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Get set for the new term – Birkbeck launches its online learning environment

Virtual university ensures students can study safely, while benefitting from the unique Birkbeck learning experience and gaining a University of London degree.

An animated owl in a mask to show the safety precautions Birkbeck is taking during the pandemic
Safety first approach to learning proves popular with students

Next week, Birkbeck will begin the new academic year as never before. Over the past six months it has created an outstanding online platform that will see the vast majority of its students studying in a virtual university, while also benefitting from all of the unique learning features that Birkbeck provides: live interactive seminars delivered by world-class academics; access to over 150,000 digital e-books, including many core textbooks, free-of-charge; opportunities to meet, network and complete projects with fellow students online; and virtual student support services that are second to none.  

The College has created the new online learning environment in response to the constraints placed on in-person campus teaching and learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will provide a high-quality virtual learning environment via the platform for all classes, apart from those that are practice-based, that must be in-person, such as laboratory work or archaeological digs. Any in-person, teaching and learning, whether it is on or off-campus, will adhere to strict COVID-19 safety measures to ensure the health and welfare of students and staff. Students have also been advised that they can study for the whole of their academic year virtually, if they would like to do so, even if COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed in the UK permitting a return to more in-person teaching on campus. 

Whilst the majority of Birkbeck’s live teaching will be in the evenings, there will be a number of learning and study activities that students can engage with independently at any time of the day or night. 

Professor Diane Houston, Pro Vice Chancellor said: “We have invested considerable resources in developing an online university that mirrors the learning environment that students experience in our campus classrooms. We have also implemented COVID-19 secure measures on campus to ensure that those students who need to be on campus, can study those courses safely, while continuing to benefit from the unique Birkbeck learning experience. The early indications are that students welcome the flexibility that learning with us online provides, as well, of course, as the emphasis on maintaining their safety during the pandemic. 

“We attract students from an exceptionally diverse range of backgrounds, so we have also introduced a range of measures to help those on low incomes to access IT equipment and continue with their studies. These include bookable COVID-19 secure study spaces on campus equipped with internet-enabled PCs and a means-tested scheme to provide IT equipment to students who cannot afford it. We have also made sure that our virtual learning platform meets the highest accessibility standards."

Professor Matt Innes, Deputy Vice Chancellor said: “The work we have done over the last six months to develop a virtual university alongside taking a cautious, ‘safety-first’ approach to reopening some of our in-person on-campus student facilities means that students will be able to continue to study with us, wherever they live in the world and whatever stage they are at with their studies. It also means that we can respond quickly and flexibly to the pandemic should there be a need to place more stringent restrictions on in-person learning or should the current restrictions be eased allowing us to provide more campus-based activities. I know that our new and returning students are looking forward to the new academic term beginning next week and I am really looking forward to meeting many of them online over the course of the term and hearing about their experiences of studying with us.”

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