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Update from Nigel Portwood: May 2020

Update from Nigel Portwood: May 2020

15 May 2020

It is a little over a month since I last shared an update on OUP’s response to the coronavirus. Much has happened in that time—the spread of the virus continues, resulting in more countries implementing lockdown measures; according to UNESCO there are more than 190 country-wide school closures and 1.5 billion affected learners; and organizations all over the world—OUP included—are now settling into the reality of a large proportion of the workforce working from home.

Amidst the uncertainty, I am encouraged by the positive feedback I hear from our colleagues in China, where life is slowly but surely regaining some sense of normality. In her recent post, our Head of Public Affairs in China, Weizhen Li, shared some promising words: ‘as time goes by, adjusting does become easier and you might even find you have new thoughts or ideas that will help you with preparing for what might come next at work and in life.’ Our colleagues at Oxford University have also begun human trials for a coronavirus vaccine, and is most certainly taking a leading role in the fight against the virus.

At OUP, we continue to do what we can to support our employees, and the communities that we serve. In my last update, I shared some of the resources we have made available to support education and research. We are pleased to see so many of you benefiting from these—in the past couple of weeks we have seen more than one million visits to our Oxford Owl for Home site; in March our dedicated hub providing access to coronavirus research was consulted two million times; and 10,000 students in the UK and US have benefited from free, temporary access to our digital textbooks.

However, alongside providing access to high-quality, accessible, education, and research materials, we must do what we can to support the well-being of teachers and learners during this strange, unsettling time. This is something we have built into our free resources. For example:

  • In our Education Division, we recently ran a webinar series aimed at helping teachers support student wellbeing, which has been attended by thousands of teachers across 15 countries
  • Our English Language Teaching Division ran ‘Teacher Wellbeing Month’ in March, sharing practical advice from our teacher wellbeing authors, Sarah Mercer and Tammy Greggerson, as well as resources including free meditation videos, and a Professional Development webinar on wellbeing
  • In our Academic Division, Epigeum has made many online teaching resources free to support universities with teaching online. One such resource is University Teaching: Core Skills, Addressing Barriers to Student Success, which includes advice on navigating stressful periods and delivering online wellbeing support to students.

We have taken additional steps to help people to make sense of the situation we find ourselves in. For children, we have launched free e-picture book Everybody Worries. It reassures children that it’s ok to feel uneasy and that together we can overcome it. We also added new coronavirus-related words including ‘self-isolation’, ‘infodemic’, and ‘social distancing’ to the Oxford English Dictionary, outside of our usual quarterly updates. Our lexicographers are perfectly placed to track the language we are using the describe the crisis, and to help people find the right terms to help them grapple with the scale and impact of the pandemic.

Our commitment to our academic and educational mission is absolute. Regardless of the existing circumstances, our focus on enabling excellence in research, scholarship, and education remains. We are on this journey together, and we promise to continue to review and evolve what we offer, so we can support you where possible.

Wishing you all the very best, and I hope that you continue to remain safe.