Message from Provost Stevens - COVID-19 Update
- Cheryl Steven
- Thursday, March 19th, 2020
A month ago none of us could have anticipated the type of challenges that we are facing and overcoming today. Every day, we better understand what we have to do and we determine what we think is the best way to move forward. Two strategies that I use to navigate these challenges are to (1) acknowledge that we are all doing the best that we can, and (2) stay focused on our articulated goals - flexibility, student learning/student success, and completion. Still, as a university we have to abide by our accreditation standards and associated policies.
Shifting to web instruction is not considered a substantive change according to SACSCOC. However, certain course types don’t easily lend themselves to online teaching methods. Clinical experiences, teacher education, performing arts, laboratory courses, and research projects may have particular challenges. We are conferring with accrediting agencies to chart a path forward to meet required standards in these areas. For all of our courses we need to be flexible, but it is vital that we follow required standards in order to award course credit and ultimately degrees.
We will communicate to deans and department heads about these issues in the future, but for now there are a number of practical matters for which we have at least partial answers:
Technology Access - As you know, some students do not have broadband or laptop access. I appreciate the accommodations you are making to help such students. Please visit this CITL page for support https://www.wku.edu/citl/teaching-remotely/teachingremotely.php. Also, make students aware that some internet companies in our region are offering free broadband access to students during the pandemic. Students who need laptops should contact TopperTech via this request so that they can provide information about our no-cost laptop checkout program.
Proctoring - Many students are rightly concerned about visiting testing centers to take proctored exams. For the duration of the semester, there will be no live proctored testing at testing centers. This includes courses that are term-based online, on-demand, hybrid, or newly transitioned from face-to-face delivery. We are strongly encouraging faculty to develop alternative assignments that do not require face-to-face proctoring, but we are exploring online proctoring options and will provide additional guidance to faculty and students soon.
Virtual laboratory instruction - We have purchased Labster, (https://www.labster.com/simulations/advanced-acids-and-bases), a software package that can be interfaced to Blackboard, to offer laboratory instruction for lower level laboratory courses in a virtual format. This will allow our students to complete their courses and earn course credit. If interested, please reach out to Dean Greg Arbuckle (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Semester Grades - We are consulting with our various accrediting agencies and the federal government to get maximum flexibility on course completion for students. We will have a policy about grades and course completion soon.
Searches - We realize that despite the pandemic many of you are in the midst of searches important to the future of your programs and the university. For departments/offices that wish to continue their searches, you may do so as long as you complete the search virtually. For the time being, you may not bring candidates to campus for interview activities. Please continue to follow the standard search processes but adapt them for virtual interactions. If you believe it is more appropriate to pause your search until the summer/fall, please let your dean know.
As we navigate the next weeks, please consider how you can help to support your students, especially the most vulnerable among them. Vulnerability may not be obvious and can come in many forms that include food insecurity, housing insecurity, technology access, finances, mental health concerns, etc. As a community of helpers, we must reach out and support those who need us. There are resources across our university to help these students persist, succeed, and graduate. Please pay attention to your students’ performance and help them stay connected to us.
Cheryl (working virtually from the command center in my home office)
Cheryl L. Stevens, PhDProvost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Western Kentucky University