Updates from the Provost
- Monday, August 17th, 2020
It is my pleasure to welcome you back to a new academic year on the Hill! It has certainly been a remarkable and interesting summer and I truly hope that you have had the opportunity to relax and spend some time with family and friends - no matter what form that took during this COVID-19 pandemic.
As you well know, in Spring 2020 faculty were called to perform in an emergency situation and pivoted quickly. There were 4,035 Banner sections of courses that were enrolled in the Blackboard site - almost 1,000 more than in Spring 2019. In very concrete ways, faculty met the educational needs of their students. Beyond ensuring the continuance of instruction, faculty made an impact on students’ lives and many of those students contributed to a record number of nominations for CITL Teaching Honors. There were 849 nominations in Spring 2020 - more than twice the number compared to Spring 2019. A theme that ran through many of the nominations was that faculty displayed “a very positive and resilient attitude that assisted the students in the class in continuing to achieve their educational goals” confirming the bond that WKU faculty and students forged during a particularly challenging semester.
Since last spring, there has been an incredible amount of planning and I’d like to acknowledge the hard work of faculty and staff that prepared the protocols, classrooms, communications, courses, and so much more so that we can be prepared to welcome students in-person and virtually to our campus. Faculty have spent a significant part of their summer re-tooling for their fall courses and finding creative ways to approach teaching in this pandemic environment. Departments across campus have held regular meetings and workshops, learning from each other's expertise and problem-solving common challenges. Faculty also actively attended CITL webinars focusing on topics such as designing an effective hybrid course, facilitating an engaging Zoom session, and using feedback apps to maximize student learning. Faculty attendance for the summer webinars thus far (June 17-August 11) totaled 388 (not unique) attendees. As of August 10, 767 sections have been converted to the online modality and 838 sections have been converted to hybrid modality. Converting over 1,600 sections to a different modality is a significant achievement and represents the hard work and dedication faculty have invested to ensure this semester proves to be successful for WKU students.
As we approach the beginning of this new semester we must continue to do the work of the university while working along side of the virus. As we build on the incredible work and achievements of the recent past, it's important to look forward. In February 2020, my office and CITL announced a call for the Community of Practice Fellowship that focuses on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as it relates to teaching and learning. This fellowship is the first of its kind at Western Kentucky University and in the next three years these six fellows will help to fulfill the twin goals of empowering faculty in their teaching and engaging students in culturally responsive and high-impact learning. Please join me in congratulating the six DEI Community of Practice Fellows as they begin this important university work. They include Professors Fabian Alvarez, Monica Burke, Nicholas Fortune, Kimberly Green, Michelle Jones, and Gayle Mallinger.
We have learned a lot about how the COVID-19 virus works but there is still much to learn. Please follow the recommendations of our local public health experts and the governor of Kentucky. Their goal is to provide guidance and advice associated with behaviors that can help mitigate the spread of the virus. WKU has adopted their guidance to wear an appropriate mask in public spaces (here is a link to the WKU mask guidelines), maintain a physical distance of six feet from others, and practice good hand hygiene.
Finally, here are a few notes and reminders.
- Here is a link to the WKU Guide to Zoom Rooms.
- Flexibility is still key to ensuring success for students. However, we learned last semester that responsiveness also matters. If possible, please respond to student inquiries within 24 hours.
- No matter which course modality, actively engaging with students builds a strong community of learners. This engagement directly impacts student success. Checkout this CITL link for ideas on how to engage and build community in your courses.
- Remember, Face-to-Face classes will not meet after Thanksgiving. Please plan for final exams to be virtual or in an alternate format.
There is no doubt that we are moving into another challenging semester, and I know that many of us will face special challenges at home on top of the ones at work. However, I am convinced that we are up to the challenge. Our faculty and staff are dedicated to the health and well-being of our community and of our students. Thank you for that dedication and the hard work to come. If my office can do anything to help, just ask.
Cheryl Stevens, PhD
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs