FROM James McCarthy, Interim Provost: follow-up to “Teaching in the Time of COVID-19”
March 10, 2020
From: James McCarthy, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dear Faculty Members,
Earlier today, CUNY extended to college presidents the authority to allow, on a temporary basis, the conversion of courses from face-to-face or hybrid formats to distance teaching formats.
By “distance formats” we refer both to what may commonly be understood as online learning as well as to simpler methods of providing content to students “at a distance,” including simply by using e-mail or some of the simpler capabilities of Blackboard.
Distance learning can be both asynchronous – meaning that students and instructors provide and access course material at different times convenient to them – or synchronous – meaning with students and instructors participating at the same time, much like a regular-scheduled class. In general, asynchronous distance teaching is less complicated, and less technologically intensive than synchronous approaches. Faculty are urged to adopt the approach with which they are comfortable, and whichever approach suits the content of their course.
Based on expressions of concern from both students and faculty, Baruch’s President – in consultation with the Provost and the Deans – has decided to invoke this authority and urge Baruch faculty to switch as quickly as possible to distance teaching.
We have several specific, immediate requests:
- We ask all faculty currently teaching in hybrid formats to move instruction immediately to full distance teaching formats. Since these faculty are already teaching in distance formats, we assume that the transition will be relatively straightforward.
- We also urge all faculty teaching large sections (i.e., greater than 75 students) to move instruction to full distance formats. We take this step because there are clear and immediate health benefits to avoiding close contact in large groups.
- We urge all faculty – immediately and seriously – to consider a move to distance instruction. As you know, face-to-face classes have already been suspended at many institutions, including several in New York. It may well be that the only way to sustain instruction this Spring will be at distance.
We ask that those faculty prepared to move immediately to distance instruction inform their Department Chairs, briefly indicate their experience with teaching in this format and the perceived suitability of each course for the format. All requests will be reviewed immediately by Department Chairs and School Deans.
Given the rapidly changing nature of the environment we face, I urge faculty to reach out to Chairs by tomorrow (Wednesday) or by Thursday at the latest.
Faculty are also urged to consult the posting on “Teaching in the Time of COVID-19,” available on the website of the College’s Center for Teaching and Learning (https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/ctl/). This guide has extensive advice to help faculty with this important transition, and should be your first reference.
In addition, BCTC, the members of the School technology teams, and the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) will be available to assist faculty – both one-on-one or through group programs. We urge faculty to be attentive to announcements about the schedule of CTL programs in the coming days.
We initially will focus, in the next few days, on working with faculty teaching relatively large sections (i.e., enrollment of greater than 75 students). But we plan to move very quickly – certainly by the end of the week – to provide course development support to faculty offering to teach all types and sizes of courses online.
At this point, through the Deans and Department Chairs, we will focus on getting as many large sections in distance format as possible, and on immediately moving all hybrid sections to full distance format. However, it is reasonable to assume that all instruction might well be offered in distance format in the very near future. We recognize that this will place particular burdens on faculty who have never taught in this way, or faculty who teach courses (e.g., science courses with labs) that do not lend themselves easily to distance formats. We are well aware of these potential limitations. We ask faculty who might find themselves in this situation to:
- Use the Center for Teaching and Learning guide referenced above to familiarize themselves with the possibilities that are available, including some of the simpler approaches to distance learning. E-mail and simple use of Blackboard, for example, can greatly facilitate distance learning.
- Adapt, in whatever ways possible, material unique to your course that presents particular challenges to distance formats.
- As the transition to distance teaching unfolds, we ask that all faculty have flexible attendance policies, recognizing that there will be some students who – for whatever reasons – might not be able to attend every class.
Thank you for all you do to support Baruch students each time you teach. My colleagues and I are well aware of the burden of our requests. However, I’m confident that your skills and dedication will help our students continue to succeed, even under these challenging circumstances. And that in the process we will contribute to the health and well-being of our students, our staff, and ourselves.
Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs