Sam Fox Instructional Policy for AY2020-21

The following are required policies and practices for all Sam Fox courses, regardless of the delivery mode (that is, whether it is entirely online, or involves a blend of online and in-person instruction). 

(For more guidance on the basic protocols for different Course Formats, please see this document.)

 1. Canvas Use

All Sam Fox courses should use Canvas in the following ways:
(i) to publish the course syllabus + schedule.
(ii) to make digital course content––including required readings––accessible to all.
(iii) for entry of assignment and course grades; and
(iv) for official/formal course-related communication, including anything that pertains to policies, requirements, and assessment of student work. (Students should also be encouraged to use Canvas.)

Why Use Canvas in this Way?
Consider the perspective of a student who must navigate several courses that might have different ways of accessing key course information (e.g., policies, procedures, assignments, grades, etc.). Posting or providing links to digital course content in a single place helps to ensure that all students have ready access to the information that they need to succeed in each of their courses, and minimizes confusion.  It can also help students to have a more holistic academic experience. 

Another reason is that we must protect the privacy of student education records (e.g., grades). Using technology with WUSTL Key restricted access helps to ensure that we comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Yet another reason is that Canvas functions as an official record of exchange in your course(s). In the event of dispute, or an extreme scenario which prevents you from teaching, other faculty or administrators may need to assist with your course. Non-WU systems (those that do not use a WUSTL Key) are outside our ability to access or support.  

N.B. This threshold use of Canvas does not preclude your using a website or other non-Canvas tools (Slack, Figma, Miro, Box, Google, Microsoft Teams, etc.) to present course content or foster student exchange, etc. However, you should still work to meet the above Canvas use criteria.  We also urge consideration of issues related to academic integrity and access that can emerge with these platforms (more on this in Item #4 below).

 2. Student Interaction

All Sam Fox instructors should strive to create opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous interaction between students and instructor(s) as well as among students themselves. In addition, synchronous work should be recorded (or otherwise documented) for later access (unless all are present via face-to-face and remote).

Why include both modalities of student interaction?
Consider that interaction is critical to student learning, motivation, and well-being.  Although students can learn individually with minimal interaction, the knowledge and skills that they acquire would be impoverished relative to what they would learn with rich student-instructor and student- student interactions. Learning is a process of construction, and students come to college because the environment affords the opportunity to learn with and from others. Such interactions also represent important opportunities for students to bond with one another and instructors.

The appropriate ratio of synchronous to asynchronous interactions will of course depend upon the nature of the course, the instructor, and the students. Asynchronous modes may be dominant in your course, but some live interaction (e.g. through drop-in office hours, open studio time, group discussion or critique) will foster connection and a sense of community.

Finally, for those who cannot participate in synchronous sessions due to issues related to internet access, time difference, illness, or some other disruption, engagement with course content asynchronously becomes all-the-more-important. In essence, it is the threshold for their participation in the course.

3. Access to Instructor for Academic Support

All Sam Fox instructors should hold weekly office hours (or the equivalent help / open studio sessions) and make them available to all. A minimum of 2 hours per week is strongly recommended.

These academic support sessions can be pre-scheduled for convenience, or run as drop-in style consultations (or both).  In some cases, it may be possible to provide academic support in person with social distancing provisions in place, but remote options should also be available.

Why prioritize academic support?
Feedback is critical to learning, and students must have access to instructors in order to obtain the academic support needed to close the gap between actual and desired performance in a course. Providing feedback to students on their performance (e.g. through comments on their work via Canvas) is a starting point, but they often need more conversation to fully understand / interpret that feedback or to figure out next steps. Having reliable access to the instructor in a friendly, inviting setting is one of the best predictors of student success.

4. Access to Course Content

All Sam Fox instructors should be thoughtful about the burdens / barriers of the technology tools and content types that they use, making sure that access is possible for all, and/or that alternatives are available in cases where someone cannot participate.

Why consider accessibility of content?
Obviously, the tools and materials you choose to adopt become vital resources for student learning and experience; all should be able to access and make use of them.  Think about the implications of your choices along these lines, weighing issues such as the “start-up costs” and thresholds of use (knowledge, skills, subscriptions, robustness of wifi, required entrance into a “public” user space, etc.), as well as what will happen if the students cannot engage synchronously (i.e. what alternatives might be used).

Consider also how you can ensure that the materials you provide (videos, audio recordings, images, etc.) will be accessible in various modalities (including cell phones), and where possible/appropriate, provide captioning, headings, or al-text that allow students who may have related disabilities or learning needs to engage the material.  Along those lines, bear in mind that high-tech interactions may not be as manageable for those participating entirely asynchronously.  One distinct advantage of using tools like Canvas and the Kaltura recording application is that they are designed to maximize accessibility best practices. Furthermore, working within Canvas allows you to limit access (to whom/when/how long/in what context such content is available) and to control format (for example, allowing students to see only PDF versions of InDesign files). As you decide on tools and access protocols, be sure to give consideration to  intellectual property concerns, and what policies / guidance / practices you can establish that will encourage responsible use.

Regarding material that is only available in print: make sure that students can obtain print copies before the course begins (e.g. through the bookstore or online purchase), and consider alternative means of access, such as in eBook format or ARes.  You may want to consult Art + Architecture Librarian Jenny Akins for guidance on these options and/or review information about integrating library resources through Canvas at this link.

5. Flexibility + Clarity in Course Policies and Procedures

All Sam Fox instructors should evaluate their standard course policies and procedures to see if they will be suitable to the occasion, and the likelihood of disruptions due to COVID-19.  Building in some additional flexibility–under conditions that are explicitly laid out–will be essential to the viability of hybrid and remote instruction courses.  Developing clear absence / participation policies, and sharing them at the start of the semester, is especially recommended.  The syllabus templates (Link) that have been provided  will help to create some consistency in terms of presentation of policies, but arriving at some shared practices across courses/programs may also be advisable, as it will minimize comparison, confusion, and complaining.

As you develop your policies and procedures, please also bear in mind the adjustments that have been made to policies governing Drop/Add and related matters.

Why be attentive to clarity + flexibility of policies?
Life happens to all of us–we get sick, have accidents, or encounter disruptions or other difficulties beyond our control. Such issues are all the more likely in the coming year.  You are surely going to get some kind of request for accommodation–for instance, to allow a student to make up assignments by alternative means, or to have additional time, or even to finish the work long after the deadline has passed–and it makes sense to think these matters through in advance, giving consideration to the specific nature and learning objectives of your course(s).

Providing students with clarity of expectations, but also a reasonable degree of flexibility on matters of course policy and procedure, is critical to ensuring that they  have a chance to succeed in this new teaching situation. Flexibility does not mean giving students free rein; rather, it involves considering what is reasonable and fair to both students and instructors, and explicitly communicating how potential disruptions will be managed.

6. Accommodations

Regardless of the delivery mode of the course, all Sam Fox instructors should ensure that students receive their approved disability accommodations, and be especially mindful of how decisions made about course content might impact those with disabilities.

Why be especially attentive to accommodations now?
By law, instructors are required to ensure that students receive approved disability accommodations. But given the changes in instructional modality (e.g., hybrid, remote), which can disproportionately impact learning for those with disabilities, instructors should work with students and WU Disability Resources to ensure that those requesting accommodations have the resources that they need to be successful.  In cases of uncertainty about how best to accommodate students with accessibility issues, asking for guidance is advisable. (Cf. item #4, above, on technology-related access issues.)

7. Post Syllabi

Regardless of the delivery mode of the course, all Sam Fox instructors should upload their syllabi into Syllabi Central by the first class meeting (as you have been asked to do in previous semesters). If you are concerned about intellectual property, you may upload a version of the syllabus stripped of creative content. For more, see this FAQ.

 Why post syllabi?
Students should have access to the key information about a course (policies, grading scheme, assignment schedule, etc.) so they can make an informed choice based on any constraints they may have (e.g., time zone if fully remote). This knowledge is all the more important now, as issues of workload and balance need to be considered with the pandemic in mind. 

These policies do not preclude additional unique recommendations and or instructions developed by program areas that may contribute to richer instruction and learning experiences.