COVID-19 update from interim Provost Stephen Roberts

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On March 6, 2020

Interim Provost Stephen Roberts sent the following update on COVID-19 to Missouri S&T faculty and staff on Friday, March 6. For the latest updates, check the S&T coronavirus website.

Dear S&T community members,

The spread of COVID-19 has prompted much discussion on campus among various constituent groups. I have listened to your input, weighed options, and offer this general plan for continued operations should we find ourselves in an emergent situation. 

There are no known cases of COVID-19 on our campus at this time. Following are descriptions of services in place that will enable us to respond to the COVID-19 situation if it worsens. In the case of any type of emergency that causes our operations to cease or substantially change, you will be informed by email. If email is impossible for you to access, please check this website for updates and further information.

  • Medical Preparedness: As campus Student Health Officer (CRR 280.010), Dr. Dennis Goodman is assigned medical duties for campus relevant to the current situation. He is the primary contact assigned to protect students and members of the University community by ensuring, so far as possible, that communicable and contagious diseases will not be spread among them. No information about the spread of any emergent disease or medical condition should be distributed on campus unless it has been reviewed by him.
  • All decisions and public announcements regarding the medical aspects of an emergent situation need to be coordinated through the Student Health Officer Dr. Dennis Goodman.  This involves the medical aspects of preparedness, testing, isolation, quarantine, and treatment decisions.  This scope of involved medical decisions may expand as the situation changes. The Student Health Officer is assigned the responsibility of keeping current on the state of medical care and decision making.
  • Students: International Affairs staff work closely with study-abroad and international students and their families regarding travel and the associated registry, academic resources, insurance coverage, and related matters. Each case is handled individually to ensure that all parties have relevant and complete information. Faculty and staff traveling on university business who register their travel are also tracked and assisted individually by International Affairs.
  • Communications: We continue to offer students campus-level information through all regular channels.  Continue to seek national information from reliable sources such as the CDC.  We also encourage everyone to check for local updates about COVID-19.
  • Travel: Our designated Student Health Officer will recommend restrictions on travel in and out of the university.  Final decisions of travel restrictions come from Chancellor Mo Dehghani, and are coordinated with Mark Diedrich at the UM System Emergency Preparedness office.  We are asking everyone to carefully consider all university-related travel, and if you travel, to take appropriate precautions when you travel and upon return as needed. Right now, university travel is prohibited to China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy because of CDC and State Department warning levels. Changes to this position may occur if the U.S. State Department Travel Advisory Level changes to level 3 or 4 in any specific location.  We will alert campus if travel to any additional location becomes prohibited.
  • Research Infrastructure Preparedness: Vice Chancellor for Research Costas Tsatsoulis is responsible for a plan to manage the research infrastructure on campus in the event that we experience a disruption in operations. This information will be shared if and when necessary.
  • System level planning: A System Emergency Preparedness Planning Task Force has been meeting to assess risk and potential risk based on information from the CDC, the State Department, and local and national news media.

If you have general questions about the Missouri S&T response to the current situation, send them to me: provost@mst.edu. We will direct them to the appropriate individual to provide you a response.

Academic Preparedness Plan

Our shared goal is continuity in our academic mission even if it becomes necessary to partially or fully close campus. Faculty should look to department chairs for instructions, and department chairs will look to deans for instructions on continuing instruction in the case of a campus closure.

In many instances, faculty can deliver course content using our university-wide online learning tools—Canvas and Zoom—which are available to all faculty and students. Most faculty already use Canvas, and many faculty already use Zoom. If faculty are not using Canvas and Zoom, we request that you begin to do so very soon as part of a general emergency preparation strategy, especially knowing that COVID-19 is currently causing campus closures in other locations within the U.S.

We recognize that not all courses are equally portable; wet labs, experiential learning, and other activities may not be possible to continue, and alternatives will need to be identified and provided for students. Please collaborate with your department chair and colleagues about which strategies will be most effective for your students. Plan to act on your findings if we do experience any campus disruptions.

If you do have to rapidly convert on-campus courses into an online format, we will do everything we can to support you. You will be provided with lists of resources as they become available. Those will include tech support for you, and academic support for students.

Wherever possible, in the event of a campus closure, classes will be held electronically through Zoom. Assignments and tests will be submitted and graded on the Canvas platform. All courses are automatically given a Canvas course shell, which most of us already use.

Additional technologies and resources will be integrated to provide a comparable academic experience for students. For assistance with Zoom, visit https://it.mst.edu/services/zoom/  or contact the Missouri S&T Help Desk for any other Zoom-related questions.  Zoom Pro’s features include the following:

  • Meetings may host up to 300 participants;
  • Meetings have no time limit;
  • Meetings are easily recorded (observe FERPA and general privacy guidelines);
  • Polling and screen-/document-sharing capabilities are included;
  • HD video quality works well across many device types. Download the client to your desktop, laptop, and cell phone if you wish.

 Recommended steps in emergent situations

  1. Stay in contact with your department chair: Your department may issue more details about the situation and guidelines about their expectations for your classes.
  2. If you assign points for class attendance, do not penalize students for missing class if they are sick. Encourage students to not come to class if they are not feeling well and/or are demonstrating symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (or any other significant illness).
  3. If you do have to adjust the format for delivery in the middle of the course:
    1. Consider realistic goals for continuing instruction. What do you think you can realistically accomplish during this time period? Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some assignments to add structure and accountability? Consider ways to keep them engaged with the course content.
    1. Review your course schedule to determine priorities. Identify your priorities during the disruption—providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc. What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself some flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than you think.
    1. Review your syllabus for points that must change. What will have to temporarily change in your syllabus (policies, due dates, assignments, etc.)? Anticipate student anxiety.
    1. Pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students. Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary.
    1. Clearly articulate your new expectations for students. You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably but generously.
  4. Add a section to your syllabus that tells students how communications will occur in the event of a partial or complete campus closure.  

To conclude, we are formulating plans in proportion to the threat, with a nimble approach that quickly responds to changes in alert levels. Our community has remained calm and thoughtful as COVID-19 news dominates the media. We are optimistically planning on business as usual, but ensuring that we are prepared in case our operations face significant challenges. Thank you for helping continue our missions of teaching, research, and service in a time of elevated anxiety and uncertainty.

Sincerely,

Stephen Roberts

Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

Academic Affairs

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On March 6, 2020. Posted in Announcements