Fall Instruction

 

Dear Colleagues,

I remain extremely impressed with, and grateful for, your abrupt pivot in instruction this Spring. My goal with this message is to follow up on President Gabel’s message of earlier today, to offer some advance notice on our thinking for Fall 2020 and offer resources that will ensure that we can be more planful in our development and delivery of instruction.

In consultation with the Minnesota Department of Health, guidance from our own public health experts, and with input from students, faculty, and staff received via a systemwide survey, the Fall 2020 Scenarios Advisory Team is recommending to the President and the Board of Regents a plan for residential instruction this Fall.

You can see a more complete description of that recommendation in the Board’s docket materials, including a summary of implications for housing and dining, outreach and engagement, and other domains. The backbone of that recommendation is flexibility: for individuals in the modality of their work and education, over time as public health guidance changes, and across our system campuses recognizing their unique circumstances.

In the educational space, our recommendation includes:

  • Physical distancing in classrooms, which will reduce capacity and availability.
  • An enhanced classroom cleaning schedule, which may further reduce availability.
  • Extended classroom hours (8 am-10 pm), and possibly increased Saturday classes.
  • Use of masks and other barriers (e.g. plexiglass), in a manner consistent with public health guidance.

As always, our final implementation will be subject to Board of Regents approval.

Instructors, in consultation with their chair/head, retain autonomy in deciding the preferred modality of their course.

If you prefer or require a fully distanced modality, please communicate with your chair/head about your plans. If you want assistance in designing a distanced course, help is available from the academic technologist in your unit. You can also submit a request to Teaching Support (http://teachingsupport.umn.edu/get-help), or take advantage of online training, distanced workshops, and one-on-one coaching to support your course design and creation needs available through the Provost’s website.

If you prefer an in-person component to your course, we urge you to consider your learning outcomes, and identify what you feel should be delivered in-person and what should be delivered remotely. We also encourage you to explore creative strategies for how to achieve physical distancing in your classroom. We remind you that accommodations may be necessary if you or your students need to be isolated / quarantined (https://policy.umn.edu/education/makeupwork), or if public health guidance requires another pivot.

For courses with in-person components, please work with your unit head or other appropriate individuals to ensure that the modality you desire will be feasible, given the reduced classroom capacity and availability. Room assignments and day/time assignments that you may have already received may need to change, given the reduced capacity in each room caused by the need for physical distancing. The resources described above can also be called upon to help in hybrid course design.

We are also considering changes to the Fall academic calendar. Our goal is to reduce the travel of students between campus and their family homes. This is envisioned to include in-person instruction for undergraduate and graduate courses ending at or before Thanksgiving (professional schedules are still to be determined).

While this looks different on each campus, on the Twin Cities campus this could involve transitioning to distanced education as of Thanksgiving week, possibly in combination with an early start (August 31 being the start-date of 9-month faculty contracts), and a correspondingly early finish.

We understand the importance of governance processes regarding the academic calendar. We are discussing these proposed changes with SCEP and the calendar will be a topic of the Faculty Senate on June 9, 2020. We welcome your comments directly as well, at [email protected]

The public health situation continues to evolve, and we recognize that we may need to pivot again between now and the Fall. Thank you in advance for your flexibility and resilience, and your commitment to developing and delivering high-quality education, as we together advance our academic mission while preserving safety and health.

Sincerely yours,

Rachel Croson
Executive Vice President and Provost

email was sent to all Twin Cities faculty, instructors, academic advisers, graduate assistant instructors, and the Twin Cities Administrative Email List on June 5, 2020