S. Jack Hu, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
Rahul Shrivastav, Vice President for Instruction
Ron Walcott, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate
The University of Georgia community is more than halfway through an unprecedented fall semester and looking ahead to Spring 2021. Our priority is to provide the quality of instruction that makes UGA a national leader in public higher education while at the same time protecting the health and safety of our faculty, staff, and students.
We’d like to first express our sincere appreciation to all of our faculty, staff, and students for enabling the University to continue its vital teaching, research, and service under difficult circumstances. We know that teaching during a global pandemic has been challenging and at times frustrating, but students depend on the University to provide them with an education that prepares them for a lifetime of success.
In this memo we’d like to provide an overview of some lessons learned to date and discuss their implications for how we educate and engage students in Spring 2021. More detailed guidance can be found at https://ovpi.uga.edu/news/preparing-for-spring/.
Our experience in the Fall 2020 semester so far shows little evidence of transmission of the coronavirus in classrooms. We remain confident that the preventative measures taken across campus are working as intended, and we will continue to utilize these next semester. As such, all on-campus classes and activities will continue to require social distancing measures that are currently in place unless guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) changes. All individuals must wear a face covering in campus buildings where six feet of social distancing may not always be possible, unless granted an accommodation. Details about social distancing and face coverings that were announced in August 2020 will continue to be in effect.
As the Board of Regents noted in a recent resolution, in-person instruction maximizes the well-being and mental health of students. Yet many faculty members have reported low classroom attendance, and some of our students are feeling isolated and struggling to build support networks.
With the lessons learned to date from fall semester, the University’s three key instructional priorities for Spring 2020 are to:
increase the number of in-person classes,
ensure that hybrid courses include significant in-person meetings in accordance with a class attendance policy that maximizes safe in-person instruction, and
maximize synchronous instruction whenever possible, and to engage students in high-quality online instruction when in-person or hybrid instruction is not possible.
One strategy for achieving the first two goals is to use social-distancing seating capacities to schedule classes in larger rooms that allow as many students to attend class in-person as possible. Other options include scheduling more classes outside of the traditional peak times of 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dividing large classes into smaller course sections.
Instructors who will be teaching online are encouraged to seek assistance from the Office of Online Learning to develop courses with significant interactive learning opportunities, a high level of engagement with students, and the use of active learning strategies. Resources are available here, and you can reach the Office of Online Learning via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether teaching online or hybrid, it is critical to use synchronous instruction whenever possible to maximize the amount of interaction students have with their instructors and peers.
Additional resources for instructors and strategies for achieving the three priorities listed above are detailed here.
The Office of the Registrar must identify the instructional format in Athena for each class by November 5, 2020 so that students will be aware of the class format at the time of registration. Many of you have already provided this information, and we appreciate your timely response.
If you have questions or feedback, please reach out to the Office of Instruction at email@example.com. Resources such as the Preparing to Pivot course and the Teaching Continuity Fund have been well-received, but we are continually looking for ways to increase the support we offer to faculty and staff.
These are challenging times for everyone, and we appreciate the patience, resilience, and dedication the campus community has shown. Let’s build on the lessons learned from Fall 2020 to make Spring 2021 the best it can be.