Thursday, April 2, 2020

Preparing for a Fall Without In-Person Classes

Let's give a full-throated shout-out to America's colleges and universities, their professors and staff professionals, and their students. Collectively, they pulled off a remarkable transition this spring, shifting instruction they had previously been delivering predominantly in person for most students to an almost entirely remote experience for pretty much everybody.

It may not have been seamless or pretty, and it certainly wasn't painless -- either for instructors having to deal with the anxiety of new tools or for students worrying about good internet access or where in their homes they could find a quiet place to study. But instruction continued to happen remotely, en masse.

If you'd asked most people months ago whether a higher education enterprise that many write off (often unfairly) as hidebound and change-averse was capable of a wholesale pivot in a matter of days or weeks, they'd have laughed. And yet it happened. Amazing.

So take a bow -- and a deep breath. Because now comes the hard part. You read that right, I'm afraid. Depending on how things go -- what the arc of COVID-19 is nationally or in certain regions of the country, whether physical distancing rules are still in place, etc. -- college campuses may remain off-limits to students come September. Whether that's a 5 percent likelihood, or 25 percent or 50 percent, I have no idea (I'm no Tony Fauci, and even he can't say for sure). But it's almost certainly not zero. 

Vickie S. Cook, executive director for online, professional and engaged learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield, says her institution has "started planning" for the possibility that "we're going to be forced into a virtual fall."

Cook raves about her university's emergency pivot to remote instruction this spring -- but she acknowledges that "teaching remotely is really different from teaching online." Will the expectation be higher in the fall than it was this spring? "I don't see how it couldn't be," Cook said. "By fall, students and parents have the right to expect a high-quality education, in whatever modality it's delivered," she said. "If it's online, it shouldn't 'less than,' especially when there's time to address it." 

Not that it will be easy, Cook acknowledges. Faculty buy-in for virtual instruction will remain an impediment, although she and others say they believe many professors will have emerged from this spring with a better appreciation of how challenging technology-enabled instruction can be.

Cook said she is less worried about equipping Illinois Springfield's instructors with whatever technology they might use to deliver courses in the fall than preparing them to teach effectively.

"Online learning is a type of teaching that requires very specific pedagogical skills," she said. "The pedagogy is more important than the technology." And like others interviewed for this article, Cook worries that institutions forced into online instruction this fall will shortchange a virtual transition for the noncurricular elements that can make or break student success, especially for the most vulnerable students: tutoring, writing centers, career counseling and good library resources.

This article appeared in Inside Higher Ed on April 1, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

UIS hosts webinar focusing on impact COVID-19 will have on small businesses

The University of Illinois Springfield is hosting a series of free, public webinars focused on the impact COVID-19 is having on small businesses.

The Mayor of Springfield, Jim Langfelder, says small businesses are the backbone of every economy. "The question is; what's the next steps we take to really rebuild our community, because the economic engine slowed up with small businesses, and we need to do whatever we can to keep those resources viable and going," Langfelder says.

UIS Director of Economic Development, Bruce Sommer, says COVID-19 is not only putting stress on small business owners, but the city's those businesses reside in. "There's a high risk that many of these businesses may not come back," Sommer says. "It's going to impact the economy significantly. I think most directly just the tax increments that come from the sales."

Sommer is hosting the webinars to help small business owners navigate through COVID-19. "It's evaluating risks and evaluating opportunities," Sommer says. "So, what are the risks of staying closed longer? How do we evaluate that risk? How do we evaluate the risk of customer base dwindling, because they don't have income coming in," Sommer says?

The discussions will focus on the impact COVID-19 is having on the economy, what programs are available for aid and how to apply.  Sommer says the university is hoping to host two webinars per week.

This story aired on WAND 17 on April 1, 2020.

Read the entire article online.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

UIS grants spring athletes extra year of eligibility

The NCAA is now granting all division one and two schools the choice whether to give their spring athletes another year of eligibility due to COVID-19's effect on their careers.

In Springfield, the University of Illinois Springfield's athletic director Peyton Deterding said the division two school has already granted their spring athletes permission to come back for an extra year. But that is just the tip of the iceberg for the teams and athletes.

At the division two level, sports don't give full scholarships to everybody, they give partials. So where will the money come from when there are incoming freshman as well as extra seniors on the team?

Deterding said UIS will pay the seniors scholarships out of pocket if they decide to stay for their extra year and it won't effect the normal scholarship pool.

Head baseball coach Ryan Copeland said there are other problems like playing time and transfers for current players. But, overall, the NCAA made the right decision by the kids, he said.

This story appeared online on WICS Newschannel 20 on March 31, 2020.

Read the entire story online.