3.5.20: Novel Coronavirus Campus Response Update

Faculty guidance for instructors in all departments to plan for teaching in an online environment. 

**Sent to faculty**

Dear Teaching Faculty,

I am writing with additional information about the university's response to the ongoing global outbreak of novel coronavirus. As of this date and time, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Lehigh campus.

If senior leadership and medical professionals in the Health and Wellness Center were to determine that conditions had become such that it was no longer advisable to hold classes on campus, an appropriate response would be for faculty to maintain academic continuity by moving their lecture and discussion courses online. Our goal would be to have students successfully complete their courses with appropriate learning outcomes and continue to make progress towards their degrees.

With this in mind, I am asking all instructors in all departments to begin planning for the possibility that we may need to complete this semester’s teaching in an online environment. This move is not imminent, and may not be needed, but if it is needed, we may not have much time to prepare. If we have to move in this direction, Course Site, which most faculty already use, would serve as the core learning platform for courses that are converted into an online format. For all internally supported systems – including Course Site – we have enough bandwidth to support all courses on campus. If our cloud-based services have bandwidth issues due heavy global demand, we will communicate to faculty on alternative lower-bandwidth solutions.

To help guide our planning and prepare our faculty should this come about, the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning and others in Library and Technology Services have created this step-by-step guide, Academic Continuity: Making a Rapid Transition to Online Teaching. In addition, LTS is planning to expand their capacity to support faculty and will be offering expanded workshops and training sessions as the need arises.

I understand that some academic activities, such as lab, studio, and performance-based courses, will not lend themselves easily to online work. Yet, I am hoping instructors will be creative, flexible, and collaborative as they consider alternate methods of educating our students. Doing so will be an important part of maintaining academic continuity and student progress. I encourage individual faculty, academic departments, and colleges to begin planning both for individual courses, and for possibilities for challenging course types like labs and studios. For some faculty, online education is quite familiar, and for others it will be new. Given our responsibility to or students, I expect all faculty to engage and ensure their courses can be completed successfully.

What is most important right now is that all instructors begin preparations, though of course we hope that we will not have to implement these plans. As I noted above, if we do need to implement these plans, we may not have much lead time.

We have already taken some action with regard to Lehigh students studying abroad, and it may become necessary to take additional action for other Lehigh study abroad students as the situation unfolds. Lehigh students studying in Italy have been told to return to the US, and at this point, no other programs have been cancelled or closed. The CDC has issued a statement that colleges and universities “should consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs” and “should co nsider asking students participating in study abroad programs to return to the United States.” Aside from Italy, all other Lehigh study abroad programs are currently continuing as planned. We will review our options if CDC raises the warning level in other countries where our students are studying abroad, or if the agency issues stronger, more specific guidance. In that instance, department chairs will work with faculty to develop appropriate options for students affected by the disruption. Among the options to consider are: adding sections to existing courses, or expanding the schedule to include new open-learning, online, short-duration, or independent study courses.

This continues to be a rapidly evolving situation. We are continuing to update the Lehigh University COVID-19 Information page for the latest updates on the university’s response. Cle arly, should faculty, staff, or students develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they should consult their physician and not return to campus until their physician indicates it is safe to do so. Please see CDC recommendations (see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html). Faculty and staff should contact their supervisor if following this expert advice results in their staying away from Lehigh during normal work hours.

Faculty will need to work with their chairs and associate deans on this planning. Again, I encourage you to start with CITL's Academic Continuity guide and consult the LTS Help Desk or your college’s instructional technology consultant if you need additional help. Greg Reihman will be communicating with faculty about upcoming LTS/CITL workshop and training opportunities.

Thank you for joining us in our efforts to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our students, staff, and faculty.

Best regards,

Pat Farrell