The current situation requires drastic measures at our university, and these also apply particularly to the field of teaching. This affects you directly, and you quite understandably have many justified questions.
In recent days, we have informed you regularly about developments and provided information on study courses and teaching during the Corona crisis on our homepage at https://uni-bielefeld.de/themen/coronavirus/studium-und-lehre/. However, much is still unresolved. As of today, the following applies: The state has postponed the start of the semester to April 20. Until then, attendance courses and written examinations have been cancelled and oral examinations can be held only in cases of hardship. The Ministry of Culture and Science, in consultation with the State Rectors’ Conferences, has now also decided to start the 2020 summer semester as a purely ‘online semester’. Your university aims to offer you a summer semester that is as full and adequate as possible starting April 20, 2020. Despite the lack of face-to-face teaching, you will be able to acquire credit points in the usual way throughout the semester. As far as possible, your lecturers will be converting their courses and examinations into digital formats. Internships, experiments, field trips, or visits to archives should be replaced by equivalent, contact-free arrangements if possible. Where this is not possible under the given conditions, courses will be postponed until the semester break or the following semester. It is not yet possible to say how far the situation may change during the course of the semester and allow us to recommence attendance courses. We shall immediately inform you and the lecturers about any changes.
A new epidemic law is currently being negotiated in the state parliament and will hopefully be passed shortly. This law will also authorize our Ministry of Science to take the necessary decisions in the current crisis situation. Universities and the Ministry have agreed that the standard length of study for currently enrolled students should be extended by one semester. We are waiting for a decision by the federal government on BAföG and child benefit entitlements. The universities of North Rhine-Westphalia have been advocating this strongly, and we assume that we shall soon receive corresponding decisions. To the best of our knowledge, the Ministry will also soon be issuing new regulations so that examinations can be carried out in a manner adapted to the present situation. You can be sure that we shall keep your legitimate concerns in mind during all this.
Your lecturers are planning to deliver their courses in distance learning formats for the coming summer semester, and they will offer alternative forms for taking examinations. They will do their best to offer you good courses during the time you are not allowed to attend face-to-face lectures so that you can continue to acquire the competencies you need to complete your studies successfully.
The lecturers all want to return to direct communication with you in the seminar room, laboratory, or lecture hall as soon as possible. They want to exchange ideas and discuss them with you directly. At the moment, however, they are having to turn to digital tools and develop other teaching concepts. We also ask for your understanding and patience here should anything not always work perfectly straight away. Your lecturers are highly committed, but they are also often breaking new ground.
We can assure you that everyone—in the faculties, in the administration, and also in the responsible Ministry—is working flat out to get the necessary regulations in place. Everyone is aware of how uncertain the situation is for you at the moment, and how much you are worried about how your studies will continue. As soon as the major decisions have been made, we shall be able to address your individual questions. The Rectorate wants to remain in close dialogue with you. Therefore, we are planning to set up a livestream at the beginning of the semester in order to answer frequent questions. We invite you to submit questions in advance. We shall be able to tell you shortly how and until when you can do this via the university's mailing list and social media channels.
Naturally, your contact persons in the faculties, in the Student Secretariat, and in the Central Student Advisory Office are available to advise you.
Please stay healthy.
With kind regards,
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer Prof. Dr Birgit Lütje-Klose
Rector Vice Rector for Studies and Teaching
The current situation requires drastic measures at our university. This also applies particularly to the field of teaching and thus to one of our core tasks. In recent days, we have informed you regularly about developments and provided information on study courses and teaching during the Corona crisis on our homepage at https://uni-bielefeld.de/themen/coronavirus/studium-und-lehre/. However, much is still unresolved. As of today, the following applies: The state has postponed the start of the semester to April 20. Until then, attendance courses and written examinations have been cancelled and oral examinations can be held only in cases of hardship. The Ministry of Culture and Science, in consultation with the State Rectors’ Conferences, has now also decided to start the 2020 summer semester as a purely ‘online semester’. It is not yet possible to say how far the situation may change during the semester and allow us to recommence attendance courses. Therefore, our common goal must be to offer students as full a summer semester as possible from 20 April 2020—a semester during which they will continue to be taught the competencies they need to successfully complete their studies. Despite the lack of face-to-face teaching during the semester, students should be able to acquire credit points on a regular basis.
At the same time, the standard study course length is to be extended by one semester for currently enrolled students. The same applies to BAföG and child benefit entitlements. The State Rectors’ Conference has advocated for this strongly, and we assume that we shall soon receive a corresponding decision from the state and the federal government. To the best of our knowledge, the Ministry will also soon be issuing new regulations so that examinations can be carried out in a manner adapted to the situation.
Because the summer semester will be online, all courses must be planned in distance learning formats, and alternative performance formats have to be developed for examinations. We therefore ask you most sincerely to convert your courses to digital formats. Even if this cannot always be realized in full, our efforts should be directed towards replacing internships, experiments, field trips, or visits to the archives with equivalent, contact-free arrangements wherever possible. Where this is not possible under the given conditions, courses must be postponed to the semester break or the following semester. We shall inform you immediately as soon as they can take place again at the university.
Extensive information on the wide range of possibilities and advisory services is available here: www.uni-bielefeld.de/einrichtungen/zll/distance-teaching-and-lea-2/index.xml and https://www.uni-bielefeld.de/elearningmedien.
We are aware that this change will pose considerable challenges for you—both organizationally and didactically—and we would like to thank you expressly for your commitment to providing our students with good seminars and courses even during this time when they are unable to attend in person. Many of you are already using the possibilities of e-learning and distance learning and see new opportunities in these formats.
Of course, we all want to return to direct communication with our students in the seminar room, laboratory, or lecture hall as soon as possible. We want to exchange ideas and discuss with them directly. Nonetheless, digital tools can basically complement established teaching formats. We now need to try them out and see what forms they can take. Let us take this opportunity to develop new digital teaching formats in the coming semester and test them systematically. You will all gain individual experience with these tools, and we would like you to tell us about them so that we can gather these experiences together. Give us feedback—what was offered, what went well, which hurdles had to be overcome, where did you come up against (technical) limits? In this sense, we can use the coming weeks as an investment in the future.
You will all also be wondering what impact the changed conditions will have on the fulfilment of your teaching responsibilities. This issue is also being discussed with the state. We assume that there will be no change with regard to the fulfilment of teaching responsibilities if a course that is normally offered face to face is now implemented digitally. Whether or not the same amount of contact time is offered digitally should not be an important issue. Instead, alongside livestream services such as Zoom chats or Panopto recordings, it is also possible for students to use different work formats either individually or in small groups. These can be text work or videos with tasks, group work on set questions, Padlets that students create together, quizzes, and so forth. What is important is that the measures contribute to acquiring the competencies specified in the module. If, on the other hand, no courses are offered, the teaching responsibilities have also not been met. These will then have to be made up at a later time.
At this point, we also wish to point out that the planned awarding of temporary lectureships [Lehraufträge] will continue as before along with employment contracts with student and research assistants—even if it is foreseeable that the work will not be performable in the usual way during the summer semester. If temporary lectureships cannot be provided digitally, we ask the faculties to examine whether they can commission other services that would help teaching to run smoothly. As a university, we see ourselves as having a responsibility towards these colleagues and students, and this also applies to the agreed scope of teaching assignments and employment contracts.
We would like to thank you very much for the commitment and creativity you have already shown in the past weeks. If we continue in this way, we shall be able to emerge from the Corona crisis even stronger than before.
Please stay healthy.
With kind regards,
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Sagerer Prof. Dr Birgit Lütje-Klose
Rector Vice Rector for Studies and Teaching
Due to the continued spread of the coronavirus, Bielefeld University will be put into reduced basic operation mode from Monday, 23 March 2020. The aim is to take the most far-reaching measures possible to reduce the risk of transmission while ensuring that university operations can continue on a necessary level. This decree summarizes some of the existing regulations once again while supplementing or correcting others.
Reduced basic operation mode means:
The library has switched to a reduced basic service for employees and students of Bielefeld University. The reduced opening hours are: Monday to Friday: 10.00 to 16.00; Saturdays and Sundays: closed. It is possible to borrow media that are absolutely essential for individual research activities or for theses; but only if these are not available electronically. Only the main library entrances D1 and U1 in the main university building and the departmental libraries in building X are open. Visitors must register (decree of the state of NRW dated 22 March 2020) by presenting their library card or UniCard. The central lending department is closed. The self-service terminals are to be used for borrowing or returning media. Personal consultations will only take place electronically (by email, chat, or telephone). All loan periods are generously extended. Interlibrary loan requests cannot be made at present. The University Library provides information about the details on its website: www.ub.uni-bielefeld.de/coronavirus/
For the time being, technical and administrative staff will work in their home offices as far as possible. In agreement with the staff councils, working hours are now trust-based. There are domains in which home office is not possible for various reasons and staff have to be physically present in the university buildings. These domains and activities are listed in a contingency plan that defines a minimum standard. The responsible superiors organize the necessary attendance in such a way that longer personal contacts between staff members are avoided as far as possible. One possible measure to ensure this is to use alternating teams. Offices and social lounges with an area of approximately 20 square metres are to be used by one single person only. A distance of two metres should be maintained even for shorter personal contacts. Staff are requested not to assemble in groups.
Persons whose activities are not covered by the contingency plan, but who are unable to perform their tasks in the home office, are not exempted from work but are on "stand-by" at home. All staff are requested to reduce their flexi-time credits and/or take their remaining leave from 2019 if possible as their workload decreases.
The university buildings are closed to the public. However, they are open for persons covered by the regulations for reduced basic operation mode and to students and researchers who are collecting or returning books from the library. The main entrance to the main building and the entrance to building X at the security control centre are open.
Ms Hornberg, what’s so special about the coronavirus and how dangerous is an infection?
Coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s and can infect not only humans but also various animals such as birds and mammals. It is assumed that the precursors of the novel coronavirus come from animals in the wild.
The current illnesses are caused by a new type of corona virus, with the official name "SARS-CoV-2". The respiratory disease it causes is called COVID-19.
As with other respiratory pathogens, an infection with the novel coronavirus can lead to symptoms such as coughing, a runny nose, a sore throat, and fever—just like a common cold. In patients with pre-existing conditions, the virus can take a more serious course with, for example, breathing difficulties or pneumonia. Up to now, most of the patients who have died were already suffering from chronic diseases. Currently, the proportion of deaths in which the virus has been confirmed by laboratory tests is about two percent. However, this only includes data on patients who have been treated in hospital.
How is the virus transmitted?
As far as we currently know, the coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. The main transmission route is droplet infection. This can be directly person to person via the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract or also indirectly via the hands that are then brought into contact with the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose or the lining of the eyes. Transmission is also possible if only mild or unspecific signs of disease are present. Novel coronaviruses have also been found in stool samples of some infected individuals. However, we do not yet know conclusively whether it can also be transmitted this way.
How can you personally protect yourself against an infection?
In terms of preventive health protection, it is important to adhere to the same hygiene measures that also protect against influenza (flu) infection. These are as follows:
What should people do if they are worried that they have been infected?
First of all, they need a medical examination to determine whether the suspicion of coronavirus is justified. This requires the presence of at least one of the following two constellations:
If you suspect that you might have caught the disease, contact a doctor by telephone. Tell the doctor that you suspect that you have become infected with the new coronavirus (and, if appropriate, where you have travelled home from) and discuss what you should do next by telephone before going to a doctor's practice.
Why is there a quarantine recommendation for people who have been in risk areas or who have had clearly documented contact with sick people?
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) estimates that people who have been in a coronavirus risk area or have had contact with a COVID-19 infected person in the previous 14 days are potentially infected or sick. Persons who have stayed in a risk area designated by the RKI should - even if they have no signs of illness— avoid unnecessary contact with other persons.
The aim of quarantine measures is to interrupt chains of infection and to slow down the spread of the virus as much as possible. This should provide time to find out more about the virus and treatment options, identify risk groups, prepare protective measures, and maintain treatment capacity in the clinics.
(Supplement dated 09.03.2020)
0521 51-2000: The hotline of the city of Bielefeld can be reached under this number from Friday, 6 March, for all questions concerning the corona virus. From Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., municipal employees* will provide general information and advice on prevention. Outside service hours, the service point of the Kassenärztliche Vereinigung (Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians) is available at 116117. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
(Supplement dated 03.03.2020)
Concerned citizens should please follow the nationally established structures and contact their family doctor or the public health department by telephone. A "telephone hotline" has also been set up at Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel (EvKB) for justified suspicions: Tel. 0521 772-77777. It is attainable from 8 to 16 o'clock.
Source: Evangelisches Klinikum Bethel (in German)