ready to talk about Fall quarter?

Bill Maurer
Thursday February 18 13:21:03 PDT 2021

Dear social sciences faculty, grad students, lecturers, researchers
and staff,

Here we are, over the hump of Winter quarter and approaching the
one-year anniversary of our move to remote operations. By now you
all know how much I have personally appreciated everyone's efforts
to keep the ship not just afloat, but running smoothly, while we
continue to support each other and our students.

Meantime, it's time to start talking about Fall quarter.

Some of you will start receiving various messages soon from different
parts of campus operations about plans for Fall. Let me break it
down for you, with the caveat that everything is subject to change
as conditions warrant!

1) The campus has begun planning as if Fall quarter will be held
in person.

2) The campus knows that Fall quarter is likely to NOT be held
(entirely) in person!

3) However, planning as if we'll be in person helps the Registrar,
Housing, and all the units know what to expect in terms of possible
classroom demand, potential enrollment, enrollment bottlenecks in
particular undergraduate majors, numbers of sections, possible TA
appointments, and the like.

With that knowledge, we can...

4) Start talking during March and April about what might be doable
if we: reopen at 50% capacity for in-person instruction, or at 30%
capacity for in-person instruction, or wholly remote for classes
above a certain enrollment size, or... something else.

I'm thinking we'll be mostly remote, but not entirely remote. I bet
we'll do a lot of remote, and some hybrid or dual instruction.

Which brings me to some important terminology:

ONLINE = approved for online instruction by the Senate. This is
what we used to call a "real" online course.

REMOTE = what we've been doing; taking our courses and transitioning
them into an online format but without having had Senate review for
that modality. Stay tuned for more on this.

HYBRID  = a course that is offered in the same way to all students,
requires at least one hour of in-person meeting, but less in-person
time than the standard for the number of units of a course.

DUAL or MIXED = same course taught in two ways simultaneously (say,
lecturing in person to a live studio audience, plus live streaming,
for students watching synchronously from their dorms, homes, or
study spaces).

HYFLEX = avoid this term! This is a complex model that involves
creating two complete versions of your course – online and in-person
– in which students may "flex" from week to week. This is not a
model likely to be embraced anytime soon. (Bill says, "No no no.")

Questions to consider:
 (1) do I want to be in the classroom come fall?
 (2) what will I need to be comfortable to teach in person?
 (3) what changes do I want to start making to my courses in order
     to be ready for Fall quarter?
 (4) do I want to request another DTEI fellow for the summer for fall
 (5) are any of my courses better taught fully online? We'll be
     surveying everyone soon on these and other Fall quarter related

We'll also be watching and waiting as the vaccine rollout progresses
and as the campus devises alternative plans for various combinations
of remote and hybrid instruction.

The nice thing about our position is that nothing needs to be decided
now, and not even by mid-Spring quarter. We also have the luxury
as a campus of starting later in the year than our peer institutions
on the east coast and across the country, and can learn from their
re-openings before our Fall quarter even begins.

That said, it's time to start the conversation about Fall quarter.
I want to encourage that conversation to take place in the spirit
of safety and compassion as well as, importantly, access and equity.
We know from our own surveys that some of our students are suffering
in this environment, even as some are flourishing. We also know
that some students will not be able or willing to come back to
campus. The campus is devising a centralized system for such students
to request an accommodation, much as we already do through the
Disability Services Center. But the expectation is that students
will come back, physically, to campus, even if a good deal of their
instruction continues online in one way or another.

Clear as mud? Well, come on, it's our first pandemic! We're getting
better and better at dealing with contingencies, I think. And we'll
have even more practice in the weeks and months to come. Don't
worry: we've got each other, and especially our fantastic and
dedicated staff members to get us over the next hump. (And there
will be more to come on staff return-to-campus and flexible scheduling
plans, too).

Take good care and keep wearing those masks,