Faculty/Staff Communications

Brave New World

March 16, 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Let me begin by thanking you for your grace and professionalism in the face of the anxiety and uncertaity caused by this national emergency and global pandemic. I know we are all shocked at how quickly this has unfolded, and we are grieving for a lot, including the loss of personal contact with our students and colleagues. Many of you are trying to figure out how to keep your research and teaching going with children at home and child care sparse. You have concerns about your and your family’s health. You are worried about the quality of instruction in this brave new world. Please know that President McRobbie and I, and all the academic leadership, are deeply grateful for all you are doing in the face of this unsettled time. My overarching message is to take care of yourselves and your loved ones as we move into this period of doing the best we can under the circumstances.

You have many questions to which we do not yet have answers. We are analyzing the governor’s announcements today. This is only the first, and will not be the last, of my communications with you. Please stay tuned to the university’s coronavirus.iu.edu website for the most updated information. We are prioritizing many issues, as you might expect. I meet with the deans and vice provosts every morning by Zoom at 10 a.m., so questions on which you need guidance should be started at the unit level. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is responsible for operational questions. It is functional all day, every day. Our Executive Policy Group (EPG) meets daily at 4 p.m. The EPG provides policy guidance on questions that have wide application. The most efficient and effective way to get a critical question answered is to start with your units, which can move questions up this chain. We will prioritize them as quickly as possible, given the general conditions of uncertainty.

I was on a set of webinars last week with hundreds of my colleagues from around the university, learning with the rest of you how to use our online teaching resources. I was enormously proud of my colleagues at the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, led by Greg Siering, and the UITS Learning Technologies, led by Anastasia (Stacy) Morrone, for their intense and calm work to provide information and help to all of us making this big transition. We are a residential campus because we believe in the power of the residential experience. We will do everything we can to maintain our quality of instruction, understanding that we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good, in this and in many other ways. We are also working with our student services professionals to provide critical student services, from advising to mental health, remotely.

Universities have a critical role to play through our research in providing science and policy help to our world. Jeff Zaleski, Vice Provost for Research, is working with several teams on our campus to address this set of issues. Fred Cate, Vice President for Research, is leading the university response. If you think your research could be turned towards this crisis, contact Jeff by email.

I am consulting with the Executive Committee leadership of the Bloomington Faculty Council on academic questions as best I can, and with the President of the IU Student Government Association (IUSG) on undergraduate student questions. I am proud of and grateful for IUSG’s commitment of $100,000 of Student Government funds to emergency student relief efforts, and for modeling the selflessness we all need to demonstrate as we face the uncertain future.

On to what I can tell you today.

1. Students

a. Residence Halls

Please be assured that our very first priority is identifying and working with those students who really have no place else to be. We have a petition process and emergency funds that we are working through with the students still in Bloomington and those who are away. We understand that some students will be unable to go home because of travel restrictions or other reasons. We are not requiring students to come back to Bloomington quickly to clear out nonessential items from their residence halls. Read our first communication to our residence halls students here.

b. International Students

Vice President Hannah Buxbaum and her team in the Office of International Affairs are leading the work with our international students. Her team has been communicating with international students throughout this crisis. The most recent guidance for our international students, yesterday, can be found here.

2. Access to Buildings for Teaching and Research:

Our buildings are open in order to facilitate your teaching and lab work. If you do come to campus, please maintain good public health practices, including social distancing, within the buildings. Don’t come in if you are sick, or if you are in a vulnerable group identified by the CDC. Please maintain good public health practices, including social distancing, within the buildings. Err on the side of caution.

3. Teaching 

a. Extension of Spring Break

Given the child care issues caused by the cancellation of school, the travel disruptions that have caught people in various locations, and the need to move to a longer period of online teaching, we have extended spring break for an additional week. We have extended the automatic withdrawal period into the first resumed week of classes.

b. Grading Options 

i. Faculty will be authorized, at their discretion—with approval from chairs and deans—to assign an end of term grade of S (Satisfactory) instead of letter grades (A+, A, A-, etc.) for graded courses. This flexibility may be helpful for faculty as they are quickly converting to an online format as they plan assignments and assessments. Faculty are advised to consult with their chairs and program directors as to whether a department or program will take a unified approach, and also for how they will consider S grades in the context of existing policies. This last point might be especially important for specialized accreditation programs. We encourage faculty to inform students whether they will be assigning Satisfactory/Fail grades. We further recognize that some students may request a letter grade (or a satisfactory grade) from their faculty member and we ask that faculty make reasonable accommodation based on the information they receive from the student. Normal grade change policies stay in effect.

ii. We are aware of the question about proctoring for online exams. It is on the list for future guidance.

c. Help for you in Teaching

i. The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL), in cooperation with our partners in UITS Learning Technologies, has been assisting IUB instructors in moving their courses online, both directly and through the Keep Teaching website . We are committed to supporting you during this challenging time, understanding it is a significant undertaking for both you and your students. In order to do this work for the large faculty at IUB, we have to scale our services by encouraging you to engage first with existing online resources, followed by individual or small-group consulting as needed. Not only does this online-first approach help us meet demand across campus, but it also ensures we can focus our time with you more effectively.

ii. Keep Teaching website: We encourage you to start with the Keep Teaching website, which provides important pedagogical considerations, suggested technologies for implementing various teaching tasks (lecture, group interaction, learning assessment, etc.), and links to resources on how to use those tools. (Tip: The Strategies section includes links to the Knowledge Base, where we list those related technologies.)

iii. Webinars on instructional technologies: These webinars provide focused training on the key tools for taking classes online quickly (Canvas, Zoom, and Kaltura). We are continuing to update our schedule of webinars, and we are also making recordings available. The updated listing of live webinars can be found here, and a list of all recorded webinars is at: http://go.iu.edu/2mqi.

iv. Online 1-on-1 Support: We are providing individual online support to instructors as follow-ups to the webinars and other resources above, and we encourage you to start with these other materials to focus your questions and time with us. These consultations will be on Zoom, but we can talk to you by phone, too, if you prefer. Contact the CITL to make an appointment.

v. Reserve a classroom for lecture recording during Spring Break: Lecture recording sessions are being offered in Ballantine Hall during Spring Break. Staff from UITS Learning Spaces will be onsite to assist faculty with Kaltura and classroom technologies from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 20, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Please email clastech@iu.edu with the following information:

  • Day(s) and time(s) you would like to record.
  • Classroom technologies needed for your recordings.
  • Any special accommodations or needs.

Before arriving for your lecture capture session, please review the information at keepteaching.iu.edu, including the resources on Kaltura.

vi. CITL blog: The CITL staff is writing a series of blog posts about various aspects of taking your course online for this period of time—general planning tips, alternatives to traditional exams, dealing with disruptions to service-learning courses, etc. As we get specific questions from IUB instructors, we will use the blog to share responses with the wider campus.

vii.    Technical help for your students: We recognize that students may run into technical problems along the way, and you shouldn’t have to solve them. Students can call the UITS Support Center (812-855-6789;ithelp@iu.edu) for technical help 24x7. Also, you can import tech support modules into your Canvas courses that are designed to give students the instructions they need to use key technologies; just import the modules and tweak them slightly for your class context.

We recognize that there will be students without any, or reliable, internet access at their homes.  We are working on how to provide them with support.  

viii.    CITL availability: Due to growing health concerns, CITL support will be conducted online via email, phone, and Zoom. We will remain available to support you Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m., but all our consultants will be working remotely. The best way to contact us during that time is by email. If you have technical questions outside of our coverage hours, contact the UITS Support Center at 812-855-6789 or ithelp@iu.edu for assistance 24x7.

d. Online Course Evaluations

Given the unusual nature of the teaching, we will suspend online course evaluations for the semester.

4. Libraries

The Libraries are considering how to provide support to faculty and students throughout this period consistent with public health. We’ll share further guidance in a few days.

5. Faculty recruiting

Deans have been advised to continue faculty recruiting through Zoom and other remote technologies.

6. Tenure and Promotion

We are aware that this period of disruption has the potential to disrupt research, through disrupting travel, the lack of child care, the need to focus on teaching, and many other considerations. We will provide additional guidance next week.

I appreciate your trust and support during this difficult and isolating period. Please take good care of yourselves and your families. Our university and our students depend on you.


With my heartfelt thanks,

Lauren Robel
Executive Vice President and Provost
Val Nolan Professor of Law