The following message was sent to the Drexel community on April 10.
Dear Students and Colleagues,
This week, Drexel took its first steps on the path toward becoming a virtual university — an experience that we will learn much from and, ultimately, will strengthen our institution. We’re pleased that those steps have been steady and, for the most part, successful, and we want to reflect on this new chapter in the proud history of our University.
The hallmark of the spring quarter and semester is the shift to online instruction for undergraduate, graduate and professional students, with an option to choose pass / no pass over traditional grading. Given mere weeks to prepare, our faculty and instructional technology team have done transformative work — enabling professors this week to conduct more than 3,200 course sessions that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, would have been taught face-to-face in a classroom or lab setting.
Highlights from the first few days include: a remarkably smooth virtual classroom experience for thousands new to this form of instruction, with positive feedback from students and faculty; and more than 100 laptops loaned out by Drexel IT to students, faculty, and professional staff to support their studies, teaching, research and administration while away from the campuses.
In addition, our faculty have offered help and best practices to their colleagues while working on their own courses. Adapting courses to remote teaching has been challenging, especially for hands-on, lab-based sessions. However, technological solutions have been deployed to meet that need where possible. As the term progresses, we will update information on the Remote Teaching site to provide additional guidance.
Not only are we teaching academic courses online, we’re taking the Rec Center into Drexel homes around the world with two-dozen free exercise classes each week at the Virtual Rec Center. With anywhere from 25 to 50 participants, attendance is greater than normally seen with in-person sessions. And introductory courses are being added for those new to structured fitness classes, and to the Zoom and Instagram platforms.
There was much more happening on our virtual campus this week and just prior to the start of spring term.
In March, we held a virtual Match Day, where fourth-year medical students excitedly learned where they will be headed for residency training following graduation. An online Commencement for the College of Medicine is also in the planning stages for late May.
At the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, a virtual video office is up and running during workdays, enabling community members to reach Dornsife Center representatives with any concerns — just one of a number of Dornsife offerings available remotely.
Research continues on a number of fronts, including COVID-19 health-related research and development, aided by $110,000 in funds donated to the newly created COVID-19 Innovation Fund. Researchers’ response has been so overwhelming that we have had to pause applications while working to secure additional funds, at which time new applications will be taken.
Our University’s role in helping the region cope with the pandemic is likely to grow, as we have offered space in Myers and Kelly halls for doctors, nurses and other health-care personnel working in the Philadelphia area. Students’ belongings are being packed carefully by our partners in University Student Services (who assist us with our first-year move-in process) and stored in Millennium Hall to enable individuals on the COVID-19 front lines to remain closer to their hospitals. All students who had belongings moved were notified before this step was taken. And, just as students, faculty and professional staff at the College of Medicine and College of Nursing and Health Professions donated masks and other personal protective equipment to the pandemic effort, scientists at the Academy of Natural Sciences scoured their labs and field supplies and gathered a range of much-needed PPE to donate to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.
Preparing for the spring quarter also meant coming to the aid of students who, due to emergency situations, needed financial help with traveling home and getting set up for remote learning. Drexel donors have contributed more than $150,000 for the Student Emergency Fund to aid in this effort.
We remain committed to providing personal assistance to students navigating their financial aid and billing during this time of uncertainty. While Drexel Central’s campus office is closed, representatives are no less accessible: Students can submit questions via AskDrexel, schedule one-on-one Zoom sessions on their My Success Team channel in DrexelOne, or speak to a Drexel Central representative at 215.895.1600.
Looking ahead, the Thomas R. Kline School of Law and College of Medicine will continue with remote learning for the entire summer semester due the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. The College of Medicine also will stay online through August 1 for first- and second-year MD students, while clinicals for third- and fourth-year medical students will remain virtual until clinics reopen. Graduate studies in Kline Law and the College of Medicine also will be remote. For details, students should check the academic calendar or with their program director.
International programs, including Study Abroad and Intensive Courses Abroad, will be cancelled for the summer quarter. For questions regarding these programs, please contact the Office of Global Engagement.
It is anticipated that all of the University’s quarter-based academic programs may remain remote for the summer term; however, this is being carefully evaluated and a decision will be announced no later than the end of April.
As always at this time of year, we’re building for the future by recruiting another highly accomplished incoming freshman class, launching a special website — Drexel.edu/moment — where admitted students can explore everything that Drexel has to offer, as well as confirm their attendance. Although it is still unclear how the COVID-19 crisis might impact the fall term, the University will launch the term on time.
While we move ahead with renewed confidence in our mission of teaching, research and service to our community, please continue to check Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus website, and follow health officials’ best advice on safeguarding yourself and your families.
We wish you a productive and engaging spring quarter and semester and hope that you and your families and friends are safe and well.
Helen Y. Bowman
Executive Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Operating Officer
Paul E. Jensen
Interim Nina Henderson Provost