Updates from the Provost
- Tuesday, January 12th, 2021
Happy New Year and welcome to the spring 2021 semester at WKU. We continue to work hard at recruiting and retaining high quality students by providing them with the best educational experience possible. As you well know, meaningful engagement is key to their success.
The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning has been instrumental in helping faculty navigate the most unusual semester. Examples follow.
- In response to the challenges of the semester, faculty rose to the occasion. One testament of their success is over 300 student nominations submitted in December 2020 for the CITL Teaching Honors. [https://www.wku.edu/citl/faculty-spotlight/teachingexcellence.php]
- During the fall 2020 semester, many faculty demonstrated their dedication to serving their students through engagement with professional development. From mid-August through December, the attendance for pedagogy-related events reached 238. This number does not take into account the many hours faculty spent with colleagues and instructional designers ensuring that WKU students receive an exceptional educational experience, regardless of modality.
- Finalizing their preparations for an unusual spring semester, 58 unique faculty attended CITL's two-day Winter Workshop sessions (January 6-7), sharing with each other advice and strategies for the coming semester. The recordings and resources for all the sessions are available here: [https://www.wku.edu/citl/events/winterworkshop.php]
- The DEI Community of Practice Fellows, in partnership with One WKU Academy, are presenting a line-up of events for spring 2021 that includes a female BIPOC faculty panel and a workshop on (In)Visible (Dis)Abilities, among others.
- Departments responded enthusiastically to the expansion of the WKU Living Learning Program. In fall 2021 there will be thirteen academic Living Learning Communities representing all the colleges. [https://www.wku.edu/housing/communities/index.php]
- Since this semester's academic calendar will not include spring break, several WKU faculty have shared a number of strategies they're considering for making their lives and the lives of their students more manageable: https://www.wku.edu/citl/resources/nospringbreak.php
Last week, the Big Red Restart Academic and Inquiry Taskforce discussed a variety of pandemic related topics as we prepare to begin classes next Tuesday. Despite the challenging circumstances, our campus community did an excellent job of limiting virus spread by following our Healthy on the Hill guidelines. We need to continue to be vigilant this semester as we await vaccine distribution.
Two specific instructional matters that the Academic Restart Committee discussed were the extra five minutes allowed last semester between classes and spring 2021 final exam modality. Initially, the purpose of those extra five minutes between classes was to allow time for classroom cleaning and longer pedestrian pathways through or around buildings. While it has been determined that COVID-19 is not easily transmitted from surfaces or from passing people in hallways, teaching faculty expressed that the additional five minutes provided extra time for them to set up technology and prepare their classrooms. Therefore, during the spring 2021 semester, we will continue to allow faculty to take an extra five minutes between classes with the expectation that those five instructional minutes will be assigned to other forms of academic work. SACSCOC guidelines require that we define a number of instructional minutes that correlate with credit hours earned. Therefore, we must account for those five minutes.
With respect to spring 2021 final exams, the committee decided that face-to-face final exams are allowable for face-to-face and hybrid courses (with a face-to-face component) as long as social distancing protocols are followed. Fully online courses should have online final exams. Of course, faculty could choose to have an online final for face-to-face or hybrid classes. There may be some additional logistical/room challenges with scheduling hybrid exams. Please take time to anticipate those and work with your Department Heads/Chairs and schedulers to plan for those issues.
Thank you for everything you do to help our students succeed.
Cheryl L. Stevens, PhD
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs