In our many communications this summer to current and admitted students, we discussed the significant challenges and successes of the spring semester, and emphasized that while it was likely that fall 2020 would not be a normal semester, we would be well prepared and ready to move quickly to adapt to new challenges.
As you know, we are now looking at a fall semester that is mostly online. As students are learning this, they have lots of questions and concerns, particularly as some of them had some less-than-ideal online experiences in the spring, whether at UWM, on another campus, or in their high school.
On Monday, students received an email from the Registrar’s Office asking them to look at their schedules, which have now been updated; you can see a copy of this email at the bottom of this message. Below, I also summarize the overall messaging students are receiving about the fall and provide critical guidelines on how instructors can best help students stay enrolled and succeed.
WHAT WE’RE COMMUNICATING TO STUDENTS
- Students will be receiving an update about the City of Milwaukee’s policies, letting them know that we have been approved to proceed with our fall plans without modifications.
- Students will soon be provided with course modality details (e.g., “if your last name starts with B, you will be face to face on Mondays”); the Registrar’s Office has asked schedule planners to enter this information by Wednesday, July 22.
- Advisors are working hard to help students understand their schedule and make plans to progress. They will be depending on instructors and department designees and websites to help students make important choices about what can be accomplished during this unusual semester.
- Lecture capture will be available in face-to-face classrooms so that students can watch recordings of lectures, and students will be accommodated as much as possible to make their schedules manageable and to support them if they are no longer able to attend a face-to-face course.
- All in-person instruction will end 15 minutes early, with the expectation that this time limitation will not reduce the overall content of the course.
- All individual student meetings with faculty, teaching assistants, peer mentors, advisors, coaches, coordinators, and tutors will happen online. Instructors and student support offices and centers will post clear information about availability and scheduling.
GUIDELINES FOR DEPARTMENTS AND INSTRUCTORS
- Identify a point person for your department/course array who can be contacted with any modality/accessibility/content/communication issues; this person will be the go-to person for questions from advisors. We will follow up with department chairs so that we can compile this information.
- Use email and Canvas to reach out to students enrolled in your courses. Students are experiencing a lot of uncertainty about their courses and plans. Get them excited about what they will learn and provide them with course info. For courses that don’t yet have instructors, the Department Chair or Undergraduate Chair can conduct this outreach.
- Reach out to students in your majors, minors and certificate programs. A supportive note about the fall from a favorite instructor or from a department chair can make a big difference.
- Ensure your department web site is up to date. Students will rely more heavily than ever on our digital information. Feature career options, exciting updates in the field and news about faculty and alumni. Help students see that a degree is still the best way to plan their future.
- Ensure the accuracy of your course listings and provide course information on Canvas as well as on PAWS.
- As I have suggested in the Friday meeting (July 17), it is critical that we use Canvas for all courses, in particular the Canvas gradebook. Online gradebooks are a baseline expectation for students coming out of modern high schools, and the use of Canvas is critical for the reporting work of the Persistence Action Team, which relies on Canvas for aggregate data that can identify patterns for students who are struggling in multiple courses.
- Plan on working virtually for office hours (and other appointments). Post on Canvas and elsewhere (perhaps in your email signature) how students can make appointments.
- Plan ahead for how you can best accommodate students who can no longer attend a F2F course. More explicit guidance on accommodations is forthcoming; in the meantime, consider how your course design might adapt to support students who need to stop out, or how it might adapt to move fully online, should that become necessary. Be sure your department designee can get into your Canvas site and send a note to students, post material or assist with grading if needed.
- Plan backup teaching in the event that you are unable to teach or need to be with family.
July 20th note from the Registrar’s Office:
Schedule of classes updated
The UWM family is eagerly awaiting the start of the fall semester, even though it may look a little different than we thought it would. We know you want to know which of your classes will be online or hybrid (some face-to-face class time as well as online engagement). After careful planning, keeping both safety and top-notch educational experiences in mind, we have made the necessary adjustments to the schedule of classes. Please log into your PAWS account as soon as you can to see what your fall schedule looks like.
Your courses themselves have not changed. We have only made updates to the way in which you’ll experience them. For online components, please review your schedule carefully to see if the teaching will be synchronous (you have to be logged in to the course at a certain day and time) or asynchronous (no designated login time). Synchronous online courses will show a day/time on the schedule when you will meet online for class. Asynchronous online courses will not show a day/time on your schedule.
For face-to-face components, you will see classrooms assigned by the first week in August. Some face-to-face courses are splitting enrollment between two or more meeting days (for example: last names A-L meet on Tuesdays, last names M-Z meet on Thursdays). These details will be added to the course notes section on the Schedule of Classes in the beginning of August. To ensure adequate time for additional cleaning, as well as safe, socially distant entry and exit to and from classrooms, face-to-face classes will be dismissed 15 minutes prior to the published end time.
We are confident that we will provide you with an enriching experience whether your courses are online or hybrid. UWM is the best place in Wisconsin to be for this kind of creative thinking: We have 20 years of experience and leadership in online education, and our Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning has implemented an action plan to train our faculty to provide the best learning opportunities no matter the venue.
If you have questions about your schedule or would like to make changes, please contact your academic advisor (who can be found on the home page of your Student Center in PAWS).
Wishing you a great semester!
Provost’s message sent to instructional staff, advisors, school/college leadership