Report: University of Denver Fall Logistics Task Force
May 27, 2020
Interim provost and executive vice chancellor
Executive assistant, Office of the Provost
On April 29, 2020, Chancellor Jeremy Haefner announced the University of Denver (DU) planned to reopen with face-to-face classes when we begin our fall terms. Beginning with our formation, the Fall Logistics Task Force developed a set of principles to guide our planning. Our task force has attempted to strike a balance between the health and safety of our campus community, the quality education experience students receive from DU, and the financial security of our University. In addition, we strove to keep issues of equity at the forefront of our deliberations. As the Chancellor noted in his initial announcement, we are mindful of those faculty, staff and students who are immunocompromised or have other health issues and would be put at risk by in-person classes in the fall. We are also mindful that faculty, staff and students might care for someone who would be put at risk if they were to return to campus, and those who have other responsibilities at home.
This proposal will be the framework for the next year at DU. To achieve these goals, implementing the recommendations in this report will place considerable demands on the DU community during a time of a global pandemic that has already placed extraordinary burdens on DU faculty, staff, and administrators. We believe, however, in DU, its faculty, staff, administrators, and students. Our community’s passion, creativity, perseverance and grace continue to inspire us to do our best work. Our intention is to plan for flexibility to prevent undue harm, to quickly pivot to mitigate risk, and to continue to provide an exceptional educational experience.
Much focus and concern has been placed on in-person classes resuming in fall 2020. This proposal addresses how we will accommodate choices for in-person, hyrid/blended, and online courses during the 2020–2021 academic year. It imagines the scaffolding that will need to be in place to provide some in-person classes, albeit in a modified format, increase DU’s commitment to providing quality online courses, imagine creative new ways to deliver hybrid courses, and create opportunities for meaningful co-curricular interaction between faculty and students both in-person and online. It seeks to provide a way forward through the next year. The summer task force and associate deans from many units are already collaborating to test and refine adaptation to in-person coursework this summer, and much was learned from our fully online spring term. These lessons will also be leveraged for the transition to fall.
We also understand the importance of earning the trust of our community and demonstrating our commitment to shared governance. To this end, we have already begun what will be a series of conversations with our community. To date, we have received feedback on key aspects of the report from numerous groups on campus, including the full Faculty Senate, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, leaders of DU’s affinity groups, deans and associate deans, and chairs and directors. As we move forward, we will continue to receive feedback from these groups as well as from undergraduate and graduate councils and student government, academic units, and individual faculty. This is an opportunity for the entire DU community to work together to protect both our health and safety and our financial future.
Based on the work of the following subcommittees of the task force, we provide a series of initial recommendations and next steps.
Class Modalities Subcommittee
The Fall Logistics Task Force teaching modality subcommittee developed the following proposals to guide the University's planning for fall 2020 and beyond. The purpose of this proposal is to provide an outline of a process that would allow for faculty and students to have a choice of modality, to ensure that high-impact learning experiences have the priority when considering what courses could be offered in person, and to offer creative ways to deliver course content in hybrid/blended models.
- Provide a mixture of in-person, hybrid and online courses and an expanded class schedule to limit population density at DU. The proposal focuses on the course, rather than the faculty member currently assigned to teach a course.
- If a faculty member is scheduled to teach a course in a preferred modality assigned to that course, no changes should be made to the schedule. However, should a course be scheduled in a less-preferred modality that faculty member should have the option to teach a course using a preferred modality.
- Units should offer a variety of courses in each category of courses. The goal of each unit should be to offer sufficient courses in each category to assist students in completing their coursework and receiving a quality educational experience. The goal is to be as flexible as possible in giving faculty a choice of modalities to teach in, but the course they teach may be limited by the modality they choose. Depending on discipline or course, some recommendations will be more difficult to implement than others.
- Not all courses at DU will be available in all modalities given health considerations, educational goals, accreditation concerns, and classrooms limitations.
- Create three categories of courses:
- On-campus priority courses: These are courses that provide “high impact learning experiences” as defined by the American Association of Colleges and Universities and DU’s Office of Teaching and Learning(OTL). These courses could include those with characteristics that are best suited for in-person learning. Given the limited space we have for in-person teaching, these courses will be given the priority for classroom spaces. However, it is possible that not all courses in this category will be able to be offered in this format.
- Combined/hybrid courses: These are courses that require some in-person teaching to deliver specific student learning outcomes or students experience but have other learning outcomes that are suited to online delivery. This includes courses where a subgroup of students enrolled in the course will meet in person on different days of the week. These courses can also be used to satisfy accreditation or visa requirements that require a minimum number of in-person contact hours. Many courses at DU will be offered in this format.
- Online priority courses: This category includes large courses that cannot be delivered on campus due to health regulations and/or following best practices for ensuring the health of our community. All material in these courses can be delivered via an online format without a significant loss of content or experience. These may also be courses that have already shown a track record of a high level of success in an online environment.
- DU should support creative solutions, such as staggered class meetings, hybrid, blended and “hyflex” courses, and novel approaches to providing meaningful opportunities for faculty/student interactions in both in-person and online environments.
- Move to online final assessments for the 2020–2021 academic year to reduce the extension of the quarter into cold and flu season.
- Create a “reading week” in between the end of classes and online final assessments to give students the opportunity to travel home and remain at home until the beginning of Winter 2021 term.
- Prepare all courses to be delivered online if a decision is made by DU or by public health officials to end all in-person teaching or if there is reason for an individual course to be delivered online after being scheduled for in-person delivery.
Classroom Logistics Subcommittee
- Preliminary findings suggest that following state and federal guidance on social distancing and de-densification will reduce our classroom capacity to approximately 33% of normal. Adapting to this will require a combination of rescheduling many courses on campus once modality is determined as well as creativity in using blended-learning instruction.
- Spacing is anticipated to be approximately 45-55 square feet per student.
- These limitations will require that DU examine all available spaces on campus for new classroom space, including performance spaces, athletic spaces, and non-traditional teaching spaces. All spaces on campus (even non-traditional teaching spaces) will be available to all programs.
- The subcommittee will continue assessing density in buildings and align with current state and health requirements.
- Scheduling changes will be required of all units on campus to support modality and space availability.
- Extended hours and days will be considered.
- Protocols will be developed for libraries, museums, and cultural arts facilities, dining, the Rec Center, and other common areas.
- Protocols will be developed for the Writing Center, Science and Engineering Center, Math Center, Language Center, and Research Center.
- A software solution and consultation will be used to help configure classroom logistics.
Experiential, Performance and Laboratory Courses Subcommittee
Key challenges were first identified for experiential, performance, and laboratory (EPL) courses. From these challenges, recommendations are proposed to develop solutions that will meet the challenges.
- Approximately 26% of fall 2020 courses are categorized as EPL courses. All EPL courses, however, are not readily identified by course descriptions. A comprehensive inventory of these courses needs to be completed.
- The unique nature of many EPL courses requires extra precautions to keep the learning environments and our community safe.
- Many EPL courses require a specialized room where the instruction must occur, while others might have flexibility. Specific constraints for EPL courses must be collected to optimize space utilization on campus.
- A subset of EPL courses are likely integral to degree requirements (e.g., advanced laboratories, capstone courses, etc.) and given priority unless an acceptable alternative is provided.
- Early and engaged participation by departments is critical. Each department should prioritize EPL courses accordingly and convey these needs to the task force.
- Openly evaluate all delivery modes for EPL courses. We propose that a working group be charged to compile and curate many lessons learned from leading EPL courses taught online in spring 2020 to support faculty in fall 2020 course preparations.
- Many EPL courses require students and faculty to often be in close proximity of each other, and this will require extra consideration to establish and maintain safe learning environments.
- EPL courses must be able to pivot quickly to online learning. Faculty should creatively plan for this pivot, and additional resources will be needed to assist faculty to prepare for this scenario.
- Designate a committee/individual to coordinate software and infrastructure upgrades to support instructional needs identified by faculty and chairs.
Instructor Support Subcommittee
As instructors teach courses in different modalities, the University and faculty together should clarify expectations and identify support needed for teaching. The University should commit to helping instructors adapt, refine, and strengthen teaching across all modalities, particularly providing resources to build excellent online and hybrid/blended courses. As is consistent with our mission, we will collaborate to provide high-quality experiences worthy of DU’s identity and our students’ needs. Accordingly, this subcommittee drafted a comprehensive set of over 50 policies, guidelines, and supports to inform circumstances expected in the fall. Some govern all teaching situations, while others are specific to in-person, online, blended, or hyflex modalities.
- Key campus-wide policies relieve individual professors from having to reinvent certain wheels and assure them of prioritized support for certain aspects of their teaching. They will contribute to quality and coherence and set shared expectations for students. The draft policies detailed in an appendix address broad areas, including:
- Faculty teaching assignments, intellectual properties related to teaching
- Minimal expectations for the online capabilities expected of every course
- Syllabus and course container elements
- Because traditions reasonably vary among disciplines on campus, we also have developed guidelines that describe options, but defer specific interpretations and implementations to individual units. Our draft recommendations address broad areas, including:
- Teaching evaluations and effort equivalences
- Technologies and tools, and common course characteristics
- In-person, hybrid, and hyflex features
- DU is committed to supporting instructors as they develop and teach courses as the FY21 budget permits. Our draft commitments address broad areas that DU should prioritize given budget constraints, including:
- Professional learning in effective practices for course design and pedagogy in online, blended, and hyflex courses, in a mix of webinars, programming, consultations, and online guides and materials;
- Technologies, classroom support, and individual support and consultation; and
- A comprehensive integrated first-stop entry point for all web-based resources, including templates, statements and policies, and how-to materials.
Student Support Subcommittee
The student support subcommittee prioritized the key ability to continue uninterrupted value-added student support services to complement a quality DU educational experience for students across the spectrum whether they were present and available on campus or connected remotely. The primary focus was to respond to the pandemic by identifying, enhancing, and creating better ways of meeting student needs while remaining flexible, nimble, and innovative. The following recommendations are framed within the vision of the 4D student experience that seeks to empower our students to be resilient and courageous champions of the public good, leading lives of purpose and passion and having fulfilling careers:
- DU should leverage student cohorts to build community and connections in more intentional ways;
- Use technology to create a “buddy system” to pair upper level students with first- and second-year students who would like to have that connection and engagement;
- Make available student workers, peer ambassadors, and orientation leaders as buddies for any student who may need additional support;
- Involve DU affinity groups to create peer-to-peer connections;
- At the graduate level, offer a more structured mentoring program to assist in the transition; and
- Address issues of well-being for the student community, given that during spring 2020 71% of students say that their mental health affected their ability to complete their coursework in a 100% online environment.
Hybrid support structures
- DU should build a hybrid model of support for students with both face-to-face and virtual services and ensure that this model is aligned with the 4D student experience;
- Continue to support units in the use of Zoom to provide support to students;
- Provide students the option of scheduling face-to-face or remote meetings with faculty with the appropriate physical distancing and other health measures in place;
- Implement modern technologies such as chatbots to enhance the virtual support model; and
- Investigate off-campus wireless technologies for students who lack wireless access and modern interactive technologies for orientations in addition to Canvas orientation modules.
Career and professional development:
- Units should create internship and professional development opportunities for students within their departments which are compatible with hyflex/hybrid delivery.
Data-informed decision making:
- Coordinate development and implementation of institutional surveys for fall 2020 with Institutional Research & Analysis;
- Ensure the collection of high-quality, actionable information and to avoid over-surveying members of our community through redundant requests; and
- Develop and share an inventory of surveys, reports, analyses, and related datasets that are currently available to inform decision-making on student support programs to leverage existing data resources and better identify new ones that need to be developed.
Campaign to create education and awareness about the services available to students:
- DU should create an awareness campaign and socialize the services currently available to students through groups such as student governments, and during events such as orientation; and
- Set expectations for students conduct while prioritizing support.
- DU should review and adapt various policies surrounding student support, conduct, and responsibility, especially as they relate to safe practices such as wearing a mask or physical distancing; and
- SAIE is working on guiding behavior policies for accountability using a preventative, educational approach regarding students’ responsibility for their health and the community health.