Online teaching will require faculty to ‘get creative’


The remaining shared governance meetings will be hosted virtually for the rest of the semester as the University grapples with the global outbreak of the coronavirus or COVID-19.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced on March 11 that to prevent the spread of the virus, faculty will conduct their courses online and staff will have more flexibility with working remotely.

On-campus gatherings involving more than 25 people will be canceled or postponed. The University will remain open for faculty to use as needed.

Faculty Assembly, University Senate and Senate committee meetings will continue as scheduled but will now be hosted on conference calls or “other means of remote participation,” said Senate Council President Chris Bonneau. However, the annual Senate Plenary, scheduled for March 24, will be postponed to the fall semester.

Bonneau said the switch to online courses will require faculty to “get creative” with their classes. Certain courses may face unique challenges in accommodating for the transition.

“It's not easy. The faculty have been looking at ways to accommodate these special types of instruction, whether it's laboratory, music classes, theater classes,” Gallagher said. “This is not ideal, but we think we can manage it in such a way that we can do this.”

However, faculty won’t be left to figure out the transition on their own, Bonneau added.

He encouraged faculty with experience in conducting online courses to help out inexperienced faculty with the transition. Faculty also can reach out to the Center for Teaching and Learning for resources. Pitt IT has offered resources to help support remote work.

In addition, classes will be postponed until March 23 to allow faculty more time to transition to the online format. Bonneau said strong teamwork will be necessary for this transition.

“Obviously, this is disruptive and will require additional effort from all of us,” Bonneau said. “Yet, this is a decision I am fully supportive of and feel that it is really the only option we have available to protect the health and safety of our students and community members. I know many, if not all, of you, share this perspective.”

Bonneau added that faculty can expect more guidance from their deans and department chairs over the coming days.

Bonneau said he has faith that the Pitt community can handle these and other changes, much like it previously overcame interruptions in 2012 when there were a series of bomb threats on campus.

“While we were inconvenienced then, we were able to continue delivering quality education to our students and allow our seniors to graduate on time,” Bonneau said. “The plans laid out by the chancellor today, in conjunction with guidance from the deans and department chairs, will allow us to do the same.”

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905. 


Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.

Follow the University Times on Twitter and Facebook.