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February 7, 2021 - 14:01h Director’s Notes. Situation on February 7, 2021. Start of the Spring Course - COVID-19

February 7, 2021 - 14:01h Director’s Notes. Situation on February 7, 2021. Start of the Spring Course - COVID-19

Dear friends,

A week ago we closed the month of January with hopeful news regarding vaccination, although this is happening at a rate not as fast as we would like. Fortunately, the latest data on the pandemic are slowly improving in Catalonia, which contrasts with the news of worsening coming to us from other parts of the world. It is clear that we must win the fight against this virus together or we will not succeed. As always, the first message of this note is addressed to those colleagues who have suffered, or are still suffering, the direct consequences of the disease. Once again we send you a very strong virtual hug full of encouragement and with the support of the whole community. A lot of strength!

As a great novelty, this past Thursday, the PROCICAT approved new measures related to COVID19 that directly affect us. In accordance with the approved measures, university campuses will be able to resume theoretical classes with restricted attendance for freshmen students.

This fact implies that we must adapt our teaching model (for the umpteenth time ...) for the Spring Term of the 2020/21 academic year. In this case, following the practice of previous occasions, the adaptation of the teaching model has been presented and debated this Friday the 5th, in the School’s Permanent Commission.

Following the indications of PROCICAT, the Updated Teaching Model clearly differentiates between the First year of the Bachelors Degree (Q1 and Q2 of all ESEIAAT’s Degrees) and the rest of the Bachelor’s Degrees or Master's studies. Apart for the freshmen, we have differentiated between the 1st week and the rest of the semester.

For all Undergraduate and Masters courses, except the freshmen (Q1 and Q2) of all Degrees:

-         Presence in Internships / Laboratories and Evaluations is maintained.

-         Face-to-face sessions of Theory classes are not allowed.

-         “Cinema classrooms” are set up to follow Theory sessions for those students who travel to the School to do face-to-face practices.

-         It should be noted that for all these courses (the vast majority of the School's courses), these conditions are the same as those that existed until now. The PROCICAT has introduce any modification..

For Q1 and Q2 of all Degrees. 1st week of the course (from Frebuary 15 to 21):

-         Presence in Internships / Laboratories and Evaluations is maintained.

-         Face-to-face sessions of Theory classes are not allowed.

-         “Cinema classrooms” are set up to follow Theory sessions for those students who travel to the School to do face-to-face practices.

For Q1 and Q2 degrees. From February 21:

-         Presence in Internships / Laboratories and Evaluations is maintained.

-         Theory classes will be held with an average attendance of 50% of students enrolled in each subject. Half class attendance will be alternated each week so that each student physically goes to the classroom on even or odd week. The School Management will specify each case to the students during the week of February 15.

-         There will be streaming Theory class from the same classroom for the half of the class that follows it in remote.

This adaptation of the Teaching Model for the freshmen is feasible thanks to the latter weeks the School has adapted the teaching classrooms in order to support Hybrid Teaching. We now have all the classrooms of the School equipped with video system (cameras) and audio to broadcast. In addition, the 15 largest classrooms have an integrated audio system, which means that they have a "lapel microphone" automatically connected to the speakers in the classroom and also, automatically, in the Meet session. This system has many advantages: there is no delay, it is possible for students to intervene live from home and through the speakers in the classroom, and prevents teachers from getting their throats ill by doing classes with masks.

Additionally, taking advantage of the fact that the relevant studies have already been carried out, each classroom will have its own ventilation protocol in order to optimize the opening of windows and air renewal, maximizing thermal comfort and guaranteeing air renewal.

It is important to note, as mentioned above, that the 1st week of classes will be the same for all courses, including Q1 and Q2 students of all grades. This is because during the next week and until Friday 12 students will be enrolled and we need a margin of time (week from 15 to 19 February), already knowing the actual enrollment, proceed to the necessary group adjustments that will allow launch 50% attendance. During this 1st week of the course, the students will be informed which weeks they have to come to class in person.

Training sessions will be organized for teachers of the freshmen, in order to explain the operation of classrooms in hybrid system. We also continue to have support fellows, although the system has been greatly simplified.

I would like to emphasize that, despite the improvement, the global situation still imposes restrictions that do not allow any Theory class to be done outside of first Grade and, therefore,  this 1st semester will not be held the 1st face-to-face session in Masters, as it was held in September.

In another order of things, I take this opportunity to comment that the Final Exams this past January were conducted with some normalcy within the great general abnormality. About 25% of all subjects chose to take exams in person and being very scrupulous, in general, with the instructions of the health authorities. It is necessary to emphasize the good functionality and the great utility of the QRs codes in the classrooms for the traceability of contacts that we ask to always used and correctly. We do not want to hide a fact that may have had arrived you: in one of the classrooms where was done a certain exam the use NO massive of the QR caused us, as a precaution, to take much more drastic measures (confinement of all those present in the classroom) than those we could have taken (confinement of a limited number of close people). However, the classrooms of the School have once again proved to be safe, as in no case has there been a contagion inside our facilities.

As for the remote exams, they have developed quite well which shows that we are all learning from them. Evidence of this is that the School’s Remote Exam Support Group has had to act on rare occasions during the three weeks of exams.

Unfortunately, and it seems to be a general evil at the university level, some occasional cases of fraud have been detected in online exams. It must be very clear that according to the regulations the answer is general, unique and immediate: the subject is graded with a 0 and the School will activate the relevant disciplinary measures against those involved.

Finally, I would like to highlight other issues discussed at the Standing Committee on Friday. In the first place, the Management Team was appointed, which is basically the same as at the end of the last term with the resignation of Professor Joaquim Marquès who retired (thanks again Quim for the work done).

In return, a new Deputy Director of the School was appointed, specifically Professor Núria Forcada, who will be the Deputy Director of Final Researches (Treball Fi d’Estudis –TFE) and Student Support. This portfolio has been created primarily to give a boost to the entire School’s Final Research (TFE) system that reaches approximately 800 per year. The current TFEs system has already been consolidated after 4 years of working on it and now is the time to make an evolution. I am convinced that Professor Forcada, who until now was the Coordinator of the TFMs, will do a very good job in carrying out this task. Good luck Núria, because your luck is our luck.

Also in the same Standing Committee, two new master's degree coordinators were appointed. Specifically:

-         Professor Jordi RomeuCoordinator of the Master's Degree in Research in Mechanical Engineering - MUREM (new for the 21/22 academic year)

-         Professor Miquel SuredaCoordinator of the Master's Degree in Aeronautical Engineering - MUEA. 

Good luck to both of them too and thank you so much for accepting the challenge.

And now for finishing truly, for the sake of stability I would like to be able to say that this Teaching Model will be the final one and that we will apply it for the rest of the course. But recent experience, prudence, and current uncertainties do not make it possible for me. As Dr. Argimon, Director of the Catalan Institute of Health, says, the current situation does not allow predictions to be made in months, only in weeks ...

We are aware that every change we introduce in the Teaching Model involves an overexertion for everyone, but our obligation is to adapt ourselves to the changes in the best way we know and can. The final objective is that what we know best to do, to train well-trained and prepared engineers, is not harmed by the current situation. With the effort, patience and empathy of everyone (PDI, PAS and Students) is how we will get out. Hopefully this will be the last semester we start in these conditions, as it would mean that this damn pandemic has been defeated (and that we don’t suffer any more…). When the time comes we will truly value all that we have lost along the way… Our modest daily struggle is to minimize these losses, at the level of educating, for future Engineering professionals who will have to rebuild the world that will leave this historic crisis.

A huge hug to everyone and let’s take great care of ourselves!!


Xavier Roca

Director of the ESEIAAT


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