First, I want to thank you for your efforts to support our students and continue the University’s work in all areas. President Garimella and I applaud your commitment to our students. I am writing to provide you with important updates related to our move to remote instruction. UVM has taken measures to assure that services to students and faculty will continue to be provided in a timely and professional way, with most support services now available remotely.
New Withdraw Date: Friday, April 3
The shift to remote instruction has affected midterm exams in some classes, raising concerns that some students may not have enough graded work to make informed decisions prior to the deadline to withdraw from courses. In response to these concerns, the University is moving the Spring 2020 withdraw deadline out one week, to April 3. Students have been notified of this change and the revised date has been posted on the Registrar’s webpage.
New Software to Support Remote Instruction and Exams
UVM is making Screencast-O-Matic screencasting software available for all faculty on a 6-month license. Faculty can download the software here. This software allows users to make a video capture (“screencast”) of the activity on a computer screen with audio narration. Instructions on how to use the software, and how to upload and share your videos with your students using UVM Streaming are available here. GTAs can download the free version of the software, which has many of the same features, here.
UVM has a site-wide license for two Respondus products that deter cheating on exams that are administered online.
Respondus Lockdown Browser is a web browser which restricts student access to only UVM’s Blackboard server during an exam. When it is in use, all other applications and websites are inaccessible to students when taking a test.
Respondus Monitor is a video “proctoring” add-on to Lockdown Browser; this tool is now available for all faculty to use. While these tools can’t fully prevent cheating, they can act as a deterrent. Instructions for faculty and students on using Respondus Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor are available here.
At this time, we are discouraging use of other proctoring software that passes a fee to the student. Faculty members should seek approval from their Dean if they anticipate the need to use a fee-based service.
Where possible, faculty should consider alternatives to long, high-stakes exams. In addition to academic integrity concerns, these exams can be difficult for students to complete if they have a poor internet connection. While not all alternatives will be scalable to larger classes, some examples of alternatives would be: have more frequent, shorter quizzes; use open-book take-home exams that require students to demonstrate their thinking process for a smaller number of problems/questions; create alternative assignments that require students to demonstrate and apply understanding of course concepts drawn from across the semester (short position paper; fact sheet; presentation; proposal). CTL and WID have added workshops that cover these and other techniques called “Reimagining Testing while Teaching Remotely” and “Transforming Tests into Alternative Assignments” to their upcoming events. CTL will also be adding a resource on alternatives to high stakes exams in the Teaching Continuity page early this week.
Faculty Support for Remote Instruction
All CTL and WID workshops are now hosted remotely via Teams. New CTL and WID events to support teaching continuity are listed on the CTL events website. These events are open to all faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistants.
CTL is providing all support via email, phone and video conference. To initiate a help request, please email: email@example.com. The CTL Teaching Continuity Website is also updated regularly to reflect common questions about delivering remote instruction. I have heard numerous stories of faculty members helping and supporting their colleagues who are less experienced with remote instruction. We encourage community peer-to-peer support and remain grateful to all who have volunteered to help amid their many responsibilities.
Information on creating accessible course content is available through CTL. The Student Accessibility Services office will continue to provide support for faculty and students remotely, including captioning services and suggestions for modified accommodations.
Student Support during Remote Learning
The Division of Student Affairs has created a central page with information for students in areas ranging from academic supports to health and wellness information.
The Center for Academic Success (CFAS) partnered with Continuing and Distance Education to create a set of tips for students on managing workload in remote instruction environments. Please consider directing your students to the CFAS website, or incorporating the recommendations into your class materials.
The Student Accessibility Services office will continue to provide support for faculty and students remotely, including captioning services and suggestions for modified accommodations.
The Tutoring Center is continuing to provide services to students remotely. More information on tutoring and supplemental instruction is available on their website.
Fall semester registration will begin as scheduled on April 6. Advisors should be in touch with advisees to arrange for remote advising. Please let your advisees know how they can contact you for advising, and remind them that registration is coming up. The video conferencing software Microsoft Teams (available to all faculty, staff and students) may offer the best substitute for in-person meetings. If you experience connectivity issues, consider using audio-only chats, or offer advising through email.
Advisors can email or text their students through the Navigate platform. Your college or school may have specific recommendations for how you can use Navigate to contact advisees or schedule appointments with them. General advice on using Navigate for remote advising.
Summer Travel Study
Due to uncertainty regarding travel over the next several months, UVM is cancelling approval for all summer travel study. This includes both domestic and international travel occurring through UVM and external programs. A decision regarding Fall Study Abroad approvals is expected before July 1.
Your Critical Role as an Educator and Academic Leader
As you work to create viable options for your high-stakes exams, we also ask faculty to consider the growing anxiety students have as they are managing 4 to 5 courses online. It seems appropriate to consider adjustments in your weighting of assignments or evaluation measures prior to remote instruction, relative to those following our switch to remote instruction. For example, you may adjust your scale for assignments and tests given since remote instruction began, just as you might do if all students did poorly on a test. For some students with health or internet connectivity challenges, you might agree to grant an incomplete so the student can complete work at a later date. We clearly want to balance maintaining the integrity of our academic content, and foster accurate evaluation of the content knowledge and application skills our students are demonstrating, with a compassionate approach to ensuring student success during a time with so many unknowns about their future.
All members of the UVM community are dealing with added uncertainty, challenges, and stresses. Please try to be kind, generous, and flexible with yourself and your students. As faculty and advisors, you are one of your students’ most important links to UVM. To the extent that you are able, continue to provide your students with the best teaching you can, offer your care and support, and help connect them to additional resources. And please take care of yourselves.