Impact on Universities

Covid-19 discussion, bring your own statistics
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Bird on a Fire
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Sep 02, 2020 2:05 pm

Recommendations for future university pandemic responses: What the first COVID-19 shutdown taught us

Short article in PLoS Biology from three faculty from medical centers in the USA. Recommendations make interesting reading, especially the emphasis on human resources and internal communications.
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bolo
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by bolo » Wed Sep 02, 2020 6:26 pm

Radford University, with 12,000 students, is located in Radford, Virginia, population 16,000. In-person classes for the Fall semester started in mid August. The town of Radford is now number 4 on the New York Times list of U.S. Covid hotspots, with 1,529 new cases reported in the past week.

James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, started in-person classes last week. They now have 601 active cases. They decided yesterday to move to online classes after all.

Reopening U.S. universities at this point is absolutely inexcusable.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by jimbob » Wed Sep 02, 2020 7:49 pm

bolo wrote:
Wed Sep 02, 2020 6:26 pm
Radford University, with 12,000 students, is located in Radford, Virginia, population 16,000. In-person classes for the Fall semester started in mid August. The town of Radford is now number 4 on the New York Times list of U.S. Covid hotspots, with 1,529 new cases reported in the past week.

James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, started in-person classes last week. They now have 601 active cases. They decided yesterday to move to online classes after all.

Reopening U.S. universities at this point is absolutely inexcusable.
Don't forget Georgia

https://twitter.com/bradfowd1/status/13 ... 6557431809
Newest COVID numbers from ⁦
@universityofga
⁩. Over 800 people at UGA with positive COVID test last week. that’s more than quadruple the week before. Central admin has known this all week & said nothing. They’re leaving us stumble along blindly. It’s unconscionable.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by lpm » Wed Sep 02, 2020 8:48 pm

Iowa.

University of Iowa 1,142 cases.

Iowa State University 503 cases
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by FlammableFlower » Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:54 am

What kind of measures have US unis put in place? I know of the measures my and other institutions are planning to put in place for the start of the new academic year here in the UK. It'd be interesting to know if we're more prepared and it might be ok or just pissing in the wind and going to see outbreaks coming in October.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by science_fox » Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:06 am

Despite having been 'open for research' for weeks without masks we're now going* to have mandatory Uni supplied masks in 'common spaces' which is one-way corridors where you don't meet anybody, but not labs where you do.

It's all a muddle.

*according to rumours of yesterday's meeting, to start on Monday, but not yet confirmed.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Sep 03, 2020 1:58 pm

I'm sure there's loads of these kinds of articles being shared at the moment, but just in case it's useful for any of the instructors here - came across an (open-access) lit review on teaching quantitative courses online. (It has ecology in the article title, but the literature reviewed was much broader than that):

Teaching quantitative ecology online: An evidence‐based prescription of best practices
Miguel A. Acevedo wrote:Quantitative skills are becoming central to the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in ecology and evolutionary biology. While previous studies acknowledge that students perceive their quantitative training to be inadequate, there is little guidance on best practices. Moreover, with the recent COVID‐19 sudden transition to online learning, there is even less guidance on how to effectively teach quantitative ecology online. Here, I synthesize a prescription of pedagogical best practices for teaching quantitative ecology online based on a broad review of the literature on multiple quantitative disciplines. These best practices include the following: (1) design and implement the class to meet learning goals using online strategies specifically; (2) create an open, inclusive, and welcoming online environment that promotes a sense of learning community; (3) acknowledge the diversity of talents and learning strategies; (4) use real‐world examples and assessments; (5) account for gaps in knowledge; (6) emphasize the modeling cycle process; (7) focus on developing ideas rather than tools or procedures; (8) if needed, introduce computational tools thoroughly before combining them with mathematical or statistical concepts; (9) evaluate the course constantly; and (10) put your heart and soul into the class. I hope these practices help fellow instructors of quantitative ecology facing similar challenges in providing our students with the knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenges of the future.
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by bolo » Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:09 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:54 am
What kind of measures have US unis put in place? I know of the measures my and other institutions are planning to put in place for the start of the new academic year here in the UK. It'd be interesting to know if we're more prepared and it might be ok or just pissing in the wind and going to see outbreaks coming in October.
The only answer I can give is that it varies. Some are simply not opening except for remote learning. Some are opening with what seems like not a lot of precautions -- and then sometimes closing again a few days later when that's an obvious disaster. Some are mostly doing remote learning with only a few things in person. For example, the U of Texas, where I did my PhD, says that 76% of class seats this semester will be online, 19% will be hybrid, 5% will be fully in person.

Pretty much all seem to be doing some amount of Covid testing for students and staff, but that varies widely too. The most extreme I know of is MIT, where I was an undergrad, which is requiring Covid 2 tests per week for anyone who will be on campus. Most are not doing anything like that, though.

Most seem to have a Covid dashboard webpage with cases and test stats updated daily, if you want to grab some popcorn and follow along with the shitshow.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by bob sterman » Thu Sep 03, 2020 8:09 pm

bolo wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:09 pm
Pretty much all seem to be doing some amount of Covid testing for students and staff, but that varies widely too. The most extreme I know of is MIT, where I was an undergrad, which is requiring Covid 2 tests per week for anyone who will be on campus. Most are not doing anything like that, though.

Most seem to have a Covid dashboard webpage with cases and test stats updated daily, if you want to grab some popcorn and follow along with the shitshow.
I haven't heard about any UK universities planning to do any testing on campus - and I haven't seen anything like a dashboard either.

So the virus will be able to circulate freely among students during the first few weeks of term without anyone noticing - until staff members in risk groups start winding up in hospital.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by monkey » Thu Sep 03, 2020 8:38 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:54 am
What kind of measures have US unis put in place? I know of the measures my and other institutions are planning to put in place for the start of the new academic year here in the UK. It'd be interesting to know if we're more prepared and it might be ok or just pissing in the wind and going to see outbreaks coming in October.
My place is seems to be being sensible as they can be and we've had 9 cases since opening (out of about 10,000, two weeks). There was ~70 students who couldn't turn up because they tested positive before arriving on campus (staff and students need a negative test to return/arrive). Measures include masks on campus inside and out, random testing, a daily symptom checker, and a voluntary track and trace app EDIT: isolation dorms for positives too. Teaching is mostly online, with just enough that overseas students are still eligible for their visas (but I think they mostly didn't turn up, regardless). Some classes have been postponed.

Down the road and down the other road, there are two larger universities that have circa 1000 cases in about the same time. They actually have pretty similar measures put in place (one of them is part of the same state system), but if the reporting is to believed, the outbreaks were due to extra curricular activities (going out and getting drunk and stupid, sometimes with the encouragement of parents). I'm not sure what the universities can do about that, apart from asking people firmly not to do it, but the cities involved shut all the bars and one of them banned all alcohol sales.

If anyone likes that sort of thing, the NYT is tracking cases: clicky, However, there are significant differences between how or what different colleges are reporting and I don't think that is handled well by the NYT. For example, some universities with teaching hospitals are including hospital staff since the start of the year, which get summed up by the NYT, even if the school reports students, staff, and hospital staff separately (UAB in Alabama topped the list for a while because of this, despite only having 5 student cases after one week of opening).

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Gfamily » Fri Sep 04, 2020 8:09 pm

Mandatory TAxkdcFT
https://xkcd.com/2355/
My avatar was a scientific result that was later found to be 'mistaken' - I rarely claim to be 100% correct
ETA 5/8/20: I've been advised that the result was correct, it was the initial interpretation that needed to be withdrawn
Meta? I'd say so!

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by snoozeofreason » Fri Sep 04, 2020 8:18 pm

Independent Sage have just released a consultation document advising that online teaching should be the default for universities. Press release here, and full report here.
Independent SAGE challenges UUK’s position that students should be offered “significant in-person teaching” on the basis that in-person modes of delivery carry the most risk of transmission (prolonged interactions in enclosed indoor spaces). They are also the most disruptive for staff and student planning and workload intensity alongside off-on lockdown measures, Covid-19 infection, isolation, and sickness.

We recommend maximizing the remote delivery of and participation in degree programmes for all but lab-based or practice-based programmes and/or student/staff support services that cannot be delivered online, with semester-by-semester or term-by-term review points, planned well ahead.
It probably comes too late though, because both universities and students will have made plans that are difficult to alter at this stage.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by bolo » Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:18 pm

No plans should be too difficult to alter. There are lots of U.S. universities that opened for a week and then said nope this isn't right and went over to all online after all. Sucks, but if you gotta do it, you gotta do it.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:53 am

I expect that all the planning processes thus far have included the obvious "plan B" for "What happens if there's an outbreak locally?", so it's more a case of shifting the focus from as-close-to-normality-as-possible to lockdown-except-where-presence-is-absolutely-unavoidable (e.g. labs).
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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by bolo » Sat Sep 05, 2020 2:09 am

Next Wednesday the House Science Committee will have a hearing on the impact of COVID-19 on (U.S.) university research. Starts at 11:30am U.S. Eastern time, aka 4:30pm UK time. Video stream and written materials here once it starts. (All you'll find there until then is the list of witnesses.)

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by snoozeofreason » Sat Sep 05, 2020 8:46 am

bolo wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:18 pm
No plans should be too difficult to alter. There are lots of U.S. universities that opened for a week and then said nope this isn't right and went over to all online after all. Sucks, but if you gotta do it, you gotta do it.
There are two separate questions here. Whether universities could change their plans, and whether they would do so purely in response to pressure, applied this late in the day, from the unions and from Independent Sage.

There is a lot of inertia to overcome. Part of that comes from universities, who stand to lose a significant amounts money in accommodation fees, sales of from their retail outlets etc., if students aren't on campus. Part of it comes from students themselves, many of whom are quite keen to get away from their parents, and some of whom already have taken up residence at uni.

If the union had been plugging away at this since the spring, they'd have had a much better chance of influencing policy, but until recently they seem to have been concentrating on other issues. My pessimistic guess is that we will go back to some degree of in-person teaching for a while, then universities will pivot to online teaching. The unions will have the satisfaction of saying "Told you so!" but it will all have come a bit late.
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 1:53 am
I expect that all the planning processes thus far have included the obvious "plan B" for "What happens if there's an outbreak locally?", so it's more a case of shifting the focus from as-close-to-normality-as-possible to lockdown-except-where-presence-is-absolutely-unavoidable (e.g. labs)
Yes, the one that I work at has such a policy. In most cases - from a pedagogic point of view - it's going to be easy to execute because we will be doing some online teaching anyway, and all that is necessary is to shift all of the teaching to that medium. As far as the stuff I teach goes, moving to plan B is going to make life much easier. Teaching online will be easy , but finding things that we can usefully do in-person, while keeping one metre away from the students we are teaching is a bit tricky.

Unfortunately the pedagogic point of view isn't the only point of view, so I am a bit resigned to having to go in and teach in-person, at least for a while. I'm not happy about it, because I am not in the first flush of youth, Mrs. S is even older, and both of us have elderly relatives to think about.
Last edited by snoozeofreason on Sat Sep 05, 2020 8:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by snoozeofreason » Sat Sep 05, 2020 8:47 am

Duplicate post. Sorry I keep doing that. Like I said, I am not in the first flush of youth.
Last edited by snoozeofreason on Sat Sep 05, 2020 8:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by snoozeofreason » Sat Sep 05, 2020 8:48 am

Arrgh! Triplicate post!
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by shpalman » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:39 am

shpalman wrote:
Fri Jun 12, 2020 2:53 pm
There was a very strange proposal for how teaching would work here in September.

Normally a course consists of about 8 hours of "frontal" (i.e. a teacher standing in front of the students) time per week. Obviously with distancing rules we won't be able to get all the students (if there are more than, say, 40) in to the lecture hall at once, and some students may not even be able to get to Milan, but we can't just stay completely online, so the idea would be, instead of 8 hours of "frontal" lectures:

4 hours distance learning;
4 hours frontal lectures for half the students;
4 hours of the same frontal lectures for the other half of the students.

I am not sure what sense that makes.

At least my specialist masters' course had few enough students that I think it could all be done in the normal way.
My institution continues to assume that this is what will happen when term starts in just over a week. The students last term apparently appreciated everything being online but the institution insists that there's some benefit in everyone being physically in the same room.

As I said, my masters' course which usually has 10-12 students in the room* won't suffer from this issue of me having to teach the course 1.5 times, but all the lecture rooms will be set up to have cameras so that students who can't come to Milan can follow along at home anyway. Which leads me to wonder if we wouldn't all just prefer to stay at home. I have three hours to teach on Wednesdays which actually takes me out of the lab in Como for a total of seven hours so rather ruins the whole day. (The situation may improve if the trains resume normal service, but at best by about half an hour at each end.) Mondays and Thursdays will just ruin my afternoon/evening.

We don't know how many students we'll have until we show up, basically, because term starts before the students officially sign up for courses. If I show up to the first lecture and there's nobody there because they're all watching via webcam then I'll just do it online from home.

I don't know how the new Webex-based system works, because last term it was Microsoft Teams and the exams were in Zoom, but there will be online and in-room training next week which I'll take advantage of.

* - the students need to choose two options out of about nine available courses, and there are about 60-70 students doing the masters in Physics Engineering in the direction of materials/solid state (rather than nuclear physics for example), and every year there's a discussion about why the options don't all have more than 15 students. Adding 50% of the hours for larger courses has led to a very full timetable but at least this lets the students choose the options they want rather than having everything clashing, as it tended to do in previous years.
molto tricky

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by FlammableFlower » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:41 am

For my subject to go fully online will require our accrediting body to drop its requirements for taught hours in a lab. We're already pushing the boundaries in a big way by including computational chemistry in those hours and they can be done remotely with live online support.

I know of another institution (they must be heavily staffed) that is planning to have some staff as "online only" to begin with so they are available to back-fill if face-to-face staff get ill but teaching continues...

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by shpalman » Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:46 am

... also, there's an initiative here to do antibody "screening" on school teachers and there's been some discussion about whether this applies to university workers. But I'm not actually sure what it would really achieve anyway.
molto tricky

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by bob sterman » Sat Sep 05, 2020 11:00 am

FlammableFlower wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:41 am
I know of another institution (they must be heavily staffed) that is planning to have some staff as "online only" to begin with so they are available to back-fill if face-to-face staff get ill but teaching continues...
Bit like support trenches? Send the next wave over the top when the first wave get mown down. Lovely.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by bob sterman » Sat Sep 05, 2020 11:03 am

shpalman wrote:
Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:46 am
... also, there's an initiative here to do antibody "screening" on school teachers and there's been some discussion about whether this applies to university workers. But I'm not actually sure what it would really achieve anyway.
Here at my university in the UK there's no initiative to do any testing of any sort. Also no requirement to wear masks indoors - except where you can't stay >2m apart or in the campus shops and food outlets.

So people can share offices all day, or run long tutorials/seminars with nobody in a mask.

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by snoozeofreason » Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:19 pm

The official SAGE group (i.e. not the independent one) has also published its guidance.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.u ... ation_.pdf

It advises reducing in-person interaction, but stops short of doing the obvious thing and suggesting that students and staff should only interact in-person if they have to.

Its predictions for the rest of the year don't look encouraging.
HE collectively creates a large number of connections within universities and communities and across the UK with considerable international links. A critical risk is a large number of infected students seeding outbreaks across the UK, influencing national transmission. With current virus prevalence and spatial heterogeneity there is a small risk of this at the beginning of term. However, if there is substantial amplification of infection in HE settings there is a more substantial risk at the end of term. Epidemic modelling within HE institutions suggests that large outbreaks are possible over a time period of weeks, so could peak towards the end of the term. Peak health impacts of these new infections and outbreaks they spark would coincide with the Christmas and New Year period posing a significant risk to both extended families and local communities (high confidence).
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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Re: Impact on Universities

Post by FlammableFlower » Thu Sep 10, 2020 5:51 pm

So new government guidance to unis. Students aren't allowed to go home in the event of an outbreak on campus regardless of their own exposure/proximity. They are to be subject to the 'rule of 6' (that'll be fun in accommodation with >6 people in) but the uni is expected to facilitate socializing.
There's a set of 'tiers' describing the severity of any outbreak which rapidly gets you back to no face to face teaching unless it's a medical/clinical course.

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