Learning and Teaching During COVID-19

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Classroom Usage Policy Information

Current Plan and Request for Your Comments and Input

Many members of our community, students and faculty alike, have expressed a preference for the School to make its decision now in order to lessen the period of uncertainty about our program format. We ask that you provide additional feedback to help shape and implement the plan on the feedback sheet at the end of this email and at our next faculty and staff meetings. We hope to promote a culture of equity, cohesion and respect for the plan we adopt. The conflicts of the past fall took a toll on all of us.

The current plan is in the next section of this email, with a report of the School’s context and the process that led to this plan following the plan itself. Please be sure to give us your feedback via the comment form at the bottom of this page.

Current SSW Plan for Fall 2021

The School of Social Work will begin its return to in-person education in fall 2021. Backpacking and pre-registration will begin this week. Fully in-person, fully online and hybrid (a combination of online and in-person) course sections will be listed. The School will follow all public health safety guidelines that are required at the beginning of the semester. We will not offer courses in the Hy-flex format (some students in-person/some students remote while in class).

In-person and hybrid teaching 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 the 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. There will also be some online course sections.

SSW undergraduate courses will follow the guidance of U-M undergraduate education units, in accordance with SSW policies and practices.

The MSW program anticipates a fall semester that offers a significant in-person component for incoming first-semester students. Fully in-person and hybrid courses will be offered if social distancing in classrooms can be reduced to three feet. Advanced pathway classes for students who will graduate in December 2021 will be mostly remote. All field education will be in-person or hybrid.

The PhD program is not admitting a new class in fall 2021 and its instructional format will be a mix of hybrid and remote as needed for the health of participants.

Fully vaccinated faculty members should anticipate some level of face-to-face teaching in the fall. Student services and extracurricular activities will include in-person contact. We will work with faculty, students and staff members with health needs that preclude in-person contact. We are considering requiring that unvaccinated students take only online classes.

Context and Process

The academic year 2020-2021 has been extremely difficult for all of us. Faculty, staff and students have been personally impacted by the pandemic in significant ways. Since each of us has experienced the pandemic in a distinctive way, we are likely to have different views about the best way forward for 2021-22. At the same time, the campus, including SSW, is under some short-term time demands to plan for spring/summer and fall 2021 registration.

President Schlissel has publicly announced, “a responsible return to in-person instruction and a residential fall,” for the University of Michigan campus. He has further stated that the fall term will be transitional, with an aspiration to return to a fully in-person campus next winter term. Extra-curricular and curriculum support services are anticipated to be in person, at least in part. This statement is predicated on all faculty, staff and students having the opportunity to be vaccinated by fall 2021, on reduced COVID infection rates and hospitalizations, continuing the trends we are seeing currently, and continued public health mitigation efforts that follow CDC guidelines. President Schlissel has asked each individual unit to develop its own plan for fall with these factors in mind.

Provost Collins has asked every unit to prioritize education excellence and student learning in its fall planning. This past year of remote education for students who wanted an in-person learning experience has taken a toll on the health and well-being and sense of community of students, as well as on their opportunities to learn and practice professional social work competencies. There has also been a significant impact on our staff and faculty.

In keeping with campus recommendations, our School has taken several planning steps to date. The full faculty discussed ideas for fall semester curriculum development at the March 2021 meeting. The staff have discussed returning to an in-person campus with flexible work schedules that provide necessary on-site services. Over 50% of students responded to a “snapshot” needs survey that was developed by the MSW program in consultation with CASC and the PhD program leaders, and with input from a series of community conversations with MSW students. The Student Union leadership and the Student Advisory Board have been consulted. The Executive Committee has discussed the fall term and there has been a joint meeting of the Executive Committee and the School’s academic and administrative leadership team. The Associate Dean for Educational Programs, MSW Program Director, Assistant Dean for Field Education, and the Assistant Dean for Enrollment Management have worked hard to study the options and to propose the realistic plan, listed above.

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