How Universities are sharing best practice during the COVID-19 pandemic

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no secret that universities have been forced to contend with unprecedented levels of disruption. In addition to their magnificent work on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus, as highlighted by the ACU’s ongoing #HigherEdTogether campaign, our member institutions have continued to collaborate, connect, and learn from each other as they navigate new challenges and adapt to life under lockdown. 

At the ACU, connecting and supporting our members across the Commonwealth has been our top priority during this challenging time. ACU Digital Now is our commitment to ensuring that our vibrant global network continues to thrive. We are using digital solutions to cross borders, narrow divides, and create access to inspire change. As part of this, our free virtual events series has been specifically designed to share knowledge and lessons learned through COVID-19 among our extensive network of 500+ members.  As Professor Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor at Stellenbosch University so eloquently put at our recent virtual conference:

Collaboration is crucial for research and institutions alike. What happens on our campus, whether physical or virtual, matters to the world. We’re all part of something bigger, and something better.

Read on to find out more about key topics that members have shared best practice about, and how you can get involved.

Moving assessments online

Over 200 people joined us for our first ever virtual event on ‘Moving assessments online’ as part of the ACU Digital Now series. Campus closures and lockdowns have left many universities grappling with the sudden switch to virtual learning and online assessments. The event united voices from across the Commonwealth for a lively and informative virtual discussion on the successes and challenges of delivering assessments virtually. Speakers from ACU member universities including Coventry University, UK;  OP Jindal Global University, India; University of Waterloo, Canada and  Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Business School, Ghana shared insights and practical learning by drawing on their unique contexts and experiences. Attendees also had the opportunity to submit questions for a live Q&A.


Managing a research office in lockdown

Directors of research from York University, Canada and the University of Kent, UK were up next to share how they are running their research offices during lockdowns. Speakers explored the issue of how to continue research work when faced with university closures and considered what the research office of the future could look like. A wide range of topics were covered and actionable advice shared including tips on working from home and how to best ensure continued international collaboration with other institutions.  As well as sharing good practice, the session also highlighted how maintaining research administration practices help researchers contribute to the fight against COVID-19.


University libraries beyond the campus walls

Delegates joined us for an in-depth discussion that revolved around how libraries are continuing to support students during lockdown. The event brought together university librarians from across the Commonwealth to share knowledge and discuss solutions to mitigate the disruption inflicted by the current crisis. This session welcomed speakers from the University of Johannesburg, South Africa; the University of Sheffield, UK and the University of Mauritius, who highlighted how libraries are supporting their wider community and breaking the image of the library as a quiet place walled with books.


Strategies for successfully moving courses online

Under our current global circumstances, the necessity to move teaching and learning online undoubtedly presents many challenges, especially for university staff that have previously never been involved in online education.

This webinar looked at designing online learning experiences for engagement, sharing tools and methods to successfully move courses online. Participants heard from experts and leaders in the field of blended learning design and delivery, and gained in-depth insights from institutions ​that have been involved in the ACU Partnerships for Enhanced and Blended Learning (PEBL) programme including Strathmore University, Kenya and State University of Zanzibar, Tanzania.  Attendees came away with an insight not only for moving courses online during the COVID-19 pandemic but also for utilising blended learning (part online and in-person instruction) after campuses reopen.


Art in Peace and Reconciliation

While COVID-19 will undoubtedly continue to be top of the agenda for the foreseeable future, it is important to still create spaces for other research and best practice to be shared. Our recent Peace and Reconciliation Network conference, co-organised with Stellenbosch University in South Africa, explored the role of art in peace, reconciliation and transitional justice with a four day virtual conference. Speakers covered a vast array of topics, including the role of art in addressing historical trauma in post-apartheid South Africa; the decolonisation of archiving practises and the role of universities in advancing peace and reconciliation.

A huge thank you to all our speakers, panellists and attendees for helping to make the first in our series of virtual events, a success.

To keep up to date with future events, please visit our events page or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us at