6.30.20: Additional Guidance for Fall 2020 Academic Planning

An email sent to faculty and instructional staff from Pat Farrell and Nathan Urban.  

Dear Lehigh Faculty and Instructional Staff:

We’ve shared a version of this note with the academic deans, who are all engaged with their chairs and faculty in planning for Fall 2020.

Additional Guidance for Fall 2020 Academic Planning

This note is intended to provide additional detail of constraints and expectations for course planning for Fall 2020. At this stage, some issues are not resolved, in some cases because of a changing environmental situation and in others because more decisions need to be made. Our hope is that the level of additional detail in this note will allow faculty to make concrete plans for their courses for fall, and begin to work on the course development needed to provide a quality educational experience for our students.

First, as highlighted in the Provosts’ note of June 11, 2020, all courses taught in the Fall 2020 semester should expect to have some online or remote content and activity. This will allow us to meet the needs of students choosing to continue courses remotely and to be prepared should changing conditions require remote learning for all students, as happened in March. Many courses will also have some, to a significant amount of live, in-person activity. We want to be prepared for a significant number of students on campus engaging in in-person classroom instruction, although those interactions will be significantly restricted, with social distancing and other safety measures put into place.

Maintaining appropriate social distancing requires an overall constraint on classroom space. We will not be able to provide classroom time and space for the number and size of live meetings we had a year ago. In addition, some of our faculty will need to limit their in-person contact with students for their own health safety, and as mentioned, some of our students will need to do the same. We will also have some students who will be unable to come to Bethlehem due to travel constraints or health issues. Given the unpredictable path of the pandemic, it is also possible that we may need to restrict in-person interactions further at some point in the Fall 2020 semester.

As a result, even though some in-person learning opportunities will be available, all faculty should plan for a blended model of course delivery, following the guidelines presented here: https://lts.lehigh.edu/preparing-for-fall-2020. Look for more information later this week from the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning and/or your college dean's office regarding additional upcoming workshops for faculty, instructional staff, and teaching assistants.

Four Priority Areas for Classroom Space

To allocate the classroom space and time for in-person student and faculty meetings, we are proposing four priority considerations:
1. Large lecture-type courses with more than 50 students should plan to have the lecture portion delivered online.
2. First year students: every first-year student should have at least one substantially face-to-face course experience in the Fall 2020 semester, and preferably two (of a typical four- or five-course schedule). More than two will be welcome, but it is unlikely that a student will have all their Fall 2020 classes substantially face-to-face.
3. A priority for classroom time and space will be capstone courses in which in-person collaborative learning is a critical element.
4. All Lehigh students must be able to make progress towards their degree, whether they can be available for substantially in-person courses or they are in a situation where they cannot come to campus at all.

We expect deans to lead in the realization of these priorities, and individual colleges may add additional priorities of their own.

The registrar has been working with your deans and department chairs to match available classroom times and sizes for each college. Deans are working with department chairs and faculty to allocate these classroom times and spaces to best meet their educational objectives, with the four priorities outlined above as primary expectations. That will give a first estimate of what courses should be fully online or substantially online, which may have intermittent in-person meetings, and which may be significantly in-person. We encourage thoughtful and creative use of in-person opportunities, including irregular scheduling (e.g., half a class live one day, the other half another day), initial special meetings (e.g., use of a large venue once or twice at the start of the semester) or other ways to make best use of limited in- person opportunities.

Other Considerations

An important element of planning for fall classes will be to acknowledge the health concerns of faculty, instructional staff and TAs who would meet with students, as well as possible logistical issues of travel, child care, or other challenges. We will be consulting with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and ERAC Executive Committee on this issue. Current work is underway to create a fairly simple process through which faculty, instructional staff, or TAs can work with chairs and deans to allow them to fulfill their teaching responsibilities in a mode that does not put them at undue risk if they have health concerns for themselves or family members they live with. We expect a significant number of faculty, instructional staff, and TAs will feel reasonably comfortable coming to campus and interacting with students, given campus requirements for masks, distancing and other precautions. More details regarding classroom practices, PPE (personal protective equipment) requirements, and any classroom modifications will follow.

We suggest that the first-cut assignment of classes to available spaces be completed soon, to allow some fine-tuning before finalizing these assignments by mid-July. More importantly, this information should clarify for faculty at the course level what they can expect in terms of the necessary mix of media for their course.

While we can all hope that this level of careful planning for optimal use of our live classroom opportunities plays out as envisioned, the unpredictability of the pandemic and possible resurgence requires we also be prepared to rapidly change that plan if conditions warrant.

As always, we thank you for your continued hard work, flexibility and dedication. We appreciate your efforts to ensure an exceptional learning experience for all Lehigh students.

Pat Farrell
Nathan Urban