Support for Distance Learning and Management of New Degree Programs at the University of Tsukuba
The University of Tsukuba launched the New Coronavirus Infectious Disease Risk Response Team in January 2020 and compiled countermeasures for large-scale gatherings at the end of February. As a result, the decision was made to review the graduation ceremony’s operation method and cancel the entrance ceremony. A parallel task force was established to deal with the new semester. The task force discussed how to operate the educational organization from April onward, especially at what stage to start the new semester and how students and faculty members should respond to non-face-to-face classes. Since the university-wide comprehensive contract for Microsoft Office 365 was already in operation, we decided to use Microsoft Teams as the basic online classes system. At the beginning of April, we asked all educational organizations to send a person in charge to conduct a tutorial for remote classes.
After that, the state of emergency was declared, which meant that classes for the spring semester would be entirely online. The new semester started on April 27, with almost a week of classes, followed by a long holiday break. During the break, we decided to take measures to improve subsequent class operations.
The University of Tsukuba’s student organization, the representative council for all academic and specialization groups, conducted a questionnaire for students early after the holidays. The Office of Educational Management (newly established in April 2020), which is responsible for managing the educational organization of the entire university, requested the representative council to conduct additional analysis of this questionnaire. As a result of analysis using free-form text mining, the Office was able to grasp the students’ actual situation and sent out a message to improve the teaching methods. Then, from July to August, we conducted a student survey as a university and received responses from about 40% of the students, regarding their learning status and environment, time spent learning, and any problems. From the results, we reconfirmed that feedback and response to students are extremely important, especially in online classes. This can be enhanced more efficiently by “enhancing face-to-face interaction”. Based on this survey results, the Office of Academic Management has been working to provide FD to faculty members.
Subsequently, with the relaxation of restrictions on entry to the campus, we began the gradual operation of face-to-face classes from the end of August, mainly in the arts specialization groups. Simultaneously, based on the manual for countermeasures against the spread of the new coronavirus infection and the premise of how to respond in case of illness, guidelines for class management were set by the educational organization. From the fall semester, many classes have shifted to the face-to-face format.
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The new design degree program, which started during the emergency, was online from the time of the orientation, and the first-year students spent the spring semester not in the classroom at all. In order to reconfirm the new course method, a second orientation was held at the time of Design Special Research A. In this session, we provided in-depth explanations on the path required to complete the course of study and obtain a degree, including the achievement evaluation system that serves as a guide for acquiring competence in the degree program, the duration for completing the course and credit acquisition, the curriculum map, and the relationship between the thesis examination, achievement evaluation, and final examination, etc. After that, an online graduate school information session was held.
At the time of writing, in October 2020, we are entering the fall semester. The entire university is in the process of discussing a new educational system that will gradually make use of face-to-face classes and seminars, while also taking advantage of the benefits of online education.