The Northerner interviewed President Ashish Vaidya Monday morning to ask questions about online courses, commencement, refunds and more.
Vaidya said a formal announcement will be released today or tomorrow informing students, staff and faculty that classes will remain online for the remaining semester. Summer classes will be adjusted accordingly if needed, Vaidya said.
Vaidya said the coronavirus situation is rapidly changing. NKU made the decision to cancel in-person classes based on social distancing recommendations and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the Northern Kentucky Health Department. Vaidya said they are monitoring the situation and will make decisions accordingly.
The extended spring break allows staff and faculty to prepare for the transition to online classes, Vaidya said. Students should expect emails from their professors detailing how the transition will work, especially with classes that require in-person learning—such as labs, SOTA classes, EMB classes, clinicals and more.
Vaidya said the University is making every attempt to find ways to format classes differently that require in-person learning. There will be no additional fees for online courses.
Since classes are moving online, Vaidya said he talked to Provost Sue Ott Rowlands about what that means for course syllabi. Learning objectives and outcomes that students are expected to get out of a course will not change, but professors are able to make adjustments to their syllabus, such as assignments, due to the alternative instruction.
Classes that require additional equipment to complete assignments, like EMB, will have alternative instruction that does not require students to use campus equipment. Vaidya said faculty are currently in conversation to see what assignments that require it will look like under alternative instruction.
“Our hope is that the alternative instruction modality will… sort of negate the need for campus equipment at this stage,” Vaidya said. “Because then that defeats the whole purpose, right?”
If students are facing questions or concerns about succeeding in an online course, Vaidya asks that they reach out to faculty members, and that faculty make sure they spend a little extra time reaching out to students to assure them that they are still there to serve students.
The University is still discussing options for finals week and commencement which are both in early May.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been in multiple graduations in my career and, of course, now at NKU,” Vaidya said. “I know that’s such a significant event for us, for our students and families. But, at the same time, we have to balance that with the health and safety issues.”
The University is still discussing alternative formats for commencement if needed. However, Vaidya said NKU is finding options to ensure that students will still graduate on time.
Vaidya said an email with proposals regarding working from home, pay, employees with compromised immune systems, schedules and other information were sent out to Staff Congress for feedback.
In a campus-wide email sent out on Friday, Vaidya said in order to balance flexibility and provide essential services to the University, employee work schedules should continue as much as possible.
Vaidya said that student employment assignments should be continued when possible. Student employees should contact their supervisors for arrangements about their work schedules, responsibilities and questions, Vaidya said.
Vaidya said department heads should be flexible when possible with telecommuting or working from home in order to minimize any unnecessary contact. He also said department heads should be mindful of social distancing recommendations, and they should consider limiting large staff meetings or reschedule them virtually.
Vaidya said he understands that not every employee can or will be able to work from home and that department heads should consider the “nature of the work and whether the necessary equipment and technology are available to allow employees to fully perform their job duties away from campus.”
For those who are unable to work at home, Vaidya said departments should work to create a safe environment on campus, keeping social distancing recommendations in mind.
In the email, Vaidya also addressed employees who may be more at risk for contracting coronavirus. He said he encourages anyone who is experiencing symptoms or potential exposure to COVID-19 to stay at home.
Housing, cleaning, refunds
Since campus is open, and many students will remain in housing, Vaidya said the University is increasing cleaning—especially in high-trafficked areas.
He added that students on campus will have to be monitored to ensure they’re not congregated in one place and that the extra week of spring break hopefully gives the University a bit more time to get as much planning done as possible.
Vaidya said the University decided to keep housing options open because it knew there are students who don’t have the option to go home. Any questions about housing can be sent to Director of University Housing David Berland: email@example.com
Vaidya said at this stage, the University has not planned to offer any parking reimbursements, but will continue to monitor the situation as things change.
Resources on campus
According to Vaidya, counseling and health services will remain open as usual for both appointments and walk-in clients as of now. However, if the situation escalates, he said they will have to find an alternative way to continue to connect with students to provide them with counseling services—whether through online chats or something else.
Vaidya said that tutoring services can be delivered online and will continue to be available to students. As of right now, there hasn’t been any reduction in service, but this can change depending on staff work schedules.
He added that instruction—such as classes and tutoring—should be done online whenever possible. This will apply to staff as well, which may result in a change in how services are delivered.
NKU courses that are made available to high school students will be delivered online the same way they are to NKU students. If the courses are in person at the high school, then it will be determined by the high school on how that course will be delivered.
Vaidya said part of the reason why the campus is still open is for students without access to the internet at home to be able to go to the library, residence halls or other venues where WiFi is available on campus.
“Students’ successes continues to be our highest priority, along with their health and safety,” Vaidya said.
The Northerner is currently investigating the impact of the switch to online learning, including but not limited to how housing, dining, student workers, labs, studios and the office of Health, Counseling and Student Wellness will be affected. For any questions you’d like to know about the decision, contact us anytime on Twitter or Instagram. For questions or concerns about how the virus could potentially affect campus, contact us or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep checking The Northerner for all updates on NKU’s switch to alternative instruction.