As soon as the state of emergency was declared in Palestine due to the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the Hebron University (HU) administration developed an emergency plan as follows:
- Campus sterilization: HU’s first priority was to sterilize the whole campus and to raise awareness of COVID-19 control and prevention measures through instructions, guidelines, brochures and educational video clips. This was done among the university community as well as the local community.
- Online learning: HU colleges immediately adopted a distance education policy. Infrastructure was already available to deal with this type of education: An e-learning unit was established in the university in 2009 and the majority of HU professors and instructors were then given training on how to use different Google applications, especially Google Classroom, Google Meet, and the Zoom platform. Initially, student attendance was maintained at 50%, which helped to a large extent with the execution of various courses, especially the practical ones.
- Assessment: A committee of professors specialized in the field of measurement and evaluation has developed a mechanism, based on universally acknowledged assessment methods, for course assessment. This mechanism includes homework, take-home exams, quizzes using Google forms, essays, reports, presentations and other e-learning approaches. In addition, the mechanism includes oral examination, which enables students to enhance their confidence, academic capabilities and interaction between the teacher and the students.
- Access: Less than 10% of HU students can afford computers, cell phones or internet access at their homes. HU has managed to provide them with internet access and also to borrow computers for them.
- Virtual mobility: Mobility has also been considered when assessing the possible impact of the crisis. Hebron University started implementing Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange courses in 2019; students from the “Faculty of Law and Political Science” took part in the first Arabic ‘virtual mobility’ course - “Technology and Society” - as part of their standing course requirements for the programme “International Organizations and Civil Society”. This set a standard for virtual mobility. In 2020, HU has had more than 160 students from different faculties participating in the Arabic course “Technology and Society”, while others are registering in new virtual mobility courses offered this spring like “Youth, Peace and Security”, “Social Circles”, and “Cultural Encounters”. Feedback has indicated a general satisfaction in virtual exchange; more than a third of the students stated they are either interested in repeating the experience and/or have already signed up for upcoming courses.