December 31, 2020
Since January of 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has spread across the world. By the end of the year, the situation in Thailand has turned from being stable for several months in Summer and Fall to having new outbreaks in December. The Government and the entire country is now fighting hard to limit this outbreak. Meanwhile, many places around the world, including several of the countries where our AIT students, faculty, and staff come from, are still heavily affected.
So far, AIT campus is still safe, and AIT took action very early to make sure of this. 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 Ceremony was cancelled, but a good number participated in the December graduation exercises.
On August 1, AIT resumed normal operation, and Fall Semester started on August 4. The number of students enrolled in Fall Semester 2020 is around 10% more than in August 2019. Many students are on campus in residence, and more and more new overseas students are coming on campus. Classrooms and laboratories are observing social distancing, and strict measures are still in place to protect the community. The COVID-19 Task Force continues to ensure that health is the No. 1 priority at AIT. However, those overseas students who have not been able to join us in residence on campus are taking classes online. 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”, and Graduation Ceremony took place on December 18.
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 operates 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. To date, we have almost 140 students who have taken advantage of the AIT OQ facility. In late November, we even started to admit some Thammasat University overseas students into our OQ, and that has gone smoothly also. But AIT will always maintain strict vigilance on managing the OQ and ensuring that our students and our community are safe.
It should be noted that with the new outbreak in Thailand, AIT once again is steadily imposing strict measures to keep the community safe. Classes are due to start on January 11, 2021, but AIT is ready to switch from hybrid to online education anytime if the Coronavirus situation worsens in Thailand. However, AIT is confident that we will get through this new COVID crisis successfully, just as we did with the last COVID crisis in Spring of 2020. All of us are looking forward to a good 2021!