June 30, 2022
Since January 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has spread worldwide. The situation in Thailand was very stable in the summer of 2020—with a minor outbreak in December of that year—and all the way through the early part of 2021. Unfortunately, a fierce wave hit Thailand in April 2021, and then the new Omicron variant hit us in December 2021. Meanwhile, many places around the world are still heavily affected. But things seem to be improving slowly, including in Thailand.
AIT took action very early two years ago to make sure the campus is safe. We formed the AIT Coronavirus Task Force at the end of January 2020 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 Thai government’s declaration of the National Emergency in the Spring of 2020, contingency operational plans were put in place, strict measures were imposed on the AIT campus, and donated masks were issued to the entire AIT community.
On March 18, 2020, AIT officially closed, following the policy announced by the Thai Government, and all face-to-face classes were canceled for the rest of that Spring Semester to move to interactive instruction. About half of 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 these defenses were online also. Those who were scheduled to graduate during the summer have been able to do so. Unfortunately, the May 2020 Graduation Ceremony was canceled—but a good number participated in the December 2020 graduation exercises.
On August 1, 2020, AIT resumed normal operation, and Fall Semester started on August 4, 2020. The COVID-19 Task Force continues to ensure that health is the No. 1 priority at AIT. Those overseas students who were not able to join us in residence on campus took 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, 2020.
On August 21, 2020, 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, 2020, our first overseas students to take advantage of our AIT OQ arrived, and our last OQ check-in was on 11 April 2022. To date, we have a total of 455 overseas students who have taken advantage of the AIT OQ facility. In late November 2020, we even started to admit some Thammasat University overseas students into our OQ, and that has gone smoothly also.
After the new wave came to Thailand in April 2021, AIT once again imposed strict measures to keep the community safe, and classes ended successfully online at the end of April 2021. The Graduation Ceremony could not take place in-person, so an online video ceremony was held on May 28, with almost 200 students graduating. Unfortunately, the case numbers continued to be high in Thailand throughout the Fall Semester of 2021, and no in-person classes were possible. And the Graduation Exercises on December 21 had to take place online also.
After the Omicron variant hit the world, and Thailand too, in December, so the January 2022 Spring Semester instruction could not begin in person. However, on February 1, 2022, Hybrid Instruction began and continued to the end of the semester, which the students welcomed. The May 20th Graduation Ceremony was held in-person with ten Board of Trustees members attending. The last in-person ceremony held in December 2020. 200 graduates were in the AITCC auditorium and relished this very significant moment in their lives.
AIT was included by the Thai Government in the vaccine campaign for education institutions. After obtaining assistance from some other channels, an overwhelming number of our faculty and students—new and continuing—and staff and families—whether Thai or Non-Thai—have been vaccinated by now. Now almost all of our community has received third-shot boosters. Thammasat University Hospital has been of great help, and contractors and concessionaires were also included. We are so well covered on the vaccine front that vaccine mandates were implemented when we opened the Campus.
Today, the campus is open and relatively safe, but cases do occur here and there. Tracing and containment remain very rigorous, and everyone is very careful. However, life is gradually normalizing, and it is expected that the Fall 2022 Semester will be fully in-person except for those who cannot come to Thailand for COVID or other uncontrollable reasons—they can continue learning on Hybrid instruction. Work-from-Home at AIT stops on July 4, 2022.