As the world response to the COVID-19 virus brings dramatic changes to daily life, the UM System has made quick decisions to promote the safety of all members of our University community. On March 13, the UM System announced that all classes would continue in an online format for the rest of the semester to continue serving the needs of students. In less than a week, professors swiftly adapted to the new online format enabled by centralized resources to adjust curriculum.
This quick switch to online is informed by the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation for schools to limit large activities and gatherings. Unfortunately, this also means the cancellation of most travel and large gatherings for the next several months. Though students may be disappointed about the cancellation of the remaining spring semester, the changes are necessary to protect our University community and the public in general.
Across the UM System, many classes and departments have switched to online discussions and lectures. Using technologies like Canvas, Zoom and Panopto, instructors can hold lectures, discussions, assignments, quizzes and even tests remotely. Even though it was a quick turnaround, many faculty members have exercised creativity during the adjustment. Exceptional attitudes and performance in response to this pandemic shows that our faculty rise to meet the challenge during moments of change.
At MU’s School of Health Professions, Laura Schopp, professor and chair of the Department of Health Psychology, provided tips on how to cope and maintain community during social isolation. At UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management, Leigh Salzsieder, chair of the department of accountancy and associate professor of accounting, shared that seeing students in their homes with pets and children has been humanizing. Michael Bruening, an associate professor of history and political science at Missouri S&T went viral after sharing his “I Will Survive” cover on Facebook and YouTube. His message rang true to thousands of teachers across the world:
“I will survive.
Oh, as long as I know how to Zoom, I know I'll be alive. Oh, my students still will learn
And my paychecks I will earn, and I'll survive. I will survive, hey, hey.”
At UMSL, Keeta Holmes, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, worked with her team to create a website full of resources for faculty members to prepare to teach remotely.
MU Extension is offering all programs via distance education, as well as working with county offices to provide resources to university students who may not have access to broadband. Some MU Extension offices have the capacity to provide Wi-Fi to students while accommodating the need for social distancing within their buildings. Students who are in need of WiFi services are asked to call the office ahead of time to schedule a visit so Extension representatives can prepare to serve them with limited contact. Extension also created a page of resources for making the switch to online curriculum for universities.
Systemwide, trainings are also adopting online formats. Workshops like UMSL’s webinar for caretakers of children, retirement seminars for UM System faculty and staff and agricultural classes have successfully begun instruction via Zoom. 4-H is also working to offer community resources for all, including online learning workshops to help families deal with home schooling challenges.
Even though the pivot to online instruction for the rest of the semester has been challenging for all, there may be more opportunities to benefit. According to researchers at MU, activity-based online learning, rather than lecture-based, enhances student creativity and learning by allowing students to use technology to develop their own original ideas. By allowing students to use technology and develop their own ideas, students are more rounded and able to contribute to society’s greatest challenges.
In times of uncertainty, the UM System is staying strong and adjusting quickly to these rapidly changing conditions. By focusing on the safety of the students, faculty, staff and the community at large, we will continue to face the challenge that COVID-19 has brought while prioritizing the health and well-being of staff and students and continuing to serve the needs of Missouri and the nation.