Dr. Stephen Roberts, interim provost, emailed S&T faculty members the following message on July 2 to update them on academic planning:

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to update you on academic planning for the Fall 2020 semester. I’m sure you have been watching the developments of academic planning at S&T, across the UM System, and at higher education institutions across the nation. Today I have two basic messages. The first is that, as S&T faculty, you have the complete confidence of your faculty peers as well as students, staff, administrators, the Board of Trustees, the Board of Curators, legislators, and the citizens of Missouri. The overall sentiment of these stakeholders has always been the same: if anyone can do it, it’s S&T. That same unwavering confidence applies to our responsibility of sustaining the diverse, engaging, valuable, inclusive, and experiential learning enterprise for which we are famous. No matter what we face, the default expectation is that we will succeed. Together we will tap into our defining traits of situational awareness, adaptability, flexibility, creativity, resilience, and compassion to meet this expectation.

The second message is that we need to be prepared for what we’ve planned, and to adapt in any number of ways depending on prevailing COVID-19 conditions. As you know, we are moving forward with plans to begin the fall semester on Monday, August 24, with in-person, hybrid, and remote instruction. We also will continue to assess the public health situation and be prepared to make any necessary adjustments to the fall schedule. Faculty colleagues, department chairs, deans, the registrar, academic support, facilities management, environmental health and safety, student health services, and many other organizations have been working very hard to create resources and a campus environment that will yield an effective learning experience in the safest possible environment for doing so. However, we face the possibility of changing circumstances and decisions that will challenge us to tap deeply into the traits mentioned above. In terms of health-related decisions affecting the campus, our Chief Medical Officer and the rest of S&T’s Incident Command Team has consulted, and will continue to consult, with members of the campus community, the City of Rolla, the UM System, and the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development. Their decisions are and will continue to be informed by guidelines and communication from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College Health Association, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and The Phelps-Maries County Health Department.

With these two messages in mind, I am providing information below that will help you be prepared for the fall semester. I urge you to take advantage of these resources and recommendations so as to be able to provide the most effective learning experience possible, no matter the modality of instruction that you start with or adopt during the semester.

Extensive online resources related to assessments and remote teaching are available at https://keeplearning.mst.edu/faculty/ and https://keeplearning.umsystem.edu/instructors.

A checklist based on pillars of effective online course design is available on the CAFÉ website; please consider using this checklist to self-evaluate courses you plan to deliver remotely this fall.

CAFÉ will host two more self-paced Online Course Design Basics Workshops this summer from July 13 – August 10 and August 3 – August 31. For more information or to sign up, please visit the Start Here: Online Course Design Basics Workshop.

On August 14, the Office of Academic Support will provide some standard and updated language that faculty should include in their syllabi and policy statements regarding COVID-19 related safety measures related to face coverings, social distancing requirements, and other campus policies.

The following practices are offered as recommendations.  Nevertheless, please seriously consider adopting them to help ensure that students have a positive academic experience this fall:

  • Post an announcement in Canvas that welcomes students to the course, explains how the course will be structured, and provides clear instructions for how students can receive assistance, contact you, submit questions, and use campus services like LEAD, the Student Success Center, the Writing Center, Testing and Student Disability Services, Care Management, and the Counseling Center as appropriate. 
  • To assess instructors’ and students’ online learning readiness and technology accessibility, consider taking  UMKC’s Online Readiness Survey.
  • Upload your syllabus on the Canvas course site prior to the start of the semester. For face-to-face and hybrid courses, explain how the course will transition to fully online if needed during the semester, and describe how students can prepare themselves for this possibility. 
  • Explain how assessments will be conducted, including all technology requirements that students will need in order to participate in graded activities (e.g. the mobile app Cam Scanner to submit handwritten assignments remotely). Although online proctoring services like Proctorio will be available through Canvas, online proctoring introduces a wide set of challenges for both faculty and students.  Consider other methods of assessment to measure student mastery of course content.  Many examples of such assessment activities can be found here at https://keeplearning.umsystem.edu/instructors/exams-and-assignments. Also, students need to be notified in advance of any required proctoring fees.
  • Include in your syllabus a clear commitment to responding to student email in terms of hours or days.
  • Create a variety of opportunities for students to engage you through flexibly scheduled office hours and individual or small group meetings either in person or on Zoom.
  • Attendance will be impossible for some students in the context of COVID due to their own illness, need to isolate, or caring for family members who may become ill.  Upload course materials, including readings, assignments, and recorded lectures, to the Canvas course site, so students who have attendance challenges during the semester can remain caught up.
  • Post grades and other feedback on student performance within the Canvas course site in a timely manner (i.e. in as close to real-time as possible) to assist students in tracking performance across the semester and to give students the opportunity to drop, withdraw, or seek outside assistance.
  • Use S&T Connect through the Canvas course site to alert students, advisors, and academic support specialists about performance concerns including attendance issues, low test scores, lack of participation, missing assignments, or to raise general concerns. Concerns about students may also be referred to UCARE: https://go.mst.edu/ucare-report/
  • Give students ample warning about what constitutes academic dishonesty in your course. Not all instructors use the same guidelines for originality, plagiarism, using and citing sources, and use of the internet during assessments. Ensure that students can proactively demonstrate academic integrity to avoid appearing to commit acts of dishonesty inadvertently. Learn more about promoting academic integrity in online classes here: Promote Academic Integrity.

Above all, if you are having doubts or experiencing difficulty in any aspect of preparation, engagement, or wellness as we run up to and into the fall semester, then please reach out for help. If you don’t know who to go to, then contact me directly, and I will help you find the right person/support system.

Thank you for everything you are doing to keep S&T a wonderful place to work, learn, and discover.

Sincerely,

Steve