| by Suzanne Gurland, Jeff Cason, and Sujata Moorti

Faculty

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

As promised, we are writing with specific information regarding the scheduling of classes once they resume on March 30. Before stating the resolution of our deliberations, we would like to explain the relevant context. We have decided on our way forward after significant consultation, with department chairs and program directors and with the academic continuity group. We recognize that there is no ideal solution to our upcoming schedule, but we have tried to come to the best available solution. We acknowledge that not everyone will love our solution.

The vast majority of our students are now at home, around the world, where some perhaps have the comfort of familiarity—but where their worlds, like ours, are being turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Few will have the luxury of a quiet, private space with reliable internet access, and few will escape responsibilities such as caring for family members who become ill. None can be expected to spend the kind of uninterrupted time on their coursework that they can when they are on campus. Those who were going to rely on coffee shops or public libraries to pursue their studies will find that many of those are already closing down.

For these reasons, our single biggest challenge in the coming weeks is supporting students and their learning at a time when we are robbed of most of our traditional tools for teaching and supporting them. We will not be able to take what we were doing in the classroom on campus and simply move it into the digital realm. We’ll likely need to revise—or completely upend—learning goals. This will not be a time for holding our students or ourselves rigidly to our original syllabi, but rather, for responding flexibly to changing circumstances.

Although the schedule we are setting forth provides the same amount of dedicated time for your course that you had available before, we actually hope you won’t use it. We hope instead you’ll find creative ways for your students to learn that rarely, if ever, require them to be online with you at any given time. We hope you’ll experiment with teaching in ways that allow students to learn even if they—or you—are out sick for two weeks, or rarely have an internet connection.

The schedule, specifically, will be as follows:

  • If your course originally met during the morning or afternoon hours, your available time will now be two hours later.
  • If your course originally met during the evening hours, your new available time will remain the same. 

For example, if your course used to meet in person TR 9:30am-10:45am, EDT, your available time becomes TR 11:30am-12:45pm EDT. But if your course used to meet in person M 7:30pm-10:25pm EDT, your available time remains M 7:30pm-10:25pm EDT. The time shift for morning and afternoon hours will better accommodate differences in time zones, given that our students are dispersed across the United States and abroad. Please see the attached grid for your new available time.  And finally, please remember that no course work should be due during our extended spring break, as students adjust to their new destinations.

We refer to it as “available time” rather than “meeting time” because we genuinely hope you’ll use only a tiny fraction of it to try to “meet” virtually with students. Expert advice, all available evidence, and the reality of our current circumstances all suggest that the best way forward is to teach with asynchronous means to the fullest extent possible. To figure out how to do so for your own courses, consider consulting the many resources that DLINQ has made available, holding workshop sessions with colleagues in your department, or inviting a member of the DLINQ team to talk through some options.

Thank you once again for all of your tremendous flexibility. We’re grateful, also, for all the feedback we received regarding the scheduling question. It’s been a reminder that we’re at our best when we all keep students’ needs at the heart of our deliberations.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Gurland
Dean of Curriculum

Jeff Cason
Provost

Sujata Moorti
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty