University of Arkansas asks faculty to prepare to take classes online

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The University of Arkansas is asking its staff and students to prepare for the potential of taking classes online in response to the spread of coronavirus, the university announced on Wednesday.

The University of Arkansas said in a Wednesday, March 11 update that it’s asking faculty to prepare and practice conducting courses online in order to be ready for “the potential of delivering all classes online or via alternate delivery by March 30th if needed.”

The university says the confirmation of a COVID-19 case within the campus community or Fayetteville is the primary scenario that would trigger the actual suspension of on-campus classes.

Arkansas announced its first presumptive case of coronavirus, a patient in Pine Bluff, on Wednesday.

You can stay up-to-date with the university’s response to the coronavirus here: https://health.uark.edu/coronavirus/.

The full text of Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz’s letter to students and staff is below:

Dear University of Arkansas Community:  

Like me, you are probably monitoring the latest coronavirus developments with concern. While the University of Arkansas has not yet had a confirmed case of COVID-19, the first presumptive positive case has been reported in southern Arkansas. We are already feeling the impact of the outbreak. I want to let you know that we are taking coronavirus very seriously and making plans in the event it spreads to our region or to campus. 

The university’s COVID-19 Response Team is monitoring the latest public health information regarding the outbreak and meeting regularly to consider next steps. Recommendations from the CDC, Arkansas Department of Health, which we are in regular communication with, and the university will likely change given the evolving situation. We are also monitoring guidance and decisions from other universities and associations with the understanding that any guidance or plan we implement needs to be right for the University of Arkansas, and in the best interests of the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and visitors.   

All updates to university requirements or recommendations regarding the outbreak are being added to our Coronavirus Update site: health.uark.edu/coronavirus. The site includes answers to many frequently asked questions, but if you have questions or concerns that have not been addressed, please send them to feedback@uark.edu or direct them to your department chair or unit leader.  

We have empowered leaders of colleges, schools and units to do as they deem fit when it comes to postponing, suspending or even canceling some events. If campus leaders decide restrictions beyond what the university is currently requiring or recommending are in the best interests of our students, faculty and staff due to the specifics of individual situations, then we encourage them to do what they think is appropriate.  

If you are responsible for a gathering or event on campus, please consider these criteria when considering rescheduling or a potential cancellation:

  • Is rescheduling or cancellation solely the decision of my unit/area or are there others who must be involved in the decision? 
  • Are attendees mostly local or are they from areas which have been more directly affected by COVID-19? 
  • Does the potential gathering include a significant proportion of high-risk groups, as defined by the CDC (underlying health conditions, ages of 60+)? 
  • How many are expected to attend?  
  • Is the event scheduled before the end of the semester?  
  • Are speakers and/or attendees already cancelling? 
  • Can the event be conducted online?  
  • Are there any contractual obligations involved? If so, please contact the Office of Legal Counsel before making your final decision. 

Please also consider CDC guidance for preparing for large events. 

On-campus classes continue at this time. In addition, we are asking faculty to prepare and practice conducting courses online now in order to have the campus ready for the potential of delivering all classes online or via alternate delivery by March 30th if needed. I understand that preparing for this eventual possibility will require a great deal of effort and adaptability from all of us but we must be prepared. The confirmation of a case COVID-19 within our campus community or in the Fayetteville community are currently the primary scenarios being considered that would trigger the actual suspension of on-campus classes.

Finally, I encourage everyone to remain supportive, respectful, and empathetic to one another as we move forward through this difficult situation. We’re all in this together.  

Please stay safe and we’ll continue to keep you updated on how this rapidly evolving situation may impact our campus moving forward. 

Thank you for all you do, 

Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D. 
Chancellor 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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