Provost Update on Spring Semester Planning

Monday, October 26, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

First and foremost, I want to thank each of you for all you are doing in these unprecedented times. The added complications and stress of these times both through our work and our daily lives can be overwhelming. Our students face many of the same struggles and your continued dedication to them and to our mission is inspiring.

As we continue to support our students through the remainder of the fall semester, spring planning is actively underway. The two teams of faculty, staff and students working on spring planning have made great progress on academic plans and student engagement. I am writing to update you on some of the latest developments.

Spring Calendar for Durham and Manchester: The spring calendar has been finalized and approved by my office and the Faculty Senate. As communicated earlier, J-term will be entirely online and E-Term 3 will be online until February 1.  The final calendar includes delaying the start of spring semester classes by one week and replacing spring break with two Fridays, one in March and one in April, as days with no classes. These are the key dates:

Monday, February 1 - Classes begin
Monday, March 8 - Follows a Friday class schedule
Friday, March 19 - Mid-semester
Friday, March 19 - No classes (university offices open)
Tuesday, April 13 - Follows a Friday class schedule
Friday, April 16 - No classes (university offices open)
Tuesday, May 11 - Last day of classes
Wednesday, May 12 - Reading Day (curtailed operations make up day)
Thursday, May 13 - Reading Day
Friday, May 14 - Final exams begin
Thursday, May 20 - Final exams end
Saturday, May 22 - Commencement

Common Exam Time for Durham and Manchester: A modified common exam time schedule for spring has also been approved. As it was for fall semester, common exam time will be Tuesday from 7-10 p.m. and Friday from 2-5 p.m. This facilitates our ability to use extra classroom time on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12-2 p.m.

Course Delivery Modalities: Spring course assignments are underway with deans and departments. Based on early student and faculty feedback, we gained a great deal of insight into the success of different course modalities. For example, face-to-face instruction is preferred for students on campus and last-minute changes in modalities result in the lowest student satisfaction. As we build the spring semester, please work with your dean and department chairs to optimize the student experience in your college.

Because all modality types are incorporated into the registration and class assignment process, the registrar needs any course modality assignments completed the first week of November at the latest.  We want to ensure that our students who must forgo the residential experience because of pandemic-related concerns can still progress toward their degree. This means that departments and units may need to enable required courses to be available for remote students, as appropriate for that program . Another thing we learned this semester is that it is difficult to identify who is taking all their courses remotely and who is taking those same courses in person or hybrid. In addition, faculty have expressed concern about students, who are not required to be remote, changing modalities spontaneously. One of the ways we are working to address this problem is to create a cross-listed section of the course that only allows registrations from remote students with permission of the department or program. You may have heard this referred to as a “sister section.” Enabling this system will allow faculty to determine who is expected to attend in person and who is expected to be remote. This does not mean that you need to have multiple Canvas sites for the same course; but you can have separate sites if you want to. More details on best practices are coming. 

Engagement: We’ve also learned that students are feeling less engaged with each other in both academic and co-curricular environments. We are working creatively to enhance engagement for students outside of the classroom for the second half of the fall semester by creating additional small group activities to supplement online programing. We encourage you to be creative in your own role to enhance student engagement with you and with each other. Several key activities are underway to expand engagement for spring, including:

  • gathering best practices for class engagement across our campuses and facilitating workshops, seminars, discussion groups and online resources for sharing those practices coming early in the break.
  • developing processes for supporting face-to-face student club activities and academic activities while under yellow operations protocols

Accommodations and Flex Work Arrangements: The success of our public health program including our testing program has been excellent, and as a result we are confident we can work to enhance our residential college learning environment for the spring.

In keeping with our mission and in valuing the feedback from our students, we have an obligation to offer as much of the educational engagement students expect from a residential college experience as we can responsibly provide. In the spring we want to at least maintain the percentage of face-to-face courses and increase in-person activities when safely possible. To facilitate workload assignments consistent with these goals, faculty and staff who received temporary medical ADA accommodations or medical flex work approvals (Category 1-3) during the fall semester will receive the same type of arrangements for the spring. There is no need to apply for approval for a temporary medical ADA accommodation or medical flex-work for the spring semester unless you have had a change in your circumstances. For those who experienced changed circumstances that would require different temporary medical ADA accommodations or medical flex-work approval (Category 1-3), the application process is still available on the website.

All other faculty, including those who had flex work approvals for being at risk as an older adult or having a family member with a medical condition or a personal concern (Category 4-6) for the fall, will work directly with their dean and department chair to build the right balance of course modalities and in-person educational activities for the spring. For staff, please work with your department supervisor and the dean to discuss appropriate balance for remote and in-person work. We anticipate at this time that staff who are in non-student facing roles will continue to work remotely in the spring to allow for lower density on campus. 

Campus Closures over Holidays and January: We are still working on the exact arrangements that will be used to close as much of the campus as possible during the holidays and January. The savings would be considerable, but we also recognize that our research mission is continuing, some students will remain on campus and faculty and staff may need access to their offices. Please watch for a follow up email on this issue.

Weather Curtailments: There has been no change to the weather curtailment process under yellow operations. In the event of snow or other weather events, please monitor your email and text messages or call the UNH snow line for up-to-date information.

I can’t thank you enough for your continued dedication to the education, research and outreach missions of UNH during this complicated period. We will continue to take strong action to maintain our vigilance in the battle against COVID and together we will succeed.

Wayne Jones