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UW-Eau Claire faculty remain flexible to support students

| Judy Berthiaume

UW-Eau Claire is considering multiple scenarios for what fall 2020 classes could look like, but no decisions will be made until mid-summer, according to Dr. Mary Hoffman, director of academic planning and assessment.

“We are a long way from making a final decision about fall classes because there is more to learn about COVID-19 and there are several potential scenarios to consider,” Hoffman says. “We will continue to monitor the pandemic, seek advice from medical and other experts, and carefully consider how we can best meet the needs of our students and faculty while also keeping them and others safe.”

UW System leadership, in concert with chancellors from around the state, expect to announce by mid-July if on-campus classes can be safely offered in the fall.

With those discussions ongoing, UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff already are considering how to best format the classes they will teach in the fall, she says. Approximately 6 percent of the classes offered at UW-Eau Claire last fall were offered in a virtual learning environment.

“Now, some instructors and departments have opted to move a few additional courses online for fall in light of the current situation. As always, faculty and departments are doing what they think will help them best meet the needs of their students.”

UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff have done an excellent job of quickly moving all spring semester classes to virtual learning during an extraordinarily difficult time, Hoffman says.

Over several weeks, with support from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, faculty and instructional academic staff worked hard to design remote learning experiences that will help students meet the learning goals of their spring courses, Hoffman says.

Instructors are using a variety of resources and technologies to connect with students and to connect students with one another.

For example, faculty in the sciences are recording lab experiments for students and asking students to analyze the resulting data, Hoffman says. Online discussion assignments are allowing students to post their work or comment on course materials, as well as interact with their peers. And some classes are continuing to work on projects for community clients, with plans to present results in videos or narrated slide shows.

“What our faculty have accomplished is remarkable,” Hoffman says of moving classes online mid-semester. “Certainly, it’s not been painless for our students or our faculty, but quality instruction is continuing, and I think our students appreciate the incredible effort their professors have put in to make that possible.”

Hoffman says she’s heard of many Blugolds who have reached out in various ways to faculty to say thank you and let them know they appreciate all they are doing on their behalf.

Students have sent emails to professors, given faculty shout-outs on social media, and created videos of themselves telling instructors how much their support matters to them.

“We often talk about the incredible bond between our faculty and students,” Hoffman says. “While this semester has been difficult for everyone, I think it’s made those connections even stronger as we’ve all had to navigate this stressful time together.”

UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff are working to identify ways to better deliver online learning campus-wide should physical distancing rules or recommendations still be in place come fall, Hoffman says.

“The best-case scenario is that we are all on campus in September,” Hoffman says. “However, we need to be prepared for other possible scenarios.

“Fortunately, unlike this spring, we have time to think more strategically about how to best create virtual learning opportunities should that be necessary.”