Resuming Classes – Reminders and Resources

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March 29, 2020

Dear Colleagues:

It begins on Monday, March 30!  Pitzer College instruction resumes after an extended spring break using online technologies. I want to thank all of you for the work that you have done the past few weeks to revise your classes and fully engage in learning more about Sakai and Zoom. I wish you all the very best as you resume your classes this week.  There may be some bumps along the way, and I want to assure you that IT and my office are here to help support you now and in the weeks ahead. In addition to thanking you for all the work you have done with great professionalism, good will, and compassion, I offer here a few reminders and some resources for the resumption of classes. 

Before doing so, though, I want to express my hope that all of you are healthy and safe. If you have any needs that I can help with, please reach out to Dean_Faculty@pitzer.edu.

Student Contact and Expectations

By this time, you have no doubt reached out to your students.  I hope that you have not only checked in with them, but also let them know about your plans for the rest of the semester.  Some faculty plan to utilize Sakai (and asynchronous learning) to a much greater extent going forward and, of course, Zoom will be used for real time meetings with students in classes and in office hours.  Although students may now be located in different time zones, please remember to use the class schedule that has been in effect for the entire semester and with class times based in the Pacific time zone.  You may need to remind students of class meeting times and the need to adjust for their current time zone.

The past few weeks have been confusing, chaotic, and filled with unexpected change and challenge.  Many of our students no longer have the luxury of living on the Pitzer campus and being able to focus considerable time and energy on their school work.  And, they may be experiencing increased stress.  Please be flexible and sensitive to student concerns and needs.  As with on-campus classes, failure to attend class or turn in assignments may be a sign of other problems affecting students.  Please be attentive to these signs and proactive in reaching out to students.  The Office of Student Affairs continues to work with students (now remotely) and will assist in following up with students who have new needs or concerns.  Students have received several communications from this office, including a recent post on Academic Support Services that you may find useful to peruse and that can be found on the Pitzer COVID-19 webpage.

Student Support Services

In terms of academic support services, I have been asked to remind faculty that Pitzer Academic Support Services is available to assist with any questions that might come up as you work with students to navigate the remainder of the semester.  Approved accommodations remain in place for students with the understanding that some of the processes may no longer be necessary.  For example, filling out a proctoring form for extension on exams will not be necessary, but it will be imperative for faculty to work with students to ensure that they have extended time on virtual exams (and that the administration platform accurately calculates their extended time).  Extended time on assignments still may be necessary, but it is also possible that these extensions need to be discussed and revised based on modifications faculty have made to their courses.  Note takers remain in place for classes and will continue to upload notes on Sakai.  Remember that staff in this office are available to assist you and students; they can be reached at academicsupport@pitzer.edu.

Furthermore, despite the extraordinary circumstances, faculty and students should remember that the Pitzer Code of Student Conduct still applies, and we continue to abide by our Discrimination, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures.

Senior Grades

Here is a recap of information that was announced last week on senior work and grades:

  • Senior finals and work will be due the same time as other student work: no later than May 15. 
  • All grades, including for graduating seniors, will be due May 21. 
  • Degrees will only be conferred for students who have been approved by faculty and trustees, and only after verification that they have successfully completed their academic work and requirements.   
  • Students who do not successfully complete their academic work and requirements will be eligible to receive their degree in fall 2020.

IT Support

IT staff are available to support faculty with their online teaching.  If you would like assistance during your actual class meetings, please reach out to IT (help@pitzer.edu) or my office (Dean_Faculty@pitzer.edu).  We will do our best to provide in-class support to faculty members who have concerns or who would simply appreciate an assist with managing their classes.

Importantly, if an issue comes up while you are in class, please send an email to the IT help desk (help@pitzer.edu) with “URGENT – IN CLASS” in the subject line.  Please do not call IT directlybecause this will interfere with their ability to learn about and respond to multiple needs at the same time.  Help Desk email is read by multiple IT staff members and so your URGENT – IN CLASS email will receive a timely response.  If you prefer a phone conversation, start by emailing the Help Desk with your issue and phone number and ask that someone call you back right away.

IT plans to respond to faculty concerns or problems on an individual basis this week.  As the need arises, they will schedule open sessions or forums.  For now, though, please send technology-related questions and concerns directly to IT. 

Zoom Security

I know that many of you have been testing Zoom and have already participated in meetings using this technology. Just in case, it would be good to be aware of some of Zoom’s capability for limiting which participants can speak (as host you can “Mute”, “Remove”, and limit screen sharing) and other meeting management options. As you are probably aware, there have been some well-publicized incidents of Zoom-bombing and interference with scheduled Zoom sessions. IT can assist you in controlling your classes and minimizing the possibility that you will be Zoom-bombed. In the meantime, here are links to a helpful article from Zoom about what you can do, and a link to an article from Inside Higher Ed about these disruptions:

https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/03/20/keep-the-party-crashers-from-crashing-your-zoom-event/

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/03/26/zoombombers-disrupt-online-classes-racist-pornographic-content

Office Hours

Please do continue holding office hours and making yourself available to your students. However, please do not have in-person meetings on campus with students; instead, use Zoom or even the telephone for these meetings. You can set up recurring meetings for classes and office hours in Zoom, or, you can arrange specific meeting times with your students. You may find the waiting room function in Zoom especially useful because it allows you to sequentially move through meetings with students just like you would do in your office and with students waiting in the hall.

Shared Faculty Resources

Finally, please do not forget about the Sakai web page (“PZ Remote Instruction”) as a place to pose questions to colleagues, offer tips, and upload and retrieve resources that can assist with your online instruction. In addition, Associate Dean Phil Zuckerman will hold open forums and discussion sessions on Thursday and Friday of this week for faculty to share in real time their concerns and ideas, and also to raise new questions. The exact times and Zoom links for these meetings will be announced early in the week.

Thank you again for the work that you have done and that you will do for the remainder of the semester for Pitzer students and for the College. Working together, I trust that we can maintain academic continuity and integrity, and in the end, successfully bring this semester over the finish line.

Allen M. Omoto, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dean of Faculty