Interim Provost Steve Roberts sent the following message to all Missouri S&T faculty Wednesday, July 22.

Dear Colleagues,

We are now approximately one month away from the start of instruction in the 2020-2021 academic year. I’m writing to give you some updates and again express the confidence of the entire S&T community in your ability to deliver – under unique and difficult circumstances – an effective learning experience featuring engagement, flexibility, compassion, and preparation, no matter the modality of your instruction at any time in the semester.

Please join me in thanking the Registrar’s office, which took on the monumental task of auditing, recoding, and rescheduling every course section to enable students to pursue their academic and professional goals at S&T. I’m also grateful to students for their commitment and courage to return to Rolla, and to not let the pandemic put their plans on hold. We welcomed back a small population of students this week for Hit the Ground Running and the new Summer IV session, giving us hope for the future, as well as a chance to practice our new COVID mitigation measures for safe interaction prior to the full-scale return of students in August.

For those who are teaching in-person or blended/hybrid, please be aware that a transition to online-only instruction could happen at any time, and we must be prepared to pivot to online. An effective online learning experience includes these elements, among others that you can identify depending on your discipline:

  • Consistent and frequent contact with students through announcements, email, and other means
  • Rich and robust resources for students to familiarize them with course material
  • Clear instructions for students when a change in modality affects expectations regarding assignments, assessments, and/or due dates
  • Student-to-student communications to foster collaborative learning opportunities, engagement, and a sense of community
  • Similar content and equivalent learning outcomes regardless of modality

If you are or feel unprepared for online instruction, please consider participating in faculty trainings through UM System, with new sessions starting on August 3 and September 14.

As of today, the breakdown of course sections and their modalities for our Fall 2020 class schedule (not including research or independent study) is:

In Person – 931 (61%)

Online Synchronous – 273 (18%)

Online Asynchronous – 143 (9%)

Blended/Hybrid – 179 (12%)

Total – 1526

In any modality of instruction, plans for access and learning continuity should be important aspects of your course strategy. You can anticipate increased requests for leniency and alternatives. Students will very likely be asking you for resources, accommodations, and understanding that they wouldn’t ask for under normal circumstances, and I encourage you to honor them when it is possible to do so without being unfair to other students, and without compromising on assessment of learning outcomes. A key resource supporting access and continuity is that we are planning to equip every classroom and CLC on campus with cameras, Wacom devices, and software that will enable you to easily record (via Panopto or Zoom) every class session and archive them in Canvas for students to access as a learning resource. Media Services will be providing training on these devices and software. We know both from our experience in Spring 2020, and from research, that students will review the recordings of class sessions and benefit from them; engagement with material (time on task) is a key factor in student success. Therefore, I strongly recommend that every faculty member maintain such an archive in Canvas, regularly updated, for every course, regardless of modality.

We will be using the large gymnasium (not Gibson Arena) in the Gale Bullman Multi-Purpose building for the in-person instruction of some of our largest class sections, which have enrollments up to 370 students. This room is the only one large enough to accommodate these sections under current guidelines of social distancing. Please show some flexibility with students who have courses in Gale Bullman, as their travel time between classes may create scheduling challenges or tardiness.

Finally, please remember that S&T policy requires that face coverings be worn in classrooms, common areas, and any other space (indoors or outdoors) where social distancing cannot be consistently maintained. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assert that face coverings, in combination with social distancing and frequent handwashing, are particularly effective in reducing COVID-19 transmission. A working group will soon broadly distribute a Face Covering Policy Guidelines and FAQ document that will address availability, type, applicability, compliance, and exceptions.

I know this summer has not been what you had planned for, and that you’ve spent far more time than usual in preparing yourself and your classes for the 2020-2021 academic year. The entire S&T community deeply appreciates your hard work and commitment to student success, and the students will be especially grateful for the outstanding learning experiences that you have prepared for them.

Thank you for everything you do to make S&T a wonderful place to learn, discover, and work.

Sincerely,

Steve