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Last Updated June 8

Dear Faculty,

On Wednesday, the South Dakota Board of Regents and the University of South Dakota announced a revised fall semester schedule. That schedule, along with the social distancing requirements associated with holding face-to-face classes and the continuing challenges posed by COVID-19, will result in a very different classroom experience for most of us. Now that we have some clarity about the situation, I wanted to explain our approach to classroom scheduling and introduce you to some new tools for course planning.

Academic Affairs and the schools and colleges around campus are finalizing socially distanced capacities for all classrooms and laboratory spaces in Vermillion and other USD sites around the state. Academic Affairs has also been exploring the use of other spaces for classroom use and assigning them socially distanced capacities. This reevaluation of capacities will require reassigning classroom space for the majority of our fall classes. The Sanford School of Medicine and the School of Law will handle that reassignment process internally and the Office of Academic Affairs will work with the Registrar’s Office to manage the process for all other units. Most current classroom assignments will be removed from the system in the coming days and we will start the process from scratch. To that end, schools and colleges have been adjusting course caps to bring them in line with likely enrollments so we can most efficiently utilize what will be limited space.

Fortunately, USD’s central scheduling software allows us to run a variety of virtual scenarios before making any permanent adjustments. Until we run those scenarios, we will not know how many courses will fit into our resized classroom spaces and how many courses will need some kind of scheduling or pedagogical adjustment. Once we better understand the overall scheduling environment, Academic Affairs will begin working with schools and colleges to give as many students as possible a face-to-face classroom experience. Faculty may be asked to:

  • Consider a different course offering time
  • Use the video delivery capability that will be added to classrooms to meet some portion of their class in person each class period
  • Develop a hybrid version of their course
  • Consider other pedagogical adjustments

Faculty input will also be solicited for potential solutions. I would ask that faculty refrain from making any significant course adjustments until we have a better sense of what might be needed.

We will undoubtedly have faculty who have accommodation requests approved for online courses this fall. While USD has asked that those accommodation requests be made at least 30 days before the beginning of classes, I would recommend that they be submitted as soon as possible. Faculty who will be shifting to online teaching will need to complete additional training in online course delivery and comply with USD’s current Quality Assurance process, all of which takes time.

The revised fall semester schedule and COVID-19 offers some challenges that faculty can begin preparing for now. Those who teach classes on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays will note that the new schedule results in a net loss of two class days, so courses that you have taught in the past on a T/TH schedule may need to have content redistributed. While we hope for the best, it would also be prudent for faculty to begin considering how they might rethink course elements to make a transition to remote learning more effective if we experience a local spike in COVID-19 cases this fall and how we might more readily accommodate students who find themselves in a quarantine situation. Everyone will also need to consider how they plan to administer online final exams and projects. To that end, the Center for Teaching and Learning has updated and enhanced its Remote Instruction Resources shell for faculty in D2L. It contains refreshed content that you first saw in the spring shell along with additional resources that will help you better leverage D2L’s tools for your specific needs.

As has been the case since March, this remains a very fluid situation, and the guidance you receive from Academic Affairs in the future may well change. I thank you for your patience, for your good will, and for your dedication to providing the best possible learning environment for our students. None of this would be possible without your continuing efforts.

Sincerely,

Dr. Kurt Hackemer
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of History