Dear CSBS Colleagues,
In light of recent university-level communications, I wanted to send a brief message to highlight some points to keep in mind as we face upcoming challenges and remain focused on serving our students in the coming weeks.
For now, the main directive is moving all courses to some sort of distance delivery mode. Campus will remain open, with faculty and staff able to come to their offices to work. Our overarching goal is focused on ensuring that our students’ academic experience is impacted as minimally as possible. I know this poses a number of challenges for faculty and staff, so I want to emphasize that my office is here to provide support for departments.
Some thoughts to consider based on points that were shared with me from an academic listserv:
Please focus first on doing your best with the technology you already know. There are wonderful resources through our educational technology specialists to help support you in using a wide variety of pedagogical tools here. Start with what you know, even if it is only email, given the sudden timing of this change and the amount of stress that everyone is under. Then build from there based on what you think works best for your courses. Your solutions and choices may look different from those of your colleagues. Your department head can provide suggestions for options, if you are wondering what things could look like.
Be kind and be flexible. Given the stress and uncertainty everyone is experiencing, please be supportive of students and work to understand the constraints they may be facing with technology, timing and even living situations. For example, they may not have high-speed internet (or even a computer) available at their home. And please extend this kindness to our dedicated IT staff, as they are being inundated with requests and are doing their best to address them all.
Focus on prioritizing in your courses. This sudden change in delivery mode will most likely require you to make difficult decisions about what is most important for students to learn in the next few weeks, and potentially require adjustments to your original plans for content and assignments.
Stay in frequent contact with your students, as they will be looking to you for clarification on what to expect and reassurances that they will be able to complete the course successfully. Also, please stay in frequent contact with your department head, so everyone can be on the same page in regards to what is happening.
With all of this in mind, I would encourage you to take these next few days before spring break to prepare for all possibilities. While the current directive for online and/or distance delivery of courses is set for two weeks, I would ask that each faculty member prepare for the possibility that it could be for a longer period of time. I have asked department heads to have not only a Plan B ready, but even a Plan C, Plan D, etc. I would ask each of you to do the same. Planning for a variety of scenarios will assist us in being better prepared as this situation rapidly unfolds.
I will continue to stay in close contact with department heads and directors. Please reach out to them with your questions, and know that we will provide answers and updates as soon as they are made available. There are many unknowns at this time, including how we will proceed with upcoming, scheduled events and domestic travel. We encourage you to review the resources provided on the COVID-19 website and continue to monitor the site for additional announcements and directives from the university.
Thank you in advance for your flexibility, dedication and patience. I am fully confident in the abilities of the CSBS faculty and staff (and students!) to manage this challenge! I will remain in touch, and please feel free to reach out to me or my office with questions and concerns.
Brenda L. Bass, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences