Concerns have been raised that remote students with poor internet access are at risk of missing out on class as the University of Wollongong (UOW) transitions to online learning.

UOW announced last week it would bring forward its mid-session break to the 23 March to prepare for online classes as part of its COVID-19 coronavirus management strategy.

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Prof. Theo Farrell told media on Tuesday he was confident the university would be prepared when students return from the break.

“It is not to say there won’t be a few problems,” Prof. Farrell said.

“I’m confident as we move into the period of disruption, we will get better and better so we can ensure across all our courses the students are having the best possible experience in terms of remote delivery.

“It means using our virtual learning environments, using recorded lectures, interactive online discussions and tutorials and classes from our various online resources.”

However, President of the Wollongong Undergraduate Students’ Association (WUSA) Alec Hall said UOW needs to make sure remote students with poor internet don’t get left behind.

“There is great potential for lack of equitable access to remote delivery, including for students enrolled at satellite campuses, who have inconsistent NBN and wi-fi availability,” Mr Hall said.

“If remote access is not of high quality, the university must ensure that students are able to withdraw from subjects (after the census date) without academic or financial penalty.”

The 31 March census date has been pushed back to 16 April to accommodate the delayed session. This is the last day students can withdraw from subjects without being charged.

Prof. Farrell said UOW would set up special helplines to support students with access issues.

“There’s already a general helpline, but we’ll be establishing a faculty academic helpline and also technical support helplines,” Prof. Farrell said.

“There could be hiccups and students could have questions so we’re going to make sure we have that strong support in place.”

Mr Hall wants more detail. 

“If a student calls in and needs help with a specific subject outline in a specific unit that they’re in, will that hotline be able to deliver that? Will that hotline be able to deliver information that’s only available through student central?” Mr Hall said. 

“Paul Wellings needs to make clear what this helpline is going to do and what these actions are going to be on the ground.”