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Education

UWTSD undergoes digital transformation

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THE MOVE to home working and online delivery means innovative thinking has been a key driver for a digital transformation at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

The University has recently set out a new direction of travel and embraced the opportunity to review its current academic offer and design a suite of modules across its portfolio which aim to develop students’ skills and competencies, as part of a Graduate Attributes Framework.

In the future, the University’s courses will be prepared in such a way that the delivery experience will accommodate traditional campus-based learning and online delivery for a blended learning approach.
“At every level of a university degree, some modules will only be offered through online learning and the content of our degrees will reflect the reality of the employment challenges our students will face, particularly post Covid”, says James Cale, Director of Digital Services at the University who is also leading the University’s Estates and Infrastructure Task Group, as part of its Post-Covid Transition Group.

“Whilst the safety and well-being of all our students and staff is our highest priority, we are of course also fully committed to providing our students with the highest quality study and social experience that we can.

“We have made a commitment to all our students that, through our blended learning provision, they will be able to receive face-to-face teaching on campus whenever it is safe and possible, and both asynchronous (learning the same content at different times) and synchronous (learning at same time) online teaching delivered to those students off campus, will continue to be available where possible.”
The University knows that access to academic staff is important to UWTSD’s students and that personal attention from staff is among the many reasons why the University has been voted 1st in the UK for the second year in succession for its Courses and Lecturers in the What Uni Student Choice Awards and is 1st in Wales for its learning community in the 2020 National Student Survey.

“That personal attention can also be provided through both on-campus and online via solutions such as Microsoft Teams” says James. “We will provide regular contact time opportunities both with tutors and fellow students”.

“We know that some students have concerns about online delivery of learning”, James continues. “But providing online alternatives to lectures does not mean that students will miss out on the in-person university experience and research shows that blended learning can offer more flexibility and better learner outcomes”.

Larger group teaching will be delivered digitally if necessary and where online delivery is not possible, the University will make sure these are accessible to all either by recording or streaming them.
Online teaching sessions will give students the chance to follow up and post questions online in discussion spaces and where academic staff will post answers and further explanations. This is a long-term approach that will enable the University to provide increased accessibility, flexibility, and equity.
The University has also been actively working on appropriate solutions as some students have limited access to devices when off-campus and some are in areas with limited or no broadband provision.

Working through its Student Services team, the University has invested in its bursary funding to provide support for those that need it in the form of Microsoft Surface Go devices, financial support for connectivity and access to resources for Welsh Government grant funding for areas with poor broadband connectivity.

Professor Dylan Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor concluded: “The strength of UWTSD is the diversity of our students and we aim to provide the very best educational environment for each individual to reach their potential. Our recent campus developments have emphasised small group and practice–based teaching, integrating physical and virtual study spaces for maximum impact. The pandemic has accelerated this approach, but the direction of travel was already determined as we seek to prepare our graduates for a constantly changing workplace in which the utilisation of technology plays a central role.”

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Education

Community safety promises as students return to Aberystwyth

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Aberystwyth University has launched five ‘community promises’ as part of its plans to ensure the safety of students, staff and the wider community as it prepares to welcome students back later this month.

The ‘community promises’ outline five pledges for students, staff and the wider town community. The five points are:

1. Maintain good hygiene – wash hands regularly

2. Keep our distance – follow guidelines

3. Know who we are with – test and trace saves lives

4. Protect those around us – wear a face covering where advised

5. Respect each other – be kind

The pledges come on top of the comprehensive safety measures the University has already introduced.

These include introducing one-way systems, classroom layout changes and signage, along with enhanced cleaning and hygiene arrangements, including providing hand sanitizer stations and regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.

It has also restructured its teaching timetable to support social distancing, is introducing contact tracing in co-operation with the local council and health board, and expects all staff, students and visitors to wear a face-covering while indoors on all University sites.

Aberystwyth University’s Vice-Chancellor, Elizabeth Treasure, said: “As we bring teaching on-campus later this month, our priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our students, staff and the wider community. The University has been working very hard over many months to adapt our campus and activities in light of the global pandemic. These comprehensive measures include enhancing cleaning, ensuring social distancing, contract tracing, and expecting all staff, students and visitors to wear a face-covering while indoors on all University sites. These adaptations have been introduced as a result of an extensive programme of risk assessments in order to identify and mitigate risks.

“All these detailed arrangements have been developed in close collaboration with Students’ Union representatives, as well as in discussions with Ceredigion Council, Hywel Dda Health Board, the Welsh Government and UK wide stakeholders. From the outset of the current pandemic, safety has been at the forefront of our thinking and will continue to be so for the new academic year.”

The new commitments have been backed by the Leader of Ceredigion Council, Students’ Union representatives, and the Mayor of Aberystwyth.

Ellen ap Gwynn, the Leader of Ceredigion County Council, said: “Ceredigion County Council has been working closely with Aberystwyth University over the last few months in ensuring that arrangements are in place to welcome students back safely to the County. We support the range of safety measures that Aberystwyth University has put in place, as well as the ‘community promises’ so that the students can return and once again become part of the community in Aberystwyth. We will continue to work closely with Aberystwyth University over the coming months to ensure the safety of the students and the local community.”

Aberystwyth Mayor Cllr Charlie Kingsbury added: “I’m very grateful for the hard work the University has undertaken to ensure that students return safely to Aberystwyth. Sensible measures, which are cognisant of the risk are essential as we welcome students back, and I have every confidence in the University’s commitment to support the health of the community in Aberystwyth.”

President of Aberystwyth Students’ Union Nate Pidcock commented: “These commitments are an important part of a package of adaptations which are being made in light of the pandemic. With students gradually returning to campus, these changes are going to be relatively new to everyone. We are going to do our very best, alongside other partners, to ensure that students are aware of this new normal. We are going to do all we can to work together to protect all the people and communities of Aberystwyth and Ceredigion as a whole.”

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the University has been working with a wide variety of local and national partners to keep infection rates low in the Ceredigion, including providing facilities to the local health board and producing and supplying PPE. The University has also planned for a more gradual return of students this month, including making special provision for students who may need to self-isolate on arrival.

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Education

Vital support for job seekers and employers in West Wales

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TO MATCH job seekers with employers and career agencies across West Wales, a virtual jobs fair is taking place on Wednesday 9 September.

The free online event will be hosted by Working Wales, which is delivered by Careers Wales, and is in partnership with Job Centre Plus teams across West Wales and the south west and mid Wales Regional Learning and Skills Partnership.

Now, more than ever, job seekers and employers are relying on online support to find jobs and fill vacancies.

The event will run through Working Wales’ Facebook channels and will be split into two regional events covering West Wales mid and south. 10am-11am is for job seekers and employers in Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Powys and Neath Port Talbot. 2pm-3pm will focus on Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Swansea.

Attendees for the free event will have access to a wide variety of job vacancies from many sectors across West Wales as well as expert careers advice to support with job applications.

Working Wales is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund and was launched by the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates in May 2019.

Within the first year the service has directly assisted over 37,000 people across Wales. Careers Wales chief executive, Nikki Lawrence said “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the west to deliver a virtual jobs fair. Our careers advice and guidance is a vital part of supporting the economy during this pandemic, and these online events allow us to effectively and safely continue reaching and supporting our customers during these challenging times.”

To register your interest in these events, follow Working Wales on Facebook @WorkingWales. If you are an employer with vacancies to fill please also get in touch.

Available to anyone over the age of 16, Working Wales provides a one-to-one, tailored employability advice and guidance service, supporting people across Wales with job searching, CV writing, interview preparation, training and upskilling as well as with redundancy support.

For more information on Working Wales visit: www.workingwales.gov.wales or call 0800 028 4844

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Education

Ceredigion ready to welcome pupils back safely

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Ceredigion pupils will return to school gradually from September onwards.

The autumn term begins on 3 September 2020, with pupils gradually returning until everyone is back on a full-time basis by 14 September 2020.

Ceredigion County Council would like to thank all staff for their hard work over recent weeks in ensuring that the appropriate arrangements are in place to safeguard the health and welfare of staff and pupils.

One-way systems will be in place in schools, bubble groups by year and class groups, and pupils will sit facing the front of the class, rather than facing each other, and scattered break and lunch times. Staff will also continue to take the temperature of each pupil as they arrive on site. We will ensure good hygiene by ensuring regular hand washing opportunities throughout the day and a supply of hand sanitizers in places where hand washing is not possible, as well as ensuring adequate fresh air within classes. In addition, the schools will be cleaned during the day and after school hours. The Contact Tracing system will be used in the event of any coronavirus case, and each school will have a dedicated isolation room if a pupil or member of staff feels unwell during the day, with clear signs placed around the sites to emphasize the importance of hygiene and keeping a social distance. Secondary schools will also be asking all pupils to carry face coverings with them and they will be expected to use them in line with the school’s Risk Assessment policy.

Transport arrangements will continue in Ceredigion for pupils who are eligible for school transport, in accordance with the county’s Transport policy. Ceredigion County Council expects pupils to wear face coverings on school transport. It will be the duty of parents/carers to provide a face covering for their child. Social distance is not a requirement on school transport and therefore the Council believes that wearing a face covering on school transport should be taken as one means of reducing risks.

The situation will be continually reviewed, and we thank everyone for their patience and co-operation as we prioritise the health and safety of all pupils and staff. We aim to ensure that our pupils receive as full an educational experience as possible within these circumstances.

The Headteachers of each school will be on hand to reassure pupils, parents and carers of any aspect of these preparations.

We look forward to welcoming old and new faces back to the schools in September, and we wish everyone a successful term, brimming with education.

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