Update on fall semester planning

May 19, 2020

Dear Baylor Faculty:

Now that our unprecedented spring semester is complete, we have quickly transitioned into the May minimester with the summer sessions right around the corner. We could not be more excited about Baylor's new Summer of Discovery. We are approaching all-time highs in terms of summer enrollment and registered summer semester credit hours. On behalf of President Livingstone, we both extend our sincere appreciation to the deans, academic leadership, chairs and all of you for recognizing the importance of this summer in terms of revenue generation and engagement of current, incoming and prospective students in the midst of this period of uncertainty.

With the June 1 fall registration date quickly approaching for incoming freshmen and other first-year students, we continue to build a fall schedule that meets the most restrictive social distancing guidelines. This is, frankly, the most difficult planning scenario faced by our Project 8.24 team and our academic leadership. Our preliminary enrollment numbers for the fall appear strong given the COVID-19 circumstances, and we quickly must have a schedule by June 1 that we are confident we can deliver beginning in August.

It is now on us to deliver a Baylor-quality curriculum under pandemic conditions that require us to be flexible and innovative. We ask that you design your courses for this fall so that they can shift to remote delivery should circumstances related to COVID-19 change quickly. While we will do everything we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within the Baylor community, we still must be prepared for a potential spike of the virus in the fall. Be assured that as our plans progress, one non-negotiable is the health and well-being of our faculty, students, staff and guests.

We understand that faculty have been asked to deliver online courses, think creatively, assist students in new ways and continue their scholarship since mid-March due to COVID-19. This is certainly a time of shared sacrifice, and our University leadership appreciates your significant efforts. We also recognize, however, that some faculty may be asked to shift some of their effort into teaching as well as be asked to teach in classroom locations, at class times and in other formats that are necessary to meet the University's programmatic needs.

To assist you as we move forward into the fall semester, the University plans to make significant investments in terms of time and resources in the following areas:

  • Professional Development – We must commit to and invest in a quality online experience for our students moving forward. We will provide robust professional development opportunities out of the Provost's Office, such as through the Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL), Academic Technology Services (LATS), Online Teaching and Learning Services, and Canvas, for faculty over the summer to ensure a high-level of student engagement. These efforts include engaging faculty with the most online teaching experience prior to Spring 2020 to serve as mentors for faculty who have not previously taught online. The focus of this process will include course design, effective learning online and assisting faculty in understanding and using Baylor's existing online resources.
  • Technology – We must commit to an on-campus experience that is enhanced with technology. We will update our large classrooms over the summer to incorporate "lecture capture" technology, including cameras and instructor microphones, that will allow faculty members to create recordings of in-person classes. This system will allow integration with Canvas and utilization of many video conferencing platforms.

The bottom line is that we must design and prepare for a fall semester based on flexibility. As President Livingstone mentioned last Thursday, we are "planning for the worst and hoping for the best." As we work in conjunction with the Project 8.24 team, please know we will certainly communicate with you as our plans become official decisions in the weeks and months ahead.

Congratulations on a successful spring semester, and thank you for going above and beyond as we move into the summer and fall semesters.

Sincerely,

Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.
Provost

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