Novel coronavirus information

March 18, 2020

Information for instructors regarding teaching remotely spring quarter

This message was sent to faculty and graduate students at all University of Washington campuses.

Dear Colleagues,

In this challenging time, we continue to be inspired by the resiliency, dedication and creativity of you, our instructors. At the end of winter quarter, you quickly transitioned, concluding your courses and final exams remotely in order to give your students the best academic experience possible. Because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we must pivot again and deliver all of our courses remotely for spring quarter in order to protect the health of our students, faculty, staff and community. We must strive to “flatten the curve” and help the outbreak subside, while continuing to educate our students as best we can.

Through this, we must remember that a UW education, whether delivered in-person or online, is still an excellent education. UW faculty have always developed and delivered exceptional traditional, hybrid and online courses by drawing on their scholarly and pedagogical expertise. The challenges we face require that we draw upon this expertise and reflect upon our commitment to the wellness and success of our students and of the UW community as a whole. We write today to provide more information on the instructional program for spring quarter and how, together, we will continue the vital work of our University.

Classes and instruction will be delivered remotely throughout spring quarter

Spring quarter will begin as scheduled on March 30, with fully remote instruction that will continue through the quarter, which will end as scheduled, after final exams conclude on June 12, 2020. In-person classes will not be held. Our intent is to offer as many currently scheduled spring quarter courses as is reasonable. In some cases this will not be possible, and certain courses may have to be cancelled altogether, but we will make rescheduling those courses a priority for summer and fall quarters. All of us are deeply committed to helping our students make progress towards their degrees, and to ensuring that students graduate in a timely manner. This change to remote instruction will require significant adjustments in course pedagogy and delivery; at the same time, it represents the best way to maintain the instructional mission of the University.

In cases where a student may require a spring quarter course for June graduation that, due to its nature, had to be cancelled, departments will be urged to either waive the requirement or identify substitute courses that satisfy degree requirements.

Recognizing that changing to remote instruction presents a series of challenges, we ask that you follow these guidelines as you develop your courses:

  • For undergraduate courses, treat the first week of the course as transitional. Together, you and your students are exploring – and learning – what it means to teach and learn remotely. Test the technology in a low-stakes manner. If your class is meeting synchronously (for example, through video conferencing), use the first meeting to review your course syllabus and discuss learning goals. This will allow you to “kick the tires” on the technology, assess connectivity challenges and provide a smooth transition to remote instruction. Please note that the first week must include instruction in order to meet accreditation and financial aid requirements.
  • Require graded assignments only after the first week of spring quarter in order to allow your students and yourself time to adapt without the pressure of graded work.
  • Craft a course that is sustainable and practical, and one that allows your students to achieve defined learning outcomes. Online instruction can be extremely effective, but it takes time and resources to optimize. We are asking you to do something different: transition your in-person courses to remote learning. We are not asking you to develop a highly-polished, complete online course ready for day one of instruction. Instead, we ask that you implement a viable and sustainable pedagogical and technological approach that will allow for remote delivery of your course. This way of teaching will be new to many of us, and there will be differences by field, discipline and the pedagogical styles we are familiar and comfortable with. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good! Pace yourself (and your students), as this will be a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Communicate with students frequently, clearly and effectively especially when you make changes to content, assignments, policies, etc. We’re all now meeting brand new groups of students who don’t yet know us, and many students are now removed from campus, so your presence will be even more critical than usual.
  • Think of ways to build community within your classes using group chat, online office hours, threaded discussion and activities where students can interact and build a sense of community.
  • Take advantage of centrally-provided, remote-instruction resources that are available through the Center for Teaching and Learning. In addition to advice on using Canvas, Panopto and Zoom, this site provides best practices for remote instruction and links to tutorials and technical help.
  • Supplement central instructional support by identifying resources within your academic unit as you develop your courses. Many of your colleagues are familiar with instructional technology and can help you identify the best approach for your course. Departmental IT staff can be extremely useful in helping you get started using instructional technologies. Some units have education research programs or online education programs that can provide you with expert advice. We’ve already seen many examples of great ideas being shared within and between departments and programs, and no doubt that will continue.

We understand this transition is complicated, but this is also a moment of opportunity to explore alternative approaches to instruction that promote student learning. Ultimately, your efforts will help our students achieve the academic goals they set before the challenges presented by the coronavirus outbreak. Working together, and in a spirit of collegiality, sharing and occasional good humor, we will all be working to support student academic success.

Mark Richards
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor, Earth and Space Sciences

Joseph Janes
Chair, Faculty Senate
Associate Professor, Information School