Provost's Update: Preparing for Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Dear colleagues,

The health and safety of our students, colleagues, and community are a top UM priority. Across the world, many colleges and universities are grappling with how to continue education and experiential learning under different scenarios for the spread of coronavirus (also known as COVID-19). At the University of Montana, we are also working hard alongside the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) to develop appropriate and effective contingency plans for campuses across the Montana University System (MUS).

At this time, there are no cases of coronavirus on campus, in the City of Missoula or even in the State of Montana. However, that can change; we believe it will change and that we will see cases of coronavirus in our community. We are developing contingency plans to address the challenges that coronavirus will bring, including curriculum delivery.

Start planning to teach remotely.

As we develop contingency plans, one of the key questions is how we will provide students with access to as much of their education as possible, remotely. If the need to impose “social distancing” arises due to coronavirus on campus or in Missoula, that means face-to-face instruction cannot take place. Please visit the Keep on Teaching website now to review strategies, tools and resources to continue delivering your courses for a short period of time at a distance. As each face-to-face course is unique, instructors should begin to consider how to keep students’ academic progress on track.

We will help you teach remotely.

UMOnline offers several options for remote instruction, including Zoom meetings (either live or pre-recorded), pre-recorded online presentations, delivery via conference call for smaller classes, online discussion forums, and use of other online technologies. Our goal is to help you and your students successfully complete the academic term, even if coronavirus is confirmed on campus or in Missoula. In some cases, instructors might decide to change the order of assignments, modify some assignments, or provide alternative assignments due to the limitations imposed by the situation. If you have students with disabilities in your classes, please contact Disability Services for Students for assistance. We recognize that some types of learning experiences will need to be delayed until a later semester, but hope to keep delays to a minimum.

We need volunteers to help us prepare.

We seek about five faculty volunteers to participate in a pilot project aimed at helping us learn more about what works and what does not work in rapidly transitioning courses to remote delivery. Ideally, volunteers will be faculty who have limited experienceusing remote teaching methods to deliver regular instruction. In this pilot, volunteers will move their courses to remote delivery for one week (and teach their students this way). This pilot will help us improve our preparation for a large-scale transition to remote instruction, in the event of a temporary campus closure. If you are interested in participating in this pilot project, please email Maricel Lawrence, Executive Director of UMOnline, at your earliest convenience.

Stay informed.

Check the UM website and app for large tiles labeled “Coronavirus Updates.” Both lead to the Curry Health Center’s website, which features the latest updates from the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the State Department and OCHE. The latest news and information will be posted here. In addition, UM’s Incident Command System is actively coordinating with state and local agencies. Communication will occur frequently through official University channels, so please watch UM Today, the UM website and app, and look for email communications and updates from your deans and chairs/directors.

Thank you for your continued assistance in keeping the campus community safe and healthy.


Jon Harbor, Provost