As the Omicron variant continues to cause disruption to the UK and much of the world, it is already forcing many university campuses to turn back to remote teaching and online exams. Positive COVID cases are on the rise and there are growing fears about what this could mean for the rest of the academic year.
This blog will be analysing exactly what remote teaching has involved in the past, why it might be considered again, the threat of the Omicron variant to UK HE campuses, and why remote teaching has proved controversial since the first lockdown in 2020.
Remote teaching: explained
Remote teaching was brought into effect in 2020 during the first UK lockdown when schools and HE campuses across the world were closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The lecturer, seminar tutor, teacher, or instructor would transfer the delivery of an in-person course to a remotely-led course. These were often a combination of asynchronous (recorded lectures) and synchronous (real-time classes delivered on online video conferencing applications, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom).
As conditions were eased, hybrid learning became popular to reduce the number of students in classrooms. Half of a class would access the real-time seminar or class via the video conferencing platform and half would be in-person.
The Omicron variant and where it is affecting
A variant of the COVID-19 virus, Omicron is being treated with more caution than previous variants because it is very infectious and spreads more easily than the original strain. WHO and CDC both expect that Omicron can be spread to anyone, including those who are vaccinated.
The vaccinations, which were rolled out with significant success in the UK, have been administered to nearly 52 million people nationwide (first dose total). However, the threat that the Omicron variant could pose a credible breakthrough risk is threatening campuses.
The controversy of remote teaching for campuses in the UK
When remote teaching was first introduced, it was generally accepted well by staff and students alike. However, since then there has been more concern over what this means for current tuition fees and reimbursement.
Recent student opinion is against the idea of remote teaching in early 2022. Already, Imperial College London is putting more teaching online and there is a national concern among students that this could spread.
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