Page 24 - Campus Technology, May/June 2020
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FEATURE > Online Learning
What we’re trying to do is free up all the resources we can and find ways of doing things on the cheap because not all of this costs money. Yes, a lot of it does, but a lot of it has involved creativity and innovation by faculty and staff. A lot of what you just mentioned — including our food pantry and our grocery handouts — we do by grants and by donations. In one of our Friday updates I appealed to people to donate to our emergency fund for students before we received any federal funding. Within two days we had raised $16,000 from our own employees.
A lot of the emergency funding right now — it’s a combination of federal funds under the CARES Act and emergency funds from our foundation.
So, the things that I’m most worried about in terms of our ability to get through this crisis over the long haul are, first, can I keep building additional classes to meet the increased demands of enrollment due to the economy being what it is? And second, what are the lost revenues that we’re trying to deal with as a result of students going online?
Next semester and going forward it’s going to be hard for me to justify charging students a parking fee if they’re not coming to campus at all and using our parking facilities. But I still have a police force to pay; I still have paving that I need to do and striping that I need to refresh every year. How do we keep doing those things if our organizational structure and our cost structure has changed dramatically?
Over time we can make changes to the budget, but it’s really hard to do that at a public university when we’re trying to keep everybody with a permanent job fully operational and fully employed. The last thing I want to be doing is contributing to the rolls of the unemployed.
This is a tough time. But I have to say, a crisis brings out the best in people in my experience. I tend to be right at the edge of Pollyannishness, but hopefully not over the edge.
My college has come together in really remarkable ways to do amazing work. We saw 250 faculty come in during break to go through a workshop, to learn how to use Canvas, who had never used a learning management system before. They got paid two hours for a workshop. That’s not worth their time if they didn’t have their heart in it and if they didn’t want to do it well for students.
When we hit a crisis and we focus on students and what our students are going through and we call on people to focus on that, they come together in amazing ways.
Good things are coming out of this. In student services I think Zoom has been such a godsend for all of us, even on a personal level for maintaining relationships, for meetings and for doing open forums, for keeping our community going and keeping our relationships going with students. There is high value in looking somebody in the eye and checking those subtle facial cues and expressions. And I think being able to videoconference really changes the online picture.
Even the way we deliver distance ed will change after COVID. I really believe that people will see value in synchronous education, even if it’s online, that they may not have seen before. I think people will identify new ways to create a sense of community within a class that maybe we weren’t conscious of before. And I think whole campuses will figure out that community and cohort building and peer-to-peer relationships and faculty-peer relationships are just as important as all the other supports we provide students.
We have to find ways of delivering those even if it’s online. COVID-19 is showing us ways to deliver that. Really good things are going to come out of this. It’s just how long it takes to come out of it that scares me a little bit.
Dian Schaffhauser is content editor for Campus Technology.

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