Academic Affairs Updates (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #11)

June 2, 2020

I am writing to share information on the outcome of the faculty survey, arrangements for high- risk faculty returning to campus, and an update on fall planning related to academic affairs.

Faculty survey feedback

All faculty and instructional staff were invited to participate in an end-of-semester survey which aimed to assess the experience and impact of the sudden shift to virtual instruction during spring 2020. The final response rate was 62% with 1,352 respondents. In general, respondents who had to switch classes to a virtual format were satisfied with the technology tools they chose to use. As anticipated, however, respondents generally felt stressed and overwhelmed by workload, and they expressed concern about the lack of connection with students and colleagues. At the same time, respondents were able to count on their colleagues to help them through the transition, and 77% indicated that they developed new pedagogical skills along the way. Re-envisioning course activities was identified as the top pedagogical challenge. Two-thirds of tenure/tenure-eligible faculty indicated that their research slowed down due to increased teaching and/or family obligations.

Returning to campus for high-risk employees

We are aware that faculty have questions about returning to campus and beginning instruction. Employee health and safety remains a top institutional priority. To that end, the university is developing a plan to address the concerns of individuals in high-risk categories, including a process for requesting a COVID-19 High-Risk Alternative Work Arrangement.

The process for faculty requests will be led by University Human Resources in partnership with the Division of Academic Affairs. UHR will support deans and department chairs who will be developing alternative work arrangements for their faculty which may include modifications in instructional assignments. More details on this process will be shared in the coming days.

Fall planning

The Board of Regents has stated its expectations for Iowa State University and the other Regent universities to be fully operational for the fall. The Board emphasized that this intention will be informed by guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Iowa Department of Public Health, state officials, and others.

Navigating the fall semester will require an unprecedented level of teamwork, communication and—as we learned this spring—flexibility and responsiveness as conditions change. The fall semester will not be business as usual. We are considering a range of scenarios to maintain academic continuity for our students. Inevitably, there will be disruption. Courses will need to be altered, and we will need to think differently in terms of course delivery, campus spaces, schedules, and supporting students who may need additional accommodations.

Iowa State University’s fall planning team, working closely with our Academic Continuity Workgroup, is currently developing a range of scenarios. This planning is informed by input from faculty, staff, and student leaders and follows our guiding principles that include mitigating risk, continuing online options to support students who can’t travel back to campus, and ensuring we are prepared for contingencies.

I wish you the best for a safe, productive, and enjoyable summer.