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Durham University

Welcome to Durham University's Common Awards website

Covid-19 FAQs

Note: the following information is intended for TEI Staff and Students who are part of the Common Awards scheme. For the latest information for Durham University staff and students please click here.

Following the Government’s latest advice regarding the Covid-19 outbreak, the Common Awards team have been advised to work from home until further notice.

Reacting to this fast changing situation has become the priority for the team and we will do everything we can to support TEIs and students. We are in the process of building a 'Frequently Asked Questions' section devoted to Covid-19. We would encourage you to review this resource before contacting the team. Where appropriate, responses to questions we receive from colleagues’ will be shared with all TEIs. Please check the FAQs as frequently as you are able.

If you need to contact the team with any queries, please use our dedicated mailing address: common.awards@durham.ac.uk. This ensures all team members can access all communications remotely. Unfortunately, it will not be possible for the team to take phone calls while away from the office.

All communications, updates and changes regarding Covid-19 will be communicated on the homepage, the FAQ section and through emails to TEI Key Contacts and Principals.

The Common Awards team is not in a position to advise on whether or not TEIs should suspend face-to-face teaching (nor would we wish to do so); TEIs will be in the best position to make this decision in the context of your wider activity.

We recognise however that it might become necessary to use alternative modes of delivery to deliver teaching. This includes if students are unable to fulfil normal placement expectations but can still meet the module learning outcomes. In line with the University’s practice, we are happy for TEIs to move their teaching to online delivery. We appreciate that what this online delivery may look like will vary for each TEI. We also appreciate that this may lead to a different arrangement of learning hours, within the general parameters set out in our learning hours policy.

The guiding principle is that it is important that all students can participate in any classes remotely and access any online materials as required – and that you provide assistance to any student for whom such access might be a challenge or a barrier to full participation.

We appreciate that colleagues are having to respond to a difficult situation quickly. In light of this, we are happy for TEIs to undertake the changes necessary and inform the Common Awards team at a later date. That is: we do not require you to seek approval in advance for such changes. We have not set a deadline by which we require this information; however, we would encourage TEIs to provide this information as soon as they are able. Please ensure that you keep clear records of the changes made.

We also recognise that it might be necessary for alternative assessments to be put in place. We are happy for TEIs to do so and inform the Common Awards team of the alternative assessment used at a later date. Please ensure that any alternative assessment used is in line with the assessment patterns for either undergraduate or postgraduate modules. If you would like to use an assessment method that falls outside of these paramters, please contact the team for advice, and approval if needed, as soon as possible. Colleagues are reminded that TEIs should assure themselves that alternative assessments assess the same learning outcomes, to a similar breadth and depth, and that thought is given to whether there are any students likely to be disadvantaged by the change and how to mitigate that.

Please ensure that you continue to maintain oversight of such changes by consulting with the designated lead for the teaching affected, and seeking approval from the Chair of the TEI’s Board of Examiners (or nominee) and the Principal (or similar). We would advise that TEIs ensure that nominees are identified as soon as possible to mitigate for any unplanned staff absences. Again, please ensure that clear records are maintained.

We would advise that wherever possible TEIs keep the same assessment weightings, even if you need to change the various assessment components [see FAQ on changing assessments for more information].

On a practical level, there is likely to be an administrative burden involved with making such changes in Moodle, and at a time where efforts in TEIs might be required elsewhere.

We would encourage you to make reasonable efforts to contact your External Examiner, but we realise that it might not always be possible to get feedback before you need to make the new arrangements.

We recognise that it might not be possible to deliver everything you intended. TEIs can adjust learning hours (including contact hours) within the parameters of our learning hours’ policy. We are happy for TEIs to make these changes and inform the Common Awards team of the alternative assessment used at a later date. If the learning hours fall outside of the parameters, please contact the team for advice, and approval if needed, as soon as possible. If I becomes necessary to make changes, we encourage TEIs to be creative in how you do so – considering various forms of online contact, email, phone, guided reading, setting other learning exercises, getting students to talk to one another (online) in pairs or groups even if not always with a tutor present, for instance. We would remind TEIs that, as far as possible, by these means provide students with an equivalent level of support in meeting the module learning outcomes.

Please ensure that you continue to maintain oversight of such changes by consulting with the designated lead for the teaching affected, and seeking approval from the Chair of the TEI’s Board of Examiners (or nominee) and the Principal (or similar). Please keep clear records to share with the Common Awards team in due course.

In addition to the welfare support we know that TEIs will be providing to students, TEIs are reminded of the following processes and procedures that can be used to support students. Students adversely affected during the academic year should still be dealt with during the year wherever possible – for instance, via extensions to deadlines, or, if necessary, by altering assessments or permitting students to submit/resubmit work at a later point. Additional guidance on action which might be taken is available from the guidance on Student Absence and Illness. Where the impact on particular students can’t be mitigated during the year in this way, TEIs are also encouraged to make effective use of the Serious Adverse Circumstances procedure.

In light of University guidance to minimise and cancel non-essential travel and meetings, in-person attendance at TEI meetings (such as Management Committee’s) by University Liaison Officers or members of the Common Awards team has been cancelled. Instead, we will join scheduled meetings via Skype (or similar). Affected TEIs have already been contacted.

Our advice would be for TEIs to make a judgement call on whether or not there is any essential or urgent business that should require either (a) comments by electronic circulation, or (b) Chair's action being taken on behalf of the Committee. We would advise that the Chair and Secretary liaise on any matters which would require consideration at the meeting and take the neceassary action as outlined above. Otherwise, it would be appropriate for matters to be considered at the next scheduled Management Committee.

The TEI Forum, scheduled for Thursday 2nd April, will go ahead; however, this will now be conducted via Big Blue Button. Further information on the practical arrangements will be circulated in due course.

The Annual Conference for Theological Educators, scheduled for Monday 6th July – Wednesday 8th July, is currently going ahead. However please be advised that this may be subject to change as we respond to further advice and guidance. The Common Awards team is in discussions with the Ministry Team and the Theological Educators Network regarding this.

We are aware that there are a number of upcoming deadlines for Common Awards activity. Please contact the team if you anticipate any difficulties with meeting these deadlines.