NEWPORT, R.I. -- The U.S. Naval War College has transitioned all lectures and seminars for its 600 in-residence students to the online realm, in addition to postponing events, conferences and ceremonies in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
The college also has suspended all official travel and limited military members to taking personal leave only within the local area, in accordance with Department of Defense guidelines.
Additionally, the college is advocating social-distancing strategies such as preventing gatherings of more than 10 people, implementing widespread telework and conducting all meetings by videoconference. As of Tuesday, 57% of the college’s telework-eligible employees were working remotely, surpassing the week's original goal of 50%, and officials said the figure will soon go even higher.
“We have seen a tremendous response from our faculty, staff and students during this transition period,” said Rear Adm. Shoshana S. Chatfield, Naval War College president.
“I’m so impressed by how quickly each department was able to put into place these social-distancing measures, which help not just the college but our local community, as well. We have a very experienced faculty who are well supported by our talented staff,” she said. “I admire the team effort to accomplish preparations and complete training so that we can maintain our academic schedule while transitioning to telework.”
The college has quickly moved to embrace the virtual classroom for all students, adapting practices already being used by the institution’s College of Distance Education.
“There's been a tremendous amount of work done already to keep our education readiness and fleet engagement quality,” Chatfield said in a March 16 email to the command.
Chatfield also emphasized her concern for the health and emotional well-being of students, faculty and staff. “Throughout our nation, and worldwide, there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the course of this virus. As our physical distance increases, please look for ways to stay connected and check in with each other,” she wrote.
As of Monday, recorded lectures are being delivered through an intranet platform. This effort will include more than 40 lectures during the current trimester, said Dean of Academics Phil Haun.
For seminars, students are being introduced to the “virtual classroom” through a program that allows each person in a 12-person seminar to appear on camera via a laptop computer or tablet and speak in real time to the group.
“So far, the word I’ve been getting back is success. It’s not the same thing as being in a classroom, but it is far better than not being able to hold class at all,” Haun said. “Our faculty are quickly learning how to adapt and improve, as well as our students.”
Amanda Rosen, associate director of the college’s Teaching Excellence Center, has held impromptu workshops on virtual teaching for faculty members.
Haun said that the college is working to make sure the educational process is not disrupted, despite the extra safety precautions required.
“Our No. 1 objective is to keep our people safe. And the No. 2 objective is to graduate our students in June with a master’s degree,” Haun said.
The college is following Naval Station Newport’s Health Protection Condition Bravo guidelines, which call for no handshaking and increased cleaning of surfaces in common areas.
If a member of the college believes he or she has been exposed to COVID-19, that person should notify the chain of command. Additional protocols, including restriction of movement, will be considered if necessary.
“I am very confident that we are well ahead in implementing such safeguards,” Chatfield told the college. “We will continue to emphasize social distancing and teleworking to our maximum ability.”
More on the COVID-19 coronavirus: https://www.usnwc.edu/News-and-Events/News/Coronavirus-What-You-Should-Know