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Lessons Learned

Our response to the coronavirus pandemic has required us to make some significant changes to the way the University operates in order to help keep our community safe and healthy. Throughout this unprecedented time, the Coordinating Committee, has consistently solicited and responded to feedback from our faculty, staff, and students, including those serving on workgroups. We learn from the constructive feedback we receive from shared governance groups, student surveys, and from individuals who have contacted us at covid19@umbc.edu. Here is a selection of some of the feedback we received and how we addressed it.

Student Surveys

The Student Health and Wellbeing Committee regularly reaches out to and surveys students to see how they are doing and to ask about whether and how they have been making connections with campus services, staff, and other students.

Key findings from a recent survey of incoming freshman and transfer students found that:

  • Students are reaching out for academic support. The top three most requested services were the Academic Success Center, Academic Advising, and the Career Center.
  • Students attended virtual Welcome Week events, including Convocation and Involvement Fest, in large numbers, and 85-90 percent of attendees rated these events as effective.
  • Students also reported positive well-being indicators, including feelings of a safe environment, healthy eating, and some physical activity.
  • In the words of one student: “You are doing your best! It is impossible to bring a true sense of community interaction virtually, but it is necessary this semester.”

The committee plans to incorporate feedback from this survey into its programming efforts and is already planning future surveys.

View more results from the survey here

Lessons Learned from Fall Planning Coordinating Committee

  • Compliance: We heard from numerous students, faculty, and staff who are approved to be on campus that they wanted to know more about our health and safety requirements, including testing, symptom tracking, and mask-wearing. The coordinating committee created a new Compliance workgroup that is developing tracking mechanisms and increased communication for all individuals who are approved to be on campus. We also provided more information on safe on-campus behavior and our current surveillance testing strategy.
  • Communications: In an effort to keep the community informed, we created twice-weekly Action Updates which include COVID-19-related resources, updates on campus departments and services, and notifications of new information available on the Retriever Ready: COVID-19 Response website. During the fall semester, more than 15,000 community members read these emails each week. We also conducted regular user testing of emails and the website with current students and made updates based on this feedback. You can view our communications archive here.
  • Academics: Students requested clarification on face-to-face and hybrid classes due to confusion about how often and where these classes would meet in person during the fall semester. We are in the process of working with faculty on clearer course descriptions and expectations for spring 2021 classes. We have also been working one-on-one with current instructors and their students when concerns arise.

Your Feedback

Since launching in March 2020, the covid19@umbc.edu inbox has received and responded to more than 1,700 emails. This includes comments and questions from students, parents, prospective students, faculty/staff, and our neighbors. These emails have helped us understand the community’s concerns, learn where we may need to provide additional clarification, and hear real-life examples of how the pandemic is affecting members of our community. The most common questions/themes include:

  • Finances: We received a tremendous volume of emails regarding fees, housing, and dining costs. We considered this feedback when making our decision to offer refunds for the spring 2020 semester and to waive most fees for the fall 2021 semester.
  • Academics: We know that some students find remote learning challenging. In response to your feedback, we created our Academic Support page, which lists a wide variety of resources tailored to supporting students through remote learning. We also created the Ambassador program for undergraduate and graduate students. These student peer ambassadors offer one-on-one support for students to help them become more successful virtual learners.
  • Health & Safety: The UMBC community, including students, faculty, staff, and parents, have been in regular contact with us about COVID-19 health and safety requirements, often seeking clarification on how these requirements applied to their specific situations and how they could do their part to keep our community safe and healthy. As a result, we have continually refined our communications and webpages related to COVID-19 testing, training, and symptom monitoring requirements for community members approved to be on campus. We also developed our public health dashboard. Your comments have also helped us to make numerous improvements in our processes and to related online content.