“I'm impressed with the joint effort”

2020-08-04

A moment with… Johan Tysk, Vice-Rector of the Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology,

The pandemic of recent months has led to huge changes in the Faculty’s activities, with both teachers and many other employees now working remotely. Research trips and conferences have been replaced by online meetings. How has this transition affected the faculty management’s routines?

Johan Tysk, Vice-Rector of the
Disciplinary Domain of Science and
Technology
Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

“The management team has continued to meet as usual for our Monday and Tuesday meetings, even though we are now meeting via Zoom. Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus crisis, we have had weekly head of department meetings via Zoom, and this has worked brilliantly actually. Every Wednesday morning we sit there – the faculty management, the faculty office and the heads of department – and talk through all the coronavirus-related problems and issues. I'm impressed by how this group has been willing and able to work together. There is an unselfish desire to make a contribution and this has been really wonderful to sense.”

Transitioning to new ways of working is a challenge even under normal circumstances, but in this case it has also been forced on us at lightning speed – what do you think has been key in things working so well despite the situation?

“On the one hand, I want to say that it’s about a good group of people, that is the most important thing. There is an attitude of wanting to help out and take a responsibility to the community – that feeling has become an integral part of the organisation. And then of course we have been talking about digitalisation for a very long time. The technology has been there, but it has often taken second place. Now it’s being used all the time. For example, the Faculty has switched to having defences of doctoral theses online, with some people present in a physical room, but most being present only online. Online examinations have also functioned well. The teachers have really done their utmost to make this transition work.

“What I do want to say is crucial, however, is good relations. The heads of department and division heads have communicated with their employees. Doctoral students have stepped up and taken on more courses – not because they have been required to but because they want to make a contribution and take on some of the responsibility. I am impressed with that. The whole organisation has worked and progressed really well, and it’s really all due to a joint effort.”

Another rapid initiative has been the Faculty’s new offer of skills enhancement for laid-off natural scientists and engineers – what does this entail?

“We are now making a number of courses, course components and lecture series in science and technology available to people who have been laid off in connection with the coronavirus crisis. The initiative is a response to the Swedish government having increased the number of study places, and to an inventory of needs that we have done with industry. We will be adding to these educational opportunities as we go with more subjects and disciplinary domains. It will allow us to stimulate interest in our university, but it also means we are taking action to enhance skills in science and technology in Sweden. We are shouldering our social responsibility – doing it for those who have been laid off, those who are really having problems. It’s the exact opposite of closed borders. I also think that, when the acute crisis is over, we should continue to do this within the context of lifelong learning.”

What will you be focusing on in the near future?

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, especially in preparing the autumn study period. We are working with all the international Master's programmes for example, and have made a policy decision that we will provide these programmes both online and on campus. However, not all programmes will be able to do this; some might only run online to begin with. But the students who do ultimately come here and start online must feel like they are part of a social context – like being received at a welcome ceremony.

“Other practical matters we’ve been discussing include how we should equip special rooms for online teaching at Ångström and EBC. The more modern rooms will have all the equipment of course, but we will have some of the other rooms that are specially set up for online teaching. And concerning timetabling, we are talking about how to timetable online teaching in real time. Then of course you can always record lectures so that others can watch them later.

“There are a lot of these kinds of practical issues at the moment. No one knows how long the restrictions and working this way will go on for, but in this situation too we are helping others with precisely what we are good at. We have a common task, and a feeling of solidarity and satisfaction in working together has emerged in this situation – we are a team."

Anneli Björkman