University Schools of Optometry around the country have introduced a blend of online and face-to-face learning, having been forced to provide remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professor Ranjay Chakraborty, senior lecturer and course coordinator, Optometry and Vision Science at Flinders University, said the majority of pre-clinical topics in the School’s Bachelors program will be taught online. Practical hands-on training in the Masters part of the program will be delivered face-to-face on campus.
We are monitoring general well-being and mental health of the students, and the university and academic staff are providing additional support
Prof Chakraborty added that while semester one had been “very difficult” for some students due to social isolation, overall they had been supportive of online teaching changes and had enjoyed flexibility to study at their own pace.
“Students have generally appreciated the quick and effective transition to online teaching and learning, and the efforts taken by the academic staff during these unprecedented times. We are monitoring general well-being and mental health of the students, and the university and academic staff are providing additional support to the students as needed (for example, by offering extensions on assignment submissions etc.).”
Professor Lisa Keay, Head of School at University of New South Wales School of Vision Sciences (UNSW SOVS), said courses had been made available online and flexible arrangements were in place for face-to-face training which had necessarily been delayed.
“We have made changes to the delivery of our courses since students moved to remote learning in mid-March. The online delivery has been highly effective. We are now scheduling in blocks for delayed practical training that is an important part of our curriculum when return to campus is possible.
“UNSW Sydney has convened a taskforce to manage the safe return of students to campus, in accordance with government and healthcare regulations. The School of Optometry and Vision Science developed a protocol in consultation with infectious disease experts at UNSW to permit the resumption of our student optometry clinics. Our fifth year students recommenced their face-to-face clinical training on 9 June and have also started attending offsite clinical placements in greater Sydney,” Prof Keay added.
Proposed Fee Reduction Unlikely to Impact
In response to the 20% fee reduction for science courses proposed by the Federal Government, Professor Keay and Prof Chakraborty said while it is too early to make predictions, demand for optometry programs is strong and unlikely to change.
UNSW Sydney is carefully reviewing the Federal Government’s plans to change university funding arrangements and has issued the following statement:
“More places for domestic students over the next decade – and greater support for Indigenous students – are important and welcome. It is critical, however, that these places are properly funded at a level which enables the sector to continue to provide excellent learning outcomes.
“UNSW supports the incentives for study in science, engineering, maths and other-related disciplines – but is concerned by the financial disincentive and pressure for students who wish to study courses in some other subjects. Our motto of Heart, Hand and Mind encapsulates a commitment to a holistic educational experience – and the important role arts, humanities and social sciences play with other disciplines in developing the critical thinking and dexterity required for tomorrow’s job-ready graduates. UNSW wants to stress to future and current students – and its alumni and industry partners – our ongoing commitment to the arts, humanities and social sciences. We deeply value its importance in making sense of the problems facing the world today – and how we can live together on this planet; grounded in diverse knowledge sources.
“UNSW supports Minister Dan Tehan’s acknowledgement of the importance of university research and international education and the critical role universities play in supporting jobs and the nation’s broader economic health. We look forward to future announcements on how research can be better funded. We also welcome the government’s desire to continue working closely with universities on a range of new measures aimed at capitalising on opportunities in the post-COVID-19 world.”