University considers possibility of remote classes: Faculty members asked if they think courses can run online

Isabella Gentile, Editor-in-Chief

Faculty members were asked if they think they can prepare online content for courses, as increasing cases of COVID-19 spring up across the country.

In an email sent out March 6 by Susan Bosco, associate provost for academic affairs, faculty members were asked to complete a survey by March 16 that assesses whether or not they would be able to complete courses remotely and what resources they would need to be able to do so.

The survey also asked if professors would need any technology for their courses, and if not, to describe why that would not work for a specific class. They can indicate whether or not they would be interested in a workshop on video streaming platforms like Panopto or Meetings, which are available through Bridges.

If courses cannot be completed remotely, Bosco said she will get in touch with faculty to figure out alternate plans.

June Speakman, professor of political science and president of the faculty union, said the union has not been approached for input in this process. She said there should be a formal plan to go online with all classes and “it should have been developed before crisis time.” 

“I do wonder how hands on classes like science labs, engineering labs and architecture studios will be handled,” Speakman said.

Some professors are not as concerned with the possibility of going online, as they have been able to effectively utilize available technology.

Professor David Gillespie has been teaching Writing 220 online for almost 20 years. He completed the survey and said that switching his two Writing 102 day classes to online would not be that difficult.

“Bridges makes it easy to go online and RWU has a strong tech team,” Gillespie said. “I hope we don’t have to switch, but because of Bridges, I’m not worried about that possibility.”

Adjunct staff member Taiji Saotome is teaching SEC 205 C++ Programming this semester, a required course for the undergraduate cybersecurity degree that is already offered as online only during the fall.

Although he thinks the course would be better presented as a lecture, he has used a lot of online components smoothly. He has been able to make assignments, quizzes and the midterm available through Bridges, connect with students over email and use the forums on Bridges to encourage student discussions.

Other professors are not as confident in the potential switch.

Writing Professor Tamia Burt said she would be very reluctant to go remote. She said if she did, she would prefer to conduct class via video, but she is unfamiliar with the technology it would take to do so.

“I’d worry that something would go wrong at the most inconvenient moment or I’d forget how to do something,” Burt said.

According to Bosco, Shawn Platt and Kevin O’Rourke, members of the university’s Instructional Design & Technologies team, set up programs for workshops and webcasts to provide training on remote course delivery. These will begin after spring break.

The email also brings up the concern of increased student absences. The attendance policy for each course varies, but Bosco said professors should prepare for longer absences and “[allow] for flexibility in this unusual, fluid situation.”