Teaching and learning
Last updated: Tuesday 20 April 2021
Commitment to education
We are committed to maintaining the highest possible standards of education this year, with a focus on personalised teaching and supervision from leading academics, including tutorials and other types of small group learning such as masters’ seminar groups.
Teaching and learning activities
For the majority of students, the core content of your course will not change, although the mode of delivery will be different.
The Skills for Remote Study site on Canvas provides advice and information to help you make the most of online lectures and tutorials, prepare for and undertake remote assessments, and study more productively.
You can also read some quick tips on getting started with remote study on the Oxford Students website.
We aim to ensure our remote teaching is as accessible to as many students as possible. If you require adjustments such as manually edited captions on videos or text description of visual content as a reasonable adjustment, please contact the Disability Advisory Service.
Unless notified by your department or faculty, your course syllabus will be unaffected. We will keep the situation under constant review, and the balance between in-person and online teaching may vary in response to the prevailing situation. We ask for your understanding as we adapt flexibly to the circumstances.
Facilities and libraries
Our facilities are open where government guidance permits it, and are available to students as COVID-secure environments.
We have put in additional measures to make sure you can take part in practical teaching and research, for example in laboratories. Your times may be staggered, and capacities will be reduced, but we are committed to ensuring you get suitable levels of access, in line with government guidance.
While for most students, access to the Bodleian libraries is primarily online, the libraries are working to maximise the range of resources and support available to everyone through these means. Please do use its Live Chat for any queries you have.
For those students who are in Oxford the Bodleian is also providing access to library study spaces, expanding opening hours and spaces as the term progresses. Please check regularly for updates on reading room availability and opening hours, and use Space Finder to book your space (and please do use your space if you book it). Please support your fellow students, library staff and academic staff by wearing a face covering at all times unless you have a medical exemption, and by leaving a two metre space between you and other library users and staff.
Exams and assessments
We expect exams to take place close to the time they would be held in a normal year, and that the main summer exam season will be contained within weeks 5 to 9 of Trinity term (though some exams will take place outside this window as they normally would).
A full suite of Trinity term exams to take place around their usual time. Most students sitting examinations will be using Inspera, Oxford’s new online assessment platform, full details of which are available on the new Trinity term exams page.
A small number of in-person examinations will go ahead in COVID-safe environments.
We are committed to supporting all students during the pandemic, given the disruption faced by all. Departments have the situation under constant review, and will be adapting teaching and learning as appropriate to ensure you are fully prepared and supported for exams and assessments.
Exam support will be available in the form of departmental guidance, college briefings and support, recorded exam preparation briefings, exam-specific wellbeing resources and the usual exam adjustments in place.
The University plans to put an 'assessment support package' in place, comprising a set of mitigation measures designed to ensure all students receive fair grades, in light of this year’s exceptional circumstances. These new measures will fall into two broad areas:
Measures for whole cohorts
- Exam boards will be given detailed guidance on how to assess impacts from the pandemic which apply to the whole cohort sitting a particular paper. They will then be able to make adjustments through the MCE process to any papers particularly affected.
- Exam boards will be required to review paper level marks against those of previous year to ensure that the pandemic has not had a detrimental impact. Where appropriate paper level marks will be able to be adjusted by scaling to bring average marks more in line with expected outcomes and previous years’ results.
- Exam boards will be empowered to review overall outcomes against those of previous years and will be able to use more discretion to progress or classify students in reference to previous years’ results.
Measures for individual students
- Exam boards will be able to invite students to submit a statement (and in some cases this will also include a comment from the supervisor) along with submitted work to describe the impact of lack of access to in-person resources or activities has had on their submission. This statement will then be considered by the markers in the marking process. Your department will be in contact to let you know for what submissions this applies to and guidance on the process.
- We will be making enhancements to the MCE process including a new student impact statement proforma and system changes to allow you to submit MCEs directly. You will not have to provide independent evidence in relation to your circumstances, but can still do so where it is available. Exam boards will also be provided with more detailed guidance on how to assess the student statements. The new student impact statement proforma will be available from week 6 Hilary term. Changes to the system to allow direct application will be in place in early TT, prior to that point MCEs will still need to be submitted via your college (or department if you don’t have a college).
- We have also extended the period that students with chronic fluctuating conditions can self-certify (as recorded in their SSP) for extensions and late submissions from 7 to 14 days to reflect difficulties in accessing GPs for non-urgent medical matters. All students are still able to self-certify for up to 7 day for acute illness and 14 days for illness and circumstances related to COVID-19.
We encourage you to keep a log of any disruption you face as a result of COVID-19, so that this can be considered as part of the MCE process.
You can include a note of any disruption which is linked to the pandemic. Examples of what you might include are:
- Your own illness
- Illness of family members
- Increased caring responsibilities (whether due to illness or due to e.g. the impact of COVID-19 on your or your family members’ employment, or the impact of school/nursery closures)
- Impact on your mental health
- Impact of COVID-19 if you are a student with disabilities/long-term health conditions, e.g. you are at higher risk of COVID-19, or you are having difficulties with accessing support which would normally be available
- Financial impacts
- Inability to pursue your planned studies at present due to lack of access to facilities such as laboratories or libraries; inability to travel to undertake fieldwork; or inability to meet with research subjects, where alternatives are not available and the impact on your studies cannot be mitigated (you should discuss with your tutor whether alternatives are available)
- Difficulties with your environment for remote study, e.g. poor-quality internet connection, lack of IT facilities, lack of study space
- Impact on the availability of your tutor(s) which is affecting your progress (e.g. due to tutor illness or caring responsibilities)
This list is not exhaustive, so please also record in your log any other disruption you have experienced due to COVID-19.
Please refer to the FAQ page for further details about academic impacts.
Fieldwork and years abroad
During the national lockdown, field trips have been postponed or replaced by alternative online provision unless deemed essential to meet learning outcomes. UK Government guidance now allows courses that have in-person teaching permitted to resume day visit activity within the UK, including fieldtrips held within one day. UK-based fieldtrips that require overnight stays can be planned to take place after Step 3 of the Government’s Roadmap for easing national restrictions is activated, which will be 17 May at the earliest. However, trips with overnight stays before 17 May that are already booked, and provide self-contained accommodation, may go ahead as planned. A suitable and sufficient COVID-19 UK risk assessment must be in place for UK travel, approved via usual departmental/faulty procedures. Please talk to your tutor or supervisor at the earliest opportunity and they will be able to provide advice and support.
While UK Government restrictions do allow students to travel, by exception, for educational purposes (such as for fieldwork, or for research), any international travel will require the advance approval of your Head of Department or Faculty Board Chair. Go to the Travelling from Oxford section of the Oxford Student Coronavirus response site for more information, but please talk to your tutor or supervisor at the earliest opportunity and they will be able to provide advice and support.
If you are undertaking a year abroad, we are taking steps to support you taking up this opportunity in a safe way. An enhanced risk assessment process is in place, and some flexibility is likely to be needed. Alternative learning arrangements are being made in cases where in-country placements are not viable. Please see the FAQs for year abroad students for further information.
Supporting your education in all scenarios
We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of education regardless of the impact of the ongoing pandemic.
We have planned for a range of scenarios – including local and national restrictions. We are working in a co-ordinated way across the University and the colleges to make education accessible to all students – whether you are learning in-person or online.
For more information about the University’s scenario planning, please refer to University status and response page.
To find out more about what you can expect in Trinity term, download the Expectations of Teaching and Assessment in Trinity Term 2021 document.
Please refer to the FAQ page if you have any further questions about teaching and learning.