Dear MIIS Faculty:  below is an e-mail that was sent sent to students just after noon today.

Best,

Jeff 


Dear MIIS Students,

Next Monday, we resume instruction at MIIS. We expect this to be a stimulating and most welcome return to our fundamental mission, for students and faculty alike. But it will be anything but business as usual. I’d like to share a few observations about how we’re approaching the weeks ahead.

First, since we announced just over a week ago that we will move all courses to remote formats, Middlebury as a teaching community has mobilized. Many of your faculty are practiced experts on remote platforms, including online instruction. Others, relatively inexperienced, have been inspired by peer-to-peer networks that have spontaneously taken form, as faculty members help each other to prepare for this transition. Our colleagues at DLINQ and in Information Technology Services are playing leading roles, as well. I expect this high-touch support approach to continue to flourish. 

Second, please know there will be bumps in the road. What we roll out next week won’t be a fully developed online educational system, the kind that takes months of planning. What we’ll all experience is an emergency response to a global public health crisis. Expect continuous improvisation and learning by doing. I’m sure that technological problems will arise, and broadband capacity will be strained for everyone in all workplaces, not just at MIIS. Connectivity will be of varied quality depending on where you are, and it will be critical for faculty and students to be aware of Plan B contingencies if high bit-rate Plan A activities fail. Likewise, it will be important not to over-rely on platforms like Zoom.

Third, the format of your classes will be different from when you were in the classroom before spring break. Teaching and learning in this new environment are not simply a matter of moving classroom lectures to Zoom lectures. There will be greater reliance on asynchronous elements of instruction—recorded lectures, Power Point documents, individual readings and exercises. To the extent that there are synchronous activities for your classes, they will happen during your regularly scheduled class meeting times, so that there are no conflicts for students. But synchronous meetings will be rare. Group work among students is still possible and desirable, and we’ll rely on a variety of platforms with different broadband requirements. Expect continuous and transparent communication from your professors—and course corrections as we navigate these uncharted waters.

While next week’s return to classes will be an experiment, requiring flexibility from us all, your faculty and the administration are firmly committed to delivering a MIIS education. Lean on us—and expect to hear from us regularly. And watch for opportunities to connect in upcoming town hall webinars and other forums. Make a note that we will hold a town hall for students next Friday, March 27, at 1 pm PT. Stand by for a reminder and further details.

Sincere thanks for your understanding, engagement, and patience in the weeks ahead.

With gratitude,

Jeff Dayton Johnson