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Norway’s academics ask universities to help ‘tired’ staff

Months of online teaching have left researchers begging for more time and support

In a letter to Norwegian universities and colleges, Guro Elisabeth Lind, the president of the country’s researchers’ association, has asked higher education institutions to extend a planned implementation of digital teaching.

She said that efforts to improve digital services at universities should continue in the autumn, and that such plans should make allowances for “tired employees”. Lind, who heads the research association Forskerforbundet, said in the letter that when the coronavirus crisis made in-person teaching at universities impossible, research staff put a great deal of effort into providing students with the best possible online education.

“Institutions are planning that teaching in the autumn will also largely take place on digital platforms,” said Lind. “There are many positive aspects of digital teaching, but there are also some challenges.”

Lind asked the management at universities and colleges to monitor staff workload.

“There are many tired employees out there now, who have been working extra hard in recent months, and who are worried about how this will continue in the autumn,” she wrote.

Lind’s letter emphasised that the transition to digital teaching comes on top of the usual work—research, application writing, mentoring, dissemination and so on. She said it was the responsibility of management to make sure research will not lose out when additional digital tasks are introduced.

Lind said the transition to digital education must be discussed with research staff, and copyright and privacy must also be respected. “We can no longer look at these coronavirus times as an exception—digital teaching is becoming a bigger part of everyday life,” she wrote.

According to Lind’s letter, the prime consideration is that employees have steady working conditions and outlined how this could be achieved­­. All changes in organisation and work plans must be discussed with researchers, the letter said.

“The transition to digital education must also be completed within the framework of ordinary working hours, and any additional work must be compensated in the usual way,” Lind wrote.

The letter called on higher education institutions to offer training and support to those staff who need it. Finally, Lind’s letter addressed issues related to copyright and the recording of lectures.

“According to current legislation, lectures and manuscripts are regarded as the intellectual property of the creator,” the letter said. “Institutions must take this into account when recording lectures. Lecturers must, among other things, have the right to withdraw such material if they no longer stand by it.”