Date: Saturday, March 14, 2020
Subject: Kamran- Instructional Issues- Important
Dear Faculty Colleagues,
As you know the classes have been suspended until April 5, 2020. LUMS had already announced that the University would be closed until April 6th (and now the HEC directive is also there). There were many reasons for our decision, but partially it was made to prepare for new social distancing measures and to implement agreed upon general health guidelines to keep the entire University community safe. The extended break will also allow us to prepare how we can best continue our instructional and research activities. Given the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in, faculty and administrative staff will need to be continuously available throughout the break (three weeks) to work within their respective programs, departments and groups in order to respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead.
While universities in Sind have been closed for the semester, at this stage, we will resume classes on April 6th and no decision about extension of the semester has been made yet.
I am calling a meeting of all the Deans, HODs, Associate Deans, Registrar, Director IST and senior administrative staff on Monday, March 16th to chart out the initial process in order to share it with all of you. Subsequently we will work with all faculty members to determine how to proceed.
We should not underestimate the challenges ahead for all of us – faculty, staff and our students (undergraduate or graduate).
Kindly start thinking seriously about the following matters as this will comprise a major collective focus in the coming weeks.
1. Once we have our meeting on Monday, I propose we begin on what we know and do well offline and work with all faculty members to determine how we should implement social distancing measures. We should certainly explore by perhaps requiring some (or more) classes to be shifted to alternative modalities through teleconferencing, Zoom, online and other technologies??? We know that this is easier said than done. Do we have the capacity and resources to go the online route as many in-person instructional activities do not translate well to on line format (e.g. labs)? Many issues related to how to re-arrange teaching will need to discussed before classes resume.
2. Even if we have some online capabilities that we can put in use, especially for large sized classes, for many colleagues this will likely be a first-time experience and they may need help in determining how to use the alternate online format. We cannot underestimate that technology demands significant resources which will be required for support.
3.Once we have developed a plan about instructional continuity, we will need a clear communication strategy for the students to know and understand what to expect. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT
4. As I had mentioned in an earlier note, Faculty will need to edit and adjust their syllabi, as long it is done with equity in mind and in the interest of all students. We may also have to relax our attendance policies, as appropriate and adjust CP. Our priority is health and safety of our community. We want to encourage any student (for that matter faculty or staff) with potential infection to not attend class (especially those who have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk).
5. Faculty (and Staff) members may also need accommodation due to their underlying health concerns, or they may be living with someone who is either in self-isolation (this could be a possibility as this health risk evolves) or in a vulnerable health condition. We will have to determine how classes will be offered in such situations (on-line or off-line).
6. On Research: Principal Investigators (PIs) can consider whether or not it is appropriate to close their labs. If your lab remains open, faculty members may not be permitted to penalize students who choose to stay home (we have to be sensitive to individual concerns in this situation). Labs should implement appropriate health and safety protocols, like washing hands regularly, no physical contact between students and common use equipment (keyboards, etc.) must be disinfected regularly. Graduate students and post-docs should work with their faculty supervisors to develop appropriate planning regarding their work. Further, have a communication and continuity plan for your group, so that you can reach all members off and on campus and be able to maintain continuity even if some members of the research team are absent. Finally, we will have to work on how to make resources available remotely in many situations (data sets and other such things). Also anticipate that there may be additional restrictions in the future. Anticipate such possibilities and prepare accordingly.
The above points are some of the very general ways our thinking is evolving. Best practices elsewhere can help, but even top Universities around the globe are challenged and no one is adequately prepared. At LUMS we will need the help, support and input from everyone to be able to address what is a major disruption to traditional teaching and learning. The responsibility of teaching our students and evaluating them for the rest of the semester is the most important task in front of us. We will try our best within our resources (always keeping in mind the safety and well-being of all within the LUMS community) to move forward with sensitivity and care toward all members of our community (Faculty, Staff and Students).
As mentioned above, I will be meeting with the Deans and academic leadership of all the Schools to ensure that we have a template ready before each Dean or HOD/AD shares it with you so that we can collectively work during the coming three weeks to develop a program for our students. I thank you in advance for your support and understanding as we try to plan and prepare to address some of the instructional challenges while navigating the public health challenge in front of us.
Thank you and wishing the very best.
Date: Saturday, March 14, 2020