July 16, 2020

Dear Students,

I write to share additional information about Sewanee’s course offerings and modes of instruction to assist you in finalizing plans for the fall semester. Professors are hard at work designing exceptional classes that will be accessible and engaging for all of our students. We are committed to providing each of our students, whether they join us remotely or on campus this fall, with academic experiences that incorporate the best parts of a Sewanee undergraduate education. 

Many of you experienced remote instruction in the spring when high school teachers and college professors were forced to transition unexpectedly to a remote learning environment. Our faculty learned a great deal, not only about what was effective but also about the barriers that can impede student learning and engagement. With these lessons in mind, professors are reimagining their classes to ensure that they will still be Sewanee classes despite the necessary changes and precautions this semester will entail. In keeping with the qualities that make Sewanee such a special place to learn, these classes will be taught by talented teacher-scholars who understand the value of what they teach, who search for ways to cultivate meaningful intellectual communities, and who offer personal mentoring relationships that foster a lifetime of learning and growth.

Faculty have participated in an array of intensive workshops and informal discussions focused on effective teaching in hybrid and online environments. By investing time, research, and reflection, they have identified, invented, and incorporated additional approaches to their teaching to provide a rich and full learning experience this fall. Many classrooms are being outfitted with advanced technology that enables professors to simulcast their classes, bringing on-campus and remote learners together in real time. Faculty throughout the College will also be using a new student-centered learning management system to more uniformly organize and deploy course materials. 

Regardless of the primary mode of instruction, students both on campus and learning remotely are likely to be enrolled in at least some classes that employ a “flipped” model of instruction. In this evidence-based model, students watch prerecorded lectures and engage in other asynchronous work throughout the week with in-person meetings reserved for small group discussions, clarifications, interactions with classmates and professors, and other forms of active learning. This approach, which has been studied, implemented, and refined across the last two decades, has proven to be an effective means of instruction that is beneficial across disciplines. The unique benefit of flipped instruction, even under normal circumstances, is that it reserves class time for more active engagement with course materials. This, in turn, creates more opportunities for quality interactions between professors and classmates and the rewarding, spontaneous discourse Sewanee prides itself on fostering.

Although this semester will be different, your professors are looking forward to joining you in exploring the new possibilities for intellectual dialogue, interpersonal engagement, and community building offered by these approaches and technologies.

On-Campus Learners 

If you decide to study on campus in the coming semester, you may expect each of your classes to fall into one of the three modes of instruction described below. Note that, with the exception of seven offerings in the place-based First-Year Program, all classes will be available to both on-campus and remote learners regardless of the mode of instruction for on-campus learners.

  • Primarily in-person – The professor anticipates that on-campus students will attend most class meetings in person. On-campus students will frequently attend class together (socially distanced and with masks).
  • Mixture of in-person and online – The professor anticipates a combination of in-person and online instruction for on-campus students. The proportion of in-person and online instruction will vary by class and professor. In some cases, a course’s on-campus students may be divided into groups that alternate in-person attendance with simulcast attendance. In others, all on-campus students may meet together two days a week and then gather via Zoom for the third class meeting.
  • Online – The professor plans to meet on-campus students online. Each online class will incorporate synchronous learning experiences where you will meet with professors and classmates online in real time. Many professors teaching online will meet with their entire class during regularly scheduled class meeting times. Some faculty plan to incorporate synchronous elements such as small group discussion and problem-solving sessions. Students may arrange individual meetings during professors’ regularly scheduled office hours. Some faculty members teaching online plan to meet in person and by appointment with individual on-campus students in socially distanced settings. We anticipate that about one-third of this fall’s classes will be offered online. 

Remote Learners

For those planning to learn remotely, the mode of instruction will necessarily be online. Again, with the exception of seven offerings in the place-based First-Year Program, all classes will be available to remote learners.

  • Most course offerings will enroll both remote and on-campus learners.
  • About one-third of fall course offerings will be online only. In these courses, your learning experience will be the same as that of your classmates living on campus.
  • All classes, even those that are primarily in-person for on-campus students, will include synchronous experiences where you will meet with professors and classmates online in real time. For some courses, regular class meetings will be simulcast, allowing remote students to join their on-campus counterparts via newly implemented video-conferencing technology. For other courses, synchronous elements such as small group discussions and problem-solving sessions will supplement assignments, readings, and recorded lectures to provide a real-time learning environment for remote learners.
  • Regardless of the course, you are encouraged to schedule individual meetings with your professors either during their regular office hours or at other mutually agreed upon times. Some of your professors may insist on meeting with you individually to ensure you receive the student-professor interaction that is a defining feature of the Sewanee experience.

The schedule of classes for the Advent 2020 semester has been updated with information about the planned mode of instruction for most classes. These represent the intentions of the faculty at this time. Depending on public health conditions and other factors, these modes of instruction are subject to change.

I hope this information will help you decide whether to live and learn on campus or live and learn remotely. Other offices at the University will continue to update you with information as it becomes available in order to help inform your decision-making. Next week, you will receive a survey asking you to finalize your plans for the coming semester. While there is no need to call or send an email to inform us of your plans, you are welcome to contact us with questions or concerns at registrar@sewanee.edu or 931.598.1731.

The University of the South is committed to delivering an excellent liberal arts education and that is what our faculty and staff will provide this fall. When the semester begins, you will see the results of Sewanee’s intensive preparation, not only in the protocols protecting the health and safety of the entire Sewanee community but also through the engaging academic experience that is central to your education here.

We look forward to welcoming you in August whether you join us in person or remotely.

Ecce Quam Bonum.

With kind regards,

Paul Wiley
Assistant Provost for Academic Services and Institutional Research