President Nora Miller and Provost Dr. Scott Tollison couldn't be prouder.

female student on laptop outdoorsAcross the world, COVID-19 (coronavirus) has forced people to change how they do things. At Mississippi University for Women, Miller and Tollison have watched the campus come together quickly to implement a plan to serve students and continue to offer a quality education.

“It has been heart-warming to see how our campus community has come together to support our students, our academic mission and each other,” said Miller. “ The Continuity of Instruction Planning Group immediately started to provide resources for our faculty. Information Technology Services ramped up to assist employees with setting up Virtual Private Networks and Remote Desktops so that many of our employees could work remotely. Administrative assistants forwarded office phones to their cell phones or home phones. It’s this type of spirit that truly makes The W a Great College to work for!”

Classes at The W were scheduled to reconvene Monday, March 16, but the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), which oversees the state of Mississippi’s eight public colleges and universities, extended spring break for another week and pushed the start of classes back to March 23 in an effort to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus. IHL also announced that universities would transition to alternate methods of instruction, which includes online classes and remote access.

“It was a total group effort from faculty to staff to deans and chairs and beyond,” said Tollison, The W’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Everyone on our campus played a key role in making it happen. I absolutely could not be prouder to see how quickly and enthusiastically everyone came together to support this transition.”

Sheila Morgan, an instructional technologist at The W’s Kossen Center for Teaching & Learning, said the first step the university took was to put together a Continuity of Instruction plan. She said the plan charted a course for The W to move from traditional face-to-face content to an online format that uses quality instructional technologies. She offered numerous workshops on posting content to faculty members and had many one-on-one sessions with her colleagues to help them get their course content online.

“It seems like I have been preparing my whole life to help with an event such as this,” said Morgan, who led Canvas workshops to help faculty members understand how to use The W’s learning management system.

Dr. Brian Anderson, a professor of political science and the dean of the College of Arts, Sciences, & Education, said many of the faculty members in the nine departments in his college already had some experience with online delivery of content. He said everyone in CASE will continue to make sure the distinctive needs of the students can be met through online/ remote delivery as quickly as possible.

“All departments seem to be well aware of the need to sustain courses as best as they can but not to overburden what we know is a stressed student body,” Anderson said. “I have discussed with chairs what to do in situations where a student does not have adequate tech at home or has unreliable Wi-Fi. One professor has some students who only have cell phones, so she is conducting part of her class as a GroupMe discussion.”

Face-to-face classes won’t resume for the remainder of the semester, and all campus facilities and operations have restricted access and physical presence. The W summer 2020 classes will be conducted online or through alternate delivery methods. This will include all summer terms, both full and accelerated. Students enrolled in professional and graduate programs will be notified of any exceptions to meet clinical or licensure requirements as soon as plans are put in place. Also, Fant Memorial Library will only be open virtually, while the 24/7 lab remains open.

Morgan hopes the move to online classes will help faculty members see they can embrace the opportunity to infuse this type of teaching in all of their classes. She encourages her peers to utilize online instruction in the future so everyone is prepared for the unexpected.

“It has been a privilege to assist in The W’s transition to put courses online,” Morgan said. “ The W faculty really stepped up to the plate and played good ball.”