Bendigo staff and students adapt and learn during pandemic

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO has praised the Bendigo Campus community for successfully making it through an unprecedented academic year.

“As the year draws to a close, I’d like to thank everyone for their amazing efforts to keep teaching, learning and research going so brilliantly since March,” Prof Dewar said.

“Whenever I have a chance to speak with students, they’re always keen to tell me how much they value the way their teachers and our support staff have gone above and beyond to help them study online during COVID-19.”

Prof Dewar said while the pandemic response forced students and lecturers to quickly adapt to online learning, the opportunities that brought had its advantages, as Bendigo expertise was shared nationally.

Professor Pam Snow joined with Tanya Serry from the School of Education to deliver an online short course on the science of language and reading to more than 800 teachers in their aim to overhaul the way children are taught to read.

“It’s a great example of university research informing practice, in this case by taking the science behind reading and language into the classroom.”

Bendigo academics and alumni helped deliver a Leaders in Lockdown program to more than 12,000 people across the country affected by COVID-19.

“Some participants have subsequently enrolled in the MBA,” Prof Dewar said. “It’s a great story and I think we can learn a lot from the way our academics responded so effectively to urgent community needs.”

The need to deliver classes online saw Dr Russell Anderson’s newly-developed Lightboard Studio put to good use.

“The studio enables lecturers to produce broadcast-quality classes for students learning remotely,” Professor Dewar said.

“Dr Anderson developed the studio in collaboration with Monash University, and although not in response to COVID-19, the timing could not have been better with the shift to remote learning.”

Last month the Bendigo Campus studio won the Education Technology category in this year’s Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards.

Prof Dewar said one silver lining of a quiet campus in 2020 has been La Trobe has powered ahead with its Net Zero program. Two campus carparks are currently closed to allow for 1500 solar panels to be installed above 2000 carparking spaces as part of the university’s plans to be carbon neutral by 2022.

“Plus, by the end of 2020 the campus will have more than 90 per cent of its lighting converted to low-energy LEDs, along with a significant proportion of daytime energy use supplied by onsite renewables.”

Prof Dewar said the university aimed to harness the lessons and adaptions of 2020 for the benefit of students.

“We can never replace the on-campus experience, nor would we want to,” he said. “But we can give our students the best of both worlds by opening up access to learning online, on-campus, or through a combination of options.

“We know that ultimately this will offer greater access and choice for regional communities and will open up exciting new career opportunities for our students.”

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