March 17, 2020
Historic Transition to Distance Learning
We’re soon approaching the day when Baruch makes arguably the single greatest transition in its history. Last week, before the pause started, we offered just over 20 percent of our courses in online or hybrid formats. Starting this Thursday, we’ll be offering nearly 100 percent of our courses and most of our student support services online. It’s been quite a week.
First, and most importantly, I want to thank you for your amazing dedication, talent, and creativity. I’ve have seen hundreds of emails with conversations among faculty in all three schools and in CAPS about how best to serve our students in this difficult time. I followed some chat rooms that groups of you have set up, and I’m in awe of what you’ve accomplished in such a short time.
Of course, Thursday, the first day we each meet all of our classes in this new world, will bring its own challenges. I’d say we should prepare for a “shakedown cruise” but—considering the state of the cruise ship industry, I should probably come up with another analogy.
I’ve also been getting some messages from students, mostly funneled through faculty. Some are very concerned about broadband access and computer access, especially now that New York public libraries are closed. Arthur Downing and Mike Richichi and their colleagues in BCTC are working to make machines available to students but the broadband access issue will likely persist.
I think there is something you can all do to help our students; I’ve seen discussion of some approaches on the group sites that some of you have set up. I’d like to point out one approach that I’d ask you to consider, especially in the early days while we’re all settling in.
Basically, that approach is to keep it simple at the beginning.
Use platforms that are more likely to be more widely accessible. For example, Blackboard allows you to easily keep in touch with all your students, to post material online, and even to set up discussion groups. For the past five years, I’ve taught all my courses as hybrids and run all of them through Blackboard. It may not have been glitzy, but students could get access to it. And I used in asynchronously, which also made it easier. Plain old email can also work—not necessarily elegantly but perhaps effectively.
I’d like to reinforce a comment I saw on one of our sites: Have a back-up plan that is based on the simplest technology—just in case the very powerful synchronous approaches either don’t work easily or some students find themselves locked out by their limited access to powerful Wi-Fi.
Here’s another approach to broadband access that you might share with your students, courtesy of David Jones:
Charter Communications has announced that it will “offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K–12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription at any service level up to 100 Mbps. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.”
And Shelly Eversley takes it a step further and provides a toll-free number to make arrangements for installation: 1-844-488-8395.
Undoubtedly there will be some kind of installation lag, but students can be advised to get their names on the list.
Thank you again for all your amazing work in recent weeks. If any of you have the time, I hope you’ll take some notes about your experiences in this transition. I know from what I’ve read already that there are valuable lessons embedded in your experiences. When we have the time, we ought to write a book!
With my gratitude and admiration for all you’ve done and will do.,