March 31, 2020
To: All faculty and TAs
March 31, 2020
As classes resume, we write to thank you for all you have done to quickly shift the campus to remote education. We know this transition is taking place while you address the needs of your own families, friends and communities. We are grateful for your efforts and hope that you remain healthy and secure.
Your commitment to our students is clearly reflected in the work that many of you have been undertaking to better understand your students’ circumstances as they seek to complete the semester in this new educational context. Here we share some of what has been learned through course-specific polls and surveys, together with some resources we hope will support you and your students going forward.
While the campus’s loaner program for laptops and internet access was active in the week before spring break, we are learning that some students may continue to lack the basic technology necessary to successfully complete their courses remotely. To help address this, a message has been placed on the CatCourses landing page encouraging students — both undergraduates and graduates — to report needs for a laptop, webcam and/or reliable internet access. Requests for these items will be addressed through the Loaner Laptop Program as quickly as possible, subject to technology availability. Should you know of students needing these resources, please direct them to the Loaner Laptop Program website .
Challenging Personal Circumstances and Student Success
Here are a few important situations we need to be cognizant of and proactive about:
Student Financial and Personal Obligations
Campus-based employment may be the only source of income for our undergraduates and their families. They may also be assuming responsibilities to care for their families.
What you can do: The campus is working actively to enable job continuity for our student employees. Please be aware of additional financial and mental burdens on students and extend grace and support to these students as they balance academic, financial and personal responsibilities.
Students may experience circumstances related to their safety, security and personal well-being.
What you can do: Should you become aware of such concerns, please encourage the student to reach out to the Dean of Students or, in the case of graduate students, the graduate support staff in the schools, who can help connect the student to resources and support. Should you notice a student struggling or disengaging from a course, we encourage you to reach out to the student via text, email or other means to check in and provide support. If a student doesn’t respond, or if you have serious concerns about their well-being, you may complete a Student of Concern form ,and a UC Merced staff member will follow up.
Ascertaining Student Engagement
To identify and assist students who may face circumstances that impact their ability to pursue their coursework, you may find useful existing CatCourses tools that provide course and student-specific student engagement and participation information. A description of these tools and how to use them is available on the Educational Continuity for Faculty website under Strategies and Digital Tools: 13. Monitoring Student Engagement: CatCourses, Kaltura.
Most importantly, supporting students with continued flexibility in due dates and asynchronous instructional strategies to enable students to continue their education while addressing these needs is encouraged.
Please continue to utilize the Educational Continuity for Faculty website and the Educational Continuity for Students website for tools and resources for continued success in this new learning environment. Resources are continually being updated in response to user questions and needs.
Please also review How to protect your Zoom sessions to secure your classes from the emerging problem of uninvited individuals disrupting Zoom meetings.
Student Pass/No Pass Option
Finally, on March 30, the Academic Senate approved an amendment to the Emergency Course Continuity (ECC) policy allowing undergraduate students to change the grading option for their course(s) from letter grade to Pass/No Pass up to the final day of instruction of the Spring 2020 semester.
As highlighted in the policy, such a change could have important ramifications for an undergraduate’s educational progress and goals. As such, we ask that you talk with your students about the possible benefits and costs associated with P/NP grades, and encourage them to consult with their advisors, the Office of Undergraduate Education, and the Director of Financial Aid and Scholarship before requesting this change.
In closing, we wish to recognize the dedication of our staff to facilitating the campus’s transition to remote instruction. We are grateful for all they have done, and will continue to do, as we collectively work to help our students successfully complete the semester and stay on course for their degrees.
Thank you, again, and please take appropriate measures to keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy — physically and mentally — and be kind to yourself, your colleagues, staff and students.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Academic Senate Chair