WSU exploring options for campuses as coronavirus spreads across Washington

Wsu campuses preparing for creative teaching challenges as coronavirus spreads across Washington

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University is preparing for how it might teach through the spring semester, as the spread of the novel coronavirus touches all parts of the state.

In a letter sent to WSU faculty Monday afternoon and obtained by 4 News Now, the university says there is “more urgency to prepare to teach out the Spring semester using a variety of distance methods.”

The university told its faculty that each of its campus locations has a different experience with the virus, depending on location. That means not all campuses will respond to the virus the same way. Some programs, including the health sciences program at WSU-Spokane, has a lot of online teaching mechanisms already and may be more ready to transition to a distance model of teaching.

As the email points out, the university “can not duplicate fully the face-to-face experience when switching to distance methods, but we can do a very good job for most things.” The university point out that labs and experimental learning, for example, could be a challenge and “creativity will be in much demand” for that type of instruction.

There are also online programs that can proctor exams and quizzes, but there is a cost to that and “who pays for that on such notice is unclear.” There is also a concern for students who don’t have access to broadband and certain devices necessary for such instruction.

The email indicates a need to prepare for a variety of situations, including faculty that can’t come to class, students who can’t come to campus, or widespread “social distancing” to stop the spread of the virus.

“In order for students to receive their full financial aid under all Federal guidelines, they must remain enrolled and engaged in learning activities for a full semester. We cannot simply cancel the semester and call it good,” writes Bryan Slinker, Interim Provost and Executive Vice President.

“Switching to alternate forms of instruction will require us to ensure academic integrity and quality, operating within the spirit of federal guidelines, all the while being as flexible and creative as we can in response to an unprecedented circumstance.”

The email says the office of Academic Outreach and Innovation has done training sessions for faculty in recent days and will continue to do so.  The email recommends that faculty go through those trainings and build a toolkit for alternate labs is critical; the university asks faculty have those trainings and plans by the end of spring break, which starts next week.

“Finally,” the email concludes, “there is growing harassment and other forms of social stigmatization toward Asians, or those who appear Asian. This is unacceptable. Please help mitigate this and proactively foster inclusion and thoughtfulness in how our community supports, rather than divides, as we navigate the fear and anxiety that attends this disease.”

The email says the university will work to prepare, but will remain calm and make decisions based on fact and guided from public health agencies.

WSU also posted an update for students Monday with updates and information. You can read that here.