A new Safety Net policy was introduced on Monday 1 February. This enhances measures in place at Richmond to ensure that students are supported during the COVID-19 pandemic, while ensuring that Richmond’s academic standards are maintained. The policy also recognises the practical, social and emotional challenges students have had to face in recent months, and outlines the support we continue to offer.
The measures which have been put in place at Richmond since March 2020 are focussed on three key areas:
- Commitment to high standards of flexible online and blended learning while ensuring the value and quality of awards remains – excellent teaching with the reassurance of dual accreditation remains our priority;
- Continuing to provide the highest levels of student support – from financial support, sharing information of the latest developments on COVID, to keeping students updated on the university’s response;
- Ensuring the best student experience possible – being flexible and agile, responding to student feedback and taking action quickly to ensure student satisfaction.
We recognise there will be challenges for the University, such as the recent internet connection issue and would like to apologise for this, but we will endeavour to rectify any such problems as soon as they arise and keep the community informed with any relevant updates.
Commitment to quality of online and blended learning
Our aim is to make sure that a student’s overall performance for the year is not negatively affected by circumstances associated with the COVID-19 period, while simultaneously ensuring that the quality of our awards is maintained.
The University has restructured its teaching to ensure that all of our students, wherever they are located, are provided with a high standard of flexible online learning, with blended learning offered when and where possible:
Our top priority is to provide students with an excellent quality of teaching, even if we adjust the way we teach. We remain committed to providing the best possible online learning experience for our students, which will include digital resources such as videos, podcasts and interactive content, personal teaching support, plus engagement with fellow students from around the world. Any student who chooses to study online for the rest of the academic year will not be negatively impacted by this decision.
The University’s Academic Board has approved Emergency Academic Regulations for Examinations and Examination Boards for Spring 2020 – Summer 2021. These supportive measures include:
- Waiving of the re-sit administration fees
- Suspension of the Attendance Policy and the Late Arrival to Class Policy
- A streamlined short-term extension process from the instructor, with revised evidence requirements
- A streamlined longer-term extension or re-sit process with revised evidence requirements and a faster approval
- The inclusion of guidance on technical issues as a mitigating circumstance
- The introduction of enhanced engagement tracking to support students balancing time zones and family/personal circumstances during remote learning
- Enhanced use of the Virtual Learning Environment for online exam submissions, and additional time for quant-based subjects
- Online drop-in sessions with academic advisors and Registry Services ahead of, and during Registration Week
For those who are completing their degrees
- Additional consideration at the University Exam Board of degree classifications for graduating students with cancelled internships at University Exam Board
- Additional consideration at the University Exam Board of degree classifications for graduating students under the Emergency Academic Regulations to ensure no detriment
Other initiatives include:
- Across the curriculum, assessment formats have been revised to allow students to complete them remotely
- This has been accompanied by increased emphasis on academic misconduct, to ensure standards are maintained
- Support for students with specific educational needs
- Virtual tutoring and mentoring
- Virtual study halls and support with time management
- Open access workshops in academic writing and maths
- Virtual library support; click and collect services
- Laptop loans
The faculty has worked to continually improve online teaching, and the response from students has been largely positive, as expressed by one MA student:
“In my personal view, the way the University has handled the online classes is remarkable. In March 2020, when I found out that I had to do my classes online, I was afraid that I was going to miss something from the courses and the university experience. My fears were proved to be mistaken. Not only I did not miss anything from my courses, but I was able to read more and focus better on my assignments. As for the university experience, the people who work for the university, are doing their best to keep us informed, connected and be part of the “university community”.
Eirini, MA Advertising & PR student
Like many other UK universities, Richmond has faced calls from students for housing refunds and we took this one step further.
We offered to provide university-owned accommodation free of charge during the quarantine period in September 2020 and in January 2021 for any students who had booked the accommodation for the semester and needed to quarantine. Meals during the quarantining period were also offered free of charge to all residents.
For accommodation for the rest of this semester, we will be either deferring payment until students can arrive or we will be reimbursing accommodation costs if they are not using the accommodation at all. We are also charging students pro rata for the time they stay in university accommodation. We believe this is a reasonable and appropriate approach to this difficult issue.
Communication with students
At Richmond we know our students, and have worked with them throughout. We have used a combination of email, social media, our learning resource, Blackboard Learn. Our independent Student Government has supported our Student Affairs and our Recruitment and Admissions teams using direct communication with students (and their parents) to inform them of the latest university news.
Best possible student experience
A number of health and wellbeing measures have been introduced by the Student Affairs team to help ensure the best experience possible for students:
- Weekly drop in Zoom sessions
- Personal counselling
- Free on-line yoga and meditation sessions
- Media campaigns on a balanced lifestyle
- Top tips from student leaders
- Support for deliveries, medical assistance, and advice on COVID-19
Many of the student clubs and societies organised by the Student Government and the Student Affairs team are meeting and organising activities virtually. The Richmond Leadership Academy which provides opportunities for leadership development activities such as student representation, virtual work experience and volunteering, is also taking place virtually, as is the University’s Careers portal, events and services.
Students are also invited to participate in virtual student senate meetings where they can offer feedback on their degree majors and on individual courses. In addition, students are represented on University committees to ensure that the student voice is not just heard but listened to and acted on.
“We are so proud of our students for how they have continued to adapt during this challenging time and we want to ensure that they have the best possible support to meet their goals resulting in a positive student experience. Our Student Affairs Team is working continuously to help and guide our student community with learning and teaching, mental health, wellbeing and welfare resources.”
Dr. Allison Cole-Stutz, Vice President of Student Affairs