerning that your department does not appear to have learned from this experience.”

Ms Donelan has said the government will look to utilise mass testing in the new year to make the return to higher education in January as safe as possible.

Ms Hardy said guidance on the return must be published “without delay” to allow universities time to organise plans. “The government should adopt Labour’s call to stagger their return and work with universities to deliver this,” she added. 

A government spokesperson said: “We understand this has been a very difficult time for students, which is why we have prioritised their education and wellbeing from the start of this pandemic, by supporting universities to provide a blend of online and in-person learning in a Covid-secure way.

“We have set out plans, delivering on our commitment to enable students to return home for the Christmas holidays while minimising the risk of transmission.

They added: “We will provide further guidance in due course on the spring term, which will look to use mass testing on offer and consider the latest scientific advice.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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Hong Kong university students’ internships yet another casualty of coronavirus pandemic, survey finds

a group of people standing in a parking lot: Internships for Hong Kong students have been much harder to come by this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Winson Wong

Internships for Hong Kong students have been much harder to come by this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Winson Wong

Nearly half of Hong Kong university students lost or were unable to find internships due to the coronavirus pandemic, while half of those who did were forced to get their job experience virtually, a new survey has found.

Internship openings listed on a joint system shared by local universities decreased by about 30 per cent this year, the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups found, prompting a call for the government to provide funding to allow students to take part in more expensive overseas internship opportunities.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted internships and we have seen a large drop in the number of openings being offered,” said Derek Lee Ka-wai, of the federation’s think tank, Youth IDEAS education group.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

Hong Kong’s economy shrunk by 3.4 per cent in the third quarter compared to last year, as key drivers of growth such as tourism and consumption have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Will revamping Hong Kong’s liberal studies end critical thinking among students?

Dr Frankie Lam King-sun, the director of Lingnan University’s human resource management and organisational behaviour programme, said companies were already facing difficulties in managing existing manpower, even asking employees to work fewer hours to deal with a shrinking economy.

“There is very little incentive for companies to hire interns for both big or small companies,” he said.

Lee said work-from-home measures encouraged by the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus had also changed how students interned, with both universities and corporations switching to online “virtual” internships.

But Youth IDEAS’ latest survey, conducted between late September and mid-October, found students still valued internships as an important way for them to learn the ropes of their chosen fields and to network and build contacts.

a group of people standing around a bench: The number of internships available to students shrank by some 30 per cent, according to one measure. Photo: Nora Tam

© Provided by South China Morning Post
The number of internships available to students shrank by some 30 per cent, according to one measure. Photo: Nora Tam

According to the think tank’s survey of 877 recent graduates and university students in their second year and above, 48 per cent either had their internships postponed or cancelled, or were unable to find any at all.

Shirley Ko Suet-lai, also from Youth IDEAS, said students who could not find internships were still proactive in seeking out job experience, with more than 50 per cent of them taking up part-time employment and 37 per cent choosing to learn new skills.

Meanwhile, out of the 457 students who did find internships, nearly 55 per cent did their work virtually. The students surveyed came from different fields, including law, accounting and even speech therapy, with respondents saying they would have meetings online or hold therapy sessions virtually.

Some 65 per cent of those students said virtual internships decreased the chances for them to interact with their

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What is Ohio State football’s point spread at Michigan State despite coronavirus cases? College betting lines

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State football is again a big favorite in a Big Ten Conference road game on Saturday.

The Buckeyes, though, do not yet know if they will even make the trip to Michigan State on Saturday.

Circa Sports made Ohio State a 24-point favorite in Sunday’s opening betting line.

Ohio State was favored by 28 points at Illinois even after initial reports of coronavirus cases within the Buckeye program. That game was canceled Friday night after the number of cases increased.

Ohio State has paused all football operations as it awaits further test results to determine the extent of the outbreak. Buckeyes coach Ryan Day, who has tested positive and is in isolation, said OSU could play as long as it has a practice on Thursday and a walk-through on Friday.

Oddsmakers have not shied away from other pandemic-affected games. Northwestern opened as a 10-point favorite at Minnesota per Circa despite an increasing number of cases for the Gophers. As of Saturday, Minnesota was dealing with 40 confirmed cases after canceling last week’s game against Wisconsin.

Ohio State was favored by 21 points at kickoff against Indiana in its last game on Nov. 14, led 35-7 early in the third quarter and held on for a 42-35 victory.

The Buckeyes were favored by 38.5 points against Rutgers on Nov. 7, led 35-3 at halftime and settled for a 49-27 victory.

Overall, Ohio State is 2-2 against the spread. The Spartans are 2-3, but have twice won outright as home underdogs. MSU won as a 21.5-point dog against Michigan on Oct. 31 and as a 13.5-point dog against Northwestern this past Saturday.

Circa also installed an opening total of 62.5 for the Ohio State-Michigan State game, but that quickly dropped to 59.5. Three of the Buckeyes’ totals have gone over, with one push. Three of the Spartans’ games have gone over, with two unders.

New Ohio State face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Ohio State-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection. A 3-pack is available on Fanatics for $29.99.

Ohio State Buckeyes Adult Face Covering

Fanatics has released Ohio State Buckeyes Adult Face Coverings. This 3-pack of adult masks, retails for $29.99.

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What the coronavirus vaccine shows about the potential for innovation

The word “innovation” is now one of the most cursed in the English language. Silicon Valley robber barons recognized the cultural capital created by millions of inventors and scientists going back thousands of years, and colonized it to describe their ruthless business practices or semi-pointless new widgets. Innovation used to mean things like “developing new crop varieties that feed a billion people,” now it means “creating a new way to trick people with compulsive personalities into spending $10,000 on Mobile Clans Fun Bucks.”

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to cede the word entirely to Elizabeth Holmes or Mark Zuckerberg. Because the last several months have seen one of the most astounding examples of innovation in human history: the development of not one, not two, but now three different coronavirus vaccines. Thus far a Pfizer/BioNTech project, one from Moderna, and another from AstraZeneca/Oxford University all look good and will ideally start being distributed within weeks — and there are dozens more possibilities already in trials behind them.

It turns out human society can achieve a lot if we just try really hard. Who knew?

The speed of this vaccine development is totally unprecedented. Previous vaccines have taken years at best and usually over a decade to be developed and proved to work. Now, scientists did have some advantages in this case, as the SARS-CoV-2 virus seems to be relatively easy to target with a vaccine, and there are (alas) a whole lot of infections happening, which makes gathering the necessary data on efficacy easier. And the various scientific teams have built on years of past work developing a basic format for messenger RNA vaccines, which is what the first two vaccines use. But on the other hand, science was also starting from scratch. Unlike chicken pox or measles, which had been studied for decades before work on a vaccine started, scientists had to figure out how the virus works from a standing start — by sequencing its genetic code, analyzing its proteins, and so on — before getting to work on a vaccine. Yet all three were still designed and completed within a few months.

It seems what happened is that governments and private companies hurled massive quantities of resources and manpower at the problem. The European Union, desperate for a way to throttle the pandemic, directed billions in grants, contracts, and purchase orders as a promised reward. Even the Trump administration also pitched in several billion dollars in similar fashion with Operation Warp Speed. Then pharmaceutical companies found that their profit incentive lined up neatly with the need for a vaccine. Whoever could develop one and prove it worked fastest would reap enormous profits — and even the laggards would probably get a piece of the action too, since it will not be possible to produce any one vaccine fast enough to get it to the entire planet. So all the big players got their top scientists working around the clock.

There are a lot of ways innovation can

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