March 13, 2020: Email to faculty from Provost Gort

Posted Friday, March 13, 2020 | Announcements to Employees

The COVID-19 pandemic is having widespread impacts. MN State Colleges and Universities leadership has been in close communication with the MN Department of Health and state leaders in responding to the evolving situation. The Chancellor has made a number of decisions at the system level that are designed to minimize or slow the spread of the virus with the goal of supporting the health and well-being of our faculty, staff, and students. Of course, there is a great deal of uncertainty about how the illness will unfold in our community and it is very stressful time for all of us. Please know that the Pandemic Planning Team is carefully monitoring the recommendations of health professionals, and the decisions made by the system. We will be providing regular updates by email and on the website.

It is critically important that you take care of your health and do not come to campus if you are ill. We are monitoring the health of our community and would appreciate it if you would report any COVID-19 exposure, symptoms, or diagnosis using this web form (https://www.metrostate.edu/COVID). Reporting via the form is voluntary. However, if you are ill please notify your dean.

This is going to be a long email with a number of details that are important for you. I’ve organized the information under headings to make it easier to navigate. Please read to the end to ensure that you have full information.

Suspension of Course Instruction through Saturday, March 21 and Resumption of Instruction

Chancellor Malhotra has suspended all classes at Metropolitan State University through Saturday, March 21. This suspension includes all face-to-face, hybrid, online, and independent study courses offerings. During this time, you cannot meet with or provide remote instruction to students. This does mean that our spring semester will have one less week of instruction, and it is important that all students have the same experience.

The suspension does not cover internships, practica, student teaching, or clinicals at external sites. Students can report to those sites next week as long as the external site allows them to do so.

When instruction resumes on Monday, March 23 we will be providing all instruction in a modified way that emphasizes remote instruction. All instruction will continue in this modified, remote mode for the rest of the spring semester. We understand that remote instruction may not be the best pedagogy for your courses and may not be your preferred way to engage students. However, this is an extraordinary situation that calls for us to do our best while supporting the health and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and the broader community.

Modified and Remote Instruction

Starting Monday, March 23 all courses will be offered using instruction methods that will allow course completion remotely or, in very limited situations, with modified class sessions that allow social distancing. The following are options for providing remote instruction:

  • Correspondence education via email;
  • Synchronous Zoom class meetings;
  • Lecture recordings using VoiceThread;
  • Online learning via Brightspace D2L; or
  • Some combination of the three.

In very limited situations, like for labs and studio learning experiences that depend on particular equipment for learning, I will consider approving modified course sessions that will support social distancing in those specialized spaces. In those cases, faculty can request approval to convene groups of 10 students or less at one time.

Faculty teaching face-to-face or hybrid courses that have 10 or fewer students enrolled, but do not required specialized space and/or equipment, are expected to use remote instruction methods for the rest of the semester.

Campus locations will remain open, for now, even though we are moving to remote instruction.

Faculty Planning and Preparations for Remote Instruction

All Resident Faculty are to report to their primary campus location starting Monday, March 16. Faculty will be engaged in course planning in their department and training activities related to remote instruction.

Departments are expected to meet to plan remote instruction for their courses, engaging both Resident and Community Faculty members in that planning. Department should plan at least one Zoom meeting that will allow Community Faculty members to participate in the planning. By the end of Wednesday, each department will send a plan for remote instruction to their dean. I understand that planning for remote instruction will be an on-going effort that will likely evolve over the remainder of the semester. Deans will work with faculty to support planning over the course of the next week. However, we do need to understand the plans by the end of Friday, March 20 to facilitate communication with students.

Departments are also asked to discuss approaches to increase flexibility for students who report being ill so there is a shared understanding of the approaches faculty members will take. It will be important to support students who become ill by being as flexible as possible with deadlines without negatively impacting the learning outcomes of the course.

Modifying Course Content and Activities

This spring term will have 14 weeks of instruction, compared to the normal 15 weeks. Faculty are asked to review the learning outcomes for the course and make modifications to the course content to accommodate this change. Faculty may also need to modify planned activities to adapt to remote instruction. We will not extend the spring semester beyond Monday, May 4.

Training Support for Faculty Members

I will send a separate Email with the training opportunities for faculty members that will support remote instruction. The Center for Online Learning, Center for Faculty Development, IT Services, and the MN State System all have developed training materials that will be very helpful.

External Learning Sites

Students will be allowed to continue their internships, practica, student teaching, clinical hours, and other experiential learning at external sites as long as the external sites allow them to attend. We know that many programs have minimum hours and/or competency- based assessments for these experiences. MN State and Metropolitan State University administrators are working to gather information from licensing boards and accreditation organizations to understand the impacts on students. If the external site does not allow internship students to attend, I ask that the faculty work with students to develop alternative, applied learning experiences that could take the place of the missing hours.

Supporting Students

Student support services will be offered either in-person or via remote formats. We are developing plans for the library and computer labs at Midway, MEC, and LECJEC to remain open to support students who may have limited computer and/or internet access. More details will be available next week.

Communication

Metropolitan State University is coordinating all communication through the Pandemic Planning Team to ensure that information that is communicated is accurate and consistent. This does mean that all communication is reviewed by a group of people which slows the process. Please monitor your email and the website for updated information.

We will send a message to students today clarifying that we will be using remote instruction starting Monday, March 23 and they will hear from their faculty members about their plans for remote instruction by the end of Friday, March 20.

Please feel free to email me with questions. I may not answer each individual email but will update all faculty with answers to the questions so you are all well-informed.

Best regards,
Amy