To Our Faculty:
As the end of the semester approaches, I want to thank you for all that you have accomplished in circumstances no one could have foreseen. What has impressed me the most is how you worked together so quickly to transition to remote teaching, and continued to give students regular, meaningful connections with Case Western Reserve during these uncertain times. They, and I, will always be grateful.
Even with the demands of working from home, some of you already have begun thinking about the fall and our plans for dual-delivery of courses—that is, to students physically present with you, as well as those elsewhere watching via Zoom. You have posed important questions, among them, how to:
- protect the health of the faculty and students together in individual rooms;
- access the training and support needed to blend two distinct forms of instruction without shortchanging one set of students; and
- address the issue of students’ broad range of varying time zones.
Our plans to bring students back to campus in August hinge on our ability to keep them safe and healthy. Well before they arrive in your classrooms, we will have addressed the challenges of feeding and housing undergraduates in ways that significantly reduce risk and include protocols and prior arrangements for responding to the possibility of a positive COVID-19 test.
As of this writing, we are preparing to welcome back the first group of employees this month; each time we prepare spaces for social distancing and meet in advance with staff about health protocols via Zoom, we will learn more about how best to prepare for full, in-person operations when classes resume.
We will update the campus community about all of these efforts throughout the coming weeks and months; more specifically, we will communicate directly with you regarding plans for dual-delivery during the fall semester. Throughout that process, we will continue to engage with faculty leaders and deans about options and needs.
During this process, the following principles will guide our approach to fall instruction:
Principle 1: We will continue to follow state directives, guidance from trusted infectious disease experts, and best practices in preparing for the fall semester.
- We are applying this principle to dual-delivery instruction, recognizing that the evolving public health context could lead to such potential choices as starting the semester later to developing remote-only options for large lecture classes.
- Given this uncertainty, our goal is to prepare for instruction taking place in a broad range of potential circumstances.
Principle 2: Faculty and instructors will be expected to teach on campus.
- We recognize that some faculty may have health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19, and the university will address such situations as they arise later this summer. For now, all faculty are asked to prepare for fall classes with the expectation they will take place on campus.
- As part of our emphasis on protecting health, we are assessing opportunities to ensure social distancing in classrooms, an approach that may require expanding course schedules to include evenings and weekends and/or developing different course timelines (e.g. block schedules). Certainly we wish we could provide more definitive information right now, but we want to be as thoughtful as possible when evaluating each option. Again, we will update you regularly.
Principle 3: Some students may not be able to attend classes in person.
- Travel and/or quarantine restrictions among nations (and some states) means that some of our students probably will not be able to return to campus for the fall semester, while others may need to miss several classes because of illness or exposure to COVID-19 (or another condition that makes infection more likely).
- These realities require that we prepare in advance to ensure that these students can engage fully in their courses even while physically absent.
Principle 4: Faculty should look for efficiencies in teaching.
- We recognize that preparing to teach in different contexts creates significant new challenges, and are collaborating with [U]Tech, UCITE and others to provide resources and programs to assist you in these efforts. We will update you as more details become available, including insights gleaned from your responses to the survey on remote teaching, which closes today (Tuesday, May 5), as well as the one to be distributed to students after final exams conclude.
- Meanwhile, we encourage you to think about ways to ease the burdens of a dual-delivery model. Some may choose to record lectures for viewing at students’ convenience, with synchronous classroom time reserved for lessons that engage students more actively either as a whole or in smaller groups. Others may choose to design group projects with teams assigned based on time zones (including our own).
Principle 5: Changes will take place over the summer; we need you to remain an engaged and full partner in this process.
- Please pay attention to email over the summer; our experiences during the last two months have powerfully demonstrated that changes can and will happen quickly.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions and share ideas. Our Office of the Provost website includes a section devoted to COVID-19 information and resources and soon will feature an FAQ driven by questions you pose through an online form.
- Know that we are meeting weekly with the deans as a group to identify hurdles that you may be encountering in preparing for the fall semester.
- Contact your department chair and dean; they also want to help you in this transition and contingency planning.
Thank you again for all you have done during a semester unlike any we have ever experienced. I also want to extend my appreciation in advance for your efforts to prepare for the fall. You and the entire Case Western Reserve community continue to inspire through your creativity, dedication and resilience.
With deep gratitude,
Ben Vinson III
Provost and Executive Vice President