I write to offer foundational guidance on the process for taking our courses online for the spring term. I hope to provide information on how to approach this new environment, the resources and workshops we can provide, and how you submit your questions and suggestions, all leavened with just enough sage advice, practical tips, and homespun wisdom to keep you reading to the end of a long message.
We have set up a Going Online Submission Portal. Please use this form to submit suggestions and recommendations for our colleagues. The topic invites a great deal of discussion online. There will, however, be many important emails appearing on the distribution lists in the next few days. By collecting your recommendations through the Portal, we can share them in an organized way in future communications.
As we contemplate our move online, let me start by acknowledging that this undertaking involves an unusually heavy burden for instructors. Entirely new expectations have been generated. Best-laid plans may now appear mislaid. And the recipients of your hard work, our students, suddenly face seemingly endless uncertainty. Most stunning of all, one might suppose we have two and a half weeks to do this. Nonetheless, our mandate is to put entire courses online for the term. We will keep open the possibility that face-to-face instruction may yet return before the end of the term, but no living soul can tell us whether that will happen. Therefore, you should plan full-term online courses as the default.
These breathless depictions may strike you as an astonishingly unhelpful way to launch this project. The anxiety you feel around this project, however, is entirely reasonable. If I can do anything to temper these anxieties, it would be to repeat the advice emanating from every precinct in the online instruction world: Stick to your learning goals. Take small but deliberate steps. Build a community.
Where to Start
We have assembled a distillation of the clearest perspectives and prominent voices around this move online and placed them on a simple webpage:
Preparing to Go Online: How-To Guide
As the name of the page implies, we would like you to think about preparing to go online first, before rushing ahead to thinking about implementation. Consider this page a first pass at the problem. More resources will follow. Indeed, we are happy to continue to receive your recommendations at the Going Online Submission Portal and will share them in our next communication.
This first set of resources is designed to ask you to consider initial questions: How should I plan my new online course? What should be my priorities? What are the tools at my disposal? When couched in these terms, you may already know most of the tools. You already know the most important rule of online instruction: pursue your learning goals.
You should also take time initially to introduce / refamiliarize yourself with our basic online instructional tools. User Services has launched this resource page, which will grow over time.
Remote Teaching Resources
It offers links and videos for using Moodle, Google Meet, and so on.
User Services is arranging workshops to support instructors. The first group of workshops addresses basic familiarity with online tools (the schedule and sign-up link are below). You also may have ideas about workshops you would like to attend or workshops you would like to lead. We are happy to receive these ideas at our portal: Going Online Submission Portal.
The schedule for the first week of workshops is as follows:
Tuesday, March 17th
Wednesday, March 18th
Thursday, March 19th
Friday, March 20th
Sign up for our workshops here: https://forms.gle/ p6NiCLSmyhzBrLPv6.
You Have Questions
Throughout the weeks ahead, you should still use the HelpDesk to get answers to your technology-related questions:
firstname.lastname@example.org and the Help Desk icon on My.Knox
To submit all other questions about policies and procedures for teaching in this new environment you should go to: Going Online Submission Portal
Policies and Procedures
We know you have many concerns about policies and procedures. How do we handle all the different time zones? What happens if a student can’t access my material? Will there be student workers? What about TAs and post-baccs? What about S/U grading? What if a student can’t complete a course for graduation requirements? Can I work in my office? Do I have to work in my office? These are all excellent questions and they will be answered in time.
Regular order of our governance system must prevail. In fact, I promised the Higher Learning Commission that it would. (Yes, we need their approval to make these changes.) Executive Committee already has a long list of your policy questions (including all of those above) and will address them. Nonetheless, we would like to continue to receive your questions about policies and procedures for the spring term: Use the Portal.
For now, we know that many Dean's Council offices that provide instruction and support courses will remain operational. The directors of those offices are deep into the same discussions that all instructors are. Additional policy statements on the operation of the campus during this unusual period will be forthcoming.
In closing, I offer a word of counsel from "The French Chef," the irrepressible Julia Child. In a quote attributed to her, perhaps apocryphal, Julia reminded, "It is important to remember that your guests don't know what you were aiming for." In cooking, instruction, and many other things, your audience doesn't know or need to know what you imagined for them. I cite this wisdom not as an excuse for the slipshod or the half-baked. My point, and her point, is a different one. What matters in online settings is a sense of engagement and of community. Building community is the special challenge of the online environment, and you should aim to achieve it. What our students need more than anything in our new online environment is you and your passion for their education. The students will appreciate that investment far more than the finished product.
I look forward to working with you on this unusual endeavor..
Provost and Dean of the College