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Undergrads: Classroom Instruction in Fall 2020 - Message from the Provost

by Brother Daniel P. Wisniewski, OSFS, Ph.D. Provost Jul 9, 2020


July 9, 2020

Dear Students,

I hope this message finds you well, and that the recent weeks since the conclusion of the spring semester have provided some time for rest and renewal!  As a follow-up to Father Jim Greenfield’s Ready for Anything memo announcing the revised academic calendar, I write to share some important information about the plans for instruction in the Fall 2020 semester.    

As previously communicated by Father Jim, and Linda Zerbe, vice president for student life, the fall semester calendar includes the following important dates:

  • Orientation for freshmen and transfer students will be held on campus from Thursday, August 13, 2020 through Sunday, August 16, 2020; commuter students begin orientation on Friday, August 14, 2020.  Please see the full orientation schedule for more details. 
  • Incoming freshman and transfer students move in to residence halls on Thursday, August 13, 2020; returning students move in on Sunday, August 16, 2020.
  • The first day of classes will be Monday, August 17, 2020.
  • Classes will be held on the Labor Day holiday, Monday, September 7, 2020, and there will be no Pacer Break, originally scheduled for October 12-13, 2020.
  • The last day of on-campus instruction will be Friday, November 20, 2020.
  • The Monday and Tuesday (November 23-24, 2020) before Thanksgiving Day will be designated as Reading Days. On these two days, faculty may choose to hold online review sessions during regularly scheduled class times, or post additional virtual office hours, as students prepare for final exams and other assignments due at the conclusion of the semester.
  • Final exams will be administered online and will be scheduled following the traditional procedures from Monday, November 30, 2020 until Saturday, December 5, 2020.
  • A revised academic calendar for Fall 2020 is published on the University website, which includes other key dates in the semester, such as pre-registration and deadlines for drop/add, withdrawal, and pass/fail. 

With the assistance of the Office of Campus Environment, physical distancing room capacities have been determined, and adjustments to classrooms have been made, including the removal of furniture or the designation of allowable seating spaces, in order to allow for 6 feet of distance between student seats.  With these adjustments to learning spaces, the modality of instructional delivery will be dependent, in part, on course enrollment numbers and the newly determined seating capacities.  Additional spaces on campus (i.e., conference rooms in the University Center) are also being utilized for instruction of courses with large enrollment numbers.

In order to provide a flexible and safe learning environment, traditional day undergraduate courses will include a blend of in-class instruction, student participation via Zoom, and online engagement via the Blackboard learning management system.  Based on the needs of specific courses, the instructional modality will be one of four formats:

  • In-Person: Classes with enrollment that do not exceed the physical distance seating capacity will meet in-person, with accommodations for attendance via Zoom.
  • In-Person/Connected: Classes with enrollment that exceed the physical distance seating capacity will blend in-person classroom attendance with a live Zoom(connected) classroom presence (In-Person/Connected).  Students will rotate from attending in-person to attending via live Zoom. In this mode, all students (classroom and connected) are present in real time and attendance is taken, with a system that maximizes in-person attendance and minimizes connected attendance.  Each instructor will inform students of the class rotation schedule on the syllabus which will be posted on Blackboard prior to the start of the course. 
  • Hybrid: In general, classes meet half of the time in the classroom and half of the time online (asynchronously).  For example, a hybrid course meets in class on Tuesday with online coursework and assignments that complete equivalency requirements for total in-class hours. 
  • Fully Online: Classes are conducted online, with a blend of synchronous and asynchronous online activities, as outlined by the instructor.

Decisions on course delivery modalities are currently being finalized, and will be indicated in the “Comments” section of the student’s schedule on WebAdvisor by August 1, 2020.  Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the course modality is subject to change.  To ensure that you are equipped to be Ready for Anything, please note the technology requirements for all university courses

Every class will be conducted to accommodate students who need to attend class via live Zoom in the event that they demonstrate coronavirus-related symptoms or need to self-quarantine.  To provide both flexibility and access to in-class lectures during the pandemic, faculty have been asked to record their Zoom sessions.  

Students who are unable to return to an on-campus learning environment, for whatever reason, may be able to attend via live Zoom; however, not all courses can accommodate such connected participation if being physically present in the classroom is required for experiential learning.  Please communicate with your instructors if you have good reason to engage in attending via live Zoom.    

On behalf of the faculty, I want to express how much we look forward to a return to campus, even though it will be unlike previous semesters.  As we face so much uncertainty during this pandemic, our patron Saint Francis de Sales reminds us to “have courage” because our loving God is with us!  I pray the rest of the summer may continue to be a time for renewal as we prepare for a new academic year.

Brother Daniel P. Wisniewski, O.S.F.S., Ph.D., Provost