Updates From the Provost

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Message from Provost Susan Jeffords - Welcome to Spring Term 2020

Colleagues,

As we begin this unprecedented spring term, I wanted to reach out to all of you and express my deepest gratitude for the work that all of you—PSU's full- and part-time faculty, adjuncts, academic professionals, graduate assistants, and staff—have been doing on behalf of our students and the entire PSU community. The alacrity with which you all have embraced the challenge of remote instruction and service to our students continues to astound me.  At the end of the day, it is, however, no less than I would expect from this powerful and compassionate community.

While you all are actively engaged in instruction and student support, I thought I would share with you some of the creativity and innovation I am seeing from my vantage point. I know there is a lot more going on across the institution, but here are a few examples that stand out to me:

  • Incredible adaptations of courses are taking place across the university. Topics that don’t seem at first to lend themselves to remote instruction are being taught in new and creative ways. An Art Ideation class for freshmen that had planned to focus on the Willamette River will now be focusing on the home as inspiration for artmaking. Graduate student teaching assistants in Chemistry are creating videos of experiments and then will lead Zoom "virtual recitation" sections for the Introductory Chemistry sequence. Electrical and Computer Engineering professors are conducting experiments in the lab and recording real-time data on USB keys that will be made available to 200 students so they can complete the lab. My personal favorite so far is "Ballet in Bedroom Shoes!
  • The Faculty Senate, in a commitment to supporting our ability to sustain joint governance during this time, is continuing its business, now on Zoom.  
  • The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean's office set up a virtual office, where visitors are connected immediately via Zoom to someone who can answer their questions.
  • The School of Architecture has taken purpose from the current crisis. Todd Ferry's Public Interest Design students will use design to transform vehicles such as RVs and trucks into mobile hygiene and medical vehicles, as a method of bringing medical services to areas in need in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. 
  • The teams in the Registrar's Office, Academic and Career Services, Student Affairs, and the Library have all converted to providing remote services to students, not only making sure that they have access to laptops but adding temporary options for Pass/No Pass grading that can relieve students of anxieties about grades.   

Providing continuing evidence of PSU "Letting Knowledge Serve," the School of Public Health has been front and center in PSU's responses to COVID-19. In addition to Dean David Bangsberg serving as chair of the Oregon Health Policy Board—the policy-making oversight body for the Oregon Health Authority (OHA)—the faculty, staff, and graduate students of the School of Public Health have contracted with OHA to expand the state's capacity for COVID-19 response. Susan Hedlund, faculty in the School of Social Work and director of patient services at OHSU's Knight Cancer Institute, developed a webinar titled Caring for Yourself and Caring for Others During a Disaster/Epidemic to help us all through this period.

And if you're looking for a little respite during this time, you should check out School of Music Assistant Professor Chuck Dillard's daily #HaydnfromCorona piano concerts from his home via Facebook.

I couldn't be prouder of PSU at this moment. 

Best,

Susan Jeffords, Ph.D.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

 

March 30 - Message from Provost Jeffords on pass/no pass grading

Dear PSU Students,

Welcome to Spring Term!  We hope you are staying well during this challenging time. PSU is committed to doing everything we can to make sure that you can move forward with your academic goals. 

We understand that you may be nervous about your academic performance as you head into a very different spring term, facing challenges that go beyond just the altered remote format being used. In an effort to acknowledge the unique nature of the term and to support your continued academic success, the university enacted a temporary policy change to allow expanded use of the Pass/No-Pass (P/NP) grading option. 

Many departments will be making the P/NP option available for more courses. If a course offers this option, it will then be your choice as to whether you will utilize it or not. To be sure that this choice will not impede your academic progress: 

All Pass grades earned during Spring 2020:

  • Will be used to fulfill major, minor or certificate requirements that would otherwise require an A-F grade
  • May be used to fulfill prerequisites for future courses
  • Will not be counted against the Pass credit limits for a bachelor’s degree 

Additionally, the deadline to change your grading option has been extended to Monday of the 10th week, June 1, 2020. 

Important things to consider and be aware of:

  • These policy modifications will apply only to Pass grades earned during Spring 2020.
  • Not all courses will have the P/NP option. Academic departments will determine whether the P/NP option is available for individual courses. You will be able to see what grading options are available on a course and make changes to your grading option via Banweb registration. If you have any questions about whether your course offers the P/NP grading option you may check with your instructor. 
  • If you have questions about how taking a class with the P/NP grading option may affect your degree progress or future educational plans, you should contact your academic advisor. 
  • P/NP grades have a neutral impact on the GPA. If you are relying on spring term grades to improve your GPA for Academic Standing or other reasons, you should consult your academic advisor to help you make the best decision.
  • If you have questions about how a P/NP grading option may impact any special program benefits you are eligible for, you should contact the program directly. 

We wish you success in this upcoming term. PSU is a resilient community. We are committed to supporting you as you tackle the term ahead. 

Susan Jeffords, Ph.D
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Portland State University 

 

3/25/2020

Colleagues,

I am writing to follow up on Interim President Percy’s message subsequent to the Governor’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” order issued on March 23. That order indicates that only individuals providing core services that cannot be done remotely should be on campus. To that end, I want to clarify our understanding of those guidelines.

Faculty can access campus facilities that are necessary to their delivery of remote instruction. This would include usage of specialized classrooms or labs that have equipment or video capacities that can’t be accessed through a laptop or home computer. In utilizing such spaces, faculty must continue to respect social distancing guidelines and should ideally be the only person in these spaces when in use. If that is not possible, faculty must ensure individuals maintain a distance of six (6) feet between each other and reconfigure spaces as needed to allow for distance.  

All other activities must be performed remotely.

Please let your department chair or dean know about your need to use these spaces so that we can ensure safe access.

On other matters, many of you have asked about whether we might adopt a pass/no pass grading option during this time of remote instruction. I think this is an idea well worth pursuing and am working with Faculty Senate leadership to see how we might implement such a practice temporarily. I will keep you posted on our progress.

To make sure that you have access to communications from OAA, we created a Coronavirus Academic Response webpage that can be accessed from the front page of the Academic Affairs website. It includes past communications from the Provost and information from both the State of Oregon and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) that pertain to higher education. 

I contnue to hear about the incredibly innovative ways in which PSU faculty are taking on the challenges of remote teaching. I'm in awe of the creativity and commitment to student learning that is being brought to bear by both faculty and staff during this crisis. I am humbled by the power of this community when called upon to do what is right for our students.

Best,
Susan Jeffords, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

 

3/20/20

Colleagues,

I am writing to follow up on Interim President Percy's message yesterday and to continue to share with you updates on our academic responses to the COVID-19 virus.  

First, I hope that you all are healthy and taking care of yourselves. For myself, I've begun working entirely from home, since I am in one of the categories of folks that the CDC suggests is at risk of serious consequences from infection. I have become an avid student of Zoom, Google Chat, and using documents online. I'm happy to find that it's not too late for me to learn new things! 

I am profoundly impressed with the efforts that faculty are making to adapt to this emergency environment. I hear continued reports of the creativity and innovation that you all are bringing to thinking about how to offer labs, studios, voice instruction, and even yoga in remote formats. This is the very best of PSU, and I'm not surprised that our faculty's profound commitment to student learning is combined with such incredible innovation. I've asked Johannes De Gruyter in OAI to keep track of these innovations so that we can share them regionally and nationally.

I participate in regular conversations with the provosts of all of the Oregon public institutions. I think that it is imperative that we remain in communication so that our students are having similar learning experiences across our institutions. We face common challenges around how to retain the integrity and quality of student learning while we shift to remote formats. It's reassuring to see the proactive and committed responses of all the Oregon institutions to do everything we can to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

As you saw in Interim President Percy's message, based on best information from public health experts, we have decided to commit to delivering instruction remotely for the entirety of spring term. We felt it important to give clarity to faculty and students both as soon as possible about how to plan for spring term. While it is too early to make any determinations about summer term, we are monitoring health information to assess the possibility of impacts on summer teaching. I promise to keep you posted.

I ask that you continue to communicate regularly with students so that they are aware of any changes in your class materials, deadlines, and expectations for graded deliverables. We owe them the same patience we offer each other as we adapt to this new environment. Sustaining regular contact with students will help them navigate any challenges they face. Can you have office hours remotely? Can you chat with students about challenges they are experiencing with course materials? Can you encourage social interactions among students as both a learning method and as support for them during a time when many of their own opportunities for social interaction have been curtailed? 

Please continue to check on updates from the Office of Academic Innovation (OAI) as they add new features to the faculty toolkit. For example, I just learned that Voice Thread, a tool for enhanced online interaction for students that has proved particularly effective in language instruction, has just been made available to 1300 students in World Languages and Literatures. OAI continues to explore other software and licensing to support faculty in offering remote instruction. 

I hope you have seen the communication from Jason Podrabsky, Interim VP for Research and Graduate Studies regarding the impacts that our COVID-19 response is having on research, particularly relating to lab-based research as well as research that requires human subjects approval. While NSF and other funding agencies have developed statements on extensions of research funding, it is imperative that we begin now to think about how these limitations may impact faculty and graduate student research productivity during this period. I have discussed with the deans and shared with the AAUP that there will be a one-year extension available for all tenure track faculty who are in their probationary period during the Spring 2020 term and who are not being considered for promotion in the current year or whose dossiers are being completed for consideration in 2020-2021. We will make available soon a process for requesting these extensions. 

I encourage us to have an equally flexible policy relating to teaching evaluations. While there is great merit in assessing how remote instruction is experienced by students, I think it is important that faculty feel free to use evaluations formatively without concern about possible negative impacts on promotion.  

Many of you have asked questions that show your continued concern for students, especially seniors who are close to graduating. Thank you for this, especially when I know you are so busy working on shifting your classes to remote formats. I want to assure you that there are teams of folks working actively on these questions. We are very lucky to have colleagues in the Registrar's Office, Advising and Career Services,  Residential Life, and Student Health and Counseling who are thinking proactively about how to continue to support students during this period. They are actively addressing questions that you and our students have about health services, graduation requirements, and financial services. We are even beginning conversations about whether and how commencement may occur. 

I want to acknowledge here the important and impactful work that academic professionals and classified staff are doing during this time. The shift to remote services for students happened quickly, and offices across the institution are now operating effectively in remote formats. Our ability to support faculty and students during this time is in great part due to the important work of these colleagues. I am deeply grateful to them. 

I know that there continue to be questions about the distinction between teaching remotely and teaching online. I like to use the definitions that came to me from Johannes De Gruyter, which is that “remote instruction” is used to describe the strategy of moving content designed for face-to-face instruction to a digital format for limited or one-time-only course instruction, as in our response to the COVID-19 disruption. I want to be clear that no remote fees are added to these remote courses. 

Some remote teaching strategies include: teaching a designee in-person class, with some minor modifications, using videoconferencing tools such as Zoom or Google Hangouts; setting up a D2L shell as the website for your course; or short lecture videos and sharing them with your class in D2L. 

In contrast, “online instruction” is used to describe courses that are designed and facilitated according to evidence-based practices for online teaching and learning. These courses are advertised in the PSU Schedule of Classes as being fully online, and they continue to be charged the regular online fee. The online fee at PSU is currently used to support the purposeful design of online programs and courses, and the delivery of online student services including library, advising, learning center, and IT helpdesk. 

Typical online strategies include: Completely redesigning a course using standards defined by OSCQR, Quality Matters; collaborating with an instructional designer and other course design staff (multimedia, UX designers, assessment experts, etc.)  to re-think how a face-to-face course can accomplish the same learning outcomes in an online format. Robust faculty support for developing these classes is available from OAI. Students in these courses do pay the online fee. 

We remain committed to offering students the kind of outstanding learning experience that characterizes a PSU education. I am profoundly grateful to all of you for everything you are doing to enable our students to continue to pursue and achieve their educational goals at PSU.  

Sincerely,
Susan Jeffords, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
 


3/17/2020

Colleagues, 

I am writing to continue to share with you updates on our academic responses to the COVID-19 virus.   

First, I hope that you all are healthy and taking care of yourselves.  For myself, I've begun working entirely from home, since I am in one of the categories of folks that the CDC suggests is at risk of serious consequences from infection.  I have become a avid student of Zoom, Google Chat, and using documents on-line.  I'm happy to find that it's not too late for me to learn new things! 

We continue to get updates from the state regarding increased efforts to limit social contact and possible spread of the virus.  Today, the governor announced the closure of K-12 schools through April 28.  Absent widespread testing, our most effective public health strategy is that we decrease opportunities for the virus to spread.  

I am profoundly impressed with the efforts that faculty are making to adapt to this emergency environment.  I hear continued reports of the creativity and innovation that you all are bringing to thinking about how to offer labs, studios, voice instruction, and even yoga in remote formats.  This is the very best of PSU, and I'm not surprised that our faculty's profound commitment to student learning is combined with such incredible innovation.  I've asked Johannes DeGruyter in OAI to keep track of these innovations so that we can share them regionally and nationally. 

I participate in regular conversations with the provosts of all of the Oregon public institutions.  I think that it is imperative that we remain in communication so that our students are having similar learning experiences across our institutions.  We face common challenges around how to retain the integrity and quality of student learning while we shift to remote formats.  It's reassuring to see the proactive and committed responses of all the Oregon institutions to do everything we can to stem the spread of COVID-19.  

What is new since my last communication with you? 

Based on best information from public health experts, I think we should plan for a need to deliver instruction remotely beyond the first two to three weeks of classes.  While it is not yet clear if this need will extend through the entire term, I do not believe that we will see a return to regular social interaction by mid-March.  This realization underlies the Governor's most recent instructions to K-12 schools to close through April.  I think we should be prepared to work in the same time frame.  

I ask that you continue to communicate regularly with students so that they are aware of any changes in your class materials, deadlines, and expectations for graded deliverables.  We owe them the same patience we offer each other as we adapt to this new environment.  Sustaining regular contact with students will help them navigate any challenges they face.  Can you have office hours remotely? Can you chat with students about challenges they are experiencing with course materials?  Can you encourage social interactions among students as both a learning method and as support for them during a time when many of their own opportunities for social interaction have been curtailed?  

Please continue to check on updates from OAI as they add new features to the faculty toolkit.  For example, I just learned today that Voice Thread, a tool for enhanced online interaction for students that has proved particularly effective in language instruction, has just been made available to 1300 students in World Languages and Literature. OAI continues to explore other software and licensing to support faculty in offering remote instruction.  

I hope you have seen the communication from Jason Podrabsky, Interim VP for Research and Graduate Studies, regarding the impacts that our COVID-19 response is having on research, particularly relating to lab-based research as well as research that requires human subjects approval.  While NSF and other funding agencies have developed statements on extensions of research funding, it is imperative that we begin now to think about how these limitations may impact faculty research productivity during this period.  I plan to work with deans to begin discussions about how to insure that faculty are not penalized in promotion and tenure processes during this time.  

I encourage us to have an equally flexible policy relating to teaching evaluations.  While there is great merit in assessing how remote instruction is experienced by students, I think it important that faculty feel free to use evaluations formatively without concern about possible negative impacts on promotion.  

Many of you have asked questions that show your continued concern for students, especially seniors who are close to graduating.  Thank you for this, especially when I know you are so busy working on shifting your classes to remote formats.  I want to assure you that there are teams of folks working actively on these questions.  We are very lucky to have colleagues in the registrar's office, in advising, in Residential Life, and in Student Health and Counseling who are thinking proactively about how to continue to support students during this period.   

We remain committed to offering students the kind of outstanding learning experience that characterizes a PSU education. I am profoundly grateful to all of you for everything you are doing to enable our students to continue to pursue and achieve their educational goals at PSU.  

 


Academic Continuity Guidance


Because we are committed to the academic success of our students, PSU will remain open and will offer all scheduled spring term classes. We also are committed to the health and wellbeing of our community and to doing our part to limit the spread of the virus. As a result, we are making the following changes: 

 

 

What can be done at the department level?


  • At the department level, assess class offerings for Spring Term. Identify which classes do and do not use online tools. Are there instructors who are well-versed in the online teaching tools? These folks could offer tips to others who might be newer to using the online tools. The Office of Academic Innovation can provide support for any online tools.  

 


What can an instructor do to prepare?


  • Please be flexible, understanding, and compassionate with students who are worried about the virus. Share facts, not rumors. Shut down discrimination or bias.
  • Review  the resources below to find options that fit your course and material. Then communicate with your students about your expectations and policies. 
  • Keep in mind that any changes you make or options you offer during this outbreak are temporary and do not have to be permanent changes to the course material or delivery.

 


Resources


 


Questions? 

 


Where did this guidance come from? 

  • In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the PSU Incident Management Team set up a workgroup to focus specifically on Academic Continuity. 
  • The workgroup is comprised of representatives from each of the schools and colleges, and representatives from OAI, OIT, the Registrar’s Office, and Emergency Management.