Students in Duke Kunshan’s master of science in global health program (M.Sc.GH) received the following information on email from Lijing Yan, director of graduate studies, M.Sc.GH, on Feb. 2.
As you know, the date to resume school has been postponed from Feb. 3 to Feb. 17 and then to Feb. 24, with the possibility to change again in the future.
The nature of the virus and health risk makes it difficult for us to make a definitive plan, but we are moving forward with a plan for your studies over the next few months. In making this plan, we had a number of objectives, including maintaining the quality of your learning and education as best as possible, continuing to support a collaborative team environment, and allowing you to remain on a schedule to graduate or to begin your fieldwork in May 2020.
With that in mind, we spell out the plan below. Such a plan has received unanimous support from all DKU global health faculty members and approval from our DKU and Duke graduate school leaders. We thank our senior program coordinator Shuyu Guan and all first-year students for submitting information regarding their location, willingness for remote learning, access to Sakai, and their home environment for internet via WeChat, which was helpful for us when making this plan.
Online learning with synchronous weekly live sessions for first-year students
With the week of Feb. 3-7 as a pilot week and to formally begin from Monday Feb. 10, all DKU-based courses for first-year students will resume in the following format: Faculty members will distribute course learning materials suitable for online learning via Sakai or other media for students to study on their own according to a faculty-specified schedule.
Shuyu Guan will work with all faculty and students to re-schedule a weekly live synchronous session for each course. The session will focus on essential and difficult learning points, Q&A, online interactions and discussions, and other issues. We recommend at least one weekly session per course at a fixed time, lasting 45 to 90 minutes (to be determined by each instructor).
As our students are in three time zones, these sessions will most likely be early morning or evening time for China/Indonesia/United States. We appreciate the cooperation from all instructors and students to remain flexible to these odd times for learning.
These sessions will rely on WebEx, Zoom, Skype or WeChat in this order of preference. Duke/DKU IT is preparing guidelines and how-to files for faculty and students, and we expect to receive them soon. However, please understand that IT support may be limited and different from usual times, and we ask for your tolerance, patience and ingenuity when needed. We realize that a few students may have connection difficulties, and we encourage instructors and the students with support from other students work out alternative ways of learning and participation.
In addition to online learning and synchronous sessions, faculty members will remain available for virtual office hours via email, WeChat or other means jointly determined by faculty and students for each course.
We will keep this learning format until it is safe for all of us to return to the DKU campus, as determined by the DKU Emergency Preparedness Task Force. We expect that we can finish this semester according to the original schedule or with a one-week delay at most.
Although you can expect that the online delivery of courses will feel different to face-to-face delivery, one is not necessarily better than the other. We are fortunate to have the faculty, staff, and your support that allows this as an option – the best we can have in the circumstances.
Fieldwork, thesis and graduation, and moving forward
We encourage each student to work closely with their primary fieldwork supervisor (first-year students) or thesis supervisor (second-year students) to keep making progress in preparation for his or her fieldwork or theses.
We recommend weekly online individual video/voice/teleconferences starting from the week of Feb. 3 for as long as necessary.
It is likely that location, time and format of defenses for second-year students may be affected. We have not reached a decision regarding these details yet. We will discuss and share with you our decisions as soon as possible.
Graduation (commencement ceremony in May) for second-years and the semester at Duke in the fall for first-years remain unaffected unless it is necessary for us to make changes as the epidemic unfolds.
We will monitor the situation closely and keep in frequent communications with all of you about the return to campus for reconnection, engagement and face-to-face learning.
This has been a shock to us all, and it requires a great deal of flexibility from faculty, staff and all of you as we move forward. This email has covered a lot but there will be unanswered issues for sure. Please feel free to get in touch with Lijing Yan, Shuyu Guan, your supervisor or course instructor any time with questions or concerns.
This outbreak has solemnly reminded all of us of the threat of emerging new infectious diseases, the difficulties in preventing and controlling them, and the need for multidisciplinary and multifaceted measures in overcoming them.
The silver lining in this event is that the importance of global health – something very familiar to all of us – has become more apparent to many more people. We hope that from this outbreak, along with the unfortunate physical and mental sicknesses, deaths, and social and economic losses, comes learning and growth for a better and healthier world.