Dear faculty and staff,
I write with additional guidance that I hope will be helpful as you respond to today’s decision to suspend in-person instruction.
First, please note that we are asking you to determine and deploy alternative instruction. You are empowered to decide what is most appropriate and workable for your courses, your instructional responsibilities, and your teaching style. It is not the case that all instruction must now be moved into a fully online format. You might, e.g., ask students to complete assignments that they can then email to you. You can work through lecture captures, Zoom meetings, etc. Consider prioritizing what you can do in these circumstances, given your situation—your familiarity with various tools, your instructional aims, the support available to you, etc.
When you’ve determined your approach, even if only your initial approach, please connect with your students to help them prepare for the resumption of the term. (Again, we are delaying the resumption of the term by two days in order to allow some time for at least the first stages of this sort of course re-design.) It is also important to remember that not all students may be equally positioned to take advantage of alternative instructional approaches. They may have internet service issues, lack of access to personal computers, accommodation needs, etc. We will try to work through these issues with you, should they arise.
We are also working to address the many policy issues that this decision has implicated, but we do not yet have answers to all questions, and we have undoubtedly not anticipated every contingency in what is a rapidly evolving situation. For now, we can address the following questions:
What support is available for using academic technology?
Yesterday we deployed the keep-teaching.umn.edu resource. In addition, local academic technology professionals in your college, campus, or unit stand ready to help, as does central IT. (Moreover, if you have colleagues in your unit who want to offer tailored advice and assistance, please be encouraged to take advantage of that. We will be most successful if this is a collective effort.)
What about laboratory, clinical, and performance classes?
We are working to develop guidance (and, likely, modifications) for these types of courses and the curricula that require them. We will rely on faculty and collegiate leadership to help determine what is most appropriate and workable in these circumstances. (--More soon.)
How does the non-essential travel suspension apply to my research trip, or faculty interview, etc.?
Faculty and staff members who believe that they have an essential business reason to travel can request an exception from the provost, through their unit leader (dean, vice provost, vice president, etc.); but the expectation is that such waivers will be rare. Examples of travel plans that are being cancelled include departmental seminars that bring in external speakers, trips to conduct research, conference travel, etc.
Additional guidance will be added to the academic planning FAQ as quickly as possible; please continue to refer to the Safe Campus site for all general information. We will also continue to communicate with you via email as the situation changes and as additional guidance, support and resources are developed.
Again, we will update on the academic planning FAQ as we know more. I want to thank you for your continued flexibility and creative thinking, but I also want to acknowledge the extreme stress that faculty, staff, and students are under. These are difficult circumstances, and it will help all of us if we all simply try our best to remain patient with and kind to one another.
Executive Vice President and Provost
email sent to all Twin Cities faculty and staff on March 11, 2020