(710a) Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic at Michigan Technological University | AIChE

(710a) Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic at Michigan Technological University


Agrawal, P. K. - Presenter, Georgia Institute of Technology
Collins, J., Michigan Technological University
Rickard, K. A., Equistar Chemicals, LP, A Lyondell Company
Rogers, T. N., Michigan Technological University
Very few could have imagined that in early 2020 the novel coronavirus would upend the normal life (including academia) in the US. During the 2020 spring break, it was decided that students would not return to campus, and that all classes would be taught remotely for the remainder of the spring term. The campus was shut down in the third week of March 2020, with no access to offices and other campus facilities. Most research laboratories were also shuttered. This shutdown presented several challenges both at the administration level and at the academic unit level. Very few faculty members had the knowledge and experience of teaching an on-line course. With no historical precedent to guide a situation like this, the academic community had to adjust and adapt quickly. A decision was made to offer classes in blended mode (i.e., in-person + remote) for the 2020-2021 academic year. The efforts during summer 2020 included (i) training faculty for online teaching, (ii) scheduling courses in blended mode while following the CDC safety protocols, and (iii) making special provisions for teaching the Unit Operations Laboratory courses while still preserving hands-on experiential learning. Both the UO Laboratory and capstone senior design courses also overcame the challenge of holding help/review and presentation sessions for student teams. The efforts across the curriculum were made to accommodate students who required isolation because of symptoms or possible exposure to COVID-19 and to provide remote access to design software. Overall, it has been nothing less than a Herculean effort to pull this off successfully. This presentation will share the challenges and operational details and provide insights into those changes that will become permanent enhancements to the program.