Academic Continuity Planning

8/28/2020: Instructor FAQ

Dear Colleagues,

As we prepare for the start of the semester, we know there are many questions arising among our instructors about what to expect and how to handle COVID-19 related events. You will find an Instructor FAQ posted online that provides answers to many questions we’ve been fielding this month.

The questions are particularly relevant to our instructors teaching in-person classes. However, we think all instructors and academic support staff will benefit, since many of you may hear questions from students or colleagues. We’ve tried to keep the document brief while providing detailed information, instructions, and important links for you and your students.

Please spend time with this document. We hope the information and recommended actions will help you and your students navigate these novel and unfamiliar times. We understand that your class or circumstance may have unique considerations not addressed in this document. Should that be the case, please contact your Dean or Adam Jussel, Dean of Students.

As always, I’m grateful for everyone’s commitment and flexibility in preparing for this new academic year. And, I know that your compassion, caring, and flexibility with our students will demonstrate the values of the UWM Panther community.

Take care,


Johannes Britz
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs


Past Provost messages regarding Fall Instruction:

8/20/2020: Key Updates for Fall Semester

8/20/2020: Key Updates for Fall Semester

Colleagues –

Here are some key updates for the fall semester:

Syllabus statement
The Crisis Management Team (CMT) has now approved the COVID statement for all syllabi. Please provide it to your students, at minimum, in the syllabus document.

Academic Testing
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you that instructors need to be prepared to accommodate students who are unable to be physically present because of illness, self-isolation/quarantine, or other valid reasons. Instructors should also consider how they can best provide assessments should the campus need to transition to fully online instruction at some point in the semester.

To provide for large-group, proctored exams for hybrid and face-to-face courses, UWM will set up a testing center in the Wisconsin Room of the Union, which can allow up to 150 students to safely take exams at the same time; we may also be able to provide testing in other large lecture halls.

If you already have determined your exam schedule in the fall and would like to use the testing center, please send the following information, via email, to Cheryl Andres at

Subject/Course number/section (e.g. MATH 105-004):



Exam dates and times:

Two key considerations:

  1. When making arrangements for students to take tests in-person, instructors should also be prepared to accommodate students who are unable to be physically present because of illness, self-isolation/quarantine, or other valid reasons. In such cases, instructors are strongly encouraged to offer online exams (Proctorio will be available if needed) or other arrangements at the discretion of the instructor.
  1. Due to staff reductions and COVID-19-related guidelines on processing, the timeline for the Registrar’s Office to process Scantron forms will be in excess of two weeks. Given the need to provide timely feedback to students, it is strongly encouraged that instructors use other testing formats (such as use of blue books).

If you would like to use your classroom’s blackboard or whiteboard, for health and safety reasons we ask that instructors provide their own markers and chalk and keep them with their own materials. Materials left in classrooms will be disposed of during cleaning.

Take care,


Johannes Britz
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

7/23/2020: Details on Fall Instruction

7/23/2020: Details on Fall Instruction

Colleagues –

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.

Take care,





  • 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.



  • 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.

Course Design

  • 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

Dear students,

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!

6/18/2020: Update on Fall Instruction

6/18/2020: Update on Fall Instruction

Dear colleagues,

This is a follow-up email on the Chancellor’s message yesterday regarding our fall planning with more detail on our planning for instruction. While the scenario plan for the fall incorporates face-to-face teaching, it will still be mainly online, given the social distancing constraints and limited classroom space. Here are some key points about the fall plans.

  1. Social distancing will place enormous constraints on the way that we use classrooms. Depending on the configuration, the capacity of classrooms will drop 3-10 fold. As a result, almost none of the current classroom assignments in the fall schedule would work for the fall.
  2. CDC and other guidance limits us to no more than 50 in a classroom independent of its size.
  3. These factors will push the instruction to be mostly online in the fall. All large classes >100 and most mid-sized (50-100) will be online (the exceptions being courses that wish to be face-to-face and adopt the hybrid approach below). Courses with less than 50 can potentially be face-to-face (see draft process outlined below).
  4. In a practical sense, instead of identifying courses to move online, we will start by assuming that everything will be online and then identify courses that units want to have face-to-face. These courses will be forwarded to a prioritization work group who will work with the registrar’s office to try to find a suitable classroom. We want to get this work done asap.
  5. We will encourage using hybrid teaching methods, especially a “flipped” classroom concept where classes are split in half and each half meets just once a week with the instructor for active or other face-to-face learning. The rest of the content is delivered online. Why are we advocating this approach? We have many classrooms that fit 15 students under social distancing constraints, but very few (a couple dozen at UWM) that can fit 20-30 (our most common class size). By splitting the classes, we more than triple the number of classrooms suitable for face-to-face instruction in our most common-sized courses.
  6. For courses taught in unit-held spaces like labs and studios, the units will have to develop plans for those classes, deciding to offer them online or creating a strategy that allows social distancing in those rooms. This will be very challenging to accomplish in a reasonable way for high-enrollment 100-level lab or studio courses, but more practical for smaller upper-division lab or studio courses. University Safety and Assurances can help on those plans. Note that instructors teaching face-to-face courses with hands-on components should strive to complete those activities by Thanksgiving break, in case we need to go online for the remainder of the semester.
  7. Information on designating courses to be face-to-face will be coming out soon. I’ll be asking the deans which courses units would like to have face-to-face, whether the course is in a general assignment or unit-held space, and whether the instructor is willing to adopt the flipped classroom hybrid approach described above (this will make it more likely that a classroom could be found for the course). Other courses would be delivered online and for those, the request would ask if they need to retain their scheduled time or would operate like our traditional online courses with no time assignment.
  8. We are developing the fee structure for the fall, but the plan as I know it will have the same cost to students for online or face-to-face courses.
  9. UWM cares about all of our faculty and staff, and their safety, and intends to make decisions with respect to staffing in the most supportive way possible, while also trying to accommodate needs of students to learn effectively. Program leads will have the opportunity to take into account the needs of faculty and staff, as well as students, in making instructional assignments.
  10. I have charged a Space Planning group, led by Scott Gronert, to implement the SPWG space recommendations. Diane Reddy will lead a subgroup focusing on space prioritization, following the criteria outlined in the report.

More detail on planning strategies is available at

In addition, we have launched a Fall 2020 Reopening website with updates, FAQs organized by topic and a feature to submit questions.

Take care,


Johannes Britz
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs