On Behalf of AVC Stopple - Accommodations for Undergraduate Students in Face-to-face Instruction in Winter Quarter 2021 Classes

October 20, 2020

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From:    Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education
            Mary E. Brenner, Chair, Undergraduate Council

To:     Department Chairs

Re:     Accommodations for Undergraduate Students in Face-to-face Instruction in Winter Quarter 2021 Classes

We are about to make the final decision to allow a limited resumption of some classroom instruction in Winter Quarter 2021, and we want to ensure that departments and faculty have considered the possible need for accommodations in their plans for in-person instruction. The proposed schedule of classes for Winter Quarter 2021 currently includes about 50 undergraduate classes with a face-to-face component. In terms of available seats in classes, this represents about 3% of the entire curriculum. Nonetheless, because students were actively discouraged from returning to campus in fall quarter, and the on-going uncertainties about on-campus housing availability, the consensus opinion of the Senate and administration is that accommodations for students who will be taking classes remotely are an important consideration in our winter class offerings. Not all students are willing or able to return to campus for the winter quarter to participate in face-to-face classes.

Our curriculum across the university is complex and varied, and we know that faculty and staff in departments have the best interests of the students as their priority. For that reason, a top down policy about accommodations in all situations is not practical. To empower departments, faculty and staff to make decisions in a consistent way, we offer the guidelines below for making final instructional decisions about instructional modalities (face-to-face or remote) for Winter Quarter 2021 only.

  • An in-person offering of a traditional lecture class which is not required for the major is not required to accommodate students who wish to take the class remotely.
  • If a face-to-face lecture class is effectively required for the major, or is part of a structured sequence of courses, departments should carefully consider how to ensure that students have an alternative option for fulfilling the requirement, either by offering parallel remote sections, or by offering the course again in spring quarter. Alternatively, ‘accommodation' can be offered at the departmental level by allowing students to substitute a different class to meet the requirement. The general principle is to ensure remote students have a path to timely graduation.
  • Lab courses, performance courses, and field courses are currently being offered in fall quarter, successfully and without disadvantaging remote students. In these cases, departments can continue their existing practices and policies.

Accommodation, when offered, does not have to mean providing a fully equivalent remote set of lectures in addition to the in-person lectures. A simple approach involves using Gauchocast (Panopto) to record classroom audio and Powerpoint slides, then making the recordings accessible to students who are unable to attend in person. The following site has instructions on how to set up such a system: https://help.lsit.ucsb.edu/hc/en-us/articles/360041459212-GauchoCast-Self-Guided-Workshop

Every General Assignment (GA) classroom is equipped to do this. However, instructors will still need to consider how to include remote students in class discussions, and how to administer assessments.

Independently, we observe that students will miss face-to-face classes if they are required to quarantine or become ill (this is true in either face to face-or-remote classes). Such situations have always been handled on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the instructor, and we ask faculty to continue to show flexibility to extend deadlines, or in the case of missed quizzes or midterms, to reweight final exams when makeup exams are infeasible. The grade “incomplete” has always been an option for use in extreme situations, and remains available for instructors now. At the College level, late and retroactive class drops can be used judiciously.

Finally, we note that these guidelines are intended for use in Winter Quarter 2021. As we return gradually to more classroom instruction, the decisions and tradeoffs will become more complex. Departments should be alert to changes in policies and guidelines as we navigate new situations.