At the University of Oregon preparations are now underway to facilitate more than 1,000 instructors’ remote work.
The flurry of activity follow's President Michael H. Schill's March 19 announcement that all course instruction will be delivered remotely for all of spring term, which begins Monday, March 30. Gov. Kate Brown ordered all state universities to continue online learning through April 28, but many are opting to offer remote classes all term.
The move to remote instruction is part of UO’s active measures to protect students, faculty, staff and the broader community from potential spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). The university has a large team working around-the-clock to respond to the situation, and status updates are regularly posted to https://uoregon.edu/coronavirus.
In a March 16 email to the faculty, Provost Patrick Phillips outlined key points and strategies as the UO prepares for remote instruction.
The university will support remote delivery of lectures, office hours and other course content through digital applications including the Canvas learning management system, Zoom videoconferencing and Panopto lecture recording. The UO also upgraded its virtual private network, the service that allows faculty members, staff and students to securely connect to the UO network from home or any other off-site internet to access certain resources.
Instructors were encouraged to creatively explore how best to deliver their courses in a high-quality fashion. Phillips also asked the UO faculty to take every step possible to help students maintain solid connections to the university as the institution moves to remote instruction.
“It is critical that we do not allow this social distancing to become isolation,” he wrote in his message to the faculty. “It is incumbent on us to find new ways to maintain connection. Even as we are called to keep to ourselves, we must move through this together.”
To that end, the provost announced that formal teaching evaluations would be suspended for the coming term. He also suggested that department and unit heads suspend all nonessential service and administrative activities, in order for faculty members to concentrate on core educational programs.
Janet Woodruff-Borden, executive vice provost for academic affairs offered further information on academic continuity in a March 24 message to the faculty and GEs.
"We know for many of you that it will take some time to get used to delivering courses remotely, and that you are being asked to pivot on short notice," she wrote. "Please remember that you retain control of your course content and pacing, so you can adjust week one activities and expectations to help you and your students ease into the new environment."
UO Online offers Canvas technical assistance and Canvas support documentation and guidance. The Teaching Engagement Program is providing Zoom drop-in consultations, a “starter” remote syllabus and examples of initial instructor emails to students on its regularly updated UO Resource Sharing Blog.
“TEP is here for our teaching community." said Lee Rumbarger, assistant vice provost for teaching engagement and director of the Teaching Engagement Program. "We have a growing repository of support documents and UO faculty examples and can talk through teaching choices and how-to’s. Please be in touch with your questions, needs and sharable ideas."
Rayne Vieger, e-learning and open educational resource librarian and head of the library’s Remote Teaching Rapid Response Team, confirmed UO Libraries also will continue to develop and maintain library services and resources to support remote teaching.
“As part of the larger university academic continuity planning, librarians are committed to helping faculty members prepare to teach remote classes,” she said. “We are here to support student success by connecting faculty to their subject librarians, who can locate existing library materials, purchase electronic resources or find open educational resources for classes. They can also integrate research guides in Canvas and provide remote library instruction.”
Phillips said he is confident that the faculty’s commitment to quality instruction and focus on core educational programs will play a key role for the UO’s resilience during a national health emergency.
“We are clearly at the start of a very dynamic situation,” he said. “As mentors and teachers, it is incumbent on us to find new ways to maintain connection with our students in this challenging time, so as to build the resilient community that we seek.”
—By Jason Stone, University Communications