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Start of the semester in corona times: University of Bonn makes masks compulsory

Start of the semester in corona times : University of Bonn makes masks compulsory

The winter semester at the universities in Bonn and the Rhein-Sieg-Kreis is going to be a combination of face-to-face and online courses - if Corona allows it. At the University of Bonn, the use of masks is compulsory in courses.

If the universities in Bonn and the Rhein-Sieg-Kreis have their way, students should at least experience a touch of normality again in the winter semester. Pure online studies are therefore not planned, at least not if the rising infection figures in the corona crisis allow it. Instead, the teachers are relying on a hybrid model, with exercises and small seminars in person and lectures in digital form.

"Personal contact between students and teachers must again be possible in order to derive and formulate ideas and thoughts together and also to experience the social dimension of a degree programme," explains Andreas Archut, press spokesman of Bonn University. There, the lecture period officially begins on 26 October, with the first semesters starting one week later. "These in particular are to be given the opportunity to experience the university and to settle in here. With the decree issued by the City of Bonn last Friday, the general obligation is to wear masks applies throughout the entire university as soon as two or more people are in a room - i.e. also in the seminars and lectures.

Masks are also compulsory at the Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University of Applied Sciences because of Corona

At the Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University of Applied Sciences (H-BRS), masks are compulsory in traffic operations, as in the corridors and in the cafeteria; the mouth and nose protectors may only be removed at the campus, provided that the premises and situation allow this. Where the minimum distance of one and a half metres cannot be maintained - for example during laboratory work - a mask must be worn.

"During the winter semester, which is shortened to twelve weeks, all major lectures and exercises will be held digitally," explains Professor Ursula Konrads, who is in charge of scheduling at the H-BRS in the Department of Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Technical Journalism. Most of these lectures are held as web conferences, but some are also held asynchronously as video recordings. "This mix is important to us so that students do not spend eight hours a day sitting at their computers and hanging around in online lectures". Smaller formats such as seminars or exercises, on the other hand, are to be realised with personal contact. "If this is not possible, for example due to new regulations, we will have to switch to a completely digital semester, which would be terrible, especially for first-year students," Konrads continues.

The big challenge in planning this hybrid semester is not only the division of rooms, but also the division into attendance and digital seminars. "Some of our students have long journeys to the university and therefore cannot follow a web conference from home in the morning and be at the university in the afternoon," explains Konrads. This is a problem that is not quite as pronounced in Bonn, but is nevertheless taken into account. "We are currently trying to create more rooms in which students can learn and participate in online events with their laptops," explains Nils Sönksen, who is responsible for communication around Corona at the university. "With the start of the semester, we will also open the work rooms in Nussallee and the reading room in the university library again. But of course we have to see where we need space and how much.“

Presence seminars at the University of Bonn are limited

As things stand at present, the attendance seminars are designed for a maximum of 50 people - but the large lecture halls will be used for this. "We have checked all the rooms and also blocked one or the other, for example if it cannot be properly ventilated," says Sönksen. "We were able to convert most of the ventilation systems to fresh air. Where this was not possible, the rooms must be ventilated via windows.“

Meanwhile, the semester has already begun at Alanus University. 550 first-year students have joined, a good 100 of them at the Mannheim Study Centre. The others have been working since the end of September - with distance or with a mask, of course - at the two locations in Alfter with the various seminar rooms and studios. "The latter are especially important for our art students," emphasises Alanus spokeswoman Julia Wedel. "Whenever practical work is involved or direct feedback is required, we can't get around classroom events. I would estimate that between 65 and 70 percent of the study programme takes place in this way, the rest online." It doesn't apply yet - but according to Wedel, a general obligation to wear a mask is also becoming increasingly likely at the Alanus University in Alfter.

Meanwhile, the refectories of the Studierendenwerk Bonn are gradually opening their doors again. The large wet canteen is no longer operated as such, however, as the entire building is to be rebuilt. Instead, the Studierendenwerk is relying on a container and tent solution on the Hofgarten side of the main building. "We have already created the possibility of eating at the table at the Venusberg bistro, which has been very well received," says Studentenwerk spokesperson Robert Anders. "On 26 October, this should also be possible with 40 tables in the campus cafeteria in Poppelsdorf, at least as long as the currently exploding corona numbers do not put a damper on our plans. The Hofgartenmensa is scheduled to start on November 2, but first in a kind of test run so that the processes can get up to speed.“

Original text: Thomas Kölsch

Translation: Mareike Graepel