When UW-Madison closed campus in March, 8,000 classes were converted to remote learning. Thirteen days later, 97.5% of classes were online. Closure was a heavy lift, but reopening is a much bigger lift.
UW-Madison faces similar challenges we all are due to the pandemic. Revenue streams are slim, PPE expenses are increasing, and the environment is constantly changing making planning and budgeting difficult. All plans must remain responsive to best serve students, employees and the community.
Currently, UW-Madison will use a hybrid teaching model, blending small-group in-person teaching with virtual teaching for large classes. The class schedule will include classes in the evening, Fridays and Saturdays to keep students physically distanced and classrooms clean. Students will be required to take a pledge to adhere to hygiene protocols (masks, hand sanitization, temp checks, testing, social distancing) and faculty may take disciplinary measures should a student resist complying. Employees must also adhere to these protocols and workstations and work hours have been adjusted to reduce interaction.
UW-Madison is engaged in 320 approved or pending COVID-19 research projects to explore the virus and its impacts. One project is seeking to understand how and why the virus has localized mutations; for example, a strain in Madison is different from that in San Diego. This can help understand if an outbreak is due to community spread or travel into the community.
The university is facing a $150 million budget shortfall, and that’s if a full student body matriculates and pays expected tuition. There will be a long road to financial recovery, and it could be even longer should state support for higher education decrease. Nonetheless, Chancellor Blank is optimistic about the future. “Technology doesn’t replace in-person, live experiences. However, we will be teaching better after this for incorporating technology more fully in the classroom.”
Our thanks to Chancellor Rebecca Blank for her presentation this week and to Emily Gruenewald for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/VhwzjUvPtIM.