Student and Staff Wellbeing

Covid-19 Update - 11 May - MRes Students

Covid-19 Update Message to MRes students - 11 May 2020

Lucy Backhurst, Academic Registrar, shares the latest updates with Research Masters students.

Dear Research Masters Student,

I am writing with more information about the Safety Net approach for the taught elements of your programme, to give you access to your Provisional Baseline Average, to provide you with detailed information on the package of mitigating mechanisms and IT support and resources we have put in place, as well as encouraging you to check your Semester 2 assessment timetable, where appropriate, for any changes.  There is also an update on online careers and business start-up support.

Further updates include:

  • advance notice of the launch of Canvas - the University’s new online learning platform that will replace Blackboard this summer
  • a reminder of the availability of the University’s hardship fund
  • a number of updates on behalf of our colleagues at NUSU
  • updated guidance from the City Council for students in the private rented sector
  • the latest information from the Home Office for students who require replacement visas.

The Safety Net approach for the taught elements of your programme

As you know, on the 8th April 2020, a Safety Net policy was introduced by the University as part of the steps being taken to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 situation on your results for the 2019/20 academic year. The aim of the Safety Net is to minimise any disadvantage by your performance in the remote Semester 2 assessments, although noting that you will need to pass any remaining modules for the Safety Net to apply at the end of the academic year.

In earlier emails and in the FAQs, you were alerted to the fact that not all programmes will be eligible for the Safety Net (those requiring external accreditation for example) and your school will have contacted you directly if this is the case.

Baseline Average Calculations

To access your baseline average for 2019/20 please log into the Student Self Service Portal (S3P) and click on the ‘Component Marks’ link from the menu options at the top of the screen. This will take you to a screen where your baseline average will be displayed.

Your Baseline Average has been calculated based on your 2019/20 Semester 1 assessment results, taking into account the credit weightings for each module assessed. Only taught modules feed into your Baseline Average.  Any modules which feed into research dissertations are not included in your Baseline Average. You will receive one baseline average which takes into account all assessments up to the end of Semester 1 of 2019-20. As with all marks at this point, the Baseline Average is a provisional mark that will be confirmed by the Board of Examiners after internal moderation and consideration by the External Examiner. 

For more information about the University’s Safety Net Policy and how your Baseline Average has been calculated, please see the detailed information on our Covid-19 webpages.

For certain programmes or in individual cases, it has not been possible to automatically generate a Baseline Average and you will see a message on screen that will signpost you to further advice. Where this is the case, don’t worry, you should receive an email from your Degree Programme Director very soon, if you have not already done so, to explain the situation relating to your Baseline Average.

There are also some circumstances which we know will affect the accuracy of the Baseline Average. If you have deferred assessment then your baseline will be withheld as the calculation will not be correct.  You should direct any questions that you have to your Degree Programme Director in the first instance.

Mitigation Mechanisms in addition to the Safety Net

We are aware that some of you may want to tell us about additional issues that you have or are experiencing personally or with your module/s that you believe will impact upon your learning and assessment and which won’t be addressed by the application of the Safety Net.

A range of options have been designed for you, which include the existing PEC system (streamlined so evidence is not required from you on issues relating to Covid-19 or health-related requests); requests to defer your assessments and changes of circumstances procedures, together with the Covid-19 Impact Form.  This link will take you directly to a table of the available measures, links to each form and an explanation of the possible outcome from each one. 

If you have already submitted a PEC form for Board of Examiner consideration on the basis of Covid-19 impact only, you will be asked to resubmit a form. We are asking you to do this because we believe that it is only once you have considered the additional information that is now available that you will be in a position to select the most appropriate way to inform us of how Covid-19 has impacted upon you.  The option to resubmit a PEC is still available if you decide that it is the most appropriate route to follow for your situation, having considered the range of mechanisms that are now set out on the Covid-19 webpages.

IT Support

University IT support is available 24/7, and can be access via +44 (0)191 208 5999 at any time, or by email on it.servicedesk@ncl.ac.uk (monitored 08:00-17:00 BST, Monday to Friday).

If you have upcoming assessments, for your own piece of mind before the assessment period begins, and to ensure you are prepared, we strongly recommend that you:

  • Check you have your University username and password
  • Make sure you can log in to Blackboard or any other online systems that are required
  • Try accessing software you may need such as Microsoft Word.

You can access the full suite of Microsoft Office applications at https://office365.ncl.ac.uk - simply log in and click on the ‘app launcher’ in the top left corner.  If you require IT help or advice, contact the IT Service Desk.

Access cluster PC software and your University files 

To help support your learning while you are away from campus, we have launched an online service which gives access to popular cluster PC software and your University files. 

The student Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) has most of the software that is available on a standard University cluster PC.  You can log in to it from a PC, laptop or tablet that is connected to the internet via https://go.ncl.ac.uk/itservice/wvd.

Once you have tried it, we would welcome your feedback and you can submit comments or suggestions via the online feedback form

Semester 2 Assessment Period Timetable

The timetable for the Semester 2 Assessment Period was released on 21st April. You can access your personal online timetable via the following link and by using your normal network login: https://examtimetables.ncl.ac.uk/

Due to a few essential changes to some of the assessments, you are advised to login and re-check your personal timetable. Please check your timetable periodically and ensure that you are available for the whole of the assessment period (18th May – 5th June 2020).

Online careers and business start-up support

We understand that some of you may be concerned about your career plans at this unsettling time, but please remember that our award-winning Careers Service is here to support you.  You can access support with your career-related questions, as well as receive help with CVs, covering letters and application forms.

The online support includes:

  • Online resources - new graduate, internship and work experience vacancies from employers can be accessed via MyCareer.  Information and advice on applications is also available, including example CV and covering letters and online masterclasses. If you have an interview coming up, you can use the video interview platforms to practise your interview and record yourself answering typical interview questions.  And if you want to develop valuable employability skills, practical work experience, or are looking to try something new, why not consider volunteering? You’ll find a range of opportunities here, including virtual volunteering.
  • START UP support - bespoke, confidential coaching for students and graduates with an early-stage business or freelance career. You can assess this support by logging-on to MyCareer and submitting your query via 'Resources' and the team will get back to you.  They can also be contacted by email at careers@ncl.ac.uk.  You can also register for the next START UP 101 webinar and virtual START UP Connect networking event.
  • Careers events - there are a number of webinars taking place over the next semester, covering topics such as, how to ace a video interview and what to do when you don’t know what to do. Keep an eye on the events website for up to date information.
  • Blog - The Careers Service have recently launched a blog which will keep you up to date with industry news and events that are taking place virtually during this time and you can follow the service on social media @nclcareers.

Launch of Canvas – the new learning platform

As many of you know, on Friday 31 July this year, Blackboard is being replaced by Canvas, an exciting and intuitive new learning platform.

The move to Canvas will bring a number of benefits to students, most notably its ease of use, and  will be the place to go to for any of your online learning materials and assignments from 31 July 2020 onwards. This includes resits or deferred assessments that will take place in the August assessment period and any other assessment submissions (including PG dissertations) that have a due date beyond 31 July 2020.

To support you with this transition, we are giving you early access to Canvas. You can login using your usual University credentials (loginID@newcastle.ac.uk) and you will have access to a ‘Getting to Know Canvas’ course. This will take you through the key areas of Canvas and includes screencasts of the Canvas interface and how to submit an assignment.

In addition, you can contact the 24/7 Canvas help via live chat or email and access a vast library of video and step by step student guides.  All of these are accessed from the Help menu within Canvas.

From 31 July, students and staff will no longer be able to access Blackboard. Learning materials from the 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years are being copied from Blackboard into Canvas and you will be given access to this content for reference. This will be available to you from 22 June 2020. You will not be able to access your previous assignments in Canvas as these do not copy across. You are encouraged to download your assignments and feedback from Blackboard before 31 July 2020 and details of how to do this are available on the Canvas Student FAQ page. Don’t worry - we will send you a reminder closer to the time.

Further information, updates and answers to FAQs can be found on the Canvas website.

Support for Students Experiencing Financial Difficulties

Once again I’d like to remind you that if you are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the current disruption, you may be eligible for support from the University’s Hardship Fund.  Further information can be found on the Student Financial Support website.

NUSU mental health campaign

NUSU is running a mental health campaign - Permission to Pause - to support students during the exam season. The campaign, which launched on 4th May, is designed to help all students take a break and practice self-care. Because of Covid-19, NUSU is running this campaign digitally via their Facebook page. For further information please contact Sara Elkhawad, Welfare and Equality Officer, NUSU at welfare.union@ncl.ac.uk

NUSU Co-op offer

For those of you still in Newcastle, the NUSU Co-op are offering all students and recent graduates of 2020 who are working for the NHS during the pandemic a free meal deal from the Co-op, to say thank you for the work you are doing on the frontline. Just show your student card and NHS verification (i.e. ID or email) at the till to be eligible. Further information is available on the NUSU website

All students still in Newcastle may also like to note that the Co-op on campus is up and running with deliveries having now signed-up with Deliveroo.  If you are self-isolating and / or in need of a groceries delivery, you can get a contact-free delivery via the Deliveroo website or app. 

Guidance from Newcastle City Council for students in the private rented sector

Newcastle City Council has updated their advice for students on how they should deal with their landlords.  The Council’s private rented service has a specific website for student tenants and can be contact by telephone on: 0191 277 1438.

A list of useful FAQs on housing prepared by the Student Advice Centre is also available on the NUSU website.

Finally, latest guidance from the Home Office

The Home Office has updated their guidance for individuals affected by travel restrictions associated with Covid-19.  The most recent changes set out the arrangements for individuals who need to request a replacement visa if their 30-day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire.  These changes are now live and full details can be found on the GOV.uk website.

With thanks and best wishes,

Lucy

Lucy Backhurst
Academic Registrar