Learning and Teaching During COVID-19

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Winter Semester 2021

Learning and Teaching during COVID-19 providing strong virtual classrooms and a strong community.

Winter semester has been planned with input from faculty, students, and staff. Planning has taken place with consideration of current and forecasted public health information. In an ever changing pandemic environment, we must continue to be flexible and adaptable- skills that are key to social work practice.

Office of the Vice President for Research Update

Read the OVPR’s latest news regarding ongoing efforts to catalyze, support and safeguard research and scholarship across the three U-M campuses, in the March installment of VPR Update


Teaching and learning online does not mean simply transferring the skills you use in the residential space to an online environment. Students are strongly encouraged to review resources compiled about how to be a strong online student:

Faculty will continue to be provided with up-to-date training and research about online teaching practices, pedagogy, and tools.

Class Format

Classes will be primarily online. A few electives might be offered as in-person or hybrid, depending on the nature of the class. If students cannot attend those electives in the format offered, students should select an online elective alternative. Faculty are being encouraged to actively build in social elements, as well as connect class material and assignments to co-curricular events taking place in the school and across campus. Information and resources are being provided to faculty to aid this process.


To address the difficulty that COVID-19 and current events have presented to our students in the School of Social Work (SSW) we will be offering a modified grading policy for the academic year 2020-2021. The policy for this academic year (Fall, Winter, and Spring/Summer terms) will be:

  • All students will  have the option of taking any class for S/NRC (Satisfactory/No Credit COVID)  rather than a letter grade. Students can make this decision after the letter grade is posted. The deadline for requesting a change from a letter grade to S (Satisfactory) is July 1, 2021 for the Fall 2020 term, and November 1, 2021 for the Winter and Spring/Summer 2021 term. 
  • Instructors will submit letter grades on Wolverine Access for all students enrolled in the MSW program. A modified grading system will award letter grades of A+ to C-, and a notation of “NRC” (No Record COVID) for grades of D+ to E. Students will have the one-time option to change any or all of their letter grades of A+ through C- to S (Satisfactory) through Wolverine Access.
  • Students may withdraw from a course by the last day of classes of the term without having a notation of “W” appear on the official transcript. It will appear on the unofficial transcript.
  • Instructors may choose to issue an Incomplete (I) and approve an extension with a deadline for completion of final work due in the course. An incomplete will not be permanently recorded on the transcript when the instructor submits the final grade.
  • Students who receive NRC receive no course credits. Students who receive a S receive course credit.
  • Grades of S and S/NRC will not be factored into the GPA.

Class Sizes

Class sizes will be reduced to help students build stronger connections with instructors and each other. Most classes will include attendance caps of no more than 20 students per class.

Field Format

Field education disruption related to COVID remains a challenge and requires flexibility as we experience frequent changes in community environments.  At this time, field placements will continue to be a blend of in-person, online and hybrid depending on the nature and needs of the agency and the clients being served.  Students should use the field decision tree to examine their personal health circumstances to aid in decision making regarding the field format that best fit their needs.  If student needs do not line up with the needs of the agency, contact your field faculty to discuss possible alternatives.

Co-Curricular Activities Education + Social

Co-curricular activities will be designed to provide students with a blend of social engagement and educational connection. We are encouraging faculty to consider ways that these co-curricular activities could support classroom learning. For example, could they be used for extra-credit, alternative assignments, etc.  Activities might include movies & discussions, topics related to faculty research, outside speakers on related topics, lunch n' learns, etc. Faculty involved with curricular pathways will plan activities and help spread the word to students.

Advising and Well-Being

Faculty advisors are being encouraged to connect regularly with advisees. Students are also encouraged to reach out to advisors if they face challenges.

IT Resources

  • Virtual Computer Sites
    Almost every software title that U-M licenses can be found at virtual sites. You can access sites from anywhere.
  • SSW Student IT Resources
    IT student resources information maintained by the SSW Information Technology office.

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