COVID-19: Essential Information

Town Hall Q&A

First-Year Town Hall Gathering on Academics; Jul 14, 2020 7:00 PM

[Questions have been edited for clarity and to avoid repetition.  They have also been adjusted to reflect the upcoming enrollment of new students in February.]

First Year Seminar Selection, Placement, and Course Structure
Course Scheduling and Course Materials
Advising and Course Selection
College Requirements, Grading, and Department-Specific Questions, Including Placement Tests and Foreign Language Study
General Campus Life and Health Questions (forthcoming)

First Year Seminar Selection, Placement, and Course Structure

Are first year seminars all year, the first semester, every semester, every year, or just the first year?

All new students take one first year seminar at Middlebury. The first year seminar is a writing-intensive course and is likely to involve some extra-curricular activities, however, it is just a class that you take only once and only during your first semester.

Why are there so few options for remote seminars? Do we still rank them to reflect our preference?

Yes, if you plan to study remotely in the Spring, please indicate which of the two available seminars you would prefer to take over the other by numbering them #1 and #2. 

The faculty choose how they want to teach their courses -- fully online, in person, or in some kind of blended capacity, where they have some in-person parts of the course and some elements of the course online.  Two of the ten Spring FYS instructors opted to teach fully online, and given the very small number of incoming students who have expressed their intention to study remotely, that number of seminars is entirely suitable to the population of students who won’t be on campus.  By virtue of the fact that remote students will not be on campus to attend class meetings of the in-person or blended seminars, they will not be able to participate fully or complete all elements of those courses. They should, therefore, only select from the online seminars, which will be tailored to them as remote learners.  If the number of students studying remotely were to grow considerably before February, then we would reassess the modalities for some of the other seminars.  For now, though, we need the vast majority of the seminars to accommodate the much larger population of students choosing to be on campus in February.

Are students studying on campus discouraged from selecting first year seminars that are strictly online?

No. Students who are on campus may choose any of the first year seminars offered. Regardless of whether you are on campus or remote, it is very likely that at least some of your courses will be fully online.

Will blended FYS courses be available for remote learning and what do you recommend for remote-only students who are not interested in the few remote choices that have been offered?

Because blended courses involve some element of in-person instruction, students who are not on campus will not be able to participate in that instruction. Including remote students in blended seminars would, therefore, be unfair to them.

All of the options provided in the Booklet reflect the hard work and intellectual engagement of our faculty. We encourage students to open their minds to the course options that are available to them and to embrace them as part of the liberal arts education they have chosen when enrolling at Middlebury.

What if my circumstances change after submitting my FYS selection and I decide that it would be safest for me to learn remotely, but I was placed in an in-person seminar? Would there be any flexibility in changing my FYS?

If your circumstances change late in the process and you are unable to make it to campus, then we will switch you out of an on-campus seminar and into an available online seminar.

How many students will be assigned to remote FYS (class size)?

All first year seminars are capped at 15 students.  That cap does not necessarily mean that each seminar will be full, and with conditions changing and student decisions shifting every week, it is difficult to know right now the numbers of students that will be in each remote seminar.  Students’ preference choices will, of course, have influence on the course assignments and therefore on the number of students in each seminar.  

If on campus, will our first year seminar be the very first class we experience at Middlebury? Would we have one of our other three classes before our first year seminar meets for the first time?

Your FYS is indeed the first class you will experience at Middlebury. All FY seminars meet during Orientation, just once in the week before all other classes begin.

There is talk of the three categories “online, blended, and in person” when referring to the seminars, but on the informational form, we only see two categories. Are all “in person” classes “blended,” or are they just grouped together?

The FYS Registration Booklet offers specific information about the modality of each seminar. Online-only seminars are listed in Part 1. Blended and in-person seminars are listed in Part 2. The modality of each seminar is listed in bold at the end of each respective course description.

Does the blended designation on a seminar typically mean that there will regularly be online (zoom or video call) and in-person meetings, or will some be in person for all meetings and digital for experiences such as viewing movies or other aspects of the course?

The FYS instructors have total discretion about how they choose to “blend” their course. Some may choose to have in-person meetings for part of each week and then have online work and zoom meetings fill out the rest of the week’s class time.  Others may elect to meet in-person with their students early in the semester and then shift to more online instruction as winter nears. There is no prescribed model for the faculty to follow. There will likely be multiple variations on “blended.”

What does "3 hrs. sem." mean and how often will seminars meet weekly? How will that look like for Blended seminars?

Seminars meet for a total of three hours each week. Most often, these three hours are divided up into two or three blocks (2 75-minute classes or 3 50-minute classes). These time blocks follow the regular course schedule, just as all other courses do.

On the seminar packet, it was written that classes would have synchronous and asynchronous elements. How am I meant to follow a course if it takes place in the afternoon for the East Coast when I live in France?

Asynchronous course work is designed to accommodate different time zones, allowing students to consume information and complete coursework at a time that is convenient for them wherever they are. For seminars that have some online, synchronous components, they will likely be scheduled at a time when students from different time zones can reasonably be expected to be awake and attentive to the class. If you find yourself in a seminar and needing further schedule accommodations, let your professor know.

Does it matter when we submit choices for FY seminar? Is it first come first served? Or do I have time to think about it?

As long as you submit your choices by January 15th, the timing of your submission will not impact your FY seminar placement. Please focus on selecting the 6 seminars you find most appealing and ranking them according to your preference.

How are the FYS rosters made? Are students selected for each course randomly?

Once every student has submitted their seminar preferences using the instructions in the FYS Booklet, that information gets run through an algorithm (made by one of Middlebury’s own computer scientists) that sorts students into one of the seminars on their submission list.  Once the sorting gets reviewed and approved by members of the FYS Leadership team and Residential Life staff, we finalize the rosters, share them with the FYS faculty, and share them with you.

back to top

Course Scheduling and Course Materials

Is there a way to see what time of day a course will take place? How do we know when the seminars are meeting?

First year seminars take up regular slots in the weekly course calendar.  Just like other courses, some seminars will meet for 50 minutes each on MWF, while most others will meet for 75 minutes on MW or TR (Tues-Thurs).  They all meet for a total of around 3 hours per week. You can see the meeting schedule for each First Year Seminar in the course description in your FYS Booklet.  Other courses meet at those times too, but there are often multiple sections of other courses, especially the introductory lecture courses that new students tend to take.  There will be plenty of space in your schedule to take three other courses, so please don’t worry about any potential conflicts between an FYS meeting time and other courses.  We ask that you focus now on selecting the seminars that appeal to you most intellectually.  When the full course schedule has been finalized in mid-January, it will be posted to the College website, but please rest assured that you will have time to dig into the details of it with your Orientation leaders and your   FYS instructor/advisor during Orientation.

When will we know if hybrid or in-person classes become remote only?

The decision to make a course fully remote will be made by the instructor of the seminar, and it will be clear from their syllabus or from other course communications.  If it turns out that a considerable COVID outbreak shuts down the whole campus, then your seminar will become fully remote, as will all other courses.  But if that does not happen, then each instructor has the discretion to decide how and when to incorporate online instruction into their “blended” course.

In order to learn about these seminars, where can I find the syllabus?

Seminar syllabi are not available before the semester begins.  Professors will share their course syllabus with their seminar students during Orientation. In order to make a decision about your seminar preferences, use the course description prepared by the instructor in the FYS Booklet.

For seminars requiring viewing of films, how will students be able to access those films?

Films will be available for online viewing.  Your instructor will provide specific information during the semester for how to access them.

How can we get more information on the texts/readings that will be used during an FYS (if the professor doesn't mention those texts explicitly)?

You will receive information about readings for class in the course syllabus, which is usually distributed by FYS instructors in your first FYS meeting during Orientation. There is always time to order books and arrange for other readings. Your instructor has planned for that need in the syllabus.

Can I know specifically what readings will be covered in the class so I can make a better choice on the FYS (especially since I'm studying remotely)?

No, it is not likely that course plans have been finalized yet.  All students usually learn about course readings when the course begins, at the start of the term.

back to top

Advising and Course Selection

Is our adviser only our adviser for the first year?

Your first-year seminar advisor remains your advisor until you declare a major. Students typically declare by the end of their third semester at Middlebury, so you could have your FYS advisor as your academic guide well into your sophomore year.

When will we receive details about picking our other classes besides the first year seminar? Also, who will be advising this process?

You will select courses with guidance from your FYS instructor/advisor.  During the Orientation period, your advisor will meet individually with you to get to know you, to understand your academic interests, and to help you choose potential courses in advance of registration. Before this formal advising consultation, a Pre-advising advice session with older Middlebury students will also be available to you (see Middview programming schedule). You are strongly encouraged to study the information on college requirements, majors, and study abroad provided in the FYS Booklet.

When will someone reach out to assist with course selection?

Your first year seminar instructor, who is also your first academic advisor, will reach out to you in early February, once the FYS rosters have been finalized. You will have lengthy conversations with them during Orientation to address course selection. The MiddView Orientation team will be providing access to Virtual Orientation leaders.  These are older students who can help answer your questions before Orientation begins February 15th.

How does picking the rest of our courses work?

You will select the rest of your courses during Orientation. More information on the process will be provided to you in January. In the meantime, please study the information on college requirements, majors, and study abroad provided in the FYS Booklet.

Where can we find past year course schedules?

These are available here, as well as in the searchable college catalogue.

Do classes fill up on a first come, first serve basis?

Yes - that’s why it is important to have many back-up plans and to open your mind to registering for a wide range of courses or sections of courses.

Do you know what percentage of classes overall will be available online?

The Registrar’s Office gets all the teaching plans that have come in from every single department and program, and they are working hard to go through it all and try to piece it together into some kind of workable structure.  One reality of this COVID situation to keep in mind is that many -- not all, but many -- introductory lecture courses may have some online component to them.  Introductory lecture courses try to accommodate lots of students, and so they are usually a larger size than other classes.  In order to allow for physical/social distancing on campus, there are only a handful of very large spaces available to fit a large group of students who are all six feet apart.  So the College has mandated that courses that take more than 36 students will not be able to meet altogether in person.  They could meet in person in smaller groups, say, for instance, for the discussion section or lab component of the course, but the larger lecture component of that course will not have a physical space that can hold the class, so that portion will need to be online.

Please see these descriptions of the course modalities.

back to top

College Requirements, Grading, and Department-Specific Questions, Including Placement Tests and Foreign Language Study

Do students who receive Advanced Placement credit for a foreign language still have to take the placement exam for that language?

Please refer to the Placement Exam file for up-to-date information on placement exams. If your question is not answered there, you are encouraged to email the contact person listed.

Is there an online assessment for language or math placement?

There is no placement exam for mathematics. Language placement tests vary from one language to another. Please refer to the Placement Exam file for up-to-date information on placement exams. If your question is not answered there, you are encouraged to email the contact person listed.

The booklet only mentions IB and AP credit for PSYC 0105. What about the A Level Psychology exam? 

Please contact the Psychology Department Chair, whose contact information is listed on the left side of the Psychology Department webpage.

Why does the booklet say we can’t take another CW class when the handbook says we are advised not to, but if another one is taken concurrently we just won't receive the CW credit?

Banner may not prevent you from signing up for another College Writing course in your first semester, but your advisor will strongly discourage you from doing so (it’s overload on writing-intensive work in your first semester!). And the College will discourage you from doing so by not granting you CW “credit” for a 2nd CW course in your first semester. 

If I wanted to study abroad my second semester of junior year but still attend J-term, could I start my study abroad program after J-term ends?

Spring programs have many different start dates, and students cannot arrive late to their programs. Generally speaking, most programs in the Southern Hemisphere start after J-term (e.g., South America, Australia, New Zealand). Start dates vary in the rest of the world (e.g., European programs tend to start in January, programs in Asia and Africa vary, etc.). If a program overlaps with Middlebury’s J-term dates and is at least 15 weeks long, students earn credit for both J-term and spring (since in that case they are not able to participate in Middlebury’s J-term). If a program does not begin until after Middlebury’s J-term, then students may participate in J-term at Middlebury.

Can first-year students take 5 classes?

According to the Student Life Deans, students in their first year are not allowed to take five courses at the same time. 

What will the grading policy be like in the fall? Will it be Credit/No Credit or letter grades?

Students may elect to take one of their Spring courses for Credit/No Credit.  They have until the end of classes to make that decision, but that decision cannot be revoked afterwards.  All other courses will be graded.

How will students studying remotely be able to take a class with a lab?

Professors who are mounting online courses have crafted lab activities that can be performed by students at home.  They got practice running such labs during the Fall semester and applying lessons learned from them to their lab plans for the Spring.