Thank you for engaging in productive discussions about teaching on campus, and how to best deliver the TCU experience to our students. We have received valuable feedback since I wrote last week to encourage in-person teaching for Spring 2021 (attachment 1). I write to you today with an update, with more details coming next week. I appreciate your stamina in reading this lengthy email.
Student Governance Association Resolution
Based in part on a TCU Student Experience Survey, the SGA passed a resolution (attachment 2) on Wednesday that resolves…
“That the Student Government Association recognizes the fact that online classes have left students significantly dissatisfied with their academic experience and encourages all members of university faculty to hold class in person for the Spring 2021 semester. SGA asks relevant members of the administration to develop a plan to hold classes either wholly in person, and when absolutely necessary, fully online, eliminating the need for a ‘hybrid format’ for the majority of circumstances.”
Yesterday, I consulted with SGA President Paige Shiring, and she addressed the Faculty Senate to provide additional insight.
Please Consider In-Person Teaching – part 2
Last week, I asked for ideas on how we could help make in-person teaching less difficult, and faculty responded. Faculty Senate Chair Sean Atkinson held a panel on Wednesday where four faculty currently teaching on campus shared their experiences. The deans convened yesterday to offer their ideas. Based on all of these ideas, see below for more information about rationale and considerations.
TCU Health and Safety Protocols are Working
As of 4:00 p.m. today, the TCU COVID-19 case count shows only 14 active cases. Despite last weekend’s activities (a football game and Greek bid day), we are at a lower case count than this time last week. No in-classroom transmission has been found to date. The few faculty members who have contracted COVID-19 have not contracted it on campus nor while on university business off campus. Our protocols are working and we are grateful to our community for cooperating.
Four Teaching Modes – Faculty Choice
For Spring 2021, we will offer four teaching modes for faculty choice, adding two more to In Person and Online.
- P – In Person as currently defined. This is the only dual-mode option and includes teaching to students in a classroom while simultaneously teaching online, with the addition of a Student Engagement Facilitator to support the technology and engagement of students online.
- ON – Online as currently defined. For classes offered online due to size, I encourage you to break the class into smaller sections or at least one section for In Person Only teaching. There are ample spaces across campus to hold In Person classes up to size 40 in a physically distanced way. Or, choose a lower number that fits your comfort. You are not limited to the classrooms in your building. We will find you a room! We also will pay for the additional sections to be taught according to the normal pay scales for adjuncts, overloads, and visiting lecturers.
- IO – In-Person Only. This new mode is teaching to students in a classroom without an online audience. Lectures would be recorded solely for students who must miss class due to self-isolation or quarantine. IPO classes will not be available for students to take in online mode.
- AL – Alternating. This new mode is not to be confused with the previous, unpopular “alternating A/B” mode. In Alternating mode, the professor teaches at least one weekly lecture to all students in person and teaches the other one or two weekly lectures to all students online. This provides flexibility for faculty who need to limit time on campus (e.g., family care), while also providing at least one in-person session for the students.
Changing Your Modality
There is still time to change your teaching modality, even if you already responded to the Registrar. Next week, I will send information to the department chairs on how to do this with the two new added modalities, plus a request for help in finding rooms across campus to accommodate courses of sizes up to 40 students.
Serving Fully Online Students and Supporting Student Engagement Facilitators
We currently have 1,306 students (11%) registered as fully online and distributed among 128 majors. Most do not live in the Fort Worth area. We remain committed to their academic progression and continue to offer In-Person (dual) for crucial courses. Fortunately, faculty endorse student engagement facilitators as a game-changer to engage students in this dual mode.
Last week, I offered to provide $300 per on-campus course for student engagement facilitators. The deans have asked that we offer a higher amount, and we will do so. Information coming next week.
Pedagogy, Engagement, and Who Creates The Connected Horned Frog Experience?
For many courses, a fully online platform best supports an active and engaging pedagogy, since students and professors share the same communication medium and may feel closer than in a physically distanced classroom. While this works well for many students, emails filling my inbox tell me that freshmen, transfers, and students with learning differences and mental health challenges, are stymied by the virtual environment in their ability to engage in their courses and in the Horned Frog community. To provide an inclusive learning environment, I encourage in-person teaching as much as possible.
Student engagement facilitators will help tremendously with navigating technology and engagement for online students.
A key disappointment expressed by faculty and students alike is the increasing numbers of on-campus students staying in their dorm rooms to Zoom into class. It is difficult to create an engaging experience with only two students in class and 16 students on Zoom. This begs the question: who creates the connected Horned Frog experience? My answer: all of us, including students.
We plan to work with the SGA to support peer influencer “attend class” messaging this semester as an additional tactic to encourage students to attend class. We wear masks to protect others, not just ourselves. In the same way, we will encourage in-person class attendance to catalyze the Horned Frog connected experience for others, not just ourselves.
We also are working with Advisors to encourage students to consider the locations of their classrooms, Landing Zones on campus, and private rooms (e.g., in the library) when creating their schedule. This will enable students to create a strategy to attend class comfortably, without running between home and campus during the day.
Enhancing Fall 2020 Semester and Planning for Spring 2021
Busy Work Not Required: Many students feel they are being assigned “busy work” in courses, and many faculty are providing weekly assignments because they think it is required. I will restate what we tried to convey this summer: the Connected Campus Plan asks that you deliver your courses at least 80% synchronously (e.g., Zoom). Other than this delivery requirement, faculty are free to determine the appropriate pedagogy and assessment for your course. If you are assigning a weekly discussion board or project solely to fulfill a perceived requirement, there is no need to do so.
Parking: While we cannot offer free parking to employees who work on campus, we can offer flexibility. We are working to find closer parking spots for faculty who teach after 5:00 pm this semester. We are looking at other ways to leverage the many empty parking spaces during the day.
Food: We hope to provide some free food swipes at campus dining for faculty who teach on campus, starting this semester.
Student engagement facilitator: We will support a student engagement facilitator for any professor currently teaching on campus this semester. Please send your request through your dean.
Office Hours: I am seeking an answer to the question of “can we start to hold in-person office hours?”
Funds for teaching additional sections are available from my office for normal rates for adjuncts and overload pay.
Modified Due Dates for Spring Preferences
The deadline to inform the registrar of your spring course preference and teaching modality choices was Friday September 25. If you have not yet sent in this information (especially course preferences) please do so immediately. The process of building the online schedule is lengthy. However, we are able to delay the deadline to express or change your teaching modality preference from Oct. 6 to Oct. 8 and still remain on schedule to post the Spring Class Schedule online by October 15. I hope that a couple of extra days will help with your deliberations.
It took some time to assemble answers to open questions. While we do have more information coming to you, I wanted to get these updates to you as soon as possible to facilitate decision-making. Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for your support of our students.
Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs