March 6 Coronavirus Update: OSU Prepares for Remote Teaching, if Needed

To: OSU Faculty

From: Edward Feser, Provost and Executive Vice President

March 6, 2020

Dear OSU faculty,

The global coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic may require all of us to take unprecedented and localized actions to enable our students to continue to make progress in their studies. In particular, it may be necessary for all faculty, staff and students to make adjustments to teaching and learning.

Some universities nationally and globally have announced changes to teaching and other activities in response to high risk health conditions within their immediate communities. For example, the University of Washington announced today that through March 29, classes and finals will not be held in person and, where possible, will be provided by remote delivery.

To be clear, the state of Washington – particularly within the Seattle area – is experiencing a higher level of public health risk than Oregon. Decisions being made by the University of Washington and other universities, colleges and institutions in Washington are being guided by direction from the Washington Health Authority and local public health officials.

At this time, the public health risk in Oregon from the coronavirus is lower than it is in Washington and other states and nations where colleges and universities have curtailed holding classes, labs or exams in person.

Throughout all of Oregon State University, we are advised locally on levels of public risk and response by county health departments and the Oregon Health Authority. Our current level of public health risk remains low. However, we must be prepared for the possibility of a localized outbreak.

If a localized outbreak occurs, it may become necessary to suspend face-to-face meetings and instruction for a period of time. In preparation, I ask all OSU faculty and graduate teaching assistants to review how to deliver all courses remotely using Canvas, our learning management system, as well as Zoom, OSU’s web-conferencing tool. These tools already are available to all faculty and students.

We ask that you take the following steps:

  • Find and publish all of your spring term courses within Canvas. Canvas may be used for most course functions, and will be OSU’s required tool for course announcements, collecting assignments, and providing grades and feedback, if there are public health-related disruptions to in-person teaching. We are confident that instructors’ consistent use of Canvas will ease adjustment to this public health challenge for both our faculty and students.

If you do not know how to use Canvas, online tutorials are available. A Canvas “shell” is now available for all Spring term courses. Even if you are a regular user of Canvas, please familiarize yourself with features of Canvas that you have not used, as it will be important to be able to move quickly into the online environment if conditions dictate we must do so.

  • Test your home wireless connection and computer equipment. Determine whether or not you have the resources to work remotely if it becomes necessary.
  • Make sure you have downloaded and know how to use Zoom, both as a meeting organizer and meeting participant. Instructions are available here. Zoom can be used for synchronous class meetings.

Faculty Zoom licenses allow up to 300 participants in a meeting at one time, and all meetings have a phone-in option if a Zoom meeting participant does not have a computer microphone or webcam. We will share more details around the use of Zoom for large classes for faculty who are teaching courses with more than 300 students.

  • Begin planning now for how you will deliver course content or course sessions using Canvas and Zoom. Evaluate your syllabi for necessary adjustments to assignments, assessments or deadlines; decide how you will use tools already integrated into your course; and determine how you will communicate and interact regularly with students utilizing Canvas. In the event of a public health disruption of university teaching, please be prepared to revise your plans based on the point of the term in which the disruption occurs.

A faculty guide to remote teaching will be available very shortly, and will include additional information about requirements, resources and support. Also, a faculty help center will be available in real time during any suspension of face-to-face classes. Please note that fully-online classes provided through Ecampus should continue as planned and that Ecampus student support services will continue to be available.

We understand that this is a challenging situation and will take extra effort by all. I appreciate your commitment to continue providing our students with the education they desire and deserve, while also keeping the university community safe and well.

More information and links to OSU’s new “Keep Teaching” website will be provided soon.


Edward Feser
Provost and Executive Vice President