Preparations for Spring, Reflections for Fall
This message is for students, however faculty and staff may find awareness of this communication helpful.
Thank you for rising to the challenge and persevering during the fall semester. I know it hasn’t been easy for you. The pandemic forced us to evaluate all our approaches to learning and research in search of methods that emphasized safety and equity. Our faculty spent countless hours of time usually devoted to research and service to create and deliver courses that would be engaging to you. The efforts of our faculty and staff – and your support of those efforts – contributed to a safer campus environment. We demonstrated that precautions such as wearing facemasks, limiting gathering size and practicing physical distancing work to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses. We keep all who have been affected by COVID-19 in our thoughts and prayers, and we hope for the full recovery of anyone who has contracted the virus.
What to Expect this Spring
While we’ve heard promising news about COVID-19 vaccines in production, the pandemic is far from over. We will need to continue certain campus-wide modifications in the spring semester, and our practices will be informed by our fall experiences and outcomes. Facilities Services has been working over winter break to install touchless entry systems and augment air filtration systems in campus buildings. We are again conducting re-entry testing prior to the start of the spring semester. You will again be expected to wear masks and keep physically distancing when on campus. We also continue to provide support to instructors to help them create engaging learning experiences, regardless of course format. Our Unified Command Team, Pandemic Medical Advisory Team and others are addressing a number of additional issues I suspect are on your mind, including:
- Prevalence testing for spring semester
- Potential academic policy and deadline modifications for spring
- Resumption of inbound and outbound international travel
- Vaccination campaigns
- Commencement and year-end events
- Conferences and summer camps
Please use this form to ask specific questions that can help shape FAQs and campus-wide messaging.
You will learn more about policies and procedures for the spring semester in future messages. The purpose of this email is to provide tips and reminders that can help you take the greatest advantage of your learning experiences this spring.
Achieving Your Best Learning Experience
We know learning during the fall 2020 semester looked and felt different from a traditional semester. The learning experience, in general, is different for each person – and each one of us has different needs for learning. While some students need online courses, others learn best in a face-to-face classroom, and others benefit from a hybrid environment. Regardless of course mode, and regardless of pandemic conditions, one of the basic lessons we hope to help you learn in college is how to facilitate your own learning and how to advocate for your unique educational needs. This process is known as “self-directed learning.” Self-directed learning is not teaching yourself – it is understanding your learning needs and how they motivate you in different learning environments. You can identify your learning needs by asking yourself these questions:
- What type of learning environment do I excel in?
- How do I communicate my needs and ideas to others?
- What are my study habits?
- How do I best process information?
- How do I organize information so it makes most sense to me?
- How do I best receive information when it is presented?
- Do I work best independently, or do I benefit from working with a partner or in a group?
- How do I prefer to receive constructive feedback?
Your instructors design their courses, regardless of format, to be engaging and flexible, and to guide and support your learning. This spring, if you find yourself struggling in a course – no matter how or why – you should contact your instructor right away. If you are not comfortable speaking with your instructors, contact your academic advisor or department.
It is important to communicate your questions, concerns, and needs so instructors can determine how to better support you and your classmates. When instructors understand what is or is not working for you, they are in a better position to clarify or adjust classwork, or refer you to appropriate campus resources for additional support. I encourage you to follow up on any referrals, and to work with our Academic Success offices to help address your concerns and to improve your overall experience at KU.
Communicating Absences from Class
Now more than ever, communication with your instructors and staff is critical. If you become ill or need to miss class, please let your instructor know your circumstances right away so they are aware of your situation and can help you think through your best course of action to keep up with class.
Because of the pandemic, we encouraged our instructors to be flexible and lenient this fall regarding class attendance policies. While this flexibility has been beneficial for students who became ill or who experienced a personal emergency, instructors reported an increase in the number of students missing class without communicating the reason. Instructors cannot offer a fully engaging learning experience when they do not know how many students to plan for in any given class period. You can help your instructors by communicating your absences in advance. Again, if you are uncomfortable talking with your instructor, reach out to your academic advisor, department, or Student Support and Case Management. If you find yourself in a serious situation where you are unable to report your class absence on your own, or if you need to be away for an extended period, contact Student Affairs at 785-864-4060. Staff can assist with contacting your instructors.
Academic integrity is a central value in higher education and connects directly to our Jayhawk Values. It rests on two principles:
- Academic work is represented truthfully as to its source and its accuracy, and
- Academic results are obtained by fair and authorized means.
“Academic misconduct” occurs when these values are not respected. Information about what is considered academic misconduct – and its consequences – can be found in the University Senate Rules and Regulations. Because misconduct carries consequences, KU provides resources to help students understand and protect their academic integrity. The KU Writing Center has a series of online writing guides to help you avoid committing plagiarism. Additionally, the KU Writing Center offers writing consultations where you can get writing support, coaching, and feedback.
Begin Strong, Finish Strong
You should be proud of yourself that you continue to make progress in your education during this most challenging time. I’m grateful that you have chosen to be part of the Jayhawk community. I look forward to a time – I hope soon – when we can gather together and celebrate all that KU has to offer. Until then, please remember to follow pandemic precautions and recommendations.
As always, your questions and concerns are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor