March 31, 2020
Tomorrow we begin our grand experiment to take the Knox education into a remote learning environment. Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to each of you for taking on this task. Even without the benefit of my usual avenues for hearing about campus activities, I have learned of examples of deep and honest engagement with this challenge. I have heard stories of thoughtful and collaborative re-inventions of courses and programs. And I have heard examples of care and support shared among colleagues in pursuit of our mutual success. If you have approached this task with trepidation, you have met it with courage and skill.
In the same spirit, we should acknowledge the inescapable emotional weight of this work. If you have spent too much time reading the news, you know that there is an unrelenting motonony to the reporting, with exaggerated importance attached to daily gyrations of the stock market and not enough of the usual textures of daily events that make it all bearable. (To be fair, I haven’t wasted the usual time watching the college basketball playoffs, but neither have I taken the time to learn how to make the raspberry souffle that a YouTube chef promises to teach me.) While I can hope you have read and done other things, my greater hope is that you have allowed yourself to feel the weight of the moment and assess its impact on you. Our regular counselling and support services remain available to faculty and staff. As you approach the inevitable frustrations of the days ahead, please share your experiences with us and others who aim to help.
Please allow me to share a final few points of information in anticipation of the start of classes:
1. Please open the lines of communication with your students and advisees.
I know with certainty that what students want right now is to hear from their instructors. They will be relieved to return to some sense of the ordinary, even if we cannot call our new remote environment normal. Please contact your students sometime today or Wednesday.
2. A new approach to Drop-Add Registration opens on April 1.
Drop-Add registration operates differently this term. From April 1 to April 7, regular closeout registration continues. Instructors should let Karen Benedict know immediately if they want to retain the right to approve every new addition to their courses. Otherwise, course changes can still be made through academic advisors, but the usual step of the instructors’ approval is missing.
3. Class Meeting Recording Guidelines are now available.
We have established some initial guidance on classroom recording. Since we are not building on an existing policy, Executive Committee will continue to develop a formal statement. Until then, we provide this guidance provisionally, with the expectation that refinements will be forthcoming. The Committee welcomes your input. The guidance offered through our link is the same advice that has been shared in our workshops.
4. Return to Regular Order.
With the start of classes, we will take steps daily to return to regular order in the Dean’s Office, the operation of centers and support offices, and the operation of faculty committees. Additional guidance on those activities will be shared in the days ahead.
Finally, I would like to share a suggestion from one of our colleagues, Robin Ragan, about approaching our students in this remote space. Our students are eagerly seeking connection and engagement with you and our courses. Robin’s suggestion:
Some faculty have mentioned that they worry about motivation. If you have a high schooler, you may have noticed how excited they are to go to school on the days with themes. I plan to implement an idea like this. When I meet with my students in group, I plan to call a few days in the term "pajama day"/ "wear a shirt from your favorite band" / "wear all black" / "wear a fake mustache" etc. Bringing a dose of silly to the equation means students will be more likely to show up, and in my case, may ease the tension that comes with seeing yourself on camera.
In whatever manner you find appropriate to your course, please place the emphasis on student engagement in these early days.
Best of luck with tomorrow's launch.
PS. Don’t forget the new class schedule for this term only.
Course Schedule for Periods 1 - 6
All times are Central Standard Time.
1st hour 9:00 - 10:10 AM
2nd hour 10:20 - 11:30 AM
3rd hour 11:40 AM - 12:50 PM
4th hour 1:00 - 2:10 PM
5th hour 2:20 - 3:30 PM
6th hour 3:40 - 4:50 PM
2S TuTh 10:00 - 11:30 AM
3S TuTh 11:40 AM - 1:10 PM
5S TuTh 2:00 - 3:30 PM
Labs and other non-standard courses in the 1st-6th period time slot are similarly shifted one hour later.
Evening classes are unaffected by this change.
Michael A. Schneider
Provost and Dean of the College