Since January of this year, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has spread across the world. By the end of September, the situation is excellent in Thailand—with only one case of local transmission for over 100 days, but many places around the world, including several of the countries where our AIT students, faculty, and staff come from, are still heavily affected.
AIT took action very early to make sure our campus is safe. We formed the AIT Coronavirus Task Force at the end of January to monitor the crisis, both in general and specifically on how it affects the institute. The Task Force has been devising policies, measures and advice, and has kept the AIT community informed through a dedicated Intranet column—with links to the Thai Government public health websites—and through frequent emails. Following the declaration of National Emergency by the Thai government, contingency operational plans were put in place, strict measures were imposed on AIT campus, and donated masks were issued to the entire AIT community.
On March 18, AIT officially closed, following the policy announced by the Thai Government, and all face-to-face classes were cancelled for the rest of the Spring Semester to move to online interactive instruction. About half the 1400 students chose to remain at AIT, with the other half, including exchange students from around the world, going back to their home country or their home in Thailand. All students were able to learn via interactive online instruction. Final exams and theses defense were online also. Those who were scheduled to graduate during the summer have been able to do so. Unfortunately, the May Graduation Exercise was cancelled, but all who graduated this summer are welcome to attend the December Graduation Exercises if they wish. On August 1, AIT resumed fully normal operations.
AIT opened for the Fall Semester on August 4. The number of students enrolled in Fall Semester 2020 is around 10% more than in August 2019. Many new students are on campus, and classrooms and laboratories are observing social distancing. Strict measures are still in place to protect the community, as health is the No. 1 priority of AIT. However, initially, overseas students, because of the virus conditions in their home countries and travel and quarantine restrictions, have not been able to join us in residence on campus and needed to take classes online. But AIT faculty and staff have worked very hard to ensure that our online education is running smoothly, with more innovative interactive instruction available in Hybrid Instruction mode in Smart Modified Classrooms. In addition, AIT’s staff and students are devising creative ways to involve online students in student life, so that they get a sense of AIT residential education. Therefore, with new technology and methodology, AIT “has not missed a beat”.
On August 21, the Thai Government—which has been extremely helpful with facilitating the processing of the entry to Thailand of our overseas students, approved AIT as an official Organizational Quarantine (OQ) site, with Thammasat University Hospital as our medical partner. Our OQ will operate with strict safety and health guidelines overseen by the Thai Government. On September 13, our first overseas students to take advantage of our AIT OQ arrived, and they are now steadily coming into our OQ. We expect the bulk of them to arrive onto AIT campus within the next two months. AIT will maintain strict vigilance on managing the OQ and ensuring that our students and our community are safe.