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Mar. 7, 2020 – Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs message about continuity planning for teaching

Posted by on Saturday, March 7, 2020 in Community Messages.

Dear faculty colleagues,

As we prepare for our students to return from Spring Break on Monday, the university will resume its normal schedule. That’s something we’re very grateful we can say—between the recent tornado and the recent diagnoses of COVID-19 in a Middle Tennessean and in a student studying abroad, we know that many of us have questions about how the university might move forward in the event of a significant disruption to instruction. The answer to that lies with all of us.

Occasional individual absences are a routine fact of campus life, but multiple extended absences can make it very difficult for education to stay on track and for students to keep up with coursework, projects and discussions. We strongly encourage you to take the time now to develop contingency plans to allow you to continue your teaching and research and to accommodate students or instructors who must undergo self-isolation or any other prolonged absence. We appreciate your efforts to be flexible in making accommodations consistent with the constraints of your courses.

It is important to keep in mind that as of the time of this writing there is no evidence of locally transmitted COVID-19. We are monitoring the situation closely and in real-time in collaboration with local public health officials. If it becomes apparent that classes would pose a health risk and that strategies including teaching at a distance have become appropriate, then we will take appropriate actions.  The university has concluded that such action is not justified at this time. We will continue to communicate with you as the situation evolves.

The Center for Teaching offers a wide variety of instructional resources to help support teaching at a distance for all Vanderbilt faculty (both VU-employed and VUMC-employed). These include recommendations for utilizing web-based tools, including Brightspace, to ensure all members of the class can stay connected and engaged. This quick-start guide for using Brightspace will help you to adapt both seminar/discussion courses and larger/ lecture-style courses for remote-learning scenarios.

We realize that these strategies may not always come naturally to everyone or suit every form of curricular instruction. We are hosting training sessions explaining “Tools for Putting Your Courses Online” as well as other ways to leverage virtual tools to facilitate learning.  The first four sessions are on Wednesday (3/11) at 11am and 12:45pm in Alumni Hall 201 and Thursday (3/12) at 10:30am and 12noon in Commons 237.   We are also planning sessions will include sessions in Eskind Biomedical Library for the week of March 16.  We will provide lunch.  You should bring your laptop to get hands-on support.

Finally, please remember that in these times of heightened anxiety, our students will take their cues from us and that it’s more important than ever to attend to our own wellbeing. Vanderbilt’s Faculty and Staff Health and Wellness site has a number of resources for those seeking support, including the Employee Assistance Program. We encourage you to take advantage of these.

By proactively taking steps to maintain the continuity of teaching, learning, and discovery during times of disruption, we can continue to achieve our shared educational goals while ensuring the health and safety of all.

Thank you,

Tracey George
Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

John McLean
Faculty Senate Chair

David Raiford
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs