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Opinion

When the University of Copenhagen went online in no time

Op-ed — The rectorate thanks all the students and staff for their cooperation during a difficult time when all activity went online overnight.

Henrik is a professor of infectious diseases, and Bente is a doctor by profession. But to navigate the University through this crisis is quite another thing than fighting epidemics and treating patients. The entire UCPH has been given a task for which we have no manual.

As we have neither vaccines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 nor medicine to treat patients, the only effective way of handling the pandemic is the time-honoured means of hygiene and isolation. The task is to avoid infecting each other in order to slow down the pandemic to an extent where the hospitals can keep up.

In a pandemic with a new virus, no one can predict exactly what will happen or know what is the right thing to do. That’s why we are seeing how countries choose different strategies to deal with COVID-19. In all countries, the decision-makers listen to experts from, for example, the universities. But it’s the politicians who must decide what needs to be done. Experts advise – politicians decide.

​​​Online transition in 24 hours

In Denmark, the politicians have decided that all educational institutions – at short notice – must send their employees and students home and seek to continue their educational and research activities online. This is a huge transition, and we only had 24 hours to prepare for it.

At UCPH, we quickly set up emergency management teams in the rectorate and at the faculties to ensure that we have  the organisation and the common platform that enable us to react with the required accuracy and urgency. Luckily, we were well prepared after several years of regular crisis management training.

This is a difficult situation for all of us, and we would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all of UCPH’s amazing students and employees – for your ingenuity, helpfulness and determination in transitioning UCPH to an online university. IT staff, study-administrative employees, teachers and students at all faculties are working hard to make everything run.

At the time of writing, more than 3,000 classes have been reorganised to online activities. The use of Skype and Microsoft Teams for phone conferences and meetings has increased significantly, especially from Monday. UCPH IT has reported that 16 times more meetings were held in Teams on Monday compared to Wednesday last week.

UCPH researchers are working on a vaccine

Naturally, it’s difficult to be without fellow students and colleagues. But it’s also an opportunity to test how far we can go with online teaching and emeetings. We will benefit from this when the pandemic is behind us – and we continue our efforts towards a more sustainable university.

The emergency response in Denmark, which we are all experiencing first-hand these days, is deeply dependent on the University’s long-term knowledge creation. Not only narrowly defined as training anesthesiologists for the intensive care units and experts for the Serum Institute and the Danish Health and Medicines Authority who advise politicians to make difficult decisions on an informed basis. But also in a broader sense: By doing research into what society did not know that it would some day desperately need to know.

READ ALSO: Scientists working together in race to make COVID-19 vaccine

Just take Ali Salanti, Morten Agertoug Nielsen and Adam Sander Bertelsen; very visionary people, like most researchers. These three health science researchers already had a technology at hand where they use a spike protein from coronavirus to make a vaccine, and now they have also received funding from the EU to boost their efforts.

Follow the authorities’ instructions and see the topic site on KUnet.

Translation: Nena Sue Thomassen

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