By Manu Risoldi
Welcome back and happy T3! I hope you’re well-rested after the holidays and ready to get into another jam-packed trimester. Despite just coming back from a short holiday break the SRC has continued to work incredibly hard in various areas of uni life to maximise our student experience over the coming term but also to ensure academic and student life is
not overly impacted by the flow-on effects from COVID-19. Below I’ve gone into some detail about a few of the issues we have been active in and around in the current weeks.
Over the past few weeks, the Moodle Taskforce wrapped up its meetings and released its report into the steps and goals that need to be implemented by the university to further enhance Moodle and elevate the way UNSW utilises online learning spaces. My contributions to the Taskforce were giving frank feedback about what has worked and has not worked within Moodle in the past as well as drawing from the SRC T1 Survey Data to
offer some insights into areas of improvement and what students want to see within an online learning platform.
Over these two online terms, we have seen students and academics alike interact through Moodle, and rely on the software in ways they had not previously. Moreover, we are seeing the need for staff to be better trained in utilising Moodle, and the various facets within the software. The student feedback on this taskforce mirrored our recommendations made to Academic Board and we have spoken extensively about the need for the
university to implement standards for all Moodle Pages.
It became very clear throughout the task force meetings that there is a real desire for action around online learning and its being championed by our academics. Come next year and in future years we hope to see an online learning platform that allows for meaningful collaboration, fast feedback for students and a platform that can store students previous works (like an online portfolio).
The Assessment task force is reviewing how UNSW utilises assessment, its procedures, and policies and is reviewing changes that both academics and students would like to see in this space. The task force has only recently been created but since our initial meeting, I have already made it clear that I think UNSW needs to shift away from assessments that can be worth 50% or more of a student’s overall grade.
Moreover, I have raised concerns surrounding some courses mandating students submit more than 4 assessments a term. The academic policy makes it quite clear that 4 assessments per term is the maximum that can be incorporated into any given course. This policy is not being adhered to in several different courses. Assessment at UNSW has remained similar despite the move to the 3+ calendar.
The core areas of concern I will continue to raise with academics and management is reducing students’ assessment load, changing the nature of assessment at UNSW and bolstering student support services during our assessment periods.
Faculty Roadshow – FASS/LAW and BUSINESS/STEM
During the holidays both Sahana Nandakumar (Chair of Arc) and I spoke to 300+ academics in an online forum about the student experience at UNSW and key areas of improvement we’d like to see. The online forum was an interactive opportunity for both student leaders and academics from across all faculties at UNSW to come together and reflect on Term 1 and 2. The key topics that we discussed surrounded online learning (what worked and what didn’t), we discussed the concerns that have arisen from students
in the areas of feedback, marking, and online classes.
However, we did also reflect upon the work that so many academics did do during the first half of the year because we have received an overwhelming amount of feedback from students that without their tutors and course convenors their experience during term 1 and 2 would not be what it was. Our presentation was followed by a Q and A session where
academics could ask us questions, but also offer their frustrations and concerns about the future of online learning at UNSW.
The presentations were faculty-specific and we endeavoured to highlight areas of the student experience that had been done well and areas that needed improvement. Our losing remarks to the forum touched on the importance of transparency between faculties and students and the need for elevated levels of student-facing support to continue to assist those students through remote learning.
Concession Card Campaign
Towards the end of last month, I attended a round table discussion about concession cards for international students as well as the exploitation of workers, particularly workers who are international students. In attendance, at the round table discussion, was Leader of
the Opposition, Jodi McKay, and Shadow Minister for tertiary education, Clayton Barr.
Furthermore, student unions from UTS, USYD, UNSW, WSU, and the National Union of Students was represented in the meeting. It was a very fruitful discussion and Labor indicated it would support international students receiving concession cards in NSW. Currently, both QLD and VIC both have agreements that see international students receive
concession cards. NSW has fallen behind the other states and after a lacklustre COVID-19 response from the state government for international students, this issue could not be
more important for the Liberal government to get on board with.
Since the round table discussion, I have begun coordinating the large universities in NSW to convene a meeting of management and student unions to discuss the universities coming together to petition the government to offer concession cards to international students. UNSW has already highlighted its interest in this meeting.
At the moment all collectives have moved their meetings online. Secure software has been purchased by the SRC to ensure all groups of diverse students can meet in a safe environment as a collective even with our shift to online meetings. If you’re wanting to be a part of the collective meetings you can reach out to any of the Facebook pages. From there the Office-Bearers will be able to add you into meetings, discord groups, and Zoom
calls! Moreover, you can directly email our Office Bearers if you’re needing further assistance. Emails can be kept confidential and all contact details can be found on our Arc page.
Read the full edition of Truth at https://issuu.com/arcunsw/docs/2020-tharunka-issue-4-truth.com