Like everyone and everything else, the Prague Theology Faculty was heavily affected by the coronavirus epidemic. The Faculty building in Cerna Street remained practically empty from mid-March to mid-May 2020. However, students, teachers, and other staff continued working from home. Students also found time to help those affected by the coronavirus restrictions.
Following a decree issued by the Czech government on 15 March 2020 with stringent restrictions on freedom of movement, the Rector of Charles University issued instructions on 16 March that face-to-face teaching would be suspended and that teaching and administrative staff should work from home as much as possible.
However, teaching continued online, with teachers having to quickly discover and adapt to new teaching methods, ranging from recommending reading and setting essays via e-mail, through the use of tools like Moodle, to virtual seminars using Skype or Zoom. They were helped by Charles University Centre for Supporting E-Learning, which produced a manual on how to use available tools for online teaching. The library was also closed, but many electronic sources of information were available online.
Face-to-face teaching resumed on 11 May, but with various restrictions including a limit on the number of students. For this reason, in many cases online teaching continued. Teaching, whether online or face-to-face, will be extended by a month till the end of June, ensuring it will be possible for all courses to be completed by the end of the semester. The admission procedure for new students has been postponed to early September.
Apart from continuing their studies, many students volunteered to help clients of the Diaconia of the ECCB, especially doing shopping and bringing food and face masks to the elderly, the housebound, and those in quarantine. Others helped out with telephone helplines providing information and counselling to the lonely and frightened.
Students and teachers were also involved in producing a leaflet entitled “How to Live Together and with the Virus”, including practical information, encouragement in the face of the crisis, and references to further sources of information.
It will be interesting to see if this experience will lead to an increase in the use of online teaching methods when the epidemic is over. But for the moment all the students and staff are hoping that normal teaching will start again in the winter semester.