Many U.S. colleges and universities moved to distance learning with the hope that students would be able to return to campus within a few weeks once the spread of coronavirus slowed.
That quickly changed as the COVID-19 threat landscape continues to change by the hour, leading many campuses to officially move the rest of the semester to online learning and to cancel events scheduled for later dates, including graduations.
West Virginia University, Chico State, the University of New Mexico, the University of Colorado, the University of California at San Diego and Irvine, Amherst College, Tufts University and the University of Pennsylvania are just a few of the American colleges that have officially made the call.
As campuses try to figure out the best and most efficient way to navigate these unprecedented circumstances, communicating often and effectively with your campus is vital to continuity and success.
For example, on March 17, the University of Kentucky made the decision to move to online instruction for the remainder of the semester. UK President Eli Capilouto communicated that the decision was made after continued direction from federal health officials and Governor Andy Beshears.
UK, like many other college campuses, is also home to a healthcare facility, so the decision to extend remote learning was made in part to allow UK Healthcare to handle expected increases in coronavirus patients. On March 18, a COVID-19 media briefing was held with school and UK Healthcare officials. The media briefing can be seen below. (Note some of the information covered in the video may contain out-of-date information given the ever-changing nature of this pandemic.)
Once the decision to extend online education was made, additional steps school officials would be immediately taking were outlined in a message sent to students and staff. The steps, which UK’s director of media and strategic relations shared with Campus Safety, included the following:
- Instruction will move to online or other alternative learning formats, effective March 23 through the end of the Spring 2020 semester.
- Students are being strongly encouraged to return to their residences away from campus to continue their studies remotely through the end of the semester. UK will communicate by Thursday, March 19, about details for moving out of residence halls. Students will be required to return to their homes unless they receive approval to remain on campus.
- UK also is developing a process for refunds for housing and dining, which will be communicated in the coming days.
- Much of the campus will move to remote work or work from home options for the rest of Spring Break.
- Supervisors and department chairs will be expected to provide maximum flexibility to employees who need to work remotely in the short-term and in the weeks to come so they can manage personal, family and health needs in response to the spread of the virus and the closures of schools and businesses across the Commonwealth.
- Some employees who support critical operations — many UK HealthCare employees, employees who support public safety, utilities, support for online learning, vital research functions — will remain on campus. Supervisors are developing plans for how critical support functions will operate.
- The expectation is that non-UK HealthCare employees and those in other positions not supporting critical business operations will work from home for the rest of the Spring Break week.
- UK will be communicating regularly in the coming days and beyond about how work will be managed for the rest of the semester. For many, remote work will continue after this week. Others will be reporting to campus continuously or on an ad hoc basis to support basic operations.
- Commencement is being postponed and will be rescheduled to ensure the safety of our students and their families as well as staff and faculty who participate. UK will communicate as soon as possible about next steps to ensure everyone involved can make travel plans.
- This move does not change the semester completion date for students, nor does it affect the timeline for students earning their degrees.
“We also are moving thoughtfully, understanding that for a large and complex institution such as ours, every action has multiple reactions and ripple effects. This challenge is evolving; and so is our response,” Capilouto wrote in the message. “The University of Kentucky is a resilient community; and we will work together with compassion, patience and determination to lift us, and our Commonwealth, out of this anxious time.”
The message from Capilouto, which can be read in full here, also includes a phone number, website and email address for students having technical issues with platforms used for distance learning. The school is also continuing to provide updates through its new webpage.
Is your campus doing something that has made this transition easier? Share in the comments below!
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