By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
UNIVERSITY of The Bahamas professors anticipate there will be a blended learning environment for students for the upcoming fall semester, one that could include limited face-to-face instruction and a continuation of virtual learning classes.
During a recent interview, University of Tertiary Educators (UTEB) president, Daniel Thompson said as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, members expect to see several changes implemented for the 2020/21 school semester. However, he said the union is still waiting on further information from UB officials on the way forward.
He said: "Certain things will be different because of the social distancing and it depends on what happens... (but) no matter what the outcome is, there will be a greater involvement of non-face to face (contact) and some other type of online modalities.
"For example, the classroom will be limited in terms of their ability to accommodate 25 or 30 students. Our classrooms are designed for 25 to 30 students, most of them and it means that classes may only be able to hold about 10 or 15 students. And so that means several things may have to happen whether the balance of the class has to be done through other media or what so there are a lot of implications involved and what UTEB expects is the university will come and sit with us and let's reason together to find a way forward."
After the country recorded its first COVID-19 case in March, UB announced the cancellation of its on-campus classes, shifting to online classes for students to continue their studies at home. Campus and business operations were also suspended, with staff working remotely.
The university has since resumed office operations for employees at the Oakes Field Campus and Northern Campus in Grand Bahama as part of their transition into phase two of their reopening plan.
The university said the plan was developed based on UB's COVID-19 task force recommendations.
It added: "The activation of each phase of the reopening plan is contingent upon national health protocols and emergency orders as well as the procurement and implementation of appropriate sanitisation systems."
Speaking on other changes anticipated for the upcoming year, Mr Thompson said union members also expect to see greater student enrolment for the upcoming year.
He continued: "That's why it's contradictory that if you anticipate increased student enrolment then the whole issue of faculty engagement should not be a question. You should be looking at making other opportunities to expand if you are going to have more students.
"Because of the financial situation, you gone have an high unemployment level and this is an excellent opportunity for the government to invest in education so that four or five thousand persons graduating this year are fed into tertiary education whether it's UB or BTVI or any other tertiary institution."
Last week, a local daily revealed that UB's board of trustees is considering 20 percent salary cuts for its staff and sending faculty members of a specific age group and with a certain amount of years of service into retirement.
However, Mr Thompson told The Tribune he could not comment on the information reported until an official proposal has been sent to the union.
"We are awaiting communication from the university in regard to that proposal," he said.