Mention virus anywhere near a technology professional and the response is likely to be a cringe, followed by a series of questions: “Is your anti-virus software up to date?” “Are you playing safe on the Web?” “You’re not clicking on links in emails, are you?” Recently, though, higher education has been worried about a virus of the biological kind–H1N1.
I’ve overheard (on one listserv) more than a dozen colleges and universities discussing plans of how to keep their semesters going if droves of students are unable to make it to class, or told not to come to class to prevent the spread of swine flu.
One solution, or emergency response has technology coming to the rescue, sort of. No, your computer won’t make you better, but it might allow you to continue to conduct your classes at a distance. Here’s one example of a readiness strategy from the University of Oregon: <http://libweb.uoregon.edu/cmet/fluedtech.html>. They try to cover all the bases, from changing your syllabus, to widening the use of Blackboard, to re-thinking your face-to-face course as a hybrid.
In some cases, faculty will still be able to hold their classes and accommodate only a few students too ill to attend, but there just might be areas of the country that are so hard hit as to seriously affect semester completion. Are we (you) ready for that? Can you imagine how you might change your course organization and delivery to meet what the U of Oregon calls “radical adaptation,” particularly if you get sick? Perhaps the pandemic won’t materialize. After all, we remember the Y2K dud. But maybe we were safe, rather than sorry, because we were prepared. I’d start packing that teaching first-aid kit now.