We write today to communicate plans for fall 2021 instruction. As with many of the decisions made over the past year, the information below represents our current plan, which might need to be modified as conditions evolve.
We appreciate all the effort you have each made over the past year to adapt to the realities of teaching during the pandemic. At this time, it appears every member of our community who wants a vaccine will be able to get one before the start of the fall semester, so we are hopeful we will return to a more normal academic year in August.
As previously announced, the academic calendar for next year will be the original calendar approved by the Faculty Senate in fall 2019. None of the COVID-19-related calendar adjustments made this past fall will be in place. The fall 2021 calendar is available on the Registrar’s Office website. Courses will meet using the pre-COVID-19 time blocks that have been in place for several years.
Regarding the mode of instruction, the default expectation is that courses will be taught in the manner they were taught prior to COVID-19. More specifically, courses normally taught online will be taught online, and courses typically taught face to face will be taught face to face. As a residential campus, we expect students and instructors to be present on campus to participate in classes. While classroom density will be higher than currently allowed, it is too early to know yet whether classroom density will revert back to full capacity for each room, so it is possible that classes may not be scheduled in the rooms they have traditionally been held in. Similarly, it is too early to know if masks will be required during classroom meetings. The situation will continue to be assessed, and more information on these details will be forthcoming this summer.
While the default is a return to “normal” for classroom instruction, the experiences with technology and the pedagogical innovations you might have adopted during the pandemic may offer opportunities you would like to continue to use. Similarly, many of these innovations have been appreciated by our students. This coming fall semester, faculty might wish to teach in a dual delivery mode, record their lectures using Zoom in the classroom, utilize more prerecorded lecture material to facilitate a flipped classroom environment or make other changes to teaching methodology based on lessons learned over the past year. Instructors wanting to change their pre-COVID-19 mode of instruction should provide a plan to their chair and dean, or to the vice provost of academic affairs in the case of first-year writing intensive seminars. The dean or VPAA must approve the plan before it’s implemented.
Courses using some modified or blended model must still maintain a significant face-to-face component, such that the course remains classified as a face-to-face course instead of a Distance and Online Education Course as defined and governed by Rice policy 846. Please note, the registrar does not record "in person" as a mode of instruction. Face-to-face mode is considered in person. Every course at Rice must provide students some opportunity for in-person contact, including regular office hours held by instructors. In-person contact should be consistent with the number of credit hours a course is scheduled to earn. Instructors should update their syllabi to accurately describe how instructional material will be delivered in their courses. Instructors will not be required to accommodate students who choose not to participate in the planned mode.
Thank you again for all your efforts to meet the educational needs of our students.
Reginald DesRoches, Howard Hughes Provost
Christopher Johns-Krull, Faculty Senate Speaker