Please see below for this week’s edition of Academic Odds & Ends, updating you on various issues related to online teaching / learning and other matters that seem to be coming to the fore. There is nothing urgent here, but I would encourage you to read through this email when you have the time.
As always, be safe and well.
Faculty Council Meeting:
Not even a global pandemic could stop this from happening! Yes, we will be holding a Faculty Council Meeting to approve a few curriculum changes, but more importantly, to approve the list of graduating students from the Faculty of Forestry. We are working on the details of how and when this will take place – Faculty’s participation would be much appreciated. Eli will be sending you details as soon as possible.
Over the weekend, I communicated the opt in / opt out position of the University for teaching evaluations. Please see confirmation from the Provost attached. In short, the teaching evaluations are happening, and it will be up to each Instructor to determine whether they would like the data to be used for merit, promotion, and tenure (for example, if you’ve put a lot of effort into converting your course into an online offering, and the students are very appreciative of this). This decision can wait until after you’ve seen your evaluations.
Given the fluidity of this situation, we, in the Faculty of Forestry, are currently exploring ways in which teaching evaluation data can be reported back out to you in a fair and useful manner. I can assure you, though, that we will not be creating any rankings for this year. Note also that the evaluations of students who elect to withdraw from your course (after they’ve seen their grades) will not be included in your summaries. Finally, the messaging that went out to students on teaching evaluations neglected to acknowledge that we are in the midst of a global pandemic and that we are all trying our best to make do. The Associate Deans, Academic have brought this up, and new language is being considered for subsequent communications with students. In the meantime, as a way of increasing the response rates in your respective classes, you might also consider letting your students know that they should definitely evaluate you on the 10 weeks of teaching that you did in ‘normal times’, and that you would also be happy to hear any constructive feedback that they have on the online portion of your course.
Final Exams in Different Time Zones:
One issue that keeps coming up at the Associate Dean, Academic level is the timing of final exams, and specifically, what do we do when the published time for a final exam in Vancouver occurs in the middle of the night in Beijing or Barcelona (where some of your students may be writing). Here, unfortunately, the faculties do not align on policies. Some faculties have taken a draconian stance of “you have write the exam at the published time”, where others have taken a more laissez faire approach of “write at some point within a 24 hour period”.
For the Faculty of Forestry, I would propose something in the middle. Your final exam should occur on the published date, at the published time. However, if many of your students are half-way around the world, try to allow for some flexibility. For example, you might have a 3 hour final exam on Canvas, but students have to begin and end it somewhere within a 12 hour window (that includes the published time).
Many of you have toyed with idea of using Proctorio to implement your final exams – there have certainly been a lot of questions regarding its use. Others have already used it with varying degrees of success. In many ways – not the least being its seamless integration with Canvas – this seems like an ideal tool to use for administering exams in an online context. And it may well be, but please know that it does come with its challenges, ranging from the technological all the way to the philosophical. At this point, I cannot recommend using it without first conducting a thorough test run, for example, with a practice exam that is taken either by your students or by your teaching team. Should you decide not to use Proctorio, there are plenty of alternatives that can be used in its place. I’m happy to discuss some of these with you on a case-by-case basis.
NSERC / WorkLearn International Students:
We have received confirmation of funding for 11 NSERC (USRA) students and 5 WorkLearn International (WLIURA) students for this summer. Students have identified supervisors who they wish to work with – hopefully, they are in communications with you. Should a student be interested in working with you, we would encourage you to take them on if they can work remotely and in line with the current guidelines set forth by UBC on working during COVID-19 / conducting research (eg, they can do desk work, literature reviews, data entry, and so on). Obviously, this will change if we are able to ‘flatten the curve’, but if you are unable to find meaningful work for these students given these constraints, one solution would be to transfer the funding to another faculty member who can. Note that NSERC is also considering the possibility of extending student terms to allow for part-time work (Sally is looking into this). If you are unable to take a student on and can’t find a suitable replacement, or if you have any other questions or concerns, please contact us in Student Services right away.
We know that Summer Term 1 courses will be online, and that this will likely also be the case for Summer Term 2 courses. What we don’t have clarity on (yet) is what will be happening when September rolls around. I don’t want to send shockwaves down the hallowed halls of academia, but it is not outside the realm of possibility that we will also need to teach our courses online in the Fall term. Further, some of you might actually enjoy online teaching and would like to continue to do so (we are not opposed to exploring this possibility).
To that end, CTLT is proposing a professional development program for online teaching and learning. This will take the form of online courses and modules over the summer months, and will allow you to come out with a completely redesigned online course(s) that could be implemented in September.
If you are interested, please let me know the following:
- Are there any particular or kinds of courses that you would like to take? Are there any topics that you anticipate needing support for?
- Would you be willing to connect with CTLT to help coordinate this effort (this would come with an honourarium)?
Stay tuned for further details.