Teleworking, Online Education, and Related COVID-19 Response
March 16, 2020
Dear University Community,
As communicated broadly last week, our campus remains open and we will be offering online instruction until further notice beginning next Monday, March 23, and potentially through the end of the semester. Spring break for students continues this week and will end on Sunday.
To assist with social distancing and to diminish transmission of the disease, we announced on Friday that we will be allowing telework on a temporary basis for all positions where such work is possible and feasible. We recognize that some jobs require a campus presence with varying amounts of time spent on-site. Unit leaders will decide which jobs can be performed remotely and which ones require a presence on campus. This is not an individual decision, but we are permitting and encouraging telework and remote work wherever possible.
Employees should fall into one of three categories. Category 1 is essential personnel who must report to campus; Category 2 is essential personnel who must be on-call or on standby to come to campus on short notice; and Category 3 is employees who can work remotely from home.
If you are an employee with childcare issues that will interfere with your work schedule—especially in light of the closure of area school systems—please let your supervisor know immediately so that we can explore possible options. These options may include telework, alternative hours, or other solutions. Again, these decisions will be made by unit leaders, based on specific situations. In addition, during this extraordinary time, please note that you may be asked to assist with duties outside your normal responsibilities as we transition to this online-only learning environment.
We have to be cognizant of the fact that one size does not fit all. No central mandate can possibly cover every situation in our complex university. We must rely on the good judgment and smart decision-making of our administrative and academic leaders. We rely on you to be creative, to be smart, and, most importantly, to be safe.
Each administrative and academic unit is asked to make decisions that allow the unit to continue to perform its functions for students, staff, faculty, and appropriate stakeholders. This transition to telework, where possible, will remain in effect until further notice.
We are looking at options for providing expanded technology that will help our faculty and staff work remotely—especially for individuals who work with highly confidential information that has FERPA and HIPAA restrictions. Our Information Technology Services team will be working with individual supervisors to explore options. As a minimum, employees should not store any confidential data on local computers, should not share passwords, and should not access confidential data or networks wirelessly from public locations.
Our faculty has been working on transitioning their classes to online. Much of that work will continue this week in order to be ready for next Monday’s transition to online. Our Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching has been working nonstop to prepare and has established resources to assist faculty and staff in delivering their courses online. This includes finding alternative means of instruction for laboratory courses, if required. Faculty members will continue to report to work, including teleworking, if feasible; however, you will not be required to maintain regular office hours for students.
We know our students will have more questions this week and as they prepare for online classes on March 23. Students are discouraged from congregating socially, both on and off campus; however, students may come to campus for essential needs like computer labs, the library, and food service. Students are encouraged to work directly with their instructor to determine the best mode of communication and appointment method (virtual appointment, email, phone, etc.).
I strongly encourage everyone to monitor the university’s expanded COVID-19 web page. It contains the most recent information available, including regular updates to our FAQ. Later this afternoon, we will begin distribution of a special edition of Inside Purdue Fort Wayne via email to all faculty, staff, and students. Issues will subsequently be published periodically, on an as-needed basis.
We have been gratified to see the exceptional levels of dedication, expertise, and focus that our university community has exhibited during the past week. Our different teams have gone the extra mile to tackle the Herculean tasks of ensuring the safety and well-being of our campus community, moving to an online-only class environment, and responding so effectively to a pandemic that is changing minute by minute.
I trust that we will continue to exhibit those unique characteristics and qualities that embody all university communities. As we continue to plan and execute our response to this complex and fluid global pandemic, let us be compassionate, supportive, and creative in developing our solutions—together.
On behalf of the administrative and academic leadership teams, I want to express our sincere appreciation for all that each of you is doing to keep our campus functioning so well during these extraordinary times.