Dear Poli Sci majors,
With the start of ‘20-21 school year only a month away, I wanted to provide you with some information to help you understand some of the changes you may see to the classes you’ve registered for and to inform you about what we’ve been doing within the Department of Political Science to prepare for the fall semester.
Learning Modes in Poli Sci Courses
Due to space constraints introduced by the new room capacity limits (40% of normal capacity), we have moved some of our LAC sections (Intro to American, International Relations, Contemporary Political Problems) into an online format. Although some changes could still happen before classes begin, at this moment all other courses have an in-person component. For many, we were able to find rooms large enough to allow for fully in-person courses. For others, we are shifting to a hybrid format that mixes an online component with in-person meetings. For example, in a Tuesday/Thursday course, half the class would meet in person on Tuesdays and the other half on Thursdays. To accommodate this hybrid format, we are splitting courses into different “sections” that correspond to the different meeting times. If you check your schedule you may notice that some of these classes now show up as “online” courses. Please know that they are actually hybrid courses, not fully online. We will have these details sorted out soon and will email students in each course to explain the meeting pattern.
Poli Sci Prepares
Over the summer your professors have been giving a lot of thought to how to prepare for the uncertainties of the fall semester. We have looked carefully at survey data about what worked and what didn’t when we had to abruptly shift to online learning last spring. We heard about the difficulties you had managing different modes of communication and different online tools. In response to that experience, we expect all professors to use Blackboard this semester, at least to post the syllabus and other course handouts, readings, and materials, and as the primary means to communicate with students. We are setting up our courses as if they’re online courses (even if they’re in-person) because it will be easier to accommodate students who need to quarantine or are ill, and will support a smoother transition to fully online if an outbreak leads to shelter-in-place restrictions.
Poli Sci is well positioned to make the ‘20-21 school year a positive experience for you. Because of our online Master of Public Policy program, many of our faculty have regularly taught online for the past five years. In the past two years, four other faculty members have been through online course development training and have successfully offered online courses. Over the summer, we have joined the 300+ faculty across campus who have attended professional development sessions to help us prepare for whatever the coming year throws at us.
Despite all of this planning and preparation, we will encounter some bumps in the road. When we do, we will approach them in the same way we did last spring: with as much flexibility and grace as possible.
If you are facing any obstacles to returning to campus and continuing your studies, I encourage you to contact me as soon as possible so we can discuss your options. Allowing you to maintain progress toward your degree is our top priority, and we’re here to help you do that.
Remember that you can find all the University’s communication about returning to campus at forwardtogether.uni.edu. Similarly, we will post all of my emails to students (like this one) to polisci.uni.edu.
C. Scott Peters
Professor and Department Head
Department of Political Science
335 Sabin Hall
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0404