What to Expect in Academic Affairs/What to Expect in Teaching and Learning
Some Things Have Not Changed in the Pandemic
The UM community and our faculty are ready to welcome you back and ensure that you have an excellent educational experience! We are a strong teaching and learning community, and we are committed to the health and safety of all members of the UM community.
We look forward to providing students with the high quality instruction and mentoring that UM is known for, whether in-person or virtually. We are here to support and assist you in any way.
Some Things Have Changed in the Pandemic
Here are some details. We are reopening with a culture of safety and personal responsibility. Communication between faculty and students will be crucial, and if a student has changes in health status and needs to be absent, it is important to inform faculty about this.
We have worked diligently to plan for in-person classroom/instructional spaces. We are requiring 6 feet of distance between students and faculty, and all will wear masks. All courses have been assigned in spaces that will allow this social distancing.
All courses at UM are web-enhanced, meaning that faculty will use Canvas to, at a minimum, provide access to course documents (e.g., syllabi) and communicate with students.
The University defines an online course as a course that never meets in-person; all content is delivered online through Canvas, Zoom and/or other web services. Online courses may be synchronous, meaning that class meetings occur virtually but live and in real time, asynchronous, meaning that students do not meet in real time but complete coursework following deadlines set by the instructor or a combination of synchronous/asynchronous.
A hybrid course is one that meets less than 50 percent of the time in-person but has at least one traditional (in-person) meeting.
We have increased our fully online offerings for fall 2020, particularly within general education.
Unless scheduled as an online course, all fall courses are being prepared as traditional in-person or hybrid courses. Hybrid courses will allow for proper social distancing when the classroom space cannot accommodate all students enrolled in the course. Often, these plans will stagger in-person attendance of students so that students will participate in in-person learning once or twice per week while participating virtually during other class meetings. Faculty will communicate their hybrid course plans before the beginning of the semester. Additionally, all courses will have a fully online course plan in case there is a need to move to remote instruction.
All course syllabi will include a statement explaining the plan for delivering the course in-person or hybrid and online. Syllabi will also include a statement of the necessary technology for students to be successful in the course. Students are asked to thoroughly review their syllabi and notify their instructors immediately if they have any access concerns.
Syllabi will include a flexible and sensitive attendance policy. Additionally, the alternative grading policy has been extended for fall 2020 to ease stress in this challenging time.
We are prepared to accommodate vulnerable students or students who prefer distance education, when possible, through online and synchronous courses already on the schedule. If not possible, we are prepared to deliver some or all of the courses to these students remotely. Students need to inform faculty of this decision in advance.
As always, we are committed to providing all of our students with the excellent, personalized educational experience that you have come to expect from UM. Our faculty are exceptional teachers, dedicated to the success of our students.
By the beginning of fall, more than 220 (close to 100 percent) of our full-time and part-time faculty are expected to have completed mandatory training in distance education. Additionally, we will have 14 full-time faculty who are Quality Matters certified in distance education, which is considered the gold standard in our industry, and two additional full-time faculty members will begin the certification process in the fall. We will continue to develop and provide our faculty with quality resources to assist in their delivery of high quality distance education.
Instructional and Learning Spaces
In coordination with the Roadmap Task Force, Academic Affairs will implement a plan in all UM instructional and learning spaces. First, this will include requiring 6 feet of distance between all individuals in instructional and learning spaces. Second, preparing faculty to deliver courses in-person, hybrid, and distance education as the situation warrants, and having plans to communicate those teaching methods to students. Finally, requiring all full-time faculty to be certified for distance education.
Several engineering, personal, and administrative solutions will also be enacted in instructional and learning spaces. These include traffic patterning in academic building hallways where feasible, replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual meetings whenever possible, and encouraging regular faculty-student communication about health status and any changes that might affect student success. Amended absenteeism policies along with other strategies to mitigate the spread of disease are also under consideration.
The 2020-2021 academic calendar will remain unchanged with fall classes beginning on Aug. 24, 2020, and concluding with degree conferral on Dec. 11, 2020.
After the Thanksgiving holiday, the University will transition to a distance education model beginning on Nov. 30, 2020. However, residence halls will remain open for the remainder of the semester. Plans for December Commencement will be determined at a later date. University officials will continue to monitor the progression of the COVID-19 outbreak and will determine any future calendar modifications based on community spread of the disease and sound medical and professional advice. The University’s academic calendar is available at montevallo.edu/university-calendar.