June 30, 2020
Provost Richard M. Locke
Tags Faculty and Staff

To All Brown Faculty: Fall Course Planning - Information and Resources


Dear Members of the Faculty,

Thank you for the remarkable work that you have done over these last few months. In particular, there has been substantial work with departments over the last several weeks to prepare curricular plans in anticipation of a possible three-semester academic year in 2020-21.  We focused on this because of all the scenarios being considered for the year ahead, it differs the most from our current system, and we needed to be ready should this or a version of this be the option selected.

With nearly all of the curricular plans submitted, I am impressed but not at all surprised by the exceptional quality of the work, and appreciate the thought and attention that faculty and staff have devoted to this task. I also recognize that this work was being done in the context of many challenges – in the midst of a pandemic, an economic recession, and national turmoil around police violence and anti-Black racism. Thank you.

With this planning in place, we are well-prepared for President Paxson’s announcement regarding the academic year 2020-21, which will be made no later than July 15. I am writing to follow up on some of the questions and issues that emerged from the planning process and related discussions; provide information about available resources moving forward; and to note the information you can expect prior to and once a decision has been made about the fall and year ahead. Our goal is to be as organized as possible to respond effectively and efficiently to any scenario. 

Space and Scheduling

As a reminder, all class meetings of more than 20 persons (19 students + the instructor) must be online in order to adhere to current public health guidance and Brown’s plan submitted to the State of Rhode Island. Allocating classrooms for hybrid courses with smaller section meetings and for courses that normally have enrollments below 20 students places extraordinary demands on our classroom inventory, especially once room capacities are adjusted for appropriate social-distancing guidelines. To accommodate as much in-person teaching as possible, classroom usage policies will need to be modified.

Discussion sections

Discussion sessions need to conform to standard meeting patterns and a maximum room capacity of 19 students. For example, a course with up to 38 students in a T/TR meeting pattern enables each student to attend one in-person meeting each week, and similarly for a course with up to 57 students in a MWF pattern. All such in-person meetings must be arranged when scheduling the primary meeting in Banner so that students register accordingly; it will not be possible to accommodate ad hoc discussion sections arranged after the start of the semester

Registrar Management of Departmental Space

To expand the inventory of acceptable rooms, departmental classrooms with capacity for 10 or more will be held for the Registrar’s use to schedule in-person classes within the standard meeting patterns. I know that this is not ideal for many departments, but this level of shared cooperation is essential to accommodate overall course delivery in this model. Some of these rooms may be released back to departments later in the summer if they are not required.

Smaller spaces

Please note that smaller departmental spaces will hold many fewer students than usual. If the capacity of a given room is less than the anticipated course enrollment, please reschedule those courses in standard meeting times, in the evenings, or plan to hold them as online-only courses.

Banner Instructions

Academic department managers should expect to hear from the Registrar's Office during the week of June 29 with the instructions and timeline to build fall 2020 courses, as reflected in approved curricular plans, into Banner. Instructions will also introduce a new field to indicate online delivery. All class sections will need to be entered into Banner at the same time as the course itself so that students can register for a section when they register for a course.

Classroom Technology and Support

Many faculty members are planning hybrid courses to be delivered in classrooms that allow for some students to participate in-person with the remainder joining remotely. The Digital Learning and Design Group (DLD) is working with Media Services to deliver enhancements to all classrooms to provide for this type of instructional delivery.  DLD will write directly to instructors with information about classrooms that will enable this type of participation, as well as instructions for using Zoom to facilitate this type of delivery.

 Because these classes will need to accommodate all students, including those who may not be able to participate synchronously, please note that this type of instruction will require significant advance planning. Instructors who plan on teaching in this modality, rather than fully online, will find it helpful to contact the Sheridan Center ([email protected]) or DLD ([email protected]) for a consultation.

Graduate Student Teaching Assistants

Last week, Dean of the Graduate School Andrew Campbell wrote directly to department chairs and directors of graduate studies providing guidelines for TA assignments for a three-semester scenario.

Intellectual Property & Copyright

Inquiries have arisen about intellectual property, ownership of course materials, and ownership of online instruction materials specifically. This website offers links to Brown’s relevant policies as well as responses to frequently asked questions. We are updating the policy to include a reminder to students about permissible uses of course materials, stating that course content, including notes and recordings, may not be shared without the permission of the instructor.

There is also extensive guidance available from the Library about copyright law and fair use principles that applies to making course content available online, including the broad latitude that the law provides under the current circumstances.

Library Services

Information about Library services to support online courses with digitized materials as well as plans for resuming circulation of physical collections will be provided in a separate announcement to faculty this week.

Summer Teaching

I was gratified to see that many colleagues have indicated an interest in offering summer courses. We understand that this may be challenging for some faculty – especially early career faculty and those with young children – and remain committed to flexibility in terms of course assignments. Since no one will be required to teach in all three semesters, it is our expectation that the “off” semester can be used for research, much as the summer is now, and I hope that faculty who are teaching in the summer can be protected as much as possible from departmental  service and other responsibilities during a semester in which they are not teaching.  (Although we will expect them to continue advising students during that period.)  It may also be possible to adjust teaching responsibilities during fall 2021 in cases where faculty have taught in the two preceding semesters (spring and summer) or who have had an unusually heavy advising workload.

Classroom cleaning protocols

There is understandably a great deal of attention being placed on cleanliness, health, and hygiene, and what this means for classrooms. According to Facilities Management, the current proposal is for custodial staff to clean high touch surfaces in large classroom buildings multiple times per day. In buildings with smaller spaces such as seminar / conference rooms and small classrooms, supplies will be provided so that high touch surfaces can be cleaned by the occupant based on usage, in addition to nightly custodial service. For more information please visit this page.

Once again, I am extremely and sincerely grateful for all that you have done to bring us to this point. Through your efforts, we are well-positioned to offer exceptional courses for students in any scenario Presided Paxson may determine is best for Brown, given public health guidance and the other core principles guiding this process.