May 11, 2020
The Spring semester has ended, and our virtual Summer sessions begin today. As we all take a brief exhale from the Spring semester, I am sure many of you are feeling exhausted from all that you have had to do to deliver courses, academic support services, and intense advising, and to simply manage the unpredictability of our time. Like all colleges and universities in the nation, we are proactively planning for our future and specifically our Fall semester. Many of you have asked me about our plans for Fall: What can we expect? How will we adapt? What do we need to do to prepare?
First and foremost, I hope you will find some time to decompress. Pausing to exercise self-care is important even as we continue to plan and prepare for Fall. The Fall Academic Contingency Planning Group is continuing to work on a number of scenarios in order to determine how we may best deliver our courses. Absent a vaccine or other proven treatment for COVID-19, we are considering all options for Fall classes, including a mixture of in-person and online learning. As the President mentioned in his most recent communication, our plan is to resume campus operations in the Fall, within the confines of a safe working and learning environment. Though federal and state guidelines may continue to evolve, we need to be prepared for realities that could range from a face-to-face experience to a need to quickly transition to a fully online experience.
Nevertheless, there are important actions we can all take to be proactive and prepared for Fall semester despite the uncertainties that remain. In collaboration with the Contingency Planning Group, Strategic Learning, and the Research Office, while also consulting best practices for student success and lessons from what other institutions are doing, I am providing you with the following guidance so that, in the months to come, we can each do our part to prepare to deliver the high quality educational experiences our students have come to expect from Ball State.
- Faculty: I am asking all faculty to develop their courses within our Canvas learning management system and to design their courses in such a way that they can easily transition from one modality to another (e.g., face-to-face to fully online). The Fall Academic Contingency Planning Group is working with colleges to identify courses that have special requirements and need a hybrid approach, special technology solutions, or alternative options in order to deliver their content and meet student learning outcomes. Central units such as Faculty Affairs and Strategic Learning are happy to work with those few areas individually to help them brainstorm ideas and adapt as necessary.
- Chairs and Directors: All department chairs and school directors need to prepare a contingency plan to ensure that courses can continue to be delivered with minimum interruption in the event of unexpected challenges. Those plans will be coordinated at the college level and submitted to my office no later than July 1.
- Deans: Colleges will need to review their offerings for Fall and determine if there are opportunities to reduce our offerings without impacting students’ progress to degree or shift to Spring semester some courses that may require face-to-face orientation, such as showcases, field studies, or capstones, even if this requires changes in course sequencing.
- Academic Advisors: Establish continued ways to communicate with students, updating websites, preparing information modules, and creating communication plans for proactive advising interventions. This includes active social media outreach and a timeline for specific communications in order to provide continuous support.
- Academic Support Units: Continue to build on alternative ways to provide ongoing support such as tutoring, supplemental instruction, success coaching, and any other services designed to provide students uninterrupted academic support through a variety of media.