COVID-19: Preparing for Continuity of Academic Programming
POCs: Please forward this information to graduate student instructors
Dear Colleagues,

In light of the quickly evolving situation surrounding COVID-19 (coronavirus) , Provost Zhang has requested that all Stony Brook University colleges, schools, and programs prepare for a scenario that calls for offering classes online as early as March 23, the week following our spring break. At this time, preparation is for readiness purposes only. Our guiding principle is to provide continuity of academic programming and maintain progress for student learning outcomes in the event that campus closure becomes necessary.  Our goal is to make sure that students’ academic work is smoothly transitioned and fairly assessed and that any disruption does not present a disadvantage to their future academic progress.

University Deans will be meeting on Monday, March 9 to discuss coordinated strategies for these preparations. In addition, CAS department chairs have been invited to a video conference meeting on Monday, March 5 at 5:00 pm EDT to receive updates and bring forward questions they have received.

Provost Zhang has requested that all faculty instructors begin preparing how to go online. Options for facilitating programming continuity include, but are not limited to:

  • Distance Learning, including ‘low-interaction’ activities with connections via phone/conferencing systems such as SkypeZoom or Webex and exchange of work via Blackboard and/or email (see additional information regarding Blackboard resources below)
  • Independent Study, including individual students or groups of students, for both online and residential
  • Experiential Learning, including simulated/virtual experiences
  • Online Learning, including a belated launch of online courses not currently offered this semester; this option could be considered for both campus courses and for study abroad courses
  • Assigning an “Incomplete” grade with the opportunity to complete course requirements in conjunction with a future section of the course, without requiring registration and payment
 
CELT will offer training sessions to faculty and staff about uploading content to Blackboard and teaching online. Please visit CELT's  Keep Teaching website .  Starting this or next week, CELT staff will be available to answer questions by email, phone, and live online with extended evening hours. CELT is also working on adding new collaboration and video solutions to enhance our remote teaching capabilities.  

Also, Blackboard will be hosting a related webinar on Tuesday, March 10, “ Preparing to scale online teaching and learning during Coronavirus . ” The session will provide suggested practices and share experiences from other institutions who have transitioned to online during times of crisis. Please register via the link above.

Graduate TAs should consult with their supervisor/lead instructor for guidance about managing sections in this transition. Instructors should make every effort to make sure students are not disadvantaged by lack of access to computers or any other online resources, and should work with both DoIT and CELT to address any issues.

Be aware that Governor Cuomo has declared a state of emergency in NY state.
Non-essential travel should be delayed and rescheduled. Note that some events scheduled this week have already been postponed. In addition, p lease be prepared to cancel our
on-campus recruitment events starting the week after the spring break, and work to develop replacement programming that provides an innovative and compelling virtual experience for our newly admitted students.

See additional notes on Research based Reimbursement Processes below.

Lastly, a survey will be sent to all faculty on Monday in order to gather information about online capabilities. We ask that you complete the survey as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your cooperation and your good work in this very difficult moment. We will continue to proactively provide you with information and updates as we receive them. Please direct any questions as this time to casdeansbu@stonybrook.edu .

With appreciation,
Nicole
Guidance Regarding Previously Arranged Travel on Sponsored Awards

Below is from the Office of Grants Management. Keep in mind the following:

  • RF has to follow the rules. If NIH or NSF for example says you cannot charge expenditures to a grant for a meeting that wasn't attended (regardless of the reason) since there was no benefit to the research, then RF legally has to comply. What you can do is to contact the sponsor (e.g. your program officer) and ask for permission to do it. If they comply and provide this response in writing, RF will happily permit it.
  • Do your best to contact airlines, hotels, etc., to refund your money. Although the odds are against success, it sometimes may work.

From the Office of Grants Management:
In light of the unique circumstances presented by COVID-19 virus with respect to previously arranged travel reservations, OVPR offers the following guidance for travel on externally sponsored awards.

This guidance reflects current information from federal funding agencies which indicates that award recipients should continue to follow all relevant policies and procedures and to apply these practices consistently. As new information becomes available, we will disseminate to our research community.

As a reminder all travelers are strongly urged to purchase refundable airline tickets when making travel arrangements, so that if or when a trip is cancelled, the only cost incurred would be the potential cancellation fees. Unused nonrefundable airline tickets cannot be charged to sponsored awards.  

If nonrefundable tickets were purchased, every effort should be made to obtain a credit for the cancelled travel with the respective carrier. If the airline carrier agrees to a credit, and an alternate directly related travel event can utilize the credit within the active award period, the cost can be included in the travel reimbursement request for that trip. 

If travel arrangements were made through Euro Lloyd, contact them immediately to determine what options may be available through their services.

In the instance where the respective carrier will not issue a refund or when a credit cannot be used for other related research travel, Principal Investigator's should seek approval for reimbursement from the sponsor, specifically from the financial official for their sponsored award.  This approval from the sponsor should clearly articulate that the charges for the cost of tickets and/or associated fees related to the cancellation are allowable.  
Blackboard resources to help you plan during Coronavirus

Blackboard has developed some resources that you can leverage in your planning:
  • Bookmark this Blog, “Sharing Coronavirus Contingency Planning Best Practice” - guides and upcoming webinars to help with your planning. This blog will be updated as more resources are available.
  • Drop-In Office Hours” will be available to answer technical questions about preparing for scaling your online presence during this time. Anyone is welcome to join the session that most suits you.
  1. Most suitable for Asia Pacific clients – Friday March 6: 12pm AEDT
  2. Most suitable for European, Latin American, Middle Eastern and North American clients – Friday, March 6: 9am EST | 2pm GMT
  3. Most suitable for North American clients – Friday, March 6: 12pm EST