Advice for return to in-person instruction v1.2 (aka Winter Quarter 2022)
From the Instructional Support and Innovation Committee
As we plan for teaching in Winter Quarter, the Instructional Support + Innovation committee (IS+I) wanted to share some observations and advice for structuring your courses to keep some of the advantages of flexibility while ensuring that our students are motivated to take full advantage of being back on campus and instruction being in person.
COVID Caveat: These suggestions are based on current public health advice and campus COVID response. We are all keenly watching the Omicron variant and understand that we may need to make adjustments to our teaching plans.
In person lectures: Given how successful UC Davis has been at controlling COVID-19, students should be attending lectures in person at close-to-normal levels. You should continue making recordings of your lectures available for students who cannot attend (e.g., because they are quarantining or do not pass the daily symptom survey), but we recommend incentivizing students to attend in person (e.g., with clicker questions, extra credit, etc.).
Exams: In-person exams are unpopular but often serve an important role in motivating students to learn the material well. If you schedule in-person exams, you will likely need to give more makeup exams than usual, so you should plan accordingly. If you set remote exams, be sure that they are appropriately incentivizing and assessing student learning.
Distressed and distressing students: If a student is distressed or distressing, instructors or TAs should refer them to the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs. OSSJA has case managers on staff and can coordinate campus resources for each student.
Office hours: Zoom works great for office hours. In-person options can be unmasked in an outdoor location or masked in your office.
Communication: Expect a larger-than-usual volume of emails and requests, especially from students who will miss class because they fail the symptom survey even though they don’t have COVID.
- Instructional Resources
- Psychology Undergraduate Teaching Canvas page
- Campus Ready for Instructors
- Daily symptom survey
- iClicker REEF campus site license for free audience response ‘clicker’
- Lecture Capture
- Student Disability Center
Google JamBoard (shared white board)
Context and Details:In person lectures Bottom line: Students should be attending lectures in person at close-to-normal levels.
Issue: Balance educational engagement with COVID safety
Details: Though there was some nervousness about abandoning social distancing, our COVID rates on campus have remained very low. There has been very high compliance with the vaccine mandate, the mask mandate, and the daily symptom survey (DSS). Attendance at lectures seems to be a safe activity. We are concerned that educational quality and engagement suffers if the students are not encouraged to attend lectures regularly. We are concerned that struggling students are particularly vulnerable to disengagement if attendance is not incentivized. We encourage you to plan for and incentivize normal attendance in Winter Quarter.
Many faculty delivered highly flexible courses for Fall Quarter (e.g., simulcast on Zoom or posting lecture videos through Lecture Capture.) Lecture attendance was very variable, being close-to-normal in some classes and drastically low in others. Zoom simulcast is feasible, but can pose technical headaches and does not provide an equivalent learning experience. Lecture Capture (where the recording is automatically posted to Canvas after lecture) is available in many rooms, but the quality of the recordings can be quite poor. Even when the quality is good, watching a recording or a remote simulcast is much less engaging than attending in person.
- Provide incentive for attendance with some flexibility (e.g., attendance credit with 5 ’skip days’ built in; participation credit with alternate ways of demonstrating participation; extra credit for attendance)
- Everyone should follow the daily symptom survey (DSS). If students contact instructors and TAs and ask their opinion on attendance due to exposure or symptoms then refer them to their DSS.
- Sign up for Lecture Capture if it is available in your classroom, but encourage students not to completely rely on it (or make it available only to students who have an excuse for missing class).
- Daily symptom survey
- iClicker REEF campus site license for free audience response ‘clicker’
- Lecture Capture
ExamsBottom line: In-person exams are unpopular but often serve an important role in motivating students to learn the material well. If you schedule in-person exams, you will likely need to give more makeup exams than usual, so you should plan accordingly. If you set remote exams, be sure that they are appropriately incentivizing and assessing student learning.
Issue: Motivate and assess student learning with high academic integrity without increasing COVID risks or disadvantaging students who fall ill.
Details: While remote exams are appropriate for some knowledge assessment, in-person exams are also a useful tool and were delivered with high success in Fall Quarter. The students overwhelmingly request and applaud remote exams. Remote exams reduce stress primarily because they are open-note / open-google, are not necessarily at a single time, and allow each student to be in their own environment. However, if it is easy to cheat on a remote exam, students will not be incentivized to learn the material well.
In-person exams tend to have high academic integrity, test students on their memory and comprehension (rather than their ability to search or identify), and can serve to build confidence.
For extra time accommodations, the Student Disability Center is running a testing service which is available to faculty with large classes or with large numbers of students needing extra time accommodations.
- Schedule in-person exams during lecture time if you want to test students memory and comprehension and incentivize learning by minimizing cheating.
- Schedule remote exams (with the option to take the exam during lecture time) if you want to ask questions that can not be easily found on Chegg or CourseHero and you have a mechanism to prevent students from collaborating during the exam.
- Schedule multiple exams to give students an opportunity to practice and improve.
- Plan for in-person make ups. To minimize TA burden in large classes, schedule a few fixed makeup times rather than individually scheduling the time with each student. Alternatively (or in addition), you may organize the course so that students do not need to complete all the exams (e.g., drop the lowest score or add an optional final project.)
- Allow students to bring a ‘cheat sheet’ (one page of notes) with them to the exam. This reduces student stress, can help structure study time, and incentivizes the instructor to ask questions that go beyond rote memorization.
Distressed or Distressing StudentsBottom line: If a student is distressed or distressing, instructors or TAs should refer them to the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs. OSSJA has case managers on staff and can coordinate campus support resources for each student.
Details: The pandemic and return to in-person instruction has stressed out our students! OSSJA wants to be our one-stop shop for helping support students. OSSJA found that many students who were being referred for academic integrity concerns were also stressed out and needing support. That office now includes a number of case managers in addition to the judicial officers.
- Anyone can submit a CARE report. You can select from a range of responses: just letting OSSJA know that you are concerned about a student (really helpful if that student is already seeing a case manager), asking for advice on how to cope with the student (they are here to support us, too!), or asking for a case manager to reach out to the student.
- Any major changes to your syllabus (even ones that seem positive) may be stressful. If you need to make changes, try to also allow students to complete the class according to the original syllabus if feasible.
Office hoursBottom line: Zoom works great for office hours. In-person options can be unmasked in an outdoor location or masked in your office.
Issue: Be available to students in a COVID safe way that allows you to communicate effectively. Remember the value of informal chatting that meeting in-person can facilitate.
Details: Feel free to plan in-person or zoom office hours as you choose. Office hours work great on Zoom. Zoom meetings scheduled through Canvas are automatically added to the course calendar (be careful to double check the calendar if you make any changes to the Zoom meetings.)
Alternatively, schedule your office hours in your office (masked) or at an outdoor location, such as outside the lecture hall or at the picnic tables in the covered area outside the MU.
- Google JamBoard (shared white board)
CommunicationBottom line: Expect a larger-than-usual volume of emails and requests, especially from students who will miss class because they are concerned about potential COVID exposure or they fail the symptom survey.
Issue: Respond to student communication in a timely manner.
Advice: Consider using Piazza on Canvas. This is a tool to crowdsource and share answers; students post questions anonymously, peers or the TA/instructor can respond, everyone can read the questions and answers.
Consider assigning a TA to triage all incoming communications.
Possible specific scenarios for exams / assessments:Principles:
- Be sure that you are assessing students on all the material. That is, do not have a drop the lowest where students can complete all the assessments at week 7 or 8. You can schedule the last of the midterms in week 10.
- Questions that are appropriate for in-person exams are wildly inappropriate for remote exams. For example, it is appropriate to ask some basic definitional questions if students are responding from their memory and comprehension. It is not appropriate to ask basic definitional questions if students can google the answer.
- All students should be assessed equivalently. Try to avoid giving some students advantages.
Plan for the final to be remote
- 2-5 in-person exams + 1 remote final
- Every student can drop their lowest of the exams. The final is planned to be remote and is remote-appropriate questions. This way, all students should be able to complete the final unless they are actively ill during finals week which would mean they probably need to take an Incomplete and complete the class when they are healthy.
No remote exams - optional final project
- 2-5 in-person exams + 1 in-person final + 1 optional final project
- Every student can drop their lowest of the exams/project.
- Every student can submit an optional final project where they … summarize a research article or something … that will replace an exam. (Every student should be able to complete the optional final project as it is not in-person on a specific day. The optional project should be challenging enough that it is not a ‘no-brainer’ to do that rather than an exam so that the TAs don’t get slammed with too much grading, and also attractive enough that students who are really ill will stay home on exam day. It would not need very detailed grading as the TAs wouldn’t need to be grading for grammar or feedback)
No remote exams - Final counts twice
- 3-5 in-person exams + 1 in-person final
- Every student can drop their lowest of the exams with no documentation.
- If a student misses two midterms (with appropriate documentation), then their final exam counts twice
- If a student misses a midterm and the final or more than two exams then they need to late drop or take an incomplete and finish the class when they are healthy!