COVID-19 Updates: Fall Semester

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]

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 were there so few options for remote seminars? Do we choose our 6 out of the 7?

Yes, please choose six out of the seven seminars if you are studying remotely in the Fall.  

The faculty chose how they wanted 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.  Seven of the forty 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 September, then we would reassess the modalities for some of the other seminars.  For now, though, we need a large portion of the seminars to accommodate the much larger population of students choosing to be on campus.

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?

No. 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.

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 does not necessarily mean that they will all 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?

The first year seminar is indeed the first class you will experience at Middlebury. All FY seminars meet 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, pages 5-13, 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. These time blocks follow the regular course schedule, just as all other courses do.

On the seminar packet, it was written 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 July 21st, 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 through Banner, 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, we finalize the rosters, share them with the FYS faculty, and share them with you.

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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?

An email went out to first year students on Friday, July 17th with a TENTATIVE schedule sheet for first year seminars.  You can also access that seminar schedule sheet here (You must be logged into your Middlebury Google account -- not your gmail account).

Use this TENTATIVE schedule as your best guess for when seminars are meeting in the Fall.  The meeting times for the online courses are set, but there may still be a little shifting due to the need to find rooms amenable to the needs of on-campus seminars.  Seminar schedule details will be finalized along with schedules for all the other Fall courses on July 27th.  

First year seminars take up regular slots in the weekly course calendar.  Just like other courses some of the seminars will meet for 50 minutes each on MWF, while most others will meet for 75 minutes on MW or TR (Tues-Thurs).  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.  For now, focus on selecting the seminars that appeal to you most on an intellectual basis.  After July 27th, when the full course schedule is firm, and into August, when you have heard from your FYS instructor/advisor, you can really dig into the mechanics of crafting elaborate course scheduling possibilities.

When will we know if hybrid or other classes become remote only?

For the weeks before Thanksgiving, that decision 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 remote only, 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?

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 most likely be available for online viewing. 

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.

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Advising and Course Selection

Is our adviser only our adviser for the first year?

Your first-year seminar adviser remains your adviser until you declare a major. Students typically declare by the end of their third semester at Middlebury.

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 adviser. Pre-advising will also be available to you during Orientation. You are, however, strongly encouraged to study the information on college requirements, majors, and study abroad provided in the FYS Registration 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 August, once the FYS rosters have been finalized. You will have lengthy conversations with them during Orientation to address course selection. In the meantime, please see the email that went to you from the Orientation team. They are providing access to Virtual Orientation Leaders. These are older students who can help answer your questions now if you can’t wait until Orientation.

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 shortly. In the meantime, please study the information on college requirements, majors, and study abroad provided in the FYS Registration 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 night and day right now 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 the descriptions of the course modalities. You may find the modality assignments for each Fall course here.

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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.

Spring semester, can we take 5 classes?

Perhaps, but that decision requires a discussion with your academic advisor and their signing an approval form.

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

The grading policy for the Fall semester requires discussion and vote by the full faculty. They will be taking up this question in September, but for now, the regular grading policy is in effect.

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

Professors who are mounting online courses will be working this summer to address the lab question.  For online courses that involve labs, they will offer some lab activity that can be performed at home. 

The first year seminar booklet suggests that students looking to take physics and a number of other classes find their placements by meeting with faculty at certain times on September 8th. The calendar lists that as the first day of class Will that placement date be moved up to accommodate the earlier start to classes? Will students know their schedules before September 8th?

Various departments had to change their placement exam procedures in the wake of the COVID crisis. We have provided updated Placement Exam information HERE.

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General Campus Life and Health Questions (forthcoming)