This article was updated on Thursday, March 19 with comments from Disability Services.
This article was updated on Wednesday, March 18 with comments from the Honors Program.
This article was updated on Monday, March 16 with comments from the College of Nursing
The University of Rhode Island’s 10 academic colleges are each doing their part to handle ongoing changes amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.
URI’s 10 colleges include the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies, the College of Engineering, the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, the College of Health Sciences, the College of Nursing, the College of Pharmacy, the Graduate School of Oceanography and the University College for Academic Success. In addition to the 10 academic colleges, the Cigar has also spoken with the Honors Program and Disability Services.
The Cigar reached out to the deans of all of the University’s academic colleges to discuss how they’re handling the changes in scheduling due to the crisis. At the time of original publication, the deans of the Colleges of Business, Environment and Life Sciences, Health Sciences and Nursing have not responded to inquiry.
Paige Ramsdell, assistant dean of students for accessibility & inclusion and director of Disability Services, said that the services offered by her office are still available to students who need them.
Students can schedule appointments with their case manager through Starfish and can call the office’s main line at 401-874-2098. More information is also available on their website.
Meetings are being done over the phone, via email and through Google Meet, a video chat service.
Accommodations for this semester are still in place and the deadline for requesting housing accommodations for next semester has been extended by one week to Friday, March 27.
Ramsdell also said that Disability Services has been reaching out to the deans of each of the academic colleges with information on the best practices for inclusive online learning, including information about captioning, using headings and other accommodations that will make online learning easier for students who need visual accommodations.
Any student enrolled in classes this spring who has had contact with Disability Services, regardless of whether or not they have a case manager or have accommodations this semester, should have received an email from them with information on how to contact the office. Students who have not had contact with the office before but find themselves needing accommodations now are welcome to contact the office as well, said Ramsdell.
To students who are worried about what the rest of the semester will bring, Ramsdell said that she understands their concerns.
“I know it’s tough,” Ramsdell said. “What I said to [students] the other day is it feels like everything’s up in the air, and you’re right, [but] we are here for you the same way we always have been. We are still committed to supporting our students.”
Despite all of the unexpected changes due to COVID-19, some things about Disability Services remain the same.
“[Students] have the same case managers, they can see our faces,” Ramsdell said. “We’re really pushing for face to face meetings. I know it’s a little weird and awkward, but we’re absolutely still here.”
Dr. Lynne Derbyshire, director of the Honors Program, said that the program has been working with students for advising and preparing for the transition to remote learning starting on Monday, March 23.
Many honors courses are smaller, seminar-style courses, according to Derbyshire, which are more challenging to teach over distance learning. Derbyshire said that the National Collegiate Honors Council is hosting a webinar for faculty teaching honors courses to discuss these concerns, and all of the faculty teaching honors courses will have access to it. Faculty have been sharing resources amongst themselves as well.
For advising questions, the department set up an etal email account, put on their social media and sent an email to all honors students. An honors staff member is monitoring that email and is making sure that students are directed to the right honors advisor.
Advisors are meeting with students via services like WebEx, email, telephone or FaceTime; whatever works best for the particular student and advisor. Advising appointments can be made through Starfish.
Derbyshire said that professor Kathleen McIntyre, who manages Honors Projects, has been in “close contact” with students working on those projects, helping them find alternative ways to complete their projects.
At this time, students are continuing to create posters for their projects, but Derbyshire said that they are unsure as to whether or not the presentations will be set up the typical way in the Memorial Union Ballroom or if they will be in another format.
Regardless, the department is working on reducing stress for everybody, and they want students to be able to graduate without a problem.
“We’re trying to work individually with students to make sure that they get what they need, and make sure everybody graduates without a problem,” Derbyshire said. “That’s our bottom line.”
College of Nursing
Dean Barbara Wolfe of the College of Nursing said that the college is preparing to deliver all undergraduate and graduate classes remotely starting on Monday, March 23.
For students doing clinicals this semester, Wolfe said that the college is working on arranging alternative opportunities and will be providing direct guidance to students enrolled in those courses in the coming days.
“As always, we are committed to maintaining our high-quality program and supporting the success of all of our students,” Wolfe said. “In addition, we remain steadfast in efforts directed at promoting the safety and welfare of our community.”
University College for Academic Success
In an email to the Cigar, Dean Jayne Richmond of the University College for Academic Success (UCAS) outlined how different aspects of the College will work in the coming weeks.
UCAS staff are communicating amongst themselves and with students via WebEx or Jabber, according to Richmond. Additionally, early alert services are continuing “as usual” with their meetings via telephone.
Orientation leader and URI 101 mentor training have moved online. All courses run through the College, which includes UCS 120, UCS 270, ITR 300-303 and WRT 353 have been moved online as well.
In an email sent to UCAS students, the College assured that previously scheduled advising appointments with UCAS advisors will be held over the phone, with students being asked to call their advisor’s direct number at the time of the appointment.
Drop-in hours will be held as well. Students are asked to call in rather than go in person.
Enrollment times will remain the same, and all UCAS advisor holds for the spring semester have been lifted.
A separate email sent to students doing internships through the Center for Career and Experiential Education stated that internship commitments are to resume on Monday, March 16, unless the student is quarantined or believed to be infected, the placement has suspended or changed the nature of the work to COVID-19 or if the supervisor is potentially infected.
Options for students who are unable to work at their internship include working remotely, reducing field experience credit hours or pursuing the remaining credits through a summer internship.
The services offered by the Academic Enhancement Center will move online. According to an email forwarded by Richmond from Jennifer Burgess, the director of the Academic Enhancement Center, TutorTrac can now integrate with WebEx. Weekly tutoring groups have been moved online, as have drop-in STEM tutoring hours.
The Writing Center, according to the same email, is currently offering limited appointments online. Writing center consultants will be training to appropriately expand those services beginning on Monday, March 23.
All academic skills consultations booked through Starfish will be sent WebEx meeting requests and these consultations can be conducted online beginning immediately.
College of Pharmacy
E. Paul Larrat, Ph.D., dean of the College of Pharmacy, said that the College had started planning for a situation like this a few weeks ago. Since then, their IT staff has been gathering information about different ways of teaching online including Sakai, Brightspace, WebEx and possibly on platforms like Facebook.
“We have these options for our faculty, and right now we’re sitting down with each course coordinator or professor individually over the next week to see how we can support them as they move forward,” Larrat said.
Many pharmacy classes require hands-on learning and the College has been preparing for the transition of those classes to online formats as well. Larrat said that there are several options that they have access to that facilitate lab-based online learning solutions.
“Students aren’t going to be mixing up chemicals in their kitchen or anything like that, but they’re going to be observing it and also be part of the process,” Larrat said.
Students will be able to view the professor doing the work that they would normally be doing in a lab and will be able to ask questions and receive and analyze the data
“We’re lucky that we don’t have to do an entire semester without hands-on lessons,” said Larrat.
The majority of sixth-year pharmacy program students working at different off-site locations right now have not been asked by their placements to suspend their work. Only a few of the educational sites, including hospitals and other community sites, have asked students to leave. Those restrictions apply not only to pharmacy students, but to nursing and medical students as well.
The agency that accredits the URI doctor of pharmacy program has reached out to them and said that they are still required to adhere to the rules of accreditation in the midst of the outbreak. Pharmacy licensing boards are also still requiring students to have the required 1500 hours of practical experience in order to become licensed.
“I don’t want to go crazy about this yet,” said Larrat, “but there’s a possibility that if this crisis lasts for two months or more that the students might be delayed in graduation, but we’re doing everything we can to avoid that.”
College of Arts & Sciences
Dean Jeannette Riley of the College of Arts and Sciences emphasized that the goal is to finish the semester as planned.
“Our overall goal with all of our courses is to replicate as closely as possible the learning experiences and move our students to the learning outcomes of each course so that they successfully complete it this semester, no matter whether we’re face-to-face or online,” Riley said.
The chemistry department, Riley said, had “successfully” tested ways to capture lectures along with document notes and put them in a video online so that lectures in that department can proceed as normal. They are looking at ways to find online solutions to replicate data analysis and reporting as close as possible to hands-on, even though students might not be able to do the experiments themselves.
Some possible solutions for the music department could include students sending their professors videos of them playing their instruments or live-streaming lessons with their professors.
Graduate School of Oceanography
Dr. Bruce Corliss, dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), said that the school, which teaches both graduate and undergraduate students, has also been working with faculty to transition into online learning. The GSO will likely be using WebEx as the platform to conduct their classes.
Graduate and faculty research will be continuing as well, Corliss said. In addition to the research being done locally, the School also has a research ship called The Endeavor, which is set to land in Cape Verde on Tuesday, where it will receive fuel and then embark directly back to Narragansett Bay. The Endeavor is part of the United States academic fleet, which has been issued a 30-day stand-down where the ships will return to their docks.
Meetings and public lectures planned by the School will continue but will be limited to 25 people. Lectures can typically draw around 150 people, according to Corliss. Visits from international scholars have been canceled or postponed.
Doctoral dissertation and Master’s thesis defenses will continue as planned, but the only people allowed in the room will be the student and their respective committees. These presentations are typically open to the public.
“Like everyone at the University, we’re just trying to figure out how to adapt to these changing situations,” Corliss said. “I’m very encouraged that the faculty, staff and students are working very well together to try to work through some of these challenges and problems, and I think we’ll be able to be successful in addressing these issues of teaching online and so on.”
Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies
R. Anthony Rolle, dean of the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies, referred to the University’s Department of External Relations and Communications and the office of the President. The Cigar has been in touch with the Department of External Relations and Communications throughout this process and has reached out to the office of the President as well.