A number of UK universities are set to extend their teaching hours into evenings and weekends in an effort to adapt to smaller class sizes and social distancing due to COVID-19.
A survey by the Times Higher Education shows that universities are taking extraordinary measures in order to open their doors to students in September, including extended hours, asking students and staff to wear face coverings in seminars, and placing screens between lecturers and students.
Most institutions are planning to use blended learning – a combination of in-person and online methods – to allow students to return for the new academic year. Large lectures are all expected to take place online, but any in-person teaching will need to be in small groups to allow for social distancing, therefore increasing the demand for classroom and lecture theatre space and the need for extended hours.
Edvoy polling suggests that, despite the late nights and unusual social distancing of the measures, this is what students would prefer – a recent survey showed that 42% of students wanted to return to campus with social distancing measures in place, with 34% favouring online learning and 24% preferring a blended approach.
The University of Central Lancashire and Coventry University were among those who confirmed they would be extending teaching into weekends, with the University of Bristol planning to extend teaching hours as late as 8pm.
A University of Bristol spokesperson said the decision would allow “spread out teaching…so we can offer more in-person teaching and greater access to our specialist facilities in line with social distancing guidelines”.
The survey also asked institutions about their plans for enforcing rules around wearing face coverings, with 53 of the 69 respondents saying they would ask staff and students to wear face coverings on campus unless they had a medical reason not to. 24 of these institutions said these face coverings would also be mandatory during teaching.