DOS Update #4 - A Thousand Words

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If you think attending one lecture is tough, try listening to 10 at one time like these technicians at the NUS Centre for Instructional Technology (CIT). They monitor up to 10 lectures at one time, to ensure good video and audio quality.
/ Photo: Sean Tan, Head, Student Organisations, OSA

31 January 2020 

Dear Students:

A brief but important update today. There is what will happen in your classes from today:

  1. All lecturers must provide annotated or voice-over PowerPoint slides to students.
  2. All lectures are to be recorded for webcasting. More tech-savvy teachers may use Camtasia and Zoom to record lectures for uploading to LumiNUS.
  3. Tutorials and lab sessions may also be recorded, even in an empty class where the teacher demonstrates to camera.

Because many of you have emailed about provisions for online learning, I thought I’d show you some pictures of what is happening behind the scenes.

E-Learning support

If you think attending one lecture is tough, trying listening to 10 at one time.

Mr Leow Sin Lak, a technician who has seen the evolution of classroom video recording systems from the videotape cassette (VHS) format era to the CCTV SD card and to the current IP cam technologies said: “Before the virus, we were recording around 20 lectures each time, now we have at least 30 lectures or more.”

Still, the NUS Centre for Instructional Technology (CIT) has more than enough capacity to handle this increased load. The recording studio operates from 8am to 10pm. The set-up is similar to a video surveillance room except this one comes with the decibel level of a Cantonese diner at full throttle. Conversations, or in this case, lectures, come in different languages, Japanese included.

The room is equipped with more than 40 computer monitors – 2 at each lecture – all accessible remotely. All 57 LTs at NUS have recording facilities and lectures are uploaded 5 – 10 minutes after the class ends.

If the sound is low, the technicians have to ask for an AV support unit to check the sound because they cannot leave the studio. Technician Ang Siew Meng said: “We just pray hard that the lecturer remembers to use his mic! Otherwise, no audio!” 

The increase in the number of recordings are to cater to those who are away from campus, as well as to prepare for all possible eventualities. NUS has activated more measures for learning support.

The CIT has many e-learning services. Seminar Room recordings, Web Conferencing, Text Chat, Discussion Forums and Microsoft Teams are all available platforms.

The CIT is also working on other innovative e-learning and e-assessment options during this time. They are launching a new page on their website today to show you how you can continue your studies online. Look out for it here.

You can go online for external courses too – for example, via Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). NUS is a member of both EdX and Coursera, and is producing NUS-produced courses on EdX.  If you’re interested in instructional video courses taught by notable industry experts, login to Lynda and you can learn the latest software, technology, creative, and business skills.

Updates as at 6pm today, the Government has implemented a 14-day leave of absence for Singaporeans returning from mainland China. This preventive measure has already been adopted by NUS since Jan 29, 2020.

View from the Inside: LOA in Campus Housing

At Cinnamon College, University Scholars Programme, all 18 student leaders take turns to deliver food for the handful of students on LOA in their College.

None of them pulled out of this duty when offered a choice. Ahmed bin Anwar Bahajjaj who packed and delivered dinner from the dining hall yesterday, said: “I guess it’s because there’s a reason we are RAs - we want to serve. This is what leadership means. I didn’t even think about it - these are our friends, we take care of our own.”

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Students voluntarily put up these signs, to tell their friends why they don’t answer the door. / Photo: USP

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A special toilet is set aside for their use. / Photo: USP

#QOTD on education matters:

Answers by Assoc Professor Erle Lim, Associate Provost (Undergraduate)

Question: “The virus has inadvertently affected the studies of the students. Some of the students will still benefit from lessons on campus, whereas those who are quarantined or on leave of absence may lose out. Some professors have changed to webcasted lectures, but many lectures and tutorials are still going on as usual. Other schools have already adopted the e-Lecture system and are able to work from home. Will this be adopted for all NUS modules especially during this period?”

Answer: Yes. All teachers are being mandated to, at the very least, provide annotated or voice-over PowerPoint slides to students.

All lecture theatres are equipped with cameras – and Provost is mandating that all lectures are to be recorded for webcasting. For more tech-savvy teachers, Camtasia and Zoom allow teachers to record their lectures for uploading to LumiNUS.

We are aware that online delivery of content alone is not as robust as the deep learning that is afforded by face to face tutorials and class discussions, but these are extraordinary times, and we need to ensure that there is some continuity of care.

Camtasia and Zoom can also enable tutorials and even lab sessions to be recorded, even in an empty class where the teacher demonstrates to camera. Where students feel that the PowerPoint slides, whether with annotations or voice-over, or webcasted lectures are not enough for them, NUS is also a member of EdX and Coursera, and students may avail themselves of audit-only courses for free, to supplement their learning.

Question: “This email is a sincere request to suspend mandatory attendance for all NUS classes for the coming weeks. Since the classes are conducted in confined spaces, students may not feel comfortable to be in such close proximity. Didn’t MOH advised to avoid crowded places? LT is a crowded space. That being said, I don’t want to miss out on my classes and content taught by my professors as I am sure a lot of other students also wouldn’t want to.”

Answer: At the moment, the disease has NOT spread into the community, hence the yellow DORSCON status. NUS Is taking strict precautions to ensure that at-risk individuals are on LOA. There is, at the moment, little chance of community infection. E-learning will afford you the ability to attend classes remotely. We will, of course, review the situation again if things change. 

Question: “Things like laboratory practicals, design studios or debates are best conducted face-to-face. Will NUS allow me to attend these if I am on LOA?”

Answer: No. You are on LOA because you may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. NUS is a concentrated campus, and we need to protect the unexposed community, i.e. you need to stay away from campus. We understand that there are certain learning activities that are not best delivered online. As such, make-up sessions can be arranged, where possible, or compromises can be reached  - e.g. though suboptimal, lab sessions can instead be converted to lab demonstrations, which can be recorded and delivered online. We will let your teachers make the final determination of what is best, but NUS will facilitate your learning as much as possible.

Question: “What happens in the event that the situation escalates?”

Answer: Should the situation escalates, e.g. DORSCON orange or red, all learning activities will go online.

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Read More: 

DOS Update #5 -- Food, Buses and the Virtual Company of Friends (1 February 2020)
DOS Update #6 -- What's in a name? (2 February 2020)
DOS Update #7 -- "Everyone is scared, but it’s part of our job.” (3 February 2020)
DOS Update #8 -- Noisy Fans and Fishy Water: Life on the Inside (4 February 2020)

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Archive: 

DOS Update #1 -- 28 January 2020
DOS Update #2 -- The Proximity of Noses (29 January 2020)
DOS Update #3 -- Black cats, white cats and the placebo effect (30 January 2020)