On Thursday, the same day Arkansas confirmed a total of six presumptive cases of coronavirus in the state, several universities officially switched to online classes in an effort to curb in-person contact and the spread of the virus. Though the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has no presumed cases, it is now conducting its courses online. KUAR spoke with University Chancellor Christina Drale about the decision. Below is the broadcasted transcript from that conversation.
Drale: “Things began to develop very rapidly yesterday and so we started out the day not really…without intention, but as we began to monitor the activity with all of the various closings and then by the time we got to the governor’s announcement and the public health emergency declaration, we felt that it was really the right time to make this decision to minimize social contact by migrating face-to-face classes to an online format. And we had actually been preparing for that for a while, it just got to us a little bit sooner than we expected. We thought we might be able to get to spring break before we had to do that, but the situation escalated very rapidly yesterday and so we made that decision by the afternoon.”
KUAR: “And what will these online classes look like?”
Drale: “Well they’ll look similar to the ones we’ve already got in place. And every UALR class section every semester already has a Blackboard set up for it. So it isn’t a lot of extra work on the part of our IT people and our e-learning people to make that transition in those terms because we’ve already got all of those shells set up in our learning management system, our online system that we use for teaching. So what it really requires is that the faculty who aren’t already using Blackboard for classroom announcements or their syllabi or whatever, then we have to get those faculty up to speed to start putting their assignments and start interacting with students online.”
KUAR: “Is there a possibility for maybe a grading criteria shift? Will some courses change from letter grades to pass fail? I’m curious how the university is working with professors to figure out how to teach their students how to potentially pass their students…”
Drale: “We don’t anticipate changes to the grading structure. There may be some modifications of assignments. For instance, courses that are difficult to translate to [an] online environment, which are science labs and art courses and so forth, there will probably be some changes in assignments. Now this all changes if we stay online, if all of those classes stay online for an extended period of time. Then we may have to revisit how we’re looking at credit for those courses. But what we’re preparing for now is to have those classes stay online for two to three weeks and then we’ll reassess at that time.”
KUAR: “Is there right now a set end date for [online] classes or is it indefinitely until decisions are made?”
Drale: “Right now it’s until further notice and so because we…and we left it that way because we can’t really predict how this pandemic is going to evolve in the state of Arkansas. I mean, we expect it to have more reported cases and for it…to grow. However, we are hoping that we can maintain at least our online presence throughout the semester. We just don’t know at this point and time how soon we might be able to come back to face to face classes.”