Moving mountains: The rapid transition to remote instruction forced by COVID-19

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session Leadership

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Brief Abstract

The impact of COVID-19 on higher education has been devastating. Universities across the United States were forced to make a difficult decision: close or move fully online almost overnight. Two administrators will share the story of how their University dealt with instructional continuity using online learning during a global pandemic.

Presenters

Extended Abstract

The impact of COVID-19 on higher education has been devastating. Universities across the United States were forced to make a difficult decision: close or move fully online nearly overnight. At the epicenter of COVID-19 for the US over 20,000 people had died in the state of New York by the month of May. Amidst this climate, at a large research University in New York City, administrative support units had to act fast to develop a University-wide plan to shift to remote instruction as well as longer term plans for instructional continuity. Two staff members will share the story of how the University and its individual Schools dealt with instructional continuity using online learning during a global pandemic.

In order to adapt to the rapidly changing situation, University administrators had to outline plans for instructional continuity. New York had declared a state of emergency and the University had to be ready to close campus and offer coursework online right before the spring recess. There were five key areas identified that would be crucial to the success of transitioning to 100% remote instruction mid-semester:

  • User Account Provisioning (Canvas, Panopto, Zoom)
  • Educational Technology Training
  • Online Pedagogy Workshops
  • Equipment for Remote Instruction
  • Helpdesk, Technical Support, and Guides

At the University level, senior leadership had to develop a plan to deliver remote instruction that would work consistently across 16 different Schools and the medical campus, each with a different set of needs and expectations. The plan had to ensure business continuity from both technological and pedagogical standpoints. For an institution that does not offer a lot of programs online, there were challenges in quickly pivoting and creating capacities to support staff and faculty for a successful transition. There was a close partnership between the University’s teaching and learning center and the central IT department to combine capacities to deliver a high quality online learning experience on an accelerated timeline.

At the School level things became even more complex, with unique pedagogical considerations depending on subject matter, instructors with varying levels of online readiness, and diverse student audiences. There was a need to redesign physical classroom activities and envision how (and if) they could work in an online modality. There was also the challenge put forth by schools with limited resources and unprepared support staff required to complete the necessary work to move courses online rapidly.

Attendees will hear the story of how one institution dealt with this herculean task of transition to 100% remote instruction at a University (macro) and School (micro) level. The presenters will share lessons learned, best practices, and key obstacles that were overcome. Attendees will receive a 1-page take-away that will be used for a small group exercise, which they can take back to their home institutions. Looking ahead audience members will be asked to contemplate how we can build a University of the future? How can we plan for academic resilience in the face of uncertainty?