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COVID-19 robbing UOW first year students 'of true uni experience'

The University of Wollongong resembles more of a ghost town than bustling, vibrant campus at the moment.

This reporter saw just a sprinkling of students and staff at the Wollongong campus last Thursday.

And there are no signs of this improving anytime soon, with university management confirming online remote delivery will continue for the rest of 2020.

Though Professor Theo Farrell is hopeful some life will return to campus sooner rather than later.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education, who is in charge of transitioning all undergraduate and postgraduate programs to remote study delivery, expects to see more students on campus from as early as Monday.

Professor Farrell said UOW was starting a gradual shift back to campus, in line with current COVID-19 restrictions.

Spring session will see most subjects start remotely, with lectures, tutorials and seminars delivered online.

Some classes though will run on campus - mostly practical and laboratory classes, or programs requiring practical placements and work-integrated learning.

"Some life will return to campus next semester because 15 per cent of courses is a lot. We will have thousands of students on campus, it is just they won't be as lively, as bustling as usual and that's because we have to follow health guidelines, which we will do to the letter," Prof Farrell said.

"So there will be some life coming back next semester which is great but we are all awaiting for a return to what will be a new normal.

"Life will be a bit different but we are waiting for that return when we have a fully vibrant campus again because UOW has a superb campus and we just can't wait to see it vibrant and fully alive again."

University of Wollongong student walking past a no gathering sign. Picture: Adam McLean.

University of Wollongong student walking past a no gathering sign. Picture: Adam McLean.

This view was supported by advanced photography student Jeremy Monaro.

Mr Monaro said he was happy the library and cafes and the UniBar were open, otherwise "campus life would be way too quiet".

"I understand these are difficult times but people need connection with each other," he said.

"I really feel for first year students. They are missing out on the true university experience. Uni is more than just a place to learn, it's a place where you meet new people and make lifelong friendships.

"I really feel for those students who have come to Wollongong from a country town. I'm sure they were expecting a great experience but that's far from what they are getting.

"I know UniBar is trying to get some events up and running but they have had to cancel plenty of events which have always been popular with students, particularly first year students."

Opting for online learning early, a good choice: UOW professor

Professor Theo Farrell, UOW's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education). Picture: Robert Peet

Professor Theo Farrell, UOW's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education). Picture: Robert Peet

Remote learning will continue this week when University of Wollongong students start spring session.

Professor Theo Farrell, UOW's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), who led the move to remote delivery, is happy with how well staff and students have adapted to this "challenging period of time".

Professor Farrell though is adamant this is mainly because of the university's decision to pause teaching for two weeks to allow it to prepare for remote delivery.

"In that two week period we trained 1700 staff and then we relaunched on April 6 in remote delivery mode. That was fundamentally important to our success," he said.

"The fact that we managed to train so many staff in that two week period was really important to our ability to delivery high quality remote delivery.

"Students appreciated this, which was reflected in a survey we conducted which showed 92 per cent of students were satisfied with their experiences of remote delivery."

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This story COVID-19 robbing UOW first year students 'of true uni experience' first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.