Provost Update — May 21, 2020

Thursday, May 21, 2020

A Message from Kathleen Plinske, Executive Vice President and Provost

I hope this message finds you well.  I write with an update about our fall schedule of courses and a request for feedback about a new course modality.

Fall Schedule
Thank you for the input and feedback that you provided about the Design Principles for the fall 2020 schedule. Our Design Team, comprised largely of faculty and deans, has recommended that we plan to offer the majority of our fall 2020 courses in an online modality, reserving face-to-face and mixed-mode sections for courses that are unable to be offered online. Senior Team has accepted this recommendation.

I recognize that this may be difficult news to hear; the Design Team did not arrive at this recommendation lightly. I, personally, am disappointed that we will not have the same level of in-person interaction with our students, which is part of what makes our work so rewarding. The Team, guided by the College’s steadfast commitment to prioritizing the health and safety of our students, employees and community, while at the same time providing opportunities for continuity of learning, recognized the importance of planning to minimize potential disruptions to teaching and learning in fall. Our student success data from spring 2020 indicates that the abrupt transition to the online environment presented a significant disruption to our students. If you’d like to hear more about the Design Team’s thinking regarding the importance of avoiding disruptions to learning in the fall, please watch this short video by Professor of Math Roberta Carew.

Restricting face-to-face and mixed-mode offerings only to those courses that simply cannot be delivered online minimizes the likelihood of a mid-term disruption like we experienced this spring. This learning-centered approach will also allow the College to continue to focus on developing high-quality learning experiences for courses that can be delivered online and prioritize facilities use for courses that otherwise could not be offered. If you’d like to hear more about how the team came to this recommendation, please watch this short video by Professor of History Carl Creasman (and review the slides shared at the Tuesday, May 19, 2020, Academic Continuity meeting).

So, what’s next? Over the next few weeks, deans and campus presidents will work with faculty to develop a prioritized list of courses that cannot be offered online to be considered for face-to-face or mixed-mode delivery. Given real constraints (such as the availability of personal protective equipment and supplies, requirements related to cleaning and disinfecting, etc.), we may not be able to offer all of the courses that require face-to-face or mixed-mode delivery. A collegewide team will review the prioritized list of courses and make a recommendation to Dr. Shugart about which face-to-face and mixed-mode courses we will be able to offer in fall; after gathering feedback from Faculty Council, a final decision about which courses will be offered in a face-to-face or mixed-mode modality will be made on Wednesday, June 10, 2020.

The fall course schedule will be updated over the next several weeks. Fall registration for students has been postponed until Monday, June 15 for special populations, Monday, June 22 for returning students, and Monday, June 29, 2020, for new students.

The decision about the fall course schedule raises lots of additional questions about campus operations, many of which we don’t yet have answers to. We currently have several interdisciplinary task forces working to develop detailed plans for preparing our facilities, our workforce, our workplace and our learning environment. To learn more about the fall course schedule and share questions that it raises for you, please feel free to attend an upcoming virtual Town Hall meeting on Thursday, May 21 from 3 – 4 p.m. and Friday, May 22, 2020, from 10 – 11 a.m.

New Online Modality
This spring and summer, we heard from many faculty and students that they were interested in a new modality, one that resembles face-to-face instruction but facilitated virtually. Without having formally designed this option, some students received mixed messages and may have been expected to attend conflicting synchronous class meetings. In response, a “flash” design team was commissioned, charged with developing a working title and definition of a pilot modality. This team is also designing a communication plan and assessment plan for this pilot modality for select courses this fall. Courses in this new modality will have designated meeting days and times that parallel the typical face-to-face schedule (not mixed-mode). These days and times will be visible in the course schedule and be consistent throughout the term. The team invites your feedback on the design principles, proposed title and modality description via this brief survey.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, comments or concerns.

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