University faculty and staff were told to prepare for a possible transition to online classes due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Support Services Office of Academic Affairs Matt Lee provided faculty with a link to a recourse page providing tools and guidance on moving course materials to an online environment in an email sent to faculty and staff over the weekend.
“In the event local public health concerns warrant a decision to suspend face-to-face instruction, course instructors should be prepared to deliver courses remotely to the best of their ability,” Lee said.
The recourse page, titled the Geaux Online Contingency Plan, includes instructions on moving class resources, instruction and assignments to Moodle. The plan suggests faculty members make adjustments to how they provide instruction, communicate with students and deliver assignments in the event of an online
The webpage features a “Faculty Needs Assessment Survey” that faculty members are encouraged to complete.
LSU intends to minimize disruption in the delivery of courses. There is a possibility that instructional faculty will need to conduct the last part of the spring semester remotely,” the survey’s description states. “As there is a lot of diversity in the needs of different departments and subject areas, this information will help us better prepare to support you in the event that a temporary transition to virtual course delivery is needed to support continuity.”
The survey asks faculty to choose three support needs in the event of a virtual transition and rank communication services from most important to least important. The survey also asks faculty if they and their teaching assistants have personal laptops or desktops equipped with webcams. If not, faculty members are prompted to specify how many loaner laptops they would need in the event of an online transition.
Faculty who teach “more complex use” classes, including labs, were also asked what they would do to deliver the course content remotely.
As of now, all instructional activities are to proceed as scheduled.
“The situation is extremely fluid, and in the interest of protecting the health and wellness of the campus community it may be necessary to temporarily suspend some campus activities, including instruction,” Lee said. “If this is the case, then the first line of action will be to maintain continuity of instruction remotely.”
The University has created a page providing the LSU community updates regarding the virus.
Several professors, including sociology professor Ginger Stevenson, have already canceled classes in response to the virus outbreak.
“Last class we discussed the possibility of moving the course online,” Stevenson wrote in a Mar. 9 email sent out to students in her sociology of deviance class. “I decided to go ahead with that move at least for the next two weeks. We will evaluate things after spring break.”
Stevenson told students assignments will be posted on Moodle with more details to come.
Sociology sophomore Hannah Ferguson received Stevenson’s email on Monday. She said she understands her professor’s concern.
“It’s appropriately precautionary, even though it’s one class,” Ferguson said. “Who knows how long it’ll be before more areas follow suit?”
The latest statement provided by the University was announced in a Strategic Communications broadcast email on Wednesday.
The email said there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus at the University as of March 11.
Those with legitimate concerns about exposure to the virus should contact their health provider. Students may also contact the Student Health Center. Strategic Communications pledged to inform students, faculty and staff if there are any confirmed cases at the University.
The University confirmed to students that it’s considering a transition to online classes, but has not yet made a final decision.
“At this time, with no confirmed cases at LSU, we are not yet opting to close or move entirely to online classes. The goal is to complete the spring semester, whether in person or online, so that all students get full credit for the semester and can matriculate or graduate without delay.”
The University is also considering closing the campus after spring break and will announce any decision that is made as soon as possible, according to the email.
In the event the University’s campus would close, students living on campus who cannot leave would be accommodated with housing and meals. If dining halls aren’t operating, meals would be provided to all students on campus, according to the email.
Strategic Communications also encouraged the campus community not to travel during spring break.
“We realize many students had plans for spring break, and some have already spent money on those plans. But we ask you to consider where you would be traveling to, and what the situation would be like when you get there. Please use good judgement.”
Strategic Communications pledged its ongoing transparency and communication as the situation continues.
“We are working with state and federal agencies to make these decisions, and we plan to make decisions based on factual information. We pledge to keep you informed of all decisions, and of any confirmed cases of the virus at LSU. We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our plans as the need arises. Please know that all options are on the table and there is no scenario that we haven’t considered. We pledge to be transparent and keep you updated, as we all must work together to ensure the safety of our overall community.”
The Strategic Communications email addressed concerns about Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor John Scalzo’s potential exposure to the virus.
In a March 10 email that has since gone viral within the University and Baton Rouge communities, Scalzo told students a supplemental instructor in one of his electrical engineering classes is being tested for COVID-19.
“His [supplemental instructor] hometown is Wuhan, China, and he told me after class yesterday that he ‘got the virus’ when he went home for break,” Scalzo said. “He is getting tested at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow at the LSU Student Health Center for the virus.”
The screenshot of the email went viral on several social media platforms.
LSU Media Relations Director Ernie Ballard said the University is aware of the situation.
The Strategic Communications email addressed the situation and confirmed that the supplemental instructor did not test positive for coronavirus.
“After investigation, it was determined that the individual in question is asymptomatic and not within the threat parameters set by the Centers for Disease Control and the Louisiana Office of Public Health. As of this time, there is no reason to believe anyone at LSU is clinically affected.”
Strategic Communications encouraged the campus community to be “cautious of rumors and speculation on social media or in other sources where factual information is not provided.”
Mass communication senior Delanie McDonald said students should exercise caution when sharing screenshots before details are confirmed.
“People are incredibly worried about getting sick, and sharing an email like that can cause panic across the student body,” McDonald said.
Mass communication professor Will Mari said he and his teacher’s assistant have prepared for the transition for weeks now.
“When—and its likely when, even as I’m still hoping for an ‘if’—we go online, it won’t be easy,” Mari said.
Mari’s mass media law course will be stripped-down. Mari said an online transition is not ideal, but he is still confident the class can finish strong.
“Beyond meeting course requirements and accreditation standards, as important as they are, the safety and health of my students is most important to me, as is the welfare of their families and friends,” Mari said. “We’ll get through this together.”