Further guidance on fall 2021 instruction

Dear Twin Cities faculty and instructors,

I write to provide details for fall instruction within the framework described in President Gabel’s message and the University’s press release sent earlier today.

While those communications noted that we are increasingly reassured we can bring students, faculty, and staff back to campus while effectively minimizing the risk to our community, we also recognize that fall 2021 is likely to be a transition semester, and that the physical and mental health of instructors, staff, and students will remain a focus.

I want to recognize the extraordinary efforts and adjustments you have made over the past year; I know your work has been both challenging and effective in advancing the teaching and learning mission of the University. I have every confidence that your continued and dedicated commitment to our students will ensure the success of this fall semester.

Planning Assumptions

With vaccines now being administered and new approvals coming shortly, state and federal officials estimate that everyone who wishes to get a vaccine will be able to do so by the beginning of the fall 2021 semester.

Our plan also assumes that 6-foot physical distancing will no longer be recommended, but that other mitigation strategies may be needed, possibly including masking, increased ventilation, and de-densification by assigning classes to somewhat larger rooms than typical.

As always, we will remain responsive to public health guidance, and will pivot or adjust if needed.

Determining Instructional Modalities

For fall 2021, we are reverting classes to the default mode of instruction offered in fall 2019. However, we have all learned through this experience that distributed delivery can, in some circumstances, enhance learning. Offering some class sections or programs online might better meet student demand or other curricular needs.

I therefore encourage all instructors to consider what innovations they believe advance their pedagogy, and to incorporate those innovations into their instruction. I also encourage instructors and leaders of various programs to consider what innovations in their modality can better serve our students.

If you are interested in transitioning your course to a new modality that is different than for fall 2019, please reach out to your Chair/Head/Director or equivalent leader as soon as possible to propose a change, which will follow the normal course approval process. The primary criteria for approving changes are pedagogical innovation and being responsive to student and curricular needs.

If there are reasons that are neither pedagogical nor curricular that prevent you from teaching in the modality assigned to your course, I encourage you to reach out to your Chair/Head/Director to discuss an alternative teaching assignment, or to UReturn in the Disability Resource Center to discuss a medical accommodation.

Departmental schedulers will set up the provisional class schedule starting March 29, to facilitate course registration for fall. Revisions to the course management system will need to be approved at the department and collegiate levels and submitted by July 1.

Thank you, again, for your steadfast support of your students and the care you have taken to look out for each other. I look forward to working with you as we move toward redefining a new normal this fall and advancing a stronger University in the years to come.

Please feel free to reach out via [email protected] if I can provide any additional information or answer any questions.

Sincerely yours,

Rachel T.A. Croson
Executive Vice President and Provost

email sent to all Twin Cities faculty and all instructors to teach in spring and/or fall 2021 on March 12, 2021