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The Robertson School shifts to online learning for students

Mar 17, 2020

Posted in: News

By Marcus Messner, Ph.D., Interim Director



Dear Robertson School students, 

I hope you and your families are doing well amidst all of the news about the Coronavirus pandemic. Please read this statement carefully. It outlines how we will move forward as a School in the weeks ahead.

As you know, VCU announced that Spring Break has been extended until March 22. Starting on Monday, March 23, all classes will be taught remotely for the foreseeable future. This additional time is giving our professors the ability to prep for the new online environment. 

In fact, the Robertson School's Administrative Team and a new Robertson School Online Teaching Task Force are working hard to ensure a successful transition in our school. VCU's ALTLab is also training professors from all departments across campus. So, please know that everyone here in the Robertson School will be doing their best, and that you are our top priority.

Here's the plan for our School:

What's our goal? We will continue to provide a high quality college education for you through this transition and the end of this semester. There might be hiccups at the beginning, but we will get through them together. We know that some students are OK with online learning, and other choose face to face. We will keep everyone’s best interests in mind throughout this transition. It is our commitment to be flexible and to work with you to ensure the best learning experience possible given the circumstances. We are in this together!

How can you prepare?  VCU has asked students to remain off campus after Spring Break. Please follow that instruction, and prepare set up your own learning environment at home. Our instructors are expecting you to be set up in a home learning environment with a computer, Internet access and a phone. Heading the guidance of VCU and other health thought leaders, we will not expect you to do any work that puts your health at risk. Accordingly, please do not organize class related in-person events, study groups, or gatherings with your classmates, or any other group activity that might put the health of the community at risk.

When will our online classes launch? Our classes will re-launch right after the extended Spring Break on Monday, March 23. They will all be 100% online. All your professors have been asked to communicate with you by Friday, March 20, and outline the path forward for your class. Please be patient and give them this week to prepare these plans before sending them questions.

What does remote instruction look like? Based on those plans, we'll move forward. You can expect one of two options for each of your classes in the Robertson School. Your class will either be in real-time (via live stream) at the time the class is scheduled. Or the class will be moved to an asynchronous format in which course content and assignments are posted on Blackboard at the beginning of the week and you will work on your own time. We have encouraged professors to consider a flexible model that will permit students in all kinds of unique situations to continue in the course without issues. Your professor will decide how this will work for your specific class and will let you know which set-up and technology you will use for your class moving forward.  

How about our Robertson School computer labs and classrooms? Our labs and classrooms are closed. You cannot come to the labs to do classwork or retrieve previously stored work. We have removed door access at this point and notes are posted on all doors. Your professors are aware of this and have made adjustments accordingly.

What about students who have internship requirements?  If you are currently in an internship that’s been canceled, put on hold or changed in any way, don’t panic. You will receive additional instructions from our internship coordinator who will work with you on a recovery plan.

How about software? The biggest challenge we have right now is Adobe Cloud access which only permits you to login on campus under our Enterprise account. However, Adobe has made the transfer possible. and VCU is working on a solution that we hope will happen soon. If you usually work with Adobe products in your class, please be patient. Professors have been asked to have an alternative plan for the software and your class setup. Updates will be provided to you when available.

How do you get help?  Here are some important and very valuable resources for you from VCU's ALTLab. Please make sure to review them. 

How do we communicate remotely? A lot of communication will happen via email and Blackboard. But VCU is also encouraging our professors to make use of Zoom, a videoconferencing application. Please familiarize yourself with Zoom now and get a free account. 

How about the VCU academic calendar? The revised calendar for the semester is available here. 

What about the Robertson School front office and Student Services Center?  Our front office and our Student Services Center are closed. The Temple Building is locked and can only be accessed by authorized personnel. Our faculty and staff are teleworking at this point and you can reach everyone in the School via email.

Please note that this page will be updated frequently in addition to emails sent to you directly. Please follow announcements from the university in the days and weeks ahead.

Lastly, we encourage you to please do your best to stay healthy. The reason this move to online is happening is to help slow the spread of a highly contagious virus. Do your part by staying at home as much as possible and washing your hands frequently. Please stay positive and know that we are here as a resource for you.

Go Rams!

Marcus Messner, Ph.D., Interim Director

March 17, 2020