sent on behalf of Dr. Mark Ginn, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education
Greetings Faculty and Staff,
As the seventh week of the Spring 2021 semester begins, I would like to thank you on behalf of the Academic Affairs leadership for your incredible work as we endeavor to provide a quality educational experience to our students in these most unusual times. As we approach the mid-point of the semester, we would like to offer the following suggestions for your courses based on feedback we have received from students, faculty, and advisors:
• Wellness Days. We continue keeping the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff at the forefront of our decision-making. You may recall the Calendar Committee's recommendations to limit widespread travel by cancelling Spring Break, starting the Spring semester a week later, and finishing the semester on time. Although there has been some discussion about university-wide “Wellness Days,” the calendar we are following this semester has no “extra” days we can use for university-wide Wellness Days. That said, Deans Council members have been in consultation with their faculty to find ways to build in as much flexibility as they can into their individual class structures and to be aware of students who may be struggling. Together, they are working on options that are the most appropriate for their departments and programs, while accounting for the complexities, requirements and needs of different classes and class meeting patterns. Some programs are coordinating days off for all of their classes; other instructors are changing up their normal routine periodically to give students a break from screen time. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so please feel free to use these or other ideas as you feel they meet your class needs.
• COVID Attendance/Student Absences Recommendations. In July, we distributed guidance on class attendance during COVID, developed by a group of faculty and staff. The recommendations vary from syllabus policy to approaches for assisting students, and also includes resources and policies to consider that can affect student retention and success in your courses.
• Building Community. Building community among your students is more important than ever. Seek out ways for students to have interaction and build community. For ideas on how to do this in asynchronous classes, take a look at this tip sheet developed by your colleagues and compiled by the Center for Academic Excellence.
• Look for ways to help reduce screen time. Keep in mind that many students are spending several hours per day online (as are many of you). Providing flexibility on when they complete some tasks may be helpful.
• Asynchronous courses are expected to have asynchronous exam times. Asynchronous courses with no course time have no fixed time for their exams, including final exams.
• Refer students who may need help. If you have concerns about students who are not participating or not attending class, there are many resources that can help, including the Dean of Students Office, the Early Intervention Team, and the Office of Student Success. See our Quick Referral Guide for more information.
• Review and share academic resources with your students. If your students are struggling with academic content, the Student Learning Center or the University Writing Center can help with Help Labs, Small Group Tutoring, Peer Academic Coaching, or Writing Consultations, all available online. Visit our Keep Learning webpage for these and other resources to help your students.
In closing, as we encourage you to reach out to your students and let them know we are here for them and have resources to help them succeed, I also urge you to take care of yourselves and your families. I want to reiterate the appreciation of the entire Academic Affairs leadership team for your work in these challenging times. Together, we will get through this.
Thanks for all you do,
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education