Monday, August 31, 2009

Online Courses - Preparing for H1N1 at the University of Southern Florida

Last week I read an interesting article in the St Petersburg Times about how the University of Southern Florida (USF) is taking precautions for H1N1. The article did not focus on the usual (and so important) hand-washing, vaccination, go home if you are feeling sick content we've all been seeing. It focused on the use of online content as a backup in the event USF gets shut down because of the virus. Here's a piece from that St Petersburg Times article:

University of South Florida students returning to class Monday found something new on every course syllabus: A paragraph outlining USF's plan to hold classes online, via e-mail or a video service like Skype, in the event of emergency. And one of this fall's worst-case scenarios concerns a possible severe outbreak of swine flu that could force the suspension of classes, perhaps for weeks. "In my mind, that's a high probability," said Tapas Das, USF's associate provost for policy analysis, planning and performance.

A couple of weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a document titled CDC Guidance for Responses to Influenza for Institutions of Higher Education during the 2009-2010 Academic Year. In the document, the CDC says to decrease the spread of flu, CDC may recommend preemptive class suspension if the flu starts to cause severe disease in a significantly larger proportion of those affected than occurred during the spring/summer 2009 outbreak.

Is USF going too far with their preparation? I don"t think so after taking a look at what the CDC experts are saying. The university seems to be making a strong preemptive effort to prevent an entire semester from being canceled because of the flu.

My favorite piece of the St Petersburg Time article is the last few lines:

At first, Das said, it was hard to imagine teaching some courses in nontraditional ways. But he said USF professors have been working on backup plans to continue teaching even courses like music, theater and dance.

"This is, perhaps," he said, "an opportunity for us to be more creative."

Very nicely said Associate Provost Das. Could this be an opportunity for all of us involved in higher education to be more creative?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I’m Gabby and I’m a PC

[I know, I know the iPhone SDK will only run on a Mac but.... bear with me! And anyways.... any savvy Mac user is also running Windows using bootcamp or a virtual machine!]

I started writing this up on a flight back home from Tampa. I’ve been vacationing on the beach in Clearwater Beach, Florida for the past three weeks with my family, perhaps trying to catch one more little bit of childhood with our oldest daughter Gabby who is heading off to study computer science at Mount Holyoke College next week.

The past three weeks Gabby, Eva, Diane and I basically beach-bummed around. We swam, beachcombed, fished, snorkeled, scalloped….. I slacked off on my work these last three weeks like never before. I’m behind on just about everything – email, reports, proposals and Twitter follow-backs. I haven’t posted a blog since the end of July and the people I work with probably don’t remember what I look like! If I owe you something – I’ll catch up – it is coming!

It was worth it though - the best part of these three weeks by far has been the chance to take some time to watch, reflect and look back. It’s been an interesting and fun summer with Gabby, her sister Eva and Diane.

Like any parent will tell you, watching your kids grow up is pretty special. One event from this summer that will remain etched in my mind forever was watching Gabby presenting to a room full of college faculty at an iPhone SDK workshop with Mike Q (thank you Mike!) at the HI-TEC Conference. It was amazing to watch her and Mike teach, demonstrate, help people out and answer questions. The only way I can describe it – it was like watching her go from a teenager to an adult in about three hours. I got to relive that experience again watching her do a MATEC Networks Webinar on the same topic a couple weeks later. That pic up on the left is her during the webinar session.

A whole bunch of emotions for me pretty much boiled down to a huge amount of pride and just about as much sadness at the same time. She’s grown up.

It’s been a wonderful 18 years since Gabby was born, almost four weeks premature and so tiny. She’s always had a passion for computers, science, technology and math. Here’s an old video of her when she was 3 years old showing Dad how to use Windows 95. She’ll probably be upset that I posted it but I’ll take that chance. I call the video “I’m Gabby and I’m a PC”.

That little rascal in that video is off to college! Wow – where did the years go? And…… look out big sis – your younger sister is Eva moving up just as fast!