After a successful online spring 2020 semester despite an unprecedented emergency context, the start of the 2020/2021 academic year will allow all of our students to embark on a new year at Sciences Po in a safe and serene manner. With both physical campuses and an all-new digital campus available to them, courses have been redesigned to best suit all students.
From a “pedagogical crisis” to a new digital opportunity
The spring semester 2020 will be remembered by many as a jump without a parachute into the unknown: from nearly one day to the next, Sciences Po switched to all-online classes and exams for the remaining five weeks of the semester. Even though various initiatives existed, and the Institute for Skills and Innovation had been created since January 2020, like in most institutes of higher education, the Covid-19 crisis shoved our model into another dimension. > Read the interview with Benedict Durand on Sciences Po’s transition online
This semester leaves us with multiple important lessons. Some are positive: the majority of students and professors reported being happy with their adjusted experience. There are also some negatives: problems with connection or with loss of motivation, as well as loneliness, have impacted daily life for some students. Sciences Po’s conclusions are clear: neither 100% online nor 100% in-person teaching is the solution. >> Read the article “Key takeaways from the first all-online semester”
For this first semester of the year 2020/2021, Sciences Po will thus adopt an all-new and multiform arrangement, with 100% of teaching taking place online, and simultaneously, 100% of the student experience to be lived on campus.
Online classes centred around interaction
The upcoming academic year will be enriched by a new dimension: the online campus. This expansion of our digital space will be a definitive step forwards in our teaching capacity. Nonetheless, in-person classes will still return progressively, as and when sanitary conditions allow.
“The new online campus that we are inaugurating at the start of the semester will exist side-by-side with our existing physical campus, and will reinforce and expand it. But it is not a matter of simply mirroring the usual pedagogical models,” explains Bénédicte Durand, Vice President for Academic Affairs.
To overcome the drawbacks observed during the spring semester 2020, these models will be partially alleviated. Teachers are invited to redesign lectures by adapting them to an online teaching model, taking into account best practices that were tested the past semester: offering different teaching sequences within the allocated class time, articulating the study of concepts that are assigned before the course in order to allow for thoughtful interactions during the online session... These practices are the subject of specific guides that have been distributed to all teachers. "This model could inspire evolutions in “traditional” classes, lectures or workshops,” adds Bénédicte Durand.
Sciences Po is preparing to implement this new form of teaching by dedicating additional funds to the recruitment of teaching assistants and student tutors to provide students with additional support. The Institute for Skills and Innovation has been continuing to accompany our teaching staff, providing training on digital tools and presenting them with various pedagogical methods that will allow for reinforced interaction in classes.
Our physical campuses 100% open
“Our seven campuses in France will be open at the start of the academic year,” states Bénédicte Durand. Students will be able to take classes, work in groups and on case studies, take part in collective projects, student associations, art workshops, social engagements and more, in keeping with the established gathering limit.
More generally, access to the physical campuses will be possible for students who wish to come and work, in particular in the event of connection difficulties. In early July, a survey will be sent in order to know students’ intentions of being physically present.
“There will be particular attention given to“ newcomers,” namely first-year students of the Undergraduate College who will be discovering both Sciences Po and the world of higher education at the start of the school year and for whom we will ensure the widest possible access to in-person classes and activities,” states Myriam Dubois-Monkachi, Director of Studies and Student Success.
These campuses will also be connected to the new digital campus, thanks to new equipment that allows the recording and retransmission of the course. Approximately forty classrooms on the Paris campus and over 70 classrooms on regional campuses will allow for this hybrid education.
In class and beyond: an unprecedented student experience
Welcoming and integrating a new class of students who represent over 150 nationalities is a challenge each new academic year at Sciences Po. The challenge for the 2020/21 academic year will be greater than ever. The formal back-to-school event programme, complete with lectures that will be broadcasted live online, will play a particularly important role in this regard. To overcome the distance, student ambassadors, BDE and student associations will be live animators, in particular via a new internal social network - Whaller - which will be deployed on this occasion, as well as the MySciencesPo application deployed since early 2020.
Intellectual and athletic activities will continue to be offered in-person according to sanitary restrictions in place, coupled with a specific and free online offer. The possibilities of engagement will be even greater thanks to volunteer organisations, proposed in partnership with the Civic Reserve (Réserve civique) and the Benenova platform.
Finally, for all those who will be discovering Sciences Po for the first time, an online one-stop helpdesk will be available. Social and administrative support will be available via online appointments throughout the semester, as was the case during the spring semester. Medical consultations will be accessible remotely and in-person if conditions allow, as will wellness workshops, which were highly popular in the spring and maintained via Zoom.
Calendar, absences, exams, third-year abroad
For the time being, this hybrid system concerns the first semester of the 2020/2021 academic year (autumn 2020). Depending on developments of the current health situation, a new framework may be proposed for the spring semester 2021.
- The semester will begin on 14 September. The semester will end on the 18 December, as scheduled.
- Class attendance obligations are maintained and will be monitored, but absences will not be sanctioned. Teachers will ensure participation as a whole.
- Evaluations and exams of the fall semester will take place mainly online. The terms will be announced at the start of the semester for each course.
- Third-year students of the Undergraduate College who will not be attending their exchange university during the next semester will follow an original course programme, specially designed for them. They will also be offered new options including, for example, an initiation to research course or an optional free civic learning programme.