Planning for Spring 2021 instruction in Yale College and the Graduate School (October 21, 2020)

SUMMARY: This memo provides guidance on how faculty can begin planning for spring term instruction. It advises faculty to plan for continuing residential/remote instruction, including a deadline of October 30 to request equipment for remote spring teaching; asks faculty to post an Expanded Course Description or syllabus for their spring course(s) no later than November 30; and encourages thoughtful use of the break days in the spring term

We write today to provide guidance on planning for spring term instruction in Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The message that follows contains five sections:

Planning for Residential/Remote Instruction

Faculty teaching in Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences should plan their spring undergraduate and graduate courses assuming a continuation of this fall’s residential/remote model. This model assumes that, while many graduate students and some Yale College students be in New Haven and live in residence in conditions with reduced density, classes will primarily be offered using remote modalities. As applicable, the Teaching Policy Adjustments introduced in the FAS for the fall 2020 term will remain in place.

Undergraduate courses should be built with an assumption of remote delivery so that all enrolled students may participate, both those who are in residence and those who are not. In certain exceptional cases, classes that cannot be conducted without an in-person component (certain lab- or studio-based courses) may be developed to include those components, with social distancing, if the public health situation permits. As in the fall, limited additional in-person engagements, such as tutorial or discussion sessions, might also be possible as enhancements in other types of courses.

In the case of graduate courses, certain additional decisions about content and delivery may take place at the department level, in keeping with public health constraints.

All faculty and teaching fellows who choose to teach from home will be permitted to do so.

While we hope that all students and instructors will remain healthy throughout the term, it is possible that some or all participants in a course may need to quarantine. For that reason, we ask that your syllabus include a short description on how you will continue your course if on-campus activities are no longer possible. For most cases, this will simply be that the course will continue by videoconference. For those with in-person components planned, we ask that you provide a description of how you will adapt those aspects of your course should it become necessary.

Resources for Remote Instruction: Equipment Requests and Undergraduate Technology Assistants

Equipment request survey deadline: October 30, 2020

Please also consider your equipment needs for the spring term. If you were on leave in the fall, you may need basic equipment for spring-term teaching; if you were teaching this fall, you may have discovered that you require additional hardware to enhance your teaching effectiveness. Ladder faculty or full-time multi-year instructional faculty must complete an ITS order survey by October 30, 2020, to request audio-visual kits (which include a webcam, tripod, and related items), annotation devices (tablets or document cameras), and/or other peripherals such as microphones or external monitors to be used for teaching.

Undergraduate Technology Assistants

Undergraduate Technology Assistants (UTAs) will be available again in the spring semester. The process for requesting a UTA will be announced shortly. All courses with projected enrollments of 50 or more will be guaranteed a UTA. Faculty may request additional UTAs for specific tasks that require more attention than a single UTA can provide. Faculty may also request UTAs for courses with lower enrollments, based on specific pedagogical needs. UTA duties may include: assisting faculty with Zoom, Canvas and other online tools; ensuring links to live online sessions are created and shared with students; managing student participation by monitoring chats and noting hands raised; and other related needs.

Preregistration: Extended Course Descriptions or Syllabi due November 30, 2020

As with the fall term, Yale College and graduate students will participate in an online preregistration period, followed by a limited “add/drop” period that will run through the first week of spring classes. Preregistration facilitates course planning, especially the allocation of teaching fellows, and it also increases the amount of instructional time. To ensure sufficient time for preregistration, and to keep the extended winter break period free from work or deadlines, we are aiming to complete preregistration in December. Completing pre-registration in December will enable faculty and staff to take a true break from advising and related duties during the holiday period and most of January.

We will provide additional details about the preregistration schedule in a later memo, but the important message is this: To make preregistration possible and provide instructors with a four-week break, all instructors must provide an Expanded Course Description and, if possible, a syllabus, by November 30. This timeline will enable students to select classes during the online preregistration period in December. It will also enable us to preserve the period between the semesters for instructors to take a true break from teaching-related duties.

The “Syllabus” page on your course site on Canvas is preloaded with a template for you to use to fill out an expanded course description. You may also upload a brief (2-3 minute) video introduction to the course, if desired, and a full syllabus, if available. Additional information about completing these templates can be found here

Spring Calendar and Break Days

The lack of any breaks this fall semester has been challenging for both faculty and students.  To maximize the time we could have students in residence, arranging the fall semester this way was unavoidable, given that the state’s reopening plans did not permit the fall term to begin earlier, and because of the need to curtail travel, which increases the risk of infection and requires a community-wide post-travel quarantine.  Spring 2021 has more flexibility, so the university added one-day breaks throughout the term; an extended spring break was not considered, again, because of the need to curtail travel.

To ensure that the short breaks are as restorative as possible, classes will not meet and administrative meetings should not be scheduled on those days. We expect all instructors to honor this practice: no class meetings may be held on the five break days. In addition, we ask that you avoid scheduling major assignments and assessments on break days or on the days after break days. Students on the Yale College Council and the Graduate Student Assembly have expressed concern that an exam or a major assignment scheduled right after a break day nullifies its benefits. Although this request may call for you to make adjustments as you plan your syllabi, any accommodations you can make will be greatly appreciated by your students and contribute to campus-wide well-being.

The pairs of break days and post-break days for Spring 2021 are as follows:

  • February 22 and 23 (third Monday (break day)/Tuesday(post break day))
  • March 9 and 10 (fifth Tuesday (break day)/Wednesday(post break day))
  • March 24 and 25 (seventh Wednesday(break day)/Thursday(post break day))
  • April 8 and 9 (ninth Thursday(break day)/Friday(post break day))
  • April 23 (eleventh Friday(break day))

Concluding thoughts

We close with some reminders for the remainder of the fall semester, and a note of gratitude.

Undergraduate students are in residence until November 20 and will then leave campus the next day to complete the term remotely.  Campus buildings will be closed to all undergraduates starting November 22.  Reading period and examinations will be fully remote. Graduate students may remain in residence, but anyone who travels for Thanksgiving Break will be required to follow state quarantine requirements before regaining access to campus.

COVID-19 communications and updates from our offices are archived online. FAS updates for faculty are available here, YCDO updates for undergraduates are available here, and GSAS updates for graduate students are available here.

Thank you for the effort, dedication, and creativity that you continue to bring during these challenging times.

As we look ahead to the Thanksgiving Break, the remote period of the end of term, and the extended winter break, our planning aims to help you make these periods as restorative as possible.

With much gratitude and best wishes,

Tamar, Marvin, and Lynn

Tamar Szabó Gendler
Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Marvin Chun
Dean of Yale College

Lynn Cooley
Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences