Is Your Campus Prepared for Coronavirus?

The coronavirus is here.

This has led all sorts of businesses to produce emergency plans to deal with a public health crisis of this magnitude. Companies often utilize a business continuity planning approach to deal with a wide spectrum of potential crises. Some of these have to do with natural disasters, some have to do with cyberattacks – and some are giving planners the capability to respond to a scenario like a pandemic.

In the field of higher education, this business continuity planning takes a specific form. It’s all about adaptability and being able to continue to offer learning options to students, despite disruption in business processes as usual. Many would consider this type of business continuity planning for schools and universities to be a “platform problem” – as with so many other kinds of industries, information has to be routed the right way to reach the places where it can be most effective.

Let’s talk about this business continuity planning for universities. Does your campus have an effective, adaptive program for handling an emergency like a rampant coronavirus?


Know The Facts

Let’s start with being able to evaluate a threat like this because that identification and assessment is critical to informing your adaptive processes.

A web resource from Johns Hopkins University called a ‘heat map’ shows a visual analysis of the over 80,000 cases of coronavirus reported as of February 28. Alongside the visual map, which shows cases with locational markers, case-loads are broken down showing how the bulk of the coronavirus has been corralled in China, with a significant volume of cases in South Korea, less in Europe, and even less in the United States.

Having these resources in place can absolutely be part of your business continuity planning for this type of crisis. In addition, these resources can show thought leadership in the community and be helpful to others outside of your organization – as is the case with the Johns Hopkins map.


Utilizing Learning Management Systems & Related Tools

However, let’s get back to this emergency planning as a platform issue. Essentially, planners are looking at how to distribute knowledge (in the form of digital information) in ways that support learning models that have changed because of an unanticipated crisis.

Simply put, the most effective solution to coronavirus put forward by public health agencies is called ‘social distancing.’ The social distancing concept is fairly straightforward – by limiting public interaction between individuals, communities can limit the spread of the coronavirus until it, hopefully, eventually resolves. Social distancing is, to many experts, the best response against a pandemic of these proportions – along with basic processes like hand-washing. So universities and schools are looking at how to institute social distancing and still provide services. That’s where the learning management system comes in.

Typically, a well-connected higher education operation will already have an LMS tool. These learning tools are set up to deploy and deliver items like PowerPoint presentations, PDFs and course-specific curriculum materials digitally, and they generally already facilitate remote learning. So to the extent that any new data can be put into the LMS system and delivered that way, the university has solved the lion’s share of this business continuity planning problem. For example, LMS systems with effective push notifications can be a huge value.


Posting Mechanisms and Multicasting

In addition to utilizing specific LMS products and applications to deliver curriculum, universities and schools have to consider how to keep all stakeholders on the same page throughout a given time frame. In the old days, radio was king. Over-the-air radio signals were the fundamental way to multicast to a large audience.

Today, voice over IP and similar systems have replaced traditional radio. This has led to various enormous benefits, but also some specific disadvantages. In some senses, VoIP is less versatile than radio. Additional complexities may apply. Good planning addresses any drawbacks related to how the business VoIP networks are set up, and whether vendor thresholds or anything else could pose a potential problem.


Universalizing the User

Here’s another key component of business planning for the coronavirus in the higher education sector. As with other kinds of businesses, but even more importantly in educational operations, planners have to look at what every user has in place. The effective multicasting solution and delivery is only as good as the least equipped user. This is always true of massive platform rollouts. It’s extremely important in changing and adapting higher education models for something like the coronavirus.

Your solution is only as good as what the least equipped user has.

If the LMS is not universal, if there are lots of caveats and disclaimers and bottlenecks for the applications that you’re using, they’re not going to be as effective in helping you to implement disaster recovery and keep things running smoothly.


Quick Thinking

Educators and administrators who are pressed on this type of issue would say that one of the major challenges is lack of lead time. Planners have to be able to work on the fly to use existing apps in agile ways to address a crisis. Having systems that can respond this way is the name of the game when it comes to safeguarding your school or university from downtime related to a sudden crisis.

Integration Partners helps businesses of all kinds to be prepared for the unanticipated. Our engineering teams can enhance and support existing architectures to make them hardened and battle-ready for what they will face in 2020 in the years ahead.


How We Can Help

Along with our partners, we are providing many complimentary Collaboration & Security solutions. You can find all of our COVID-19 updates here. Please feel free to use the form below to get started. Together, we can help make a difference in the lives of those impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.