K-State Keep Teaching initiative readied university for COVID-19 closures

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As social distancing becomes the norm while the novel coronavirus spreads across the United States, K-State will provide online education exclusively for the remainder of the semester. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

As concerns about the novel coronavirus began to spread across the United States in early March, Kansas State was formulating a plan to prepare for the possibility of the suspension of in-person courses.

What started simply as a website is now the way forward as K-State intends to teach exclusively online for the remainder of the spring semester.

The Keep Teaching initiative, which is overseen by Provost Charles Taber, is meant to be a resource for students and faculty “during this time of disruption so that the university can maintain quality educational experiences,” Global Campus dean Karen Pedersen and executive director for program development at the Global Campus Katie Linder said in a joint email.

It was formally established on March 6 with the development of the Academic Continuity Working Group made up of leaders from the Student Access Center, the Office of Student Life, various colleges and other campus offices.

While the program has not been used at K-State in the past, it’s not necessarily a new idea. The foundation for the initiative was laid years ago when academic continuity became a topic of conversation in higher education communities.

“Academic continuity initiatives can be triggered by a range of disruptive events including natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes or wildfires, man-made disasters such as terrorist actions, and/or public health emergencies such as what we are encountering now with COVID-19,” Pedersen and Linder said via joint email.

Linder said the Keep Teaching website currently has over 765 individuals “actively participating” in the development from across the country.

“We are excited by how quickly faculty and higher education professionals are coming together to share resources and ideas on academic continuity. This community is providing support to people all over the world,” Linder said.

The transition to online-only education was smoothed in part by the existence of the Global Campus. Today, the online university offers more than 100 programs that are exclusively completed online. The availability of diverse technology also helped, Linder and Pedersen said. Beyond just using Canvas, instructors also have access to Zoom, Office 365 and other softwares and programs that support educational communication.

“This effort is much bigger than any single unit at the university,” Pedersen said. “It is incredible how individuals from across the university have come together to focus on a full range of issues surrounding academic continuity. Through the creativity of our faculty, the experience of our staff and the diligence of our students, we are leveraging the strengths of our community to continue K-State’s educational mission even in this time of disruption.”

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My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.