Expectations for Fall Courses — Provost Danette Ifert Johnson

Hi Everyone,
I’d like to start by thanking all of you for the effort you are putting in this summer to prepare for the fall term. Particular thanks are due to all members of the Teaching and Learning Committee and especially Rick Barth, Alyce Brady, and Josh Moon, for their work in putting together additional resources and information at #KTeachDev2020 to help with course planning.
As you prepare for the fall term, please keep the expectations below in mind, regardless of the format(s) of your courses:

  • Every course for fall should have an online backbone. This is essential in case you need to shift format of your course during the term due to changes in the general public health situation or your own specific need to self-isolate after travel or exposure to COVID-19. This will require that you build your courses around a core of online-delivered content and assignments with any planned in-person interactions designed so as to allow for meaningful online replacement if needed.
  • To facilitate the online backbone, all courses must have an active Moodle site. Josh Moon and TLC have provided a number of Moodle templates as part of #KTeachDev2020.
  • The Higher Learning Commission requires that all faculty have regular and substantive interaction with students. “Regular” means that interaction is on a regular and predictable basis over the course of the term (e.g., in person interactions or virtual activities such as weekly check ins, virtual office hours, recitation type sessions, and the like). Please include information about these interactions in your syllabus and at your Moodle site so that students know what to expect and so that we can provide evidence that this requirement has been met. For “substantive”, the key is that the interaction deals with the course content (not just on procedural or organizational issues), so it would include activities such as direct instruction, responding to questions, facilitating group discussion and the like. There is no stipulation that regular and substantive interaction must be synchronous.
  • Clear statements for students about course expectations, including schedule, assignments and absence policies are always part of excellent pedagogy and are even more essential with the potential for change within the term, so these need to be part of your syllabus, Moodle site, and other course materials. Faculty are encouraged to reach out to students in fall courses via email in advance of the start of the term to share information about course expectations and format. All faculty currently have access to their class list aliases (for example DEPT101-1-2020fa@kzoo.edu) and can also email students through Web Advisor.
  • A specific note on attendance policies: All students and employees will be required to stop participating with in person activities if they have any signs of illness. There may also be challenges for our international students in arriving in Kalamazoo for the first day of classes. Attendance policies should be flexible in recognition of these and other contingencies that might arise during the term.
  • Synchronous Required Course Activities: The Academic Planning Task Force recommends that most classes will be well-served if there are at least some synchronous elements in online courses and some asynchronous elements for in person courses. It is important to note that planning for any required synchronous group activities need to include an option for students to choose the time slot for which the class is currently scheduled in order to avoid course schedule conflicts for students. If you plan to have required synchronous activities and need to explore moving your class time, please contact the Registrar to discuss options.

And a couple of additional items related to teaching in specific formats:

  • If you are using online formats for interaction or elements such as video lectures, please keep in mind that research on these formats suggests that 30-45 minutes is a typical length of time that people can fully engage with these activities before becoming disengaged or increasingly stressed. For the sake of your own well-being and that of our students, please consider limiting the length of time (or breaking up a longer session into different types of activities).
  • For classes with in person elements, there will be face covering, distancing, and sanitizing requirements put into place and students and employees are expected to follow those requirements. Physical distancing will require a minimum of six feet between people whenever possible. Enhanced sanitizing of campus buildings, including restrooms and high touch surfaces such as doorknobs will be part of the services provided by Facilities Management. Within classrooms, pre-moistened wipes will be provided and each student or faculty member will be expected to wipe down their own space (e.g., table and chair, tablet desk, teaching station) when they enter the space.

I know from the student feedback I’ve heard that there were many successes during last spring’s distance learning term and it is exciting to build on those successes to create a fall term that’s even better. Please feel free to reach out to me or to members of the Teaching and Learning Committee if you have questions for fall.

With appreciation,

2 thoughts on “Expectations for Fall Courses — Provost Danette Ifert Johnson

  1. I have been struggling for weeks about how to provide an appropriate in-person component in a way that can be “replicated” for those students who are attending remotely. For example, if we meet synchronously Monday and Wednesday in the scheduled time frame (for example 9:40-10:55) but meet in person on Fridays at 9:40, that leaves out the remote learners. I’d be willing to meet with the remote learners on Friday at a different time, but that requires them registering for a different time slot. The only way around this seems to be to create 2 different sections at 2 different times (effectively doubling my in-class time and largely increasing my workload). Moreover, I want them all together on Mondays and Wednesday for our synchronous online meetings. Another option would be to meet only with remote learners on Wednesday at the assigned time and only with in-person learners on Friday at the assigned time, but we’ll be at different points in the content on those two days and then all of the learners spend less time with me guiding them through activities and we’ll get through less content.
    All of the blogs, videos, etc. shared here are offering interesting ideas for the online component – but nothing about how to balance in-person and remote versions of the same course. In my department, we have tightly sequenced courses and thus need to have our courses also available to remote learners. We are being pressured to also have an in-person component, which pedagogically also makes sense. We may be forced to offer 2 sections of each course (one with an in-person component and one completely accessible to remote learners.) Doesn’t exactly seem fair to faculty – we’re being asked to take the risk of meeting with students but also create 2 sections of all of our courses. I’ve brought this up with multiple groups this summer and no one seems to be able to offer an elegant solution. Ideas???

    1. Hi Larissa, thanks for this.
      We’ve been thinking a lot about the issues you raise. The live session
      Wednesday, July 29
      3-4 pm
      at the Teaching Commons Teams site will provide a chance to talk this through.
      Also, please see the growing list of course designs at
      There a number of our colleagues are posting example weekly schedules for courses that try to combine
      *the online backbone
      *meaningful interactions with students
      *flexibility to include on-campus components when possible while also accommodating students who need to learn from a distance.


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