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Memo from Provost Deborah A. Prentice on Moving Courses Online

March 9, 2020

To: Princeton University faculty

From: Provost Deborah A. Prentice

Re: Moving Your Courses Online

In a memo sent earlier today, President Eisgruber indicated that all lectures, precepts, and seminars must be moved online by March 23 for a period of at least two weeks. I am writing now to provide guidance and resources as you consider the best online delivery methods for your own courses. 

Please note that we don’t expect you to recreate all aspects of an in-person class in a remote format. Rather, we ask that you use your best judgment to adjust your courses to the circumstances at hand, while trying to sustain the essential goals of your courses. 

We would encourage you to follow these recommendations:

Start now. Instructional strategies, available tools, and recommended best practices for teaching remotely are available on the McGraw Center website, on a page called “Teaching Continuity.” These guidelines also include suggestions for maintaining critical advising functions, including graduate student advising, supervising senior theses and junior independent work, and holding office hours. 

• If your course involves multiple instructors or AIs, engage your entire instructional team. This will ensure coverage of critical course functions if one or more members of the instructional staff become ill. 

• Consult within your department about the most effective ways to use technological tools such as Zoom and Blackboard or Canvas, our learning management systems. Your department’s computing support staff is available to demonstrate these tools and help you troubleshoot technical problems. 

Do a test run this week. Zoom has recently been integrated with both Blackboard and Canvas to help you combine real-time video instruction with your existing course format. Now is the time to practice using this tool to ensure that both you and your students will be comfortable with video instruction by March 23. 

We realize that for those of you teaching lab courses or others in more experiential formats, this shift to teaching remotely will be particularly challenging. The McGraw Center’s page, “Teaching Continuity,” includes suggestions for how to manage lab work virtually.

Studio courses—especially in music and the visual and performing arts—will also require creative solutions. We encourage you to brainstorm with your colleagues, and to reach out to McGraw Center staff, who would be happy to help you conceive alternatives to live teaching. 

Likewise, for those courses with a service component—those in the Program in Community-Engaged Scholarship (ProCES) or others—the risk of exposure for your students and the communities in which they’re working requires us to urge you to suspend this aspect of your teaching. The section on the McGraw Center’s page about substituting other assignments and reflections for on-site work might be relevant here. ProCES staff are happy to help conceive alternative assignments. 

If alternate teaching modes aren’t possible, you might have to consider suspending your class for the two weeks after break and find ways to make up the work later in the term. 

Finally, we recognize that this is midterm week. For those of you administering in-class exams, we would ask that you ensure that students maintain social distance during the exam, with at least one empty seat separating each student. This is our standard policy for in-class exams, but it is often violated in practice. If your classroom is not large enough to accommodate all the students sitting a seat apart, please allow some students to take the exam in an adjacent room or in the closest library. If your students need to leave the room with their exam, please remind them that they will continue to work under the auspices of the Honor Code and should sign their exams accordingly. 

Thank you, in advance, for your support and flexibility. We very much appreciate your cooperation as we work together to carry out the University’s core research and teaching mission.


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