Attention faculty, there is a complete COVID-19 faculty resource page available on myNU with answers to frequently asked questions, communications from the Office of the Provost and additional resources.
I write to you as a follow-up to Father Maher’s note to the community earlier this afternoon.
We are a community that places great value on the student experience at Niagara University. We regularly speak of the importance of in-class (virtual and brick and mortar) learning as well as informal learning and extra-curricular engagement. Niagara University’s approach to education, is and always has been, not just about learning content, but it’s about growing, it’s about relationships, and it’s about connecting with peers and mentors in a manner that respects everyone’s God-given dignity. However, we have to balance our educational model against what is prudent and minimizes risk to all those who work and study on our campus (Lewiston and Vaughan).
Niagara University is aware of and responding to the dynamic environment due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Information on COVID-19 is available from a litany of locations, but you can click on link at the top of our homepage or you can follow this link: https://www.niagara.edu/coronavirus-update/ that provides information and answers to FAQs. This site is updated on a regular basis with contemporary information as it pertains to COVID-19 as well as with campus updates (Lewiston and Vaughn).
Chris Sheffield sent out a communication to our students in regard to those living on campus and it is attached, for your information, if students ask you questions over the course of the next few days about student related information.
Presently, it is my hope and expectation that a two week pause at Niagara University will accomplish a number of objectives including the critical social distancing that is being discussed by a number of state, provincial, and federal agencies. As you all know, the first week of the pause was already scheduled and represents our spring break.
The second week of the pause serves a few objectives simultaneously. First, and most importantly, it doubles the period of social distancing from one week to two weeks. Second, during the two week pause, business operations of the University will remain open. And, it is during this period of time that faculty will be afforded opportunities to engage in discussions regarding how best to provide a continuity of education to finish the semester in a manner that is consistent with our focus on the student experience.
No doubt this is delicate balancing act. Having an expectation of resuming campus operations, including brick and mortar teaching, on March 30th (or March 28th for some graduate offerings) does not mean that we should not plan for the possibility of a different outcome as information over the next several days may alter our collective pursuit of this objective.
Therefore, in preparing for providing a continuity of education through the end of the semester, this two week pause will allow for a series of training opportunities and problem-solving discussions. One option moving forward is to provide those faculty who are interested with opportunities to learn how to use Canvas to teach. Other instructional options include, but are not limited to, distance learning strategies that can be fairly simply; for example ‘correspondence’ courses through email, or utilization of video technology to post course content and then coordinate asynchronous or synchronous conversations with students.
As Father indicated in his community note, a group of faculty and deans – an academic task force – is working with me to plan in a cautious and deliberate manner in this fluid situation. Presently, the task force has Senate representation, NULTA representation and college representation. In addition, academic services and the registrar are also sitting in on the discussions. Tomorrow afternoon the task force will meet again to focus on (a) communication with full-time and part-time faculty, (b) strategies for continuity of instruction, and (c) consideration of professional development opportunities related to instructional technology.
As we work to develop and implement this planning, please know you can call me or email me with questions or concerns and I’ll bring them forward to the task force for discussion.
Timothy Ireland, PhD