Nov. 13: Educator update

Dear Educators,

Those of you who were here in July may remember an email I sent in my role as Acting Provost about updates relevant to educators in our ongoing remote environment. Provost Woodruff has asked that I please share another update now, as we continue our work remotely and look forward to the Spring semester. 

This communication addresses a number of topics related to remote instruction and is intended to help you and your students continue having a successful academic year.

Use of University Core Technologies for Instruction 
This is a reminder that by using MSU’s core teaching tools, you can ensure students have access and that there is support from MSU for the tools you are using to teach. We have learned that we can address issues of accessibility by using our core technologies. This includes ensuring we create an inclusive and accessible learning experience for students with disabilities and access to technology for international students who aren’t on campus. We cannot guarantee that our core technologies are accessible in every country, but we know that they are currently accessible in most places. 

Faculty/Student Webcam Guidance
The switch to remote learning has made it harder for many to stay connected, leading to social isolation and increased stress in some instances. The use of cameras can contribute to alleviating some of these stresses, however, for reasons of equity and respect for privacy, students cannot be required to turn on their webcams during online classes absent a compelling learning or assessment justification. Please consider whether asking students to turn on their webcams is necessary to accomplish a learning or assessment objective and if it is, explain to students why you would like them to leave their video feed on. Ultimately, it should be left up to the student to make a final decision based on their circumstances without penalties of any kind, with the exception of assessment activities that require the use of a webcam. 

You can visit our Video Conference Policies for Webcam Use page on our Keep Teaching site for more detailed information. Please continue to be empathetic and supportive of unique student needs as you consider the use of webcams in your courses this semester and as you plan for spring semester.

Recording of Students
Proctoring technologies raise issues related to recording students. Please be aware that any recording of students in the classroom, including while taking examinations, becomes an academic record subject to FERPA and is therefore to be treated just as you would treat graded assignments or similar documents — that is, not to be shared outside of specific FERPA guidelines. This includes recordings made in Zoom.

Professional Development Opportunities
Our SOIREE (Spartan Online Instructional Readiness Educational Experience) workshop is going to run again from 11/30-12/7. This workshop was created to help you better prepare to teach online. By its conclusion, you will have drafted a course structure and learning strategies for aligning content delivery, learning activities, and assessment for your course goals. Our SOIREE workshop includes synchronous and asynchronous work. There are one-hour synchronous Zoom sessions on four days (11/30, 12/2, 12/4, and 12/7) at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. To sign up for SOIREE, please complete the following form. Our ASPIRE (ASynchronous Program for Instructional REadiness) workshop is self-paced and always available to instructors. Registration and self-enrollment for the ASPIRE workshop can be found here. As a reminder, the SOIREE and ASPIRE workshops are equivalent. You should not sign up for, or complete both. Each workshop takes roughly 20 hours to complete. 

All other campus-wide educator development opportunities for the 2020/2021 academic year will be listed on #iteach Commons. Please reference this playlist frequently as new opportunities will develop throughout the semester and into spring.  

Assessments
Addressing academic integrity issues thoughtfully and effectively is an integral part of good course design. To reiterate previous recommendations, and as a reminder, a best practice whenever possible is to use assessment and exam strategies that involve formative assessments, alternatives to exams, or approaches that include writing multiple-choice and short-answer questions that create a climate of integrity in a course.

To support this, we are offering two new assessment workshops: Assessment Options Beyond the Exam and Exam Design. These workshops previously ran through July and August, and will be running again on December 9. Our Assessment Options Beyond the Exam workshop will focus on formative assessments and alternatives to exams such as projects, infographics, and debates. Examples include ideas for classes with 100 or more students. This workshop will run from 10-11:30 a.m. on 12/9 via Zoom. Our Exam Design workshop will focus on writing multiple-choice and short-answer questions, creating a climate of integrity in the course, the discuss pros and cons of video proctoring and create exams specifically in D2L. This workshop will run from 1-3 p.m. on 12/9 via Zoom. To register for one or both sessions, please complete this form

If you have questions related to any of these workshops, please direct them to Ashley Braman (behanash@msu.edu) or Breana Yaklin (yaklinbr@msu.edu).

If you are considering the use of a proctoring technology in your class, please use Respondus as this product was reviewed by General Counsel and has FERPA protections built into the contract. The use of any proctoring solution that has not been vetted through MSU’s Office of General Counsel is strongly discouraged. The terms and conditions of such products might include language that would permit uses of our students’ academic records in violation of FERPA. You can learn more about MSU’s FERPA policy here.

Use of SIRS in the Evaluation Process
Last semester, Spring 2020, it was decided that given the atypical nature of the semester, deans, department chairs, and faculty advisory committees consider teaching evaluations for that semester only if the instructor chose to have the results considered. Unless the instructor submitted the results for consideration, SIRS or other Spring 2020 evaluation instruments were not assessed for performance evaluations, increases in pay, reappointment, tenure, or promotion. That practice will hold true again for this semester, Fall 2020.

Just as we did for the Spring 2020 semester, students will have an opportunity to complete a supplemental survey with a small set of questions concerned with online instruction. Like the Spring 2020 supplemental, the primary purpose is to collect aggregate feedback on the campus experience for professional development purposes. Individual educators who have a sufficient number of students respond will also get feedback for their course.

One change with SIRS for Fall 2020 is that the online SIRS instrument will be automatically available for all courses. In the past, units were asked to opt in to the online instrument. This has been done to make it easier for students and educators to use the SIRS instrument given that most classes are online. Units that use an alternative student rating instrument should continue to do so.

SIRS Online will offer 30-minute drop-in sessions for those instructors who will be using the system for the first time during Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters. Each session will review how the SIRS Online system works, dates and deadlines, and the student experience. You can sign up by filling out this short form.

For more information and FAQs, you can visit the SIRS Online website.

Keep Teaching: A Guide to Remote & Online Teaching at MSU
As it has since March, the Keep Teaching website continues to provide the most up-to-date information for MSU educators in our current remote environment. To best support you, we have developed best practices for teaching courses remotely and gathered recommendations to help you develop teaching strategies that lead to the best outcomes for students across the institution. Being consistent as an institution can help minimize the impact of disruption in course format for student learning. It is important to anchor your decisions in learning objectives and to be transparent, flexible, and generous with students. The teaching resources provided on the site appear below:

Non-Disclosure Agreements and Intellectual Property Rights Assignments
A message was sent to deans earlier this week to inform them of the requirements for faculty who are teaching classes that involve student non-disclosure agreements (NDA) and student intellectual property rights assessments (IP Assignment). These apply to both undergraduate and graduate students and affect some colleges more than others. Because of this, our deans will be distributing this information directly to you as needed. 

While relevant to a subset of colleges, departments, and programs, this important information is available on the APUE website and also on the Graduate School Website under Policies and Guidelines.

Thank you! 
Please continue to reference the KeepTeaching.msu.edu site as you teach this fall, and as you prepare for spring. While many of you have engaged in professional development opportunities over the past eight months, a broad range of opportunities to expand and enhance one’s teaching and evaluation practices are available on the site. There are likely many resources and approaches that could add value to your teaching experiences; please explore them and consider implementing something new as you plan for spring.

As always, thank you for your ongoing commitment to academic excellence and student success. Provost Woodruff, our students, and I appreciate the unique challenges you continue to face as a result of the ongoing pandemic and your professional dedication as educators to persist despite those challenges. 

Thomas D. Jeitschko (he/him/his)
Associate Provost for Graduate Education
Dean of the Graduate School