Message for Faculty and Instructors

March 14, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

This message is not meant as a policy announcement or an informational memo. It is intended to offer some perspectives on the extraordinary measures that the campus is taking in the context of the international emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The decisions and recommendations are the result of discussions in the Chancellor’s COVID-19 Response Working Group, which includes Academic Senate leadership and faculty experts. We all understand that faculty, staff, and students will have to figure out how best to implement these decisions as we plan for the Spring Quarter.

First, let me express our gratitude to all of our faculty and graduate student instructors, and to our support staff, and acknowledge the difficulty of the tasks before us. As Chancellor Yang said in his March 10, 2020, message: “We know that many of these recommendations will be challenging to implement, but it is important that we take the necessary steps now to respond to the rapidly evolving situation.” The transition to alternative modes of instruction will require special efforts, as well as adjustments on the part of faculty, staff, and students.

Here are some important points to keep in mind:

  • When we asked instructors to transition from in-person formats to remote formats, using alternative modalities, we intentionally did not say “online instruction.” We do not want anyone to assume that we expect all faculty to create what is normally understood as fully online courses. We know that such courses require labor-intensive preparation and are difficult to scale.
  • Some faculty will be able to translate their curricula to online formats. Many of our faculty are reasonably conversant with collaborative tools and platforms. Many are leaders in instructional technology, digital humanities, and innovative pedagogy using hybrid models. Our graduate students also possess relevant expertise. Paradoxically, those faculty who have utilized innovative, hybrid models and have integrated video, music, graphics, and animations into their lectures may find it more challenging to translate their lectures to remote formats.
  • We fully expect that most faculty will seek out a variety of alternatives to deliver their instruction remotely.
    • There are many capabilities in GauchoSpace to post lectures, assignments, readings, quizzes, and links to other online material, as well as organize student responses, peer review, and commentary.
    • Our campus IT infrastructure will support extensive use of Zoom, which easily can accommodate a seminar or discussion section, allowing the whole class to see each other on video, with hand-raising and comment features, as well as PowerPoint presentations. Many of us have participated in such videoconference meetings.
    • Zoom also can be used to live-stream lectures with up to 300 participants (or 500 with special arrangements).
    • There are many options for asynchronous recorded lectures. Instructors could videotape lectures in advance, either in a special studio in which they could write on a reverse blackboard, or on the same stage on which they typically lecture, or sitting in front of their computers in their offices. Our classrooms and offices are safe; we are just trying to reduce the density of our population and practice social distancing.
    • Taped lectures can be posted online (this is very common at some universities to supplement regular in-person lecture courses) and sections and discussion sections can be held live on Zoom and be taped for later viewing.
    • Some science departments in the UC system are videotaping labs with a graduate student or a small group of undergraduate students performing the experiment that enrolled students would have done if they had been in a normal lab. These recorded lab experiments will be posted online.
    • Other widely used platforms include podcasts for recorded lectures and webinars for presentations to hundreds of participants.
    • There can be hybrid approaches and combinations of technologies.

We are working with Instructional Development, CITRAL, LSIT, ETS, and other IT units on campus to deploy extra staff to guide faculty who need assistance. There are also primers online for using a variety of available features: Zoom, GauchoCast, GauchoSpace, and more. Those can be found on the UCSB website through a search and many are linked via the Instructional Continuity and workshop document. Please see:

Some of these transitions will take time to implement and not everything will work perfectly during the first weeks of Spring Quarter. It is not possible for us to delay the beginning of Spring Quarter at this time, but we understand that during this transition some instructors will be working out organizational and technical issues. We also are working on strategies to help those students here and elsewhere have access to the equipment and connections needed to participate in remote instruction.

We have acknowledged that it will not be practical for some instructors to transfer some courses to remote formats. In such cases, departments are encouraged to devise alternative curricula, where possible, so students can fulfill requirements and get the minimum number of credit units they need to be in good standing, qualify for financial aid, and fulfill requirements for graduation. We trust our faculty to do their best. We also are working with our system-wide colleagues to inventory and make available all of the already-prepared online courses that exist in the system-wide Innovative Learning Technology Initiative (ILTI), as well as campus-based Summer Sessions and Extension programs. We will work with the Academic Senate, which oversees curriculum and requirements, as well as departments, if there are questions about credit for particular courses. We reaffirm the Senate’s authority over the curriculum and degree requirements. Our use of remote instruction this quarter is required by extraordinary circumstances.

Although our campus has innovators and experts in digital technology and new media, it has been appropriately cautious about the push towards “online education” over the last 20 years. Some have expressed the fear that the shift to remote instruction throughout the UC system and the country necessitated by this international emergency will increase pressure to privatize and replace our campus curricula with massive online courses. We are fortunate to have an Academic Senate (which includes all of our academic administrators) to defend and maintain the quality and standards of a University of California education and the principles of a great public research university. We will continue to reaffirm traditions of pedagogy, research, and intellectual inquiry that go back to Plato’s dialogues and Aristotle’s principles of scientific method: the communities of dialogue and debate, and the hands-on laboratories and studios in which faculty and students engage in the experimental and collaborative processes of discovery and creation.

We may gain insights from rethinking our habitual practices; we also will learn from the limitations revealed in the experiment that has been forced upon us. I hope that we will learn from the innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship of our faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates as they adapt their pedagogical models or modes of delivery. All of this will require understanding, cooperation, collaboration, empathy, good will, and patience as we work together to make the best of a difficult situation.

Thank you again for your dedication and determination to fulfill the academic mission of the University of California.

With gratitude,

David Marshall
Executive Vice Chancellor