In my March 3 memorandum, I asked you to begin planning for the possibility of providing instruction remotely for some portion of this semester. We have continued monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and are taking the following steps:

  • Classes will be cancelled on Monday and Tuesday, March 16 and 17
  • Remote instruction will begin on Wednesday, March 18
  • These actions do not apply to medical student education; medical student instructors will receive a separate communication from Dean Page
  • Faculty should use Monday and Tuesday to finalize preparations for providing instruction remotely
  • Graduate students and post-doctoral scholars will be expected to continue their work, as described in the communication they will receive from Dean Forehand.
  • CTL has scheduled remote instruction training sessions for faculty starting tomorrow and throughout next week

Students and families will receive a separate communication regarding on-campus housing.

Given the information available at this time, the university will maintain normal operations, with the exception of remote instruction and limiting events and gatherings to 25 attendees or fewer. Faculty and staff will be on campus, and campus offices and services will remain open.

I understand that a move to remote instruction under these circumstances presents challenges. There is no expectation that faculty will immediately employ the most sophisticated methods of online instruction. Rather, I encourage you to begin with the simplest solution that will meet your course  objectives. 

Please also recognize that just as you may struggle with this transition, so too may your students. Please respond with understanding and flexibility. Our students will take your lead. If you rise to this challenge with a sense of optimism and determination, they will as well. I’ve been hearing from deans and faculty about planned remote instructional activities and have every confidence that the ingenuity, creativity, and commitment you bring to your remote instruction delivery will yield positive results for both you and your students.
 

INSTRUCTIONAL SUPPORT FOR FACULTY

We are committed to providing faculty with the support necessary to accomplish the transition to remote instruction. The Center for Teaching and Learning has developed a teaching continuity website that includes strategies for using university-supported applications (i.e., Blackboard, MS Teams) and detailed how-to documentation for several other instructional technologies. Please monitor the site  for additional information and resources as they become available.

This page on the CTL website has the dates and times of in-person instructional continuity workshops offered beginning Thursday, March 12 and running all next week. Additional programming will be offered in response to faculty needs.

Additionally, the CTL has created a private Facebook Group about Teaching Continuity; all interested UVM faculty are invited to join. CTL will post on relevant topics and share assignments, resources, and inquiries with colleagues. Consider this to be a place to bounce ideas, brainstorm solutions, and share resources. CTL staff will also chime in with ideas and suggestions.

Faculty and staff with experience in online/remote instruction who are willing to share their expertise with colleagues across the university should contact Annie Murray Close (dianna.murray-close@uvm.edu), Faculty Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, to see when and how they can volunteer. These faculty are also encouraged to reach out to their departmental colleagues to offer guidance and support.

For help teaching remotely—effective use of Blackboard tools (grade center, assignment design, strategies for organizing content) contact the CTL and its resources in the following ways:

You can find online tutorials and ideas for teaching with Blackboard here:

For Blackboard questions (how to log in or how to open a course; for help with a network connection, computer hardware, or your NetID), contact the UVM TechTeam at 802-656-2604 or submit a ticket by emailing techteam@uvm.edu

In addition to CTL, instructional support units across campus are also developing strategies and resources to assist you. Check the websites of offices such as Writing in the Disciplines and the UVM Libraries for useful and timely information.

LEARNING SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS

The shift to remote instruction and advising will have many impacts on our students. While other issues may arise, several of the most pressing are outlined below.

Some students may not be able to return to campus and will not have access to all of their books, notes, and other course materials. Please make every effort to make materials accessible to students via BlackBoard, including accessible PDF’s of readings, slides, links to streaming video, etc.

When they are away from campus, some of our students do not have access to powerful computers and fast, reliable internet connections. Please consider this when designing assignments and whenever possible default to the method that creates the fewest demands on computing resources.

Inaccessible materials can provide significant learning barriers for students with disabilities. During this period of remote instruction, we remain committed to providing a learning environment which supports all students. If you have questions regarding captioning video, specific accommodation delivery, or the implementation of accommodations within remote instruction, please contact Sharon.Mone@uvm.edu.

In addition to challenges presented by COVID-19, we are in the cold and flu season. Please be prepared to accommodate students who are unable to participate in remote instruction due to illness, and clearly communicate opportunities and expectations around alternative assignments or makeup work. Consistent with its existing practices, the Center for Health and Wellbeing will not provide written medical excuses for brief class absences due to acute illness.

Faculty should continue to support students through remote academic advising. Potential methods include telephone, e-mail, video chat, or other online communication tools. Use of Navigate to maintain advising continuity and provide information to campus support partners.

OUR COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE

Our commitment to excellence and to providing our students with the best educational experience possible remains steadfast. Please consider the following as you prepare for remote instruction:

  • Our expectations for academic rigor continue
  • We must observe the definition of a credit hour
  • Instruction must be provided across the full academic term (faculty cannot individually determine an early end to the semester)
  • Faculty should provide remote office hours or indicate their availability to answer questions via e-mail
  • With the exception of March 16 and March 17, classes should not be cancelled
  • Classes and course work may be delivered asynchronously. Assignments should be distributed evenly and should reasonably approximate the in-person meeting pattern in order to avoid unpredictable or unmanageable workloads for students.
  • Chairs and faculty should consider team-teaching, and identify other faculty members who could fill in to provide short term instruction, particularly for large-capacity and required courses, if necessary

HEALTH AND SAFETY

The health and safety of our entire campus community is paramount. The university’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage will provide you with links to important resources such as the CDC and the Vermont Department of Health. I urge you to review this site for information on how you can take care of yourselves, and how your actions and preventative measures can contribute to the overall health of our campus community.

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION

The university’s COVID-19 website includes FAQ’s, information for travelers, helpful links, and an archive of communications to campus. Please refer to this site often for the most current information and an archive of all communications to campus. 

We have heard from colleagues at institutions across the country regarding a rise in xenophobia, and specifically anti-Asian racism fueled in part by fear of the coronavirus. Our campus values of integrity, diversity, respect and trust must be upheld in a climate of support for our international community members.

We cannot predict what will happen in the coming days or weeks, but we can control how we respond to challenges as they arise. As a community we will need to remain nimble and prepare to respond to situations that may unfold with little notice. I urge you to support each other and our academic leadership team as we navigate the unknowns of the coronavirus. I will provide you with updated information as the situation evolves and if our plans change.

Please know that you have my continued gratitude for your efforts on behalf of our students and our community.

 

Patricia A. Prelock, Provost and Senior Vice President

PUBLISHED

03-11-2020