Faculty Update: COVID-19 Response

March 8th, 2020 - 6:58pm
Message sent March 8, 2020, from Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Student Learning and Success Jonathan Eldridge

Dear College of Marin Faculty:

I am writing to you with planning information related to COVID-19, coronavirus. This message is lengthy, but I ask you please read it carefully.

While College of Marin still has not had a confirmed coronavirus case and an extreme measure such as campus closure is NOT imminent, it is a possibility at some point. Colleges in Washington and California have moved to temporary remote instruction utilizing their online capabilities, either due to cases of COVID-19 or in anticipation of them. We must prepare to take similar action should the need arise. This means being prepared to offer at least 1-2 weeks of instruction online. Current guidelines for higher education indicate health officials will likely recommend campus closure for that period of time if multiple individuals test positive for COVID-19. Of course, this guidance could change at any point, and we are in communication with the Chancellor’s Office and local officials in this regard.

While temporarily teaching face-to-face courses via Canvas and/or Zoom in order to ensure instructional continuity for as many classes as possible is not ideal, situations such as this never allow for ideal responses. I will outline below our current approach to how we can provide as much continuity as possible for the most students as possible should we face a closure. If we can get the majority of classes to at least move forth online, then we can focus our attention on those faculty/students/courses having special circumstances/needs and do what we can to mitigate whatever those issues might be.

We may luck out and not need to close the physical campus and implement these instructional continuity efforts (we need to make it four days until we get the respite of spring break). But given the myriad crises and catastrophes we seem to be confronted with on a regular basis, building out our capacity to temporarily teach online as a back-up to our normal operations is a good thing to make progress on now, as we will likely need to employ it to some degree at some point for something.

Our exceptional Distance Education team of Stacey Lince, Kathleen Smyth, and Cari Torres have been working this weekend to prepare a series of training sessions and support resources for those faculty who have not used Canvas or who are not at a level of proficiency that would allow them to prepare for temporary online instruction on their own. These sessions (and the agenda) are listed at the end of this message and are also attached as a PDF. PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND ONE OR MORE OF THESE SESSIONS, either in person or via the Zoom links included. Flex credit will be given. Stacey will also be posting related resource information within Canvas to assist faculty as they develop proficiency. I have asked those faculty proficient with Canvas to provide additional assistance to colleagues who may need it as they are able.

Finally, there will inevitably be questions/concerns about student access to technology should we need to move to temporary online instruction. We first need to focus on our internal ability to deliver content alternatively via technology—without that in place we may be in a situation where no students can complete the requisite contact hours for transfer, graduation, etc. So while we may never be able to guarantee all students have access in all courses, we will work to maximize those served and then focus our efforts on alternative means of support for those with specific issues/needs. In the meantime, unless the campus is fully closed by health officials, we can do what a number of colleges are doing—move instruction temporarily online but keep some facilities functional—this could include a couple of computer labs—and we would then have custodial staff on hand to wipe down all surfaces multiple times per day. If we can’t have a lab open and/or we still have students who can’t get online to continue, then it really is similar to when a student is out sick for a prolonged period. Namely, they will need to make up content (perhaps in consultation with faculty over the phone to identify specific activities to keep as up to date as possible) and we strongly encourage faculty to be compassionate in helping them make up material.

Thank you for your assistance as we work to protect our students from the virus itself and its larger effects. If you have questions about Canvas, Zoom, or online instruction after attending the training, please contact Stacey Lince. If you have questions about particular courses, particular students, or related matters, please contact your dean. And if I can be of assistance in any way at any point, please do let me know.


Here is the training session information:
Get ready: Ensuring instructional continuity through advance planning
Monday, March 9
COMmunity Hour 12:40-1:30 in AC 255

Overview of situation
What faculty can do to plan for instructional continuity

  • Build communication plan with students
  • Post syllabus
  • Create content online for one week’s worth of class as a starting point
  • Faculty should use class time this week to assess where their students are with access to technology (for example, they might not have unlimited data usage on their phones)
  • Faculty should be as flexible as possible with individual student situations
  • Faculty should present potential scenario and get a read on the students’ ability to participate in that scenario
  • Consider timeline of content and possible shifts
  • Post readings – PDF, accessible
  • Post videos
  • Think about students with SAS accommodations and prepare to support them remotely
  • Set individual appointment with Stacey to go over course details
  • Consider using spring break time to get support you may need
  • Labs – have the students do as much remotely as possible and save hands-on exercises for when we return (students could do data analysis, research remotely)
  • Reach out to colleagues at other schools for ideas

Tuesday, March 10

We will hold a repeat session in AC 229 from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 11

Repeat session during COMmunity Hour (12:40-1:30 p.m.) in AC 255

Thursday, March 12

Stacey will hold office hours for appointment/drop-in from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. in AC 220