Learning and Teaching During COVID-19

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School of Social Work Fall 2021 Plan

The School of Social Work will begin its return to in-person education in fall 2021. Courses will be mostly in-person for foundation courses and mostly online for advanced pathway courses. For educational quality reasons, we will not offer “hyflex” classes, where some students are remote while others are in the classroom at the same time.

It is important to note that any plans for in-person or hybrid learning will be implemented only if the following key conditions are met by August 15:

  • All faculty, staff, and students have had an opportunity to be vaccinated.
  • From the “snapshot” student survey results to date, 85% of SSW students expect to be vaccinated by September 2021. This meets the required vaccination rate for students.
  • Three-foot classroom distancing is determined by the CDC to be safe.
  • The CDC and state of Michigan permit in-person classes.
  • All of the campus-required stackable prevention measures — such as masks, sanitation, air flow in rooms, and any additional precautions added by the School — are in place.

If these conditions are met, we will hold in-person and hybrid classes as described in this message.

  • Foundation Courses: Foundation courses will be in-person, with only a few exceptions. “In-person” includes totally in-person, or in a hybrid format with some in-person and some online content. A small number of foundation course sections will be offered online for international students if student visas are not able to be processed. These sections will be available by petition only.
  • Pathway Courses: Required and elective courses in the pathways will be primarily online. In smaller pathways, where fewer options are available, pathway elective classes may be totally online.
  • Field: We anticipate all field education will be in-person or hybrid (combination of in-person and virtual field experiences) in the fall term for incoming students. For returning students you should also anticipate a return to in-person or hybrid field by fall term. We are aware many of you are already completing field experiences that are in-person or hybrid. For returning students who are currently in remote-only field placements, continuing in this format beyond winter term 2021 is dependent on your current field site’s ability to accommodate this. If staying remote is of interest, please talk to your field instructor and your field faculty as soon as possible to determine if this is an option. If your current field site is not able to accommodate your remaining virtual, you should prepare for a return to in-person field either in spring/summer or fall term. Requests to change field sites to a remote-only placement for fall term are extremely limited.

How did we come to this decision?

It was not easy. As a School of Social Work, we hold certain values - evidence-informed decision making, inclusive environments, and community participation are just a few that guided us here. In this case, the evidence is emerging in real-time. Because of unknowns surrounding things like disease variants and human behavior, we don’t have models that can, with strict confidence, predict what things will look like in the fall. We did think it prudent to assume there will be some level of building capacity decrease required due to social distancing, as well as mandated mask use, and health screening.

It is hard to predict how we will all feel and think about an in-person return come fall. Because we thought it was important to hear your collective voices and current thoughts we took several steps. We met with the student union, surveyed students, held two community conversations with students, and held “listening sessions” with staff and faculty.

Issues related to housing and health were significant. Housing is a particular issue for 16-month students who are graduating in December, some of whom do not have local housing. As you can imagine, finding housing for that short 4-month window is a challenge.

We know that there is not one single decision that is right for everyone. This decision, or any decision we could have made, is sure to leave some students feeling upset, unhappy, and disappointed. We do believe that in this complex environment, and given current public health guidance, this is the best decision possible.

What is next?

Is there a guarantee we will not need to modify this plan again? Unfortunately, the answer is no. As information changes, it is possible that we will need to modify some or all of our fall plans. If this happens, we will try to get information to you as quickly as we can. Below are some additional next steps you might want to take:

  • Field: We encourage you to meet with your field faculty if you anticipate this plan will create issues for you in your field education.
  • Support/Practical Assistance: The staff in the Office of Student Services are also available to help you if you have health/wellness needs, financial concerns, or need resource connection(s). Please email them at: ssw.msw.info@umich.edu.
  • Courses: This information may necessitate a change to your course plan for fall. If this is true for you, please see if you are able to make the changes in Wolverine Access. If you are not able to do this, please contact ssw.msw.info@umich.edu and we will assist you in connecting with someone to help.

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