AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin is set to move all classes online March 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and university officials held a teleconference to give the most up-to-date information on their efforts.
Larry Singell, the vice provost of resource management at UT, said the university’s top priorities remain the same as they did at the onset of this crisis.
“We want to assure the safety of our students, faculty and staff,” he said, “and we want to continue the critical functions of the university in regards to research and teaching.”
Singell said the university is operating the university remotely “wherever possible,” and where it’s not possible, the university is “focused on critical operations with clear social distancing precautions.”
The university is using the video-conferencing program Zoom to deliver classes, and while UT has used the platform in its online classes before, Singell said obviously it’s a bit different with every class being held online.
“We’ve been delivering high-quality, higly-produced online education for a long time,” he said. “We’re really fortunate this isn’t going to be new to everyone, just the faculty and students who haven’t our online classes, and we continue to resources to help them.”
Some of the resources, Director of Course Development Marla Gilliland said, are being built out as the university preps for Monday, but there’s already plenty of support for faculty that might be new to giving online instruction.
“We’ve extended help desk support activities and created training workshops for faculty to attend,” she said. She also mentioned there’s a central website for faculty to consult, as well as the faculty innovation center.
Resources for students, as Director of Texas One Stop Jennifer Love pointed out, will be on the Texas One Stop website. She said there’s a test canvas on the site for students to iron out any technical difficulties they might encounter with Zoom or other platforms used to administer classes, as well as other information.
One of the biggest issues for the university during the transition is a grading structure. Whether it’s a pass-fail system or the traditional letter system, Singell said the goal of it will be to give the students “maximum flexibility.”
As an example, Singell used a student trying to get into medical school as someone who needs to know what the grading system will look like in order to plan. He said while the decision hasn’t been made yet, it’s close and should be announced soon.
When the panel was asked if tuition would be reimbursed since not all services of campus were being used, Director of Media Relations J.B. Bird said amenities like parking services, recreational sports and housing and dining services would be reimbursed on a prorated basis.
Tuition itself will not be.
About half the students living in residence halls have moved out, and the remainder have until May 20 to move out. That’s the previously-scheduled date for residence halls to close.
Emergency housing is being explored for students who can’t go home, and there are individual case workers who will talk with those students about their specific needs, officials said.