Calm in the crisis: Avondale’s response to the coronavirus

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Avondale University College is transitioning to online-only delivery of most classes and is cancelling events to protect those in its community from the coronavirus.

The scheduling of an earlier and extended mid-semester break—from Saturday, March 28 to Monday, April 14—will give lecturers more time to move their classes online and students time to adjust. When classes resume, all lectures will be delivered online except where there is a practical component. Lectures delivered online by video conference will run to the exisiting timetable. Online academic support including the virtual mentor program will be monitored and scaled up if necessary.

Where online delivery of lectures is not possible or feasible, such as for nursing labs and classes in ceramics, counselling, general studies, music and outdoor recreation, the theoretical component may be delivered online while the practical will be delivered in face-to-face mode subject to coronavirus prevention protocols. Schools, particularly education, nursing and theology, will contact students about the impact on placements and professional experience.

Noting Avondale’s guiding principles—keeping staff members and students safe, maintaining quality learning and teaching and preparing to restore normal operations—in responding to the coronavirus, vice-chancellor and president Professor Ray Roennfeldt acknowledges “this is a difficult time”. In an email to staff members and students, he writes, “We will need to work together, care for ourselves, and care for each other. It is at times like this that our community shows what it is really like to have a Christian foundation to everything we do.”

Student Life Services will not present the biannual Festival of Faith nor organise through its clubs any sporting competitions this semester. The student teams organising the weekly Friday evening worship service SALT and on-campus ministries will instead create inspirational content including podcasts to share on social media. And Lake Macquarie campus chaplain Pastor Brock Goodall will schedule regular video conference prayer meetings. “Creativity thrives when boundaries are imposed,” says Pastor Goodall. “Just because we’re scaling down our on-campus programs doesn’t mean we can’t do ‘church’. It’ll look different but we’re remaining intentional. Even in isolation we can remain connected.”

Pastor Goodall will, with Student Welfare officer Renae Maua, continue pastoral care support walk-throughs of the residence halls. “We’re committed to maintaining as much as possible the continuity of campus life while moving towards minimising the risk of exposure to or spread of the coronavirus,” says Student Life Services director Jennifer Petrie.

Worship gatherings at Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church will move to an online-only format—via live stream—from this Saturday (March 17)—pastors Alex Green and Nimrod Maua will record a Bible study and sermon on Friday; Pastor Goodall will host. The church is also cancelling its Saturday morning Bible-study groups and its life groups. Face-to-face meetings, such as the church board meeting, will continue only via video conferencing. “As a community of faith, we want to do all we can to limit the spread of the coronavirus, especially for those who are vulnerable and at risk,” reads an email from the pastoral team. The team is seeking prayer as it meets with ministry leaders to discuss how best to serve the church community through its online platforms.

Avondale has placed more controls on the delivery of food services on the Lake Macquarie campus. The cafeteria is limiting access only to those who are on-campus students while the church’s Cafe Rejuve has closed.

With Avondale Open Day and on-campus visits cancelled, Marketing Services is offering schools presentations by video conference. “We will communicate with prospective students remotely via the big screens in their classrooms,” says marketing manager Elysha Stephens. A member of her department is also providing support to first-year students by mobile phone. “We will answer any of their questions, help them find information and help them settle into student life.”

Avondale cancelled work-related international travel on March 6 and curtailed domestic travel on March 16.

Visit www.avondale.edu.au for updates about Avondale’s response to the coronavirus.