IEI reconfigures to distance mode
A day and a half – 36 hours. That’s how long it took for LiU’s largest department to reconfigure to distance mode. Most things are working well, but loads of work remains. “This is a process, and new questions arise all the time”, says Louise Ödlund, head of department.
The A Building, Thursday afternoon. In an otherwise completely empty corridor, Oskar Pohjanen is sitting alone studying economics. He is taking the Business and Economics Programme with a specialisation in Spanish, and came home from Barcelona last Friday. The International Office at LiU contacted him by email: “Time to come home”.
“The flow of information worked well. We were several Swedish students from different universities, and we all left Spain at around the same time.”
Now he finds it refreshing to leave the apartment and study somewhere else. He’s trying to make the best of the situation and one positive aspect is that there are no crowds. Not by any means!
Well, what can I say? Last term I was in Chile when huge protests were going on. It’s been an extraordinarily bad year to be an exchange student, to put it mildly. We’ll have to wait and see where I end up next time”, he says, laughing.
Downstairs, the IEI crisis management group has just finished its daily noon meeting. Some members are on site, but since the start of the week most people are participating through Teams. The group consists of the management group with some key extra personnel from HR, economy, communication and the properties division. The departmental crisis management group was up and running quickly, as early as Thursday 12 March – and is working closely with the central crisis management group at LiU.
The head of department at IEI, Louise Ödlund, mentions difficult decisions about priorities and an enormous commitment from the co-workers.
“Indeed. We have selected the areas and issues where the need is most pressing. We have had to decide – what needs to be dealt with immediately, and what can wait? I’m just incredibly happy and proud of the amazing work that is being done. We’re all working together, finding new constellations, and finding ways to make progress”, she says.
The crisis management group has given highest priority to making sure that the procedures for distance exams are working properly. An ambitious target was immediately established: No exam is to be cancelled. LiU took the decision to activate distance mode on Monday afternoon, and the first distance exams were held on Wednesday morning. This was made possible by a huge effort in which 129 exam sessions were identified, the examiners contacted, and written instructions drawn up. These were then distributed to students and examiners.
The IEI undergraduate education committee undertook this work, after co-opting several key personnel. And everything went well, considering the circumstances. In an evaluation, one teacher wrote: “A traumatic rearrangement of exam conditions, which seems to have worked out well.”
“We are right in the middle of the exam period, but so far everything has exceeded expectations. The focus now moves to all the exam responses submitted in i Lisam, and how we can provide support there”, says Jonas Detterfelt, deputy head of department with responsibility for undergraduate education at IEI.
Now that the exams are running smoothly, other questions become important. The most important of these is to get distance teaching under way, and work out how to enable all the practical components to be carried out. Compared with rearranging the exams, at least there’s more time available to get the teaching sorted out. Some other questions will also come to the fore – such as distance work, the work environment and how to keep a feeling of community in a group that cannot meet in real life. Several divisions and units have started holding digital fika using Teams, for example.
“It’s also important that we continue to develop, and that we don’t forget routine operations. All this must also be done, and there’s nothing to gain by procrastination”, says Louise Ödlund.
The C Building, Thursday afternoon. In Room C3, doctoral student Louise Lindkvist Haziri is preparing the thesis defence planned for Friday, to be sent over Zoom. She is joined by supervisor Erik Sundin and Greger Karlström from the IT Division. There’s quite a bit of technology that needs to work, to get a problem-free presentation.
A camera has been screwed onto the wall and Louise has pinned up a photo of her dog to show where she should direct her gaze. The opponent, two supervisors and one member of the examining committee will be physically present – everyone else will follow the thesis defence remotely.
” I had developed a clear image of how the thesis defence would be, and to start with it was difficult to adjust. But now I’ve come to terms with it. In the present situation, we all have to adapt and make sacrifices. I’m just hoping people will focus on my thesis (which deals with remanufacturing), and not on the technology.”
“Adapt” is also the word that applies to the celebrations after the thesis defence. Several invited guests will not be able to come, but Louise is looking forward to getting some sort of celebration going. In real life as well.
Brief facts: IEI and distance mode
- Define key personnel and determine who is required to collaborate with whom. Create groups with these people.
- Review the work and support that are required to reconfigure operations. Which areas require most work? What is most urgent?
- Don’t cancel: don’t postpone! Work in a focussed manner to keep to schedules and carry out planned exams and courses. Important for both students and personnel.
- Don’t be afraid of taking local initiatives: look for pragmatic solutions.
- Remember how important communication is. Keep in contact with colleagues using Teams or Zoom, and keep in touch with other departments, the faculties and the central crisis management group.
- Make sure all good initiatives are followed up. For example: Two doctoral students in the Division of Information Systems and Digitalisation put on a spontaneous demonstration of Zoom at an APT. The demo was recorded and can be distributed to others.
Oskar Pohjanen came home from Spain and is now nearly alone in the A Building.
A meeting of the crisis management group in Teams.
Lena Gidlund, Anita Carlsson and Tobias Lindberg are members of the IEI crisis management group.
Jonas Detterfelt and Mikael Axin working on the transition to distance mode.
Greger Karlström and Louise Lindkvist Haziri prepare her thesis defence.
The thesis defence will be transmitted live. A photo of her dog shows Louise Lindkvist Haziri where she should direct her gaze.
Mats Nåbo constructs a recording studio for lectures.
Photo by Mikael Sönne
Translated by George Farrants
Last updated: 2020-03-23