Some Clarifications for Faculty Colleagues
| by Jeff Cason and Sujata Moorti
Dear Faculty Colleagues,
We write with a follow-up to the College’s announcement on Monday that we plan to welcome students back to campus in Vermont this coming fall. We know that there is a great deal of uncertainty about how the fall will look, given the public health situation, but we know this initial decision will help move us forward in our planning for the upcoming semester.
We hope this letter offers some degree of clarity in what we know will be a largely uncertain semester. In addition, this Thursday, chairs will receive detailed information regarding fall 2020, including course scheduling blocks, classrooms, and the timeline for registration. They will share all of that information with you after the chairs’ meeting.
What you will teach:
Over the next two weeks, you will work with your chairs/directors to finalize the courses you will teach in the fall, as well as determine the contours of the curriculum your department/program will be offering. Chairs will submit department plans on July 8. We will use the information you provide to adjust fall offerings as needed.
How you will teach:
You can choose the modalities you want to use in your courses. To offer students some clarity on the form of instruction they can anticipate in their individual courses, we will be including some identifying markers in course descriptions. These same identifying markers, which are more nuanced than the broad categories of “remote” or “in-person,” also offer a useful taxonomy to all of us in identifying how we will teach, to whom, and where. At the end of this letter, as an addendum, you can find the specific modalities and their definitions.
Please indicate to your chair which of these modalities you plan to use for each of your courses. You do not need to offer any explanation for your decision. We know that all faculty value their interactions with students and take joy in working with them. The modality you choose to teach is contingent on a number of factors, including the availability of child care, the status of local schools, and your assessment of health risks. Junior colleagues should not feel compelled to teach in one modality over another. We understand as well that if your circumstances or external conditions change significantly in the coming weeks, you may need to alter your teaching modality.
We also want to reiterate that all courses in the fall semester will have an online component, since our plan is to have students leave campus on November 20, and the 12th week of the semester for all courses will be conducted online. Throughout the summer, DLINQ will be hosting workshops to train faculty in different aspects of remote pedagogy and instructional design. We know that the thought, care, and attention you are devoting to your courses will ensure that remote instruction in the fall will be radically different from the emergency strategies to which we quickly transitioned in the spring semester.
Where you will teach:
Over the past few weeks we have collated information on classroom spaces and know that, due to distancing protocols, in-person classes will look and feel substantially different. We know that our classrooms will hold many fewer students than normal. Our pedagogies will need to adapt to these new spatial configurations. We are exploring all possible spaces as potential classroom sites, including athletic facilities, Wilson Hall, and areas of the Mahaney Arts Center. And one thing we do know is that classes with a maximum enrollment of 36 or more students will need to be taught online. These classes may include some smaller in-person experiences such as discussion sections, labs, drills, etc. In the end, many courses will need to blend different formats, so we all need to plan for these shifts in teaching practice.
When you will teach:
We have not finalized the course schedule yet; we know that the teaching day will look different as well, extending perhaps into the usually protected 4:15–7:30 p.m. period and beyond. We hope to honor, as much as possible, the schedule you submitted for the fall. However, if you have the capacity to teach at other times, please share this information with us here. We will take this into account when finalizing the course schedule.
Regardless of the modalities in which you teach, we remind you to be mindful of students’ other courses to help them avoid time conflicts. We will be also be putting guidelines in place to assure that we can accommodate students in all time zones.
Other things we know:
We want to heed the principles of universal design and remain attentive to access and equity. We will make available the technologies or infrastructural support you need to teach. Please let us know of these needs. The library, museum, and other centers are restructuring their work to accommodate your pedagogical needs.
For now, our campus buildings will remain closed to visitors until health conditions make opening them safe and practical.
Things we don’t know yet:
We have not settled on dates for registration yet, but we anticipate that this will be in early August. Once we have clarity on this, we will offer you more guidance on advising. Similarly, we have not made plans for winter term or the spring semester. We will clarify these plans over the fall. The EAC is working on a number of policy concerns: grading policy, teaching load guidelines, CRFs, and experiential learning components. In short, a lot remains uncertain.
Over the past few weeks, we have grappled with almost every facet of our work as faculty. Our meetings have exemplified the best of our faculty governance processes. We know that there will continue to be questions and a need for additional clarifications. You have remained flexible, adaptive, and committed to the core principles that have brought all of us to this residential liberal arts setting. We know we will be calling on you more in the coming weeks. Thank you in advance for the work we know you are going to need to do to adapt to our fundamentally changed circumstances. Everyone will need to be ready to go online with their classes, even if their plan is to teach in person. As a consequence, faculty are going to need to do things this summer that they did not expect to do. Nevertheless, we hope you are able to take some time to enjoy the summer, conduct your research, and undertake whatever activities bring you joy and some reprieve from the travails of the past few months.
Jeff Cason, Provost
Sujata Moorti, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty
Taxonomy of Courses
Fully online courses: Such courses will be available both to students on campus and to students who are remote. Generally speaking, we can think of these in two categories:
- Scheduled online courses, where students will have a required synchronous component to their classes (along with asynchronous work, normally).
- Flexible online courses. Much more of the work here will be asynchronous, and although there will often be synchronous activities in these courses, none of those synchronous activities will be required at a particular point in time.
Fully in-person courses: These classes are likely to be on the smaller side, if they are to be exclusively in person, given social distancing requirements. Our classrooms will hold many fewer students (generally one-third to one-quarter of their normal capacity) when we have social distancing requirements in place. We are also in the process of adding nontraditional classroom spaces for use for in-person classes, to expand our capacity for such meetings. Obviously, all of these courses will be available only to students who are on campus in Vermont.
Hybrid courses: We expect that many courses will fall into this broad category and imagine that there may be a great deal of creativity and innovation from colleagues as they reimagine their courses in our altered environment. In general, we imagine such courses in three broad formats:
- Blended courses. These courses will have some in-person and some online meetings. One can imagine such courses having an online lecture and in-person discussion sections (or other non-lecture components). These courses will be available only to students who are on campus in Vermont.
- Online lecture/multimodal section courses. These courses will have a larger section (normally a lecture) that will be online. These courses will also have smaller meetings, some of which will be in person, and some remote (labs, discussions, drills, etc.). Students who are on campus and those who are remote can take such classes.
- Hyflex courses. These courses will be offered simultaneously to students on campus and off campus. These are probably the most challenging to manage, in terms of technology (and we have limited capacity for offering such classes), and are most difficult to make inclusive. They are probably the most challenging to teach, as well, given the need to pay attention to and include students in multiple places simultaneously. Students both on campus and off can take such classes.