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Academics and Course Delivery


 Strategies for Returning to In-Person Instruction 

 

Strategy

Description/Notes

Transitioning large courses

Institutional Research has identified 190 in-person courses with a capacity of 50 or more students (listed in Appendix B). These 190 courses represent less than 5% of WKU’s fall 2020 offerings but could transition the format of more than 10,000 seats - significantly reducing campus congestion during transition times and freeing larger classrooms to be used for increasing social distancing in smaller course sections.  

 

Not all of these courses can be transitioned. Department heads will engage with faculty teaching those courses immediately and determine the feasibility of transitioning the class to remote modality. If a course cannot be transitioned, then department chairs should work with Academic Affairs to relocate the class to a room/lecture hall where distancing between students can be increased and alternative attendance strategies may be deployed. Students will be notified if any scheduled classes have been transitioned by July 1.

Physical distancing in the classroom

In addition to requiring face masks in classrooms as outlined in Fall 2020Campus Operational Norms, seating arrangements should, when possible, spread students throughout the classroom by either (1) leaving empty desks between students, (2) physically moving desks farther apart, or (3) reducing the number of students seated at a single table.


If the classroom is not conducive to employing this strategy, faculty, in consultation with department chairs, should consider hybridization or relocation tactics.

Hybridization and course adjustments

Many classes with a capacity less than 50 may still be held in classrooms where physical distancing is not feasible. Department chairs should consult faculty and collect plans from each instructor to maximize distance between students. Adjustment plans may include one or more of the following:

  • Option 1: Moving the course to a larger space available in any campus building, including locations not traditionally reserved for academic use. If on-campus events continue to be limited, additional space may be available in Downing Student Union (DSU) ballrooms, Augenstein Alumni Center, etc.
  • Option 2: Reducing the number of students attending class at each appointed meeting time. In order to ensure that students are not negatively affected by this transition, faculty should consider:
    • Providing livestream access to face-to-face delivery to provide a synchronous experience for students engaging remotely(see Hy-Flex model)
    • Recording synchronous course sessions and allowing asynchronous participants to submit questions during an appointed live-chat period or via an asynchronous method such as BlackBoard or email
    • Utilizing Zoom or similar technology to deliver instruction in multiple classrooms at the same time, alternating which group receives in-person instruction
    • Employing other methods as deemed appropriate to maximize opportunities for engagement of all students
    • In some instances, departments may need to consider substitute courses..Department heads should engage with faculty teaching those courses as soon as possible to discuss available options. 

Reduce/Eliminate Online Learning Fees

We are taking actions that are in the best interest of our students, even when it is more difficult for us as an institution, being mindful that we don’t place the financial burden stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic on our students or their families. As a reminder, we will NOT increase tuition for the 2020-21 academic year, and we have waived (for one year) the distance learning course fee. To be clear, this also means that if students’ on-campus classes are switched to online modality, by WKU or due to personal choice, their tuition assessment will remain at the on-campus rate.

End in-person instruction November 20; close November 23-27 for Fall Break/Thanksgiving

  • Friday, November 20--Last day for in-person instruction
  • Monday, November 23, and Tuesday, November 24--Fall Break observed
  • Wednesday, November 25 - Friday, November, 27--Thanksgiving 
  • Monday, November 30, course instruction and assessment shift to remote delivery for the remainder of fall 2020 semester.  

Alter course times to increase transition time between classes

Shortening each class period by five minutes will achieve the following benefits:

  • Students will have additional time to follow newly-prescribed paths and routes across campus and throughout academic buildings.
  • Instances in which students gather in the hallway waiting for the previous class to end will be reduced.
  • If classes are scheduled back-to-back, HVAC systems will have 33% more time to change the air inside classrooms.
  • Preserving existing start times for each class will limit disruption to student schedules. 

For maximum benefit, the committee assumes the following:

  • Faculty will end classes on time.
  • Students will seek alternative means of clarifying content or asking questions that do not involve remaining behind to speak with the instructor.
  • Students will not congregate in hallways to wait for classes.
  • Space planning will mitigate the number of classes offered per floor of buildings to reduce hallway transition density.
  • Departments will assist the Division of Facilities Management (DFM) in identifying congested areas and in developing strategies to reduce gathering in those spaces.

(A proposed course schedule is included as Appendix C.)

Virtualized office hours

Because faculty offices are often smaller spaces with limited circulation or opportunities for distancing with guests, faculty (including those teaching in-person classes) should virtualize office hours and employ other strategies for in-person meetings that promote social distancing.

Prioritizing campus presence

In reducing campus density, specific teaching modalities should be prioritized for on-campus academic space and face-to-face instruction, including: labs, studios, performance-based, clinicals, etc.

Additional Academic Considerations

It has always been the intent of this plan to provide teaching faculty options and flexibility to deliver the highest quality courses possible for students using modalities appropriate to the various disciplines. We trust the expertise of our individual faculty members, who will be teaching in altered, challenging, and often less than ideal circumstances. We believe that the faculty in consultation with department heads and deans are best situated to understand, develop, and choose the course delivery method that will most effectively and appropriately deliver a quality educational experience for their courses, be that F2F, hybrid, or online. WKU is strengthened as an institution as it supports faculty to explore, develop, and deliver courses using new pedagogical methods. We are committed to providing faculty with the professional development and technology necessary for creating revised purposeful and effective learning environments. We urge faculty to support their colleagues by sharing best practices and to strengthen their own teaching by engaging with the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) as we continue to climb together. We thank students and faculty for their willingness to be open-minded and to embrace opportunities to be fully engaged participants in student-centered, applied educational experiences at WKU.  CITL will release a schedule of training opportunities for faculty as soon as possible. Finally, WKU will make every effort to support students who feel that they are at risk and should not return to the classroom setting by engaging them in remote teaching and learning. We are working with WKU ITS to upgrade our learning spaces in a way that supports Zoom access to Face-to-Face experiences.

In addition to the strategies listed above, faculty with an underlying health condition or who are otherwise members of populations that may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 may request an accommodation by contacting their department head or the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity: https://www.wku.edu/eoo/ada/adaservices.php.

All faculty are advised to develop contingency plans (including a modular approach for nimble response) that could be activated in one or more of the following scenarios:

  • Federal or state guidelines/recommendations shift downward the maximum size of gatherings or academic activities
  • An outbreak on campus necessitates a temporary break or a mid-semester shift
  • Individual courses experience a significant number of cases, and, upon the recommendations of public health officials and WKU’s Department of Emergency Management, faculty are asked to transition some courses to remote delivery
  • Teaching faculty become ill and are unable to complete the course

 

The increased effort in preparation to shift academic delivery should be addressed in the faculty evaluation processes. As a result of the increased effort in teaching and transitioning courses, research productivity may be decreased. Department heads, deans, and the Provost's Office should work to adjust evaluation standards. These adjustments will be of particular importance for faculty going through the tenure and promotion process.

 

The original report submitted by the Academics and Inquiry Committee is available here.  

The addendum to the Academics and Inquiry Restart Committee report is available here.

Additional guidance for Research and Creative Activities is available here.

 

 


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 Last Modified 6/30/20