2022 Welcome Back

After nearly two years of COVID adjustments, and rapid moves to online delivery of what would normally have been on-campus classes, we are at last moving back to something that is approaching normality. Thank you to all FoBJBS staff for the role that you have played in enabling these COVID adjustments to occur, and for attending to the individual circumstances of students where required, so that they could continue to progress with their studies. Whether it was addressing cross-border (State) travel to attend residential schools, undertaking a workplace learning placement, advising on, or considering students’ special considerations, processing leave-of-absences, recommending adjustments to study plans, putting on additional online classes, to name just a few, while also addressing your own personal and family health safety needs, it has not been an easy period over the last two years. Student evaluations and student progression statistics indicate that we did an amazing job at juggling all this. Thank you.

The year ahead will provide new challenges as we move forward. There is clearly a need for us to re-establish an on-campus vibrancy for our commencing on-campus students. This has become obvious from meetings with students during Orientation sessions. Many of our new 1st year students are HSC graduates who have studied under very difficult circumstances in both Years 11 and 12, with limited face-to-face learning opportunities, and who are now looking forward to on-campus learning and University experiences. Our preparations for the 202230 session are well placed to meet at least some of these expectations. Of course it is not just our new commencing students, but also our continuing students who we have looked after with flexible learning options over the last couple of years, but who will be coming onto campus for possibly the first time, and orienting these students to a new learning environment may also provide a challenge for us.

FoBJBS has the largest component of Charles Sturt’s online student enrolments of all the Faculties. Although it may be tempting to think that this cohort may have been least affected by COVID, this will probably not be true, as this group were also most likely to have been affected by changed work environments, and having to adapt to significant changes to their children’s mode of education, placing added responsibilities and demands upon their own time. The flexibility with which we have supported their study over this difficult time has been greatly appreciated by students. We will now need to sensitively assist these students to get back on track with a timely progression of their studies.

Finally, and another area in which we have had to make significant adjustments over the last two years, and, now, going forward, is in the area international student education. Thank you to all Schools and staff who have assisted with the move from in-country to online lectures and other teaching and learning support for our off-shore international students. At this stage there is no clear plan for when off-shore teaching can recommence, so online strategies will continue as we collaborate with our international partners, and our own in-country staff, to meet our commitments to provide teaching and learning materials and supports to ensure student progression and a positive student experience . We are also facing the complicated task, along with our Study Centre colleagues, of managing the teach out of the Charles Sturt – Study Group Australia partnership, and providing our courses to Study Centre students, who are our largest cohort of on-shore international students, while again ensuring a positive student experience and progression. This involves a detailed mapping of every student’s current study progress, and future study options, so that we can meet not only our responsibilities under TEQSA and ESOS legislation, but our commitment to ensure our students are able to complete the studies that we enrolled them in.

I have definitely not captured here all of the challenges that we have faced over the last couple of years, or the new challenges ahead. There are definitely more than just those related to COVID. However, as the COVID restrictions are easing, I just wanted to particularly focus on those in this newsletter, and to thank EVERYONE in FoBJBS for your work and problem-solving around these over the last two years, and the new solutions that we need to arrive at together as we hopefully emerge from this situation. Thank you.