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Academic Instruction this Fall: A note to students from Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, Provost

Dear University of Maryland Students,
 
I am aware that many of you are anxious to know details of the fall 2020 course schedule.  I expect a fully updated course schedule to be available on Testudo by July 15.  I am writing to share a bit more information with you now, ahead of the July 15th Testudo update.
  • Summer Session II classes will be delivered online, except for a few pilot courses using blended or full in-person instruction.
  • Fall semester classes will begin on August 31, 2020 as scheduled.  The semester will run its full length with classes ending on December 14, 2020.  The final exam period will be as scheduled from December 16 to 22.  Thanksgiving break will be held as scheduled.  We do not expect to change the time between classes or the standard daily start and stop times for classes.
  • We hope to finish the semester without disruption.  However, anticipating a possible resurgence of the pandemic in the late fall, we are directing the faculty members teaching in-person to be prepared to move classes entirely to online instruction should that become necessary.  If that happens, fall semester final exams will be conducted remotely and students will not be expected to return to campus after Thanksgiving, though if health conditions permit, residence halls are expected to remain open.[1]   
 
Our efforts regarding teaching and learning this Fall are grounded in four basic principles:
  • The health of our students, faculty, and staff comes first.  That means everyone working, living, and/or taking classes on campus will be required to abide by the University’s health regulations.[2]
  • We will use in-person and remote course options to maximize flexibility and equity of access and to accommodate the needs of faculty members and students who may not be able to return to campus because of risks associated with COVID-19.
  • We commit to offering each Maryland student a deeply engaging curriculum whether in-person, blended, or online—along with co-curricular opportunities designed to maximize student learning, involvement, and personal growth.
  • We continue to be committed to creating an inclusive, just, respectful, and supportive environment for all members of the community, striving to ensure that all of our actions and decisions prioritize equity and careful consideration for individuals and groups of students and employees who may be most vulnerable during the pandemic.
 
Preparing for fall 2020—Your faculty and staff have been working hard throughout the summer to prepare a Fall semester for you that will be academically productive, exciting and as safe as possible.  In response to a call for proposals, faculty members have submitted more than 300 proposals to redesign their fall 2020 courses, improving the educational experience for more than 65,000 seats next Fall. 
 
Living-learning programs, student services, and other special programs are developing engaging forms of programmatic, co-curricular and student support activities that will re-imagine how to enhance community engagement beyond the classroom (both in-person and online) to help build the tight-knit bonds and out-of-classroom learning that are the hallmarks of the Maryland student experience.
 
For those students who are able to join us in-person in fall 2020, academic and extracurricular enrichment on campus will supplement online engagement to the extent that public health circumstances allow.
 
Many faculty members are also engaged in workshops with the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center (TLTC), the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (AIE), and the Division of IT, Academic Technology Group this summer to enhance and personalize students’ fall educational experience, no matter what the mode of class delivery.  We are also using the summer to physically change classrooms and other venues to enhance safety for in-person activities.   
 
Scheduling—Work is nearly complete with the colleges and departments to finalize exactly which courses will be offered in-person, online or in a blended format next Fall, and what the room assignments and daily schedule will be.  Because 6-ft social distancing limits the number of students that can be accommodated in a classroom, courses of more than 50 students will be delivered online.  We anticipate that about 20% of undergraduate courses will be offered at least partially in-person, with priority given to classes that particularly need in-person instruction, such as some labs, performance courses, senior capstone projects, clinical instruction and internships. Some of the innovations being developed by faculty this summer are aimed at using creative blended instruction and hopefully will allow us to accommodate partial in-person instruction even in some larger classes, through smaller break-out and discussion sections.
 
As I mentioned above, we expect to have an updated fall course schedule with final course options available on Testudo July 15, including the in-person, online, or blended format for each course.[3]  We appreciate your patience as we work to make these updates accurate and complete. Once Testudo is updated, students should adjust their schedules as necessary and if additional assistance is needed, should contact their academic advisors.
 
Health and Safety Arrangements—Just as a trip to the grocery store is different now, with masks and one-way traffic through the store, campus will change as well.  We have established some rules and procedures for everyone returning to campus in order to maintain as healthy an environment as possible.
  • Everyone coming to campus will be required to complete a training video and pledge to abide by the CDC-recommended health and safety regulations (see https://return.umd.edu) and to monitor and report their own health indicators daily.
  • All classrooms used for in-person instruction will be equipped with sanitary wipes for surfaces such as seats, desks and tables between each class. 
  • We will ask instructors to allow time for students to sanitize their work area before class and to similarly sanitize their own work area and whatever classroom equipment they plan to use for the class.
  • Classroom seating will be arranged or marked to indicate safe seating distances.
  • All students will be required to wear masks and to maintain social distancing while inside campus buildings and outside when other people are nearby.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be available in proximity to classrooms.
  • Classrooms and high touch areas in buildings will be cleaned and disinfected nightly.
  • Instructors will be expected to deliver handouts and other types of course material digitally through ELMS-CANVAS to minimize the exchange of papers and or any other type of instruction materials.
  • Signs will be posted to direct one-way traffic within busy campus buildings and to indicate safe distancing to minimize the likelihood of congestion in hallways, at entrances, restrooms, etc.
  • There will be monitoring in place to ensure that these requirements are being followed.

BIG10 Academic Alliance Special Courses —Another innovation that will be available next Fall are classes that are being taught at other BIG10 universities.  Beginning this fall, each Big 10 university will make 6-10 courses available to students from across the Big 10 institutions. Full-time, degree-seeking Maryland students will be eligible to enroll in one of these Big 10 online courses per semester at no additional cost on a space available basis. The courses will be elective in nature and have no stated prerequisites.  The BIG10 Academic Alliance  (www.btaa.org) will develop and maintain a website listing the guidelines and requirements for this program and the courses offered at each university.  We will alert you when this website becomes available.

The Bottom Line—We are not just rising to overcome the myriad challenges that teaching and learning during a pandemic impose.  We are committed to making the fall semester as rewarding, safe and inclusive as possible and to striving for excellence no matter what the format of course delivery.
 
 
With all best wishes,
 
 
Mary Ann Rankin
Senior Vice President and Provost
 
PS: We are developing an FAQ regarding class scheduling and expect to launch it on July 15 as well.
 
 

[1]     Students confirmed to live in the residence halls should refer to the Fall 2020 Housing Addendum available at: reslife.umd,edu/fall2020/addendum/.
 
[2]    These requirements will continue to evolve and include, but may not be limited to, wearing a face covering over the nose and mouth at all times when inside buildings, and outside when in the presence of others; washing your hands often and sanitizing frequently used surfaces; practicing physical distancing (staying at least six feet away from others); staying home or in your residence hall room if you are ill.
 
[3]    Students confirmed to live in the residence halls can cancel their housing agreement without penalty through July 17  by emailing reslife@umd,edu, if they wish to do so after reviewing their updated fall course schedule.

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