April 3, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff,
As we come to the end of the second week of remote instruction delivery for our classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wish to thank each one of you for the extraordinary work you have done in a very short period of time to adapt your courses to the new delivery mode. This is a major accomplishment at a time when you also have to handle your own personal circumstances in dealing with this health crisis.
A review of the Blackboard usage statistics shows that over 86% of course sections have an active Blackboard course site. This is 4 percentage points above our typical usage. We are also seeing a significant increase in the time spent by our students online in various platforms. For example, last week DoIT reports there were 25,271 attendees in 7,145 Bb Collaborate sessions totaling 4,464 hours and 1,434 recordings. By contrast, during the first week of March, there were 216 attendees in 132 Collaborate sessions totaling 21 hours and 15 recordings. More info from DoIT is here. I am also aware of many successful alternative delivery approaches that our faculty have implemented for continuing with their course instruction.
Recommendations and guidance on campus resources available to you for remote instruction can be found on DoIT’s Academic Continuity website and the Faculty Development Center (FDC)’s Keep on Teaching and Keep on Grading websites.
We are impressed with the level of engagement our students and faculty have demonstrated during this transition. Consistent with our mission to ensure an inclusive culture that promotes respect and civility, we encourage faculty to provide guidance regarding online classroom expectations in order to ensure that we are maintaining an appropriate learning environment while encouraging sharing of diverse perspectives. I recommend that you include a statement in your revised course syllabus if you have not already, making clear what the netiquette and online conduct expectations are for your online classroom.
I would also like to raise your awareness that during this time, some students in your classes may face access challenges or barriers with respect to remote instruction due to differences in time zones, limited access to a computer or the internet, and familial or military duties.
Students with disabilities may also experience additional and/or different challenges in this new learning environment. Approved academic accommodations must continue to be met during this time of remote instruction. In addition, please refer students who raise new access concerns due to the impact of their disability in online instruction to the Office of Student Disability Services for support.
In order to address any student access challenges, including those discussed above, if you have not yet done so, I recommend that you encourage the students in your classes to communicate any barriers to participation they may be facing. Assistance and consultation support for both you and your students is available through the Academic Success Center, the Faculty Development Center (FDC), DoIT, the Office of Student Disability Services, and the Office of Equity and Inclusion.
Further, in order to promote inclusive and accessible teaching for all students I strongly recommend that you consider these best practices for remote instruction:
- Developing asynchronous approaches for your courses, including recording of live sessions, discussion boards, and collaborative documents, to enable those with access issues to be able to refer back to those recordings when access is available to them. Information about how to record live sessions and how to grant your students access to the recordings is provided through the DoIT’s Academic Continuity site.
- Administering assessments and exams in a manner thatavoids requiring students to complete them exclusively during synchronous, scheduled online sessions. Rather, we recommend that you consider making tests available for longer intervals and/or at different times to ensure that students are able to complete them given the many challenges and barriers to access they may face.
Thank you again for all you are doing on behalf of our students during these challenging times. Please take care of yourselves and your families. Stay safe and healthy.
Philip Rous, Provost