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COVID-19: Academics Moving to Remote Instruction

March 16, 2020
Dear Colleagues:
 
Thank you for your energetic and collaborative responses to the COVID-19 crisis. We have heard stories of the creativity manifested by departments and programs in working together to maintain instructional continuity. Clearly, you have both a sense of urgency to be responsive to the crisis and a sense of the importance of providing the best education possible in the circumstance.
 
That said, the situation has evolved so quickly that we now must move from encouraging you to requiring you to move to distance delivery of curriculum. We are now going to resume ALL instructional activity after spring break through distance delivery.
 
On Monday March 30, students will engage in all coursework remotely. This includes all types of instructional formats – seminars, laboratories, etc. – and all forms of assessments – exams, tests, quizzes, performances, etc.
 
Additionally, given how many counties are now imposing travel restrictions, some students who went home for the weekend will not be able to return to campus this week. Therefore, we will NOT make this week’s sessions for any in-person classes mandatory. That includes lab, studio, and small classes.
 
We will maintain distance learning through the rest of the spring semester.
 
The Academic Senate is in the process of amending its Emergency Course Continuity Policy to allow for this.
 
We are urging this step to support “social distancing” as well as to provide students with the certainty they need to make decisions about where to reside for spring break and the post-spring break period.
 
Both the Office of Information Technologies (OIT) and the Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning have done excellent work to develop tools to help you move your courses. That said, our ability to support in person every instructor to make this transition is beyond our ability. As such,
 
  • Do-it-yourself resources continue to be available on the campus’ Educational Continuity website for instructors ;
  • Instructors, including teaching assistants, may sign up for workshops and individual consultations via the “Schedule a Consultation with the Academic and Emerging Technologies Team” tab under “Finding Help”;
  • Department chairs and/or deans can direct you to faculty members with online instructional experience who are willing to assist; and
  • We are in the process of developing ways to manage exams.
 
Zoom
 
For those of you awaiting an individual Zoom account, accounts will be provisioned individually. UC Merced has also obtained an enterprise license that will allow faculty, students and staff to log into a Zoom account via Single SignOn using their UC Merced NetID. The OIT will be working to get that set up throughout this week and announce when it is available. Zoom allows up to 300 participants.
 
Students
 
If you have not already, please communicate to your students your plan for moving the course to remote delivery. Students will need support as they engage in technologies and learning modalities that may be new to them. Toward this end, an Educational Continuity for Students website has been established. We encourage you to review it and direct your students to it, as relevant. As you implement learning at a distance, regular contact with your students will help them succeed in the absence of a normal academic structure.
 
Flexible Approaches to Remote Instruction
 
We also continue to urge:
  • Use of campus supported technologies like Zoom and CatCourses; and
  • Asynchronous instructional strategies or low band-width synchronous approaches (e.g. Zoom audio only) to address anticipated demand for Zoom and CatCourses.
 
Planning for Illness
 
Should you become ill and unable to teach your courses, let your department or program chair know immediately. Departments will be responsible to maintain instructional continuity in such cases.
 
In closing, we thank you for your patience with this quickly evolving and fluid situation. Please take appropriate measures to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy--physically and mentally.
 
Please be kind to yourself, your colleagues and staff.
 
Thank you,
 
Gregg Camfield
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
 
Tom Hansford
Academic Senate Chair