Coronavirus: Universities allow some students back on campus, including those who lack Internet access, hardware

They include those unable to study at home as they lack Internet access and hardware

Local universities are giving limited numbers of students access to their campuses on a case-by-case basis while ensuring safe distancing.
Local universities are giving limited numbers of students access to their campuses on a case-by-case basis while ensuring safe distancing. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Local universities have allowed some students back on campus to study or sit online exams if they lack computing devices or Internet access at home.

Group studying, however, will not be permitted. Some institutions said spot checks and video surveillance will be used to make sure that students adhere to safe distancing measures.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is allowing these students to stay in residential halls, while other universities have set aside study rooms for them.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has arranged for a small group of students to study at designated spaces within the Kent Ridge and Bukit Timah campuses.

Each student will be assigned to a specific venue he can use from 8.30am to 9pm daily until the deadline for assessments on May 9, said an NUS spokesman. Students who need computers are assigned a seat in a computer lab or are lent laptops.

NUS has converted venues such as lecture theatres and multi-purpose halls into self-study spaces. Larger venues have been divided into smaller sections, each with no more than 25 allocated seats, which are placed at least 2m apart.

An NTU spokesman said it has offered students with genuine difficulties, such as an environment at home that is unconducive to learning, the option to stay in the residential halls.

"In keeping with the circuit breaker measures, students residing in the halls must not gather in groups and they may leave their rooms only for essential needs."

None of the universities gave the number of students that have applied to study on campus.

A Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) spokesman said the main reasons students have asked to study on campus include a home environment unconducive to learning, and lack of Internet access and hardware, such as laptops and webcams.

SIT has been exploring solutions with each student. A helpdesk hotline is available for help with technical problems.

"For students who require hardware assistance, SIT is in the process of loaning laptops and SIM cards that will enable Wi-Fi connectivity," said the spokesman.

A spokesman for the Singapore University of Technology and Design said it provides information technology device support on a case-by-case basis. It has, for instance, lent devices to architecture and sustainable-design students to complete project work.

Singapore Management University (SMU) said it has allowed a handful of students who may have challenges taking online exams at home to do so on campus, in designated and separate rooms with safe distancing measures in place.

These students will be allowed on campus only for the duration of their online exams. SMU has also offered one student a room on campus for studying.

A spokesman for the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) said there are limited study spaces on campus. "Requests will be assessed carefully on a case-by-case basis and provided only to students with critical needs."

These students must key in their arrival and departure times and take their temperatures twice daily. They will not be allowed to mingle with others, he added.

SUSS is also providing online counselling sessions for students. Those facing sudden or immediate financial hardship arising from unexpected family and life situations can apply for help from the SUSS student-care fund.

The NUS spokesman said the university's clinic and counselling services continue to serve students during the circuit breaker period.

"The NUS helpline for psychological emergencies is also available round the clock," she added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Universities allow some students back on campus. Subscribe