July 16, 2020 at 12:53 pm - TO: umdearborn-all-faculty, umdearborn-leo-faculty

Dear Colleagues:

In our continued efforts to help you all better prepare for a productive and successful academic year, I write to share information about the Fall term, along with the instructional support we are providing and a request for faculty to take part in a survey so we can hear your perspectives and thoughts on how to shape the Winter 2021 semester. 

Fall Campus Presence, Teaching and Instructional Resources

As the Chancellor and I communicated earlier this month, “We expect that the majority of faculty and staff will continue to work from home, as much as possible, throughout the fall semester.” This means that we will continue our policy of working remotely to the greatest extent possible throughout the Fall term.

In terms of teaching, as was shared a few weeks ago, the Fall 2020 semester will be primarily online, with only certain classes that require the use of special equipment or campus facilities (e.g., labs, senior design courses, etc.) meeting in-person on campus. The semester will begin, as scheduled, on Tuesday, September 1 and will meet continuously through Saturday, November 21. Classes will pause for an extended Thanksgiving break (from Sunday, November 22 through Sunday, November 29) and resume in an exclusively remote modality on Monday, November 30 until the end of the semester. I plan on sending an email in early August that will provide additional guidance for those faculty who will be teaching on campus; we will also be holding a faculty town hall in August to review protocols and answer questions (more information to follow).

I have been much encouraged and deeply impressed by all the hard work faculty have put into preparing for the very different teaching environment to be faced in the Fall. Faculty have clearly been taking advantage of the Hub for Teaching & Learning’s Weekly Challenges program which has provided resources ranging from authentic assessments to information on access and equity issues. Although the first round of Weekly Challenges has passed, the Hub is offering a second round of sessions in August; please take advantage of this ‘hands-on’ opportunity to develop components of your course while receiving feedback from colleagues. The Hub also offers an array of services, from 1:1 instructional design meetings to instructional videos and self-paced Canvas modules to assist faculty with online teaching.

For faculty needing to develop course-related recordings, the Professional Education Center will open with a very limited schedule beginning July 15. Two-hour time block recording appointments are available Monday-Thursday with start times at 8:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m, 11:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. CECS online staff will provide support. Appointments are required, and must be scheduled at least a week in advance. To schedule an appointment(s) to record, please complete this scheduling form.

Of course as you will know, substantial additional resources and assistance are available to us. The Mardigian Library is a treasure trove of resources for faculty. Please consider partnering with one of our campus’s librarians, utilizing the “Subject Guides” for your course(s), or adopting material from Open Educational Resources. Librarians and our Student Success Coordinator in the Mardigian also have been at work developing six student-facing Canvas modules ranging from Canvas basics to motivation and study techniques. These will be available in Canvas Commons by mid-August for faculty to use for Fall 2020. In addition, the Office of Digital Education provides assistance with the use of Canvas, MiVideo, and other online resources. Finally, the Office of Information Technology Services has helpful information about technology resources for working remotely. 

Besides the wonderful offices and resources available at UM-Dearborn, faculty can also take advantage of teaching resources made available from the Ann Arbor campus:

Coming to Campus to Prepare for Fall 

As we approach the Fall semester, while we understand that you might have an increased need to utilize campus resources, as a reminder, we cannot let our guard down as we mitigate the spread of the virus. Your continued support is needed to keep our campus community safe. The university has developed processes for accessing campus that must be followed whether you are part of the research ramp-up, or need to make a short visit. Longer visits, or multiple consecutive visits, to campus are strongly discouraged at this time.  

I am also exploring a flexible “hoteling” or “swing space” arrangement to potentially accommodate shorter-term work visits in the fall. I will share details with you next month. 

Winter Planning

As we continue to prepare for the Fall semester, campus leadership has begun preliminary conversations around the Winter 2021 semester. I realize it is now still the Summer when many of you are taking well-deserved vacations, working on research projects, or planning for the Fall semester. However, we have only a few short months left before the Winter 2021 course schedule must be set and students begin to register for classes!  Mamma mia, here we go again...

With that in mind, academic affairs leadership is now seeking your input and thoughts on some winter possibilities. After all, it is you all who are the drivers of our academic enterprise, and you who have been in the trenches working hard to continue the dedicated teaching for which the University of Michigan-Dearborn is known. I would be grateful if you could complete this short survey so I can hear your opinions regarding possible changes to the Winter 2021 academic calendar and course schedule. The survey will be open from now until 5:00 pm on Friday, August 7. In addition, you all should have received an email from me inviting faculty to attend one of a number of small faculty information sessions, hosted by the Hub, to discuss Winter 2021 planning and other issues of concern for faculty. 

I realize that planning for the Winter 2021 semester is difficult as we do not have foreknowledge of the situation we will face come late Fall and early Winter. Currently, the state of Michigan is following a six-stage approach to managing the pandemic, with southeast Michigan in Stage 4 (“Improving”). This means that the rate of the pandemic’s spread is no longer increasing, and the region’s health systems are able to handle all current needs. This phase calls for continued use of physical distancing and face coverings as well as limiting gatherings to small groups. I think we are all aware, however, that things may well not continue on a positive course.

Health and Safety Protocols

As the chancellor has mentioned, our campus will continue rigorously to follow the health and safety guidelines developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of Michigan, our University of Michigan colleagues and our own Dearborn experts to ensure a safe campus environment for our students, faculty and staff. As we did with the Fall 2020 semester, we will plan for the Winter 2021 term with the health and safety of everyone in our campus community as our top priority.

Faculty and staff will need to continue to adjust schedules and behaviors by limiting interactions when conducting campus operations. The university has made difficult decisions to keep the campus safe by suspending athletics, limiting campus access and working primarily remotely. The campus has developed health and safety protocols that will work to ensure a safe learning environment, including: requiring face coverings while in buildings and while outside on campus grounds; implementing floor markings and careful layouts of classrooms to encourage social distancing; using plexiglass barriers where social distancing can’t be maintained; limiting and screening persons as they enter buildings and taking extra care in cleaning the campus.

I want to thank everyone for their oft-demonstrated degree of flexibility and commitment that is so critical to continuing our primary mission of being an educational institution that provides excellent teaching, engagement, research and scholarship in a manner that is accessible and affordable to all students. The state of Michigan is well served in the dedication you all show. 

Best wishes,

Sue Alcock

Provost

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