March 17, 2022

This message is distributed to All-Instructors, Dept-Chairs, Academic-Assistant-Deans, and Academic-Department-Managers.  (Click here to view description of distribution groups.)

To: Spring Quarter Instructors
From: Susannah Scott, Academic Senate Chair
David Marshall, Executive Vice Chancellor

This memo provides guidance to Spring Quarter instructors, including both Senate and non-Senate faculty, Teaching Associates, and Teaching Assistants. A version of this message has been sent to students so they will understand our policies and know what can and cannot be asked of instructors. 

There have been dramatic improvements in public health conditions in our community, as evidenced by the very low numbers for new COVID-19 cases. As the Winter Quarter winds down, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is now lower, and the overall level of campus immunity is higher, than at the beginning of the Fall Quarter. The CDC now deems Santa Barbara County to be a low-risk location. Given the lack of recent outbreaks on our campus, and the absence of any serious illness or hospitalization among UCSB employees and students in Winter Quarter, we will continue our return to in-person classroom instruction in Spring Quarter. Our programs are accredited for in-person teaching and learning, and this mode of instruction is central to our mission as “a leading research institution that also provides a comprehensive liberal arts learning experience” (UC Santa Barbara Mission Statement). 

Two years ago, the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily forced all instruction to be conducted remotely. Now that public health conditions no longer justify this emergency measure, long-standing campus instructional policies are in effect, including the default in-person mode of instruction. At this time, the only exceptions to this policy are for serious medical conditions, which may result in a temporary remote teaching accommodation granted to an instructor by the University through a formal process. Absent one of these formal accommodations, all instructors are expected to be on campus for in-person classroom instruction. The circumstances justifying other modes of instruction are described below.

Approved Fully Online Courses. These courses are designated in the course catalog with a “W.” They were designed and developed at UC Santa Barbara specifically to provide added pedagogical value through online delivery, and they have been thoroughly reviewed and approved by the Academic Senate. The approval process requires that online instruction be based on its intrinsic pedagogical value, rather than the convenience of the instructor or students. 

Approved Partly Online Courses (Hybrid).  Academic Senate policy currently allows a portion of the instruction in each in-person course to be offered online. The fraction of online instruction must be less than 50%, on a weekly basis, from the enrolled student’s perspective. In a lecture course with discussion sections, all components of the course count towards the 50% limit. Hybrid instruction must be approved by the department chair prior to the start of the quarter, based on the instructor’s pedagogical rationale for the online component. In addition, students must be notified about the hybrid mode of instruction during the enrollment period prior to the start of instruction (for Spring Quarter 2022, the deadline was February 25).  Please note that if an instructor has a remote teaching accommodation, this counts towards the 50% online allowance. 

Dual-mode Instruction. This refers to an in-person course taught with a fully remote alternative—for example, by live-streaming or classroom recording—and it is not allowed in Spring Quarter. We realize that during the Winter 2022 Quarter, many instructors attempted to offer dual-mode instruction temporarily to provide greater flexibility for students dealing with the logistics of the Omicron surge. However, dual-mode instruction could result in some students receiving fully online instruction, for which our programs are not accredited. In addition, given the current technological capabilities of most  classrooms, offering both in-person and remote instruction in the same class on a regular basis might result in an unduly burdensome workload for many instructors. Therefore, now that emergency conditions no longer apply, students cannot expect instructors to provide dual-mode instruction. Instructors may, at their discretion, record their lectures and make them available for subsequent review by students as study aids. These classroom recordings must supplement rather than replace in-person instruction. 

Workplace Accommodations. Faculty with documented medical situations, such as serious immuno-comprised conditions that preclude their participation in classroom instruction, may be approved for a remote teaching accommodation through the formal Workplace Accommodation process. If an accommodation is granted to one of the instructors in a course with multiple instructors, it applies only to the individual instructor and not to the entire course. If an instructor has a remote teaching accommodation, this counts towards the 50% online allowance.

DSP-approved accommodations. Students with documented medical situations, such as serious immuno-comprised conditions that preclude their participation in classroom instruction, may be approved for a remote learning accommodation. These accommodations are approved and administered by the Disabled Students Program (DSP), in consultation with instructors. DSP is required to discuss with the instructor how to provide reasonable access to the student without materially altering the nature of the class or unduly burdening the instructor’s workload. If the DSP office facilitates an accommodation by sending an Access Ambassador to the classroom to live stream the lecture, the lecture is not recorded; nor is it made available to other students in the class. 

Brief student absences. Instructors should provide reasonable alternatives to students who miss class for a brief temporary period for a documented medical reason, including a positive COVID test or required isolation or quarantine. The form of these alternatives is entirely the instructor’s prerogative, and may or may not include the recording of lectures or class content. Instructors should state their policy clearly at the beginning of the course.

Thank you for your perseverance, and for respecting the policies that govern instruction in our classrooms. Emergency remote instruction and the complex logistics of returning to on-campus activities have been challenging for both instructors and students. We are optimistic that Spring Quarter will allow us to return to a more normal learning environment in which we can offer our students a high-quality UC Santa Barbara education. We are grateful for the dedication, innovation, and cooperation of all of our instructors, and we look forward to seeing you on campus in the Spring.