In the past year, you have had to pivot often in response to changing conditions. Things are changing again, but the decreases in infection rates and the increasing availability of COVID vaccines mean that the latest change is to a more normal fall. Fall is likely to still entail testing, tracing, and mask wearing but should approach a mostly traditional campus experience. As long as infection rates continue to decline and vaccination rates increase, departments and colleges should review their reentry plans and begin planning for more on-campus work.
We expect to offer primarily in-person instruction in fall 2021. We are returning the furniture to our classrooms and have returned classroom capacity to fall 2019 levels. Because some level of remote instruction will still be needed, I ask our department chairs to be strategic in their choices when offering a mix of instructional formats. In some fields and at some levels, in-person instruction is more critical than in others and should limit the use of remote instruction. It is our responsibility to deliver the curriculum in the best way possible for our students’ academic success.
In surveys and focus groups conducted in the past year, students have been clear that they faced a variety of challenges. To name a few: remote instruction is still uneven; access to broadband may limit participation; and it is difficult to make connections with other students and faculty. Students have also been clear about what makes for a good course and have pointed to best practices in instruction that help them succeed. Going forward, I will be working with the Center for Teaching and Learning, students, and faculty to set expectations for courses offered remotely in order to ensure more consistency in instruction that our students seek and need.
In their survey responses, students recognized that faculty are also juggling many responsibilities and express appreciation for those who have gone out of their way to help them succeed. As always I am grateful for your hard work, patience, and commitment to our students.