As the fall semester quickly approaches, I thought it might be helpful to once again post an open letter to students who have registered or are registering for classes. In particular, I hope this helps to answer some of the questions or concerns they might have (at least when it comes to the courses I will be teaching).
The following text is pulled directly from one of my course outlines. Following that are some answers to the questions you might have.
After more than a year with COVID-19, I think many of us are excited to get back to normal. I am definitely part of that group, but I also recognize that the pandemic isn’t over yet. This means that it is absolutely necessary that we continue to take care of ourselves, our families and friends, and our community so that everyone remains safe and healthy as we learn together.
Many people, including me, still feel anxious about the pandemic and the seemingly endless list of awful things we see in the news. Many of us are trying to navigate our collective reality at the same time as managing other significant challenges, such as caring for children or aging parents, job loss, or financial uncertainty. Mix in news of racism, civil rights violations, residential “school” atrocities, the genocide of Indigenous peoples, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, climate change, biodiversity loss, and more – it’s not surprising that we’re feeling uneasy.
With that in mind, I want you to promise to take care of yourself first. To paraphrase Dr. Max Liboiron, if you are sick, heartbroken, or exhausted – please do whatever you can to get the help you need. Reach out to a friend, or a family member, or a health professional. Your health and wellness are more important than your work. If you are worried how doing what is right for your health and wellness might impact your ability to succeed in CIS3750, please chat with me. You don’t need to let me know what the problem is, but I can work with you to figure out a solution that will help you succeed in this course.
If you, your family, or people you live with are showing symptoms of COVID-19, please follow the guidance of our public health professionals. If you can’t work or study at this time because you are too sick or because you need to take care of someone else, please let me know as soon as possible. I will work with you to determine the best path through the course. If you live in a different time zone or have limited internet, please reach out to me as soon as possible. I will work with you to make sure you have the materials you need to complete the course. Finally, the semester may prove to be challenging so let’s do our best to practice empathy and patience for ourselves and for others.
Having said all this, I do believe that this semester is going to be amazing. I’ve done my best to restructure the course in a way that is supportive and flexible. And we have a great community partner to work with. Will it be perfect? No. Will I mess something up? Probably. Will we experience some growing pains and bumps along the way? Undoubtedly. But whatever happens, be reassured that I will do my best to make the fall semester as positive and successful as possible.
Will I use e-proctoring software (such as Respondus)? No. Never. Ever. Ever ever ever ever. In fact, there will be no exams or midterms in my classes.
How much flexibility will be baked into the course deliverables? A lot. Quizzes will be open until the last day of class (December 3rd at 4:00 pm). You will be able to complete them as many times as you want. Assignments will have due date ranges of approximately 2 weeks. Same goes for labs that need to be submitted. And if you are still struggling to meet a deadline, my “office door” is always open to chat about how you can succeed despite whatever might be happening in your life.
Will lectures be recorded? Yes. And they will be posted as soon after class as is possible. The timing will depend on rendering and uploading to whatever site I use to host the videos.
Will materials be available before each class? Yes. All of the slides and supplementary information will be uploaded and available on our course website as soon as the semester begins. This includes outlines for each assignment.
Will I need to buy a textbook? Hells no. You already spend a significant amount of money to take courses. The textbook will be posted online via the course website, and is free of charge. The textbook was co-authored by me and a former CIS3750 student, and we didn’t write it to make money. We wrote it to be a companion to learning as we work through mastering course learning outcomes while applying our skills to solve a broad social challenge brought to us by our community partner.
What is the most important thing I need to know for this semester? I am absolutely serious that your health and wellness are the most important thing. Yes, we are going to learn a lot, but not at the expense of your health and wellness or the health and wellness of the TAs. If ever you are worried that doing something to protect your health and wellness interferes with your ability to succeed in the course, I want you to reach out to me so we can come up with a solution together.
What other tips do you have for the upcoming semester? Practice patience, kindness, and empathy. Let those be your most important tools this semester. If we all practice this, I have no doubt that this semester will be awesome.
Of course, if you have any other questions – feel free to reach out to me. I will do my best to respond as quickly as possible.