Spring 2020 A&S Academic Information Regarding COVID-19

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Memos from A&S Offices Relevant to Faculty, Students, and Staff

13 April, 2020

To: Arts & Sciences Faculty
Students Enrolled in Arts & Sciences Courses

From: The Educational Plans & Policies Committee (EPPC)
The Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office

Re: Essential Pedagogical Adjustments for Remote Learning and A Revised Grading Protocol for A&S Courses in the Spring Semester, 2020

For both professors and students, having to adjust to the difficult, stressful, and rapidly changing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic has been formidable. The return of students to their homes and the move to remote teaching and learning challenges us all, but not equally or identically. Oberlin faculty have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to student learning, and as a division we are committed to adapting our practices to support student learning. Informed by two weeks of thoughtful feedback from faculty, students, and Student Senate, EPPC and the Dean’s Office would like to offer recommendations for adjusting pedagogy and to announce the revised grading protocol for this semester.

Note: This memo applies to A&S Faculty and students in A&S courses. For guidance on Conservatory policies, please refer to the Conservatory's Spring 2020 FAQ. The Conservatory’s Educational Policy Committee (EPC) is engaged in ongoing assessment of these policies and is working in close communication with EPPC. EPC and the Conservatory Dean’s Office will provide Con-specific updates to Conservatory faculty and students.

Essential Pedagogical Adjustments for Remote Learning

Sustaining our core educational mission while reaching students around the globe and in radically divergent circumstances requires a range of pedagogical adjustments. Flexible and accessible pedagogy will mitigate uneven access to courses and account for new kinds of effort now necessary for many students to engage in their course work.

Above all else, faculty should stay in close contact with their students. We recommend that faculty check in with students during class sessions and office hours about how they are doing. This conversation should be attuned to the pressures students face in navigating the competing demands on them in this unprecedented situation.

We urge the following actions for all A&S faculty and courses:

  • Continue to reassess the pacing and quantity of course work. As a general rule, we encourage you to do less and to work at a slower pace suitable for remote learning.
  • Modify learning goals to reflect the limitations and possibilities of our current learning environment.
    • Focus on core learning goals and postpone others for a later semester.
    • Remind students at each turn what the primary learning objective is.
  • Be flexible and show leniency with modes of participation, deadlines, and even attendance, when warranted.
    • Permit students to participate asynchronously, such as by viewing recordings or contributing to discussions in writing. This is particularly important for students in distant time zones. We urge you to give permission to record classes and secure students’ permission to do so.
    • Also offer regular synchronous opportunities for students to engage with you and each other. NB: this is the first time most of our students have had to pursue serious academic work in social isolation and without the support of a proximate learning community. Be attentive to the impact of this isolation.
    • Limit the number of group projects and avoid requiring students to coordinate scheduling with each other. Students report that this can be logistically difficult and time-consuming.
    • Break down larger projects into manageable parts and proceed in stages.
    • Permit students to deliver component parts of large projects for more frequent feedback and support.
    • Revise your timelines to work at a slower pace. NB: We have heard reports from students that faculty assigned work over Spring Recess, much to the dismay of many students who had to adjust to complex circumstances during that time. If this applies to your course, please compensate for this additional work by reducing student work load later in the semester.
    • Adapt assignments in recognition of time zones and resource constraints.
    • Expand the range of formats in which you require student work.
    • Create options in assignments responsive to student circumstances.
    • Do not require hard copy submission of assignments, as not all students have printers at home, and since a potential trip to the post office poses a public health risk.
  • Work with students individually to accommodate the challenges they face in fulfilling course requirements and expectations.
    • If students are not able to deliver their work in the format you ordinarily require, invite them to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in another way.
    • Show leniency and extend reasonable accommodation to all with respect to grading.
    • Take into consideration students’ now highly varied learning conditions as you design assignments, quizzes, and tests.
    • Renew your focus on learning goals and provide options to assess student learning outcomes.
    • Reassess the weight of final exams in the overall course grade.

These measures will help to ensure that our students have inclusive access to the excellence of an Oberlin education. We recognize that adapting to the demands of remote learning is very time consuming for instructors, only adding to the stresses and strains we are all experiencing. Please reach out to the Dean’s Office if you need any additional support.

Revised Grading Protocol for Spring Semester, 2020

Since the beginning of the second module, the Dean’s Office and EPPC have been evaluating feedback from faculty and students about grading protocols for this semester. The revised grading protocol is guided by several important principles and values:

  • All grades should maintain our standards for academic integrity and honesty.
  • Students should at least preserve the grading options available to them, (for example, letter grades) when they enrolled in their courses.
  • Grading protocols and final work submissions should take into account the challenges for student learning given the range of our students’ remote learning environments.
  • Grading protocols should not undermine the educational standards of our departmental majors.

In light of these principles and values, and in consultation with Student Senate and the Office of the Registrar, the Dean’s Office and EPPC unanimously approved the following revisions to the grading protocol for Spring Semester, 2020. 

Our current Pass/No Pass [P/NP] grading option will be replaced by Pass/No Entry [P/NE] for all regular courses for Spring Semester, 2020.  (We will revert to P/NP grading next semester.) To receive a P, grades must be a C- or above, and may count towards an academic major. NE grades will not show on official transcripts, but will remain on unofficial transcripts for purposes of advising.

  • Letter Grades will remain the default grading system, unless the course was preauthorized as P/NP. Preauthorized P/NP-only courses will automatically become P/NE-only courses.
  • All regular courses will include the P/NE option. Students who have already elected the P/NP grading option for their courses will automatically have the grading option for those courses converted into P/NE.
  • Students may elect P/NE for up to 7 days after final grades are released. Students must render decisions by June 5, 2020. 
  • Unlimited “COVID-19” Incompletes will be available to students this semester. Work must be completed within a one month of the end of the exam period. All work must be submitted by June 17, 2020.

All regular accommodations also remain in place, such as emergency incompletes.

Dear Oberlin College Faculty and Staff,

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) has issued some revised policy related to human participant research. Effective immediately and until further notice, all research involving face-to-face contact with participants should be performed remotely (e.g., by phone, Zoom, or other means). The only exception is for Course based student research involving interviews/oral histories which may be done “in-person” IF the participant is currently in residence with the researcher and the researcher practices appropriate social distancing, health practices (refer to Federal Government Guidelines), and adheres to any state or local ordinances regarding COVID-19.

Changes to a study’s protocol to replace in-person research visits with “remote” options must be approved in advance by the IRB as a Protocol Amendment. Please submit your revisions to ocirb@oberlin.edu and put COVID-19/study protocol in the subject line.

Currently, the IRB is still accepting new applications for review and will continue to review application revisions throughout the academic school year. If a new protocol has face-to-face contact with human participants, it will not be approved at this time. Additionally, faculty advisers of student research projects are required to notify their students and ensure that all research conducted is compliant with these policies.

 As we experience the impacts of COVID-19, the IRB wants to reiterate that the primary concern and responsibility of the IRB is for the safety of research participants and also researchers. We appreciate your flexibility and patience.

Any questions can be sent to the IRB at ocirb@oberlin.edu.


Daphne John
Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences
Chair, Oberlin College Institutional Review Board

April 7, 14, 21, and 28 at 3 p.m.

Winter Term "Show and Tell Tuesdays"

Note: will continue through May if there is interest among students

May 15

Group Project Proposal Deadline (for sponsors)

June 1

WT Office Funding Notification Date (for sponsors)

August 15

Online Catalog Publication and WT21 Registration Opens

October 16

Application Deadline (for students)

October 30

WT Office Funding Notification Date (for students)

November 13

Commitment Deadline (for students)

Dear Oberlinians,

I hope this email finds you all well, settled, and making the most of what you can this spring. Best wishes to each of you.  

And I hope that looking forward to better times might be a good break. The 2021-22 Fulbright competition opens today, with the live application and program updates available on the program website.

If you have some extra time this spring, and you think you might like to be abroad for a year or two post-Oberlin, Fulbright is a fantastic option. You can learn more by joining an information meeting  on Thursday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m. (EDT). The session will cover the essentials of the Fulbright program, including updates on what is new and under-subscribed this year. Please join in!

The Office of Fellowships and Awards will host a series of information meetings in the coming days and weeks, including information on other awards like the Watson Fellowship, National Science Foundation GRF, and other awards available to second and third year students: Truman, Udall, Beinecke, and other leadership awards. 

There will also be meetings offering general advice about how to plan now for your senior year, including tips for finding and securing teaching, research, and other opportunities to support a fellowship year or two post-Oberlin. Fellowships applications can be one important part of your overall launch strategy. Note: you could have a strategy. Now is THE BEST TIME to start developing that. It can be fun even.

To keep up with these meetings and other updates from us this spring, please watch your email and follow us on our brand new Instagram where we will post announcements regularly.  

Even in the midst of all that is turning upside down, Oberlin is having a pretty fantastic year in the Fellowships world. We will continue to post updates as announcements roll in. Follow that new Instagram. Celebrate with your friends. 

All the best,

Nicholas Petzak
Director, Fellowships and Awards 
Oberlin College & Conservatory
440-775-5383 (office)
Sign up for an appointment

Dear Oberlin Student,

Last week I wrote with an update on important information about your academic life for the rest of the semester. Since last week, in consultation with Student Senate and the curricular committees in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory, we have discussed several issues and have made decisions about them. Following is important information you will want to know about as we enter into the second module of the spring semester.

It is imperative that you check your Oberlin email account multiple times a day and keep it up to date. If your password is close to expiring, get a new one. We will communicate with you through this email address so please make sure you are checking your account on a daily basis. 

What is happening to Spring Semester course information?

As you may already know, because of the sudden change in instructional method this semester, there were some courses which could not be converted to online format. The faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences reviewed all of their courses and 14 courses had to be converted to a first module course. In almost all cases, if a course was converted, the faculty member has designed a second module course in its place. In addition, many new second-module courses examine the state of our world today, exploring the COVID-19 virus through a range of disciplinary perspectives.

You will be able to add a second module course if you chose to do so. You have an appointment to add second module courses that goes to the end of the day on April 15. In almost every case, we have allocated more seats to second module courses to accommodate any student who wishes to add a course.

View a list of second module courses

What kind of changes have been made to deadlines and the Academic Calendar?

We know how disruptive this extremely fluid situation has been for everyone. Therefore, we are moving some deadlines, changing key calendar dates, and waiving certain requirements to help you manage your academic life.

  • The date to add/drop second module courses has been moved from April 8 to April 15th to give you more time to consider choices for second module.
  • The deadline for Pass/No Pass and Withdrawals for second module and full semester courses is now the last day of classes, May 8. We are also waiving the requirement of an advisor’s signature to make this process easier for you. Please know that your academic advisor and advisors in our office want to support you.  If you have questions about your best choices for the rest of this semester, please be in touch with them through email or Zoom. (Please see below for information about forms for the P/NP and W.)
  • Many courses that were originally offered as letter-grade-only have now been made available for Pass/No Pass to help you complete the semester in the way you chose. Almost all courses taught in the College of Arts and Sciences now offer this option and rules for Music Theory and Aural Skills have been waived for this semester.
  • Advising and registration for Fall 2020 has been moved one week later to give you and your advisors more time to plan for fall. Advising officially starts April 6 and registration begins April 20th. (Remember that registration times are open from the beginning of your appointment through to the end of add/drop with just a few days of downtime.) Your registration alternate pin (RAP) will not be required but it is even more important during this time that you are away from campus to be in contact with your academic advisor. Our advising work goes on and we all want to be here to support you. 

What about forms I would have picked up in your office?

We’ve created a downloadable forms page. You can take care of regular business such as declaring your major, declare the pass/no pass option, etc. Remember that P/NP and Course withdrawals do not require an advisor’s signature this semester.

For the forms that do require a signature of your advisor or the department chair, we suggest that you download the form, complete it, email it to the person who needs to approve it and then ask that person to send it to registrar@oberlin.edu (for college forms) or con.deans@oberlin.edu (for conservatory forms). If you encounter any difficulty, send us an email and we will help. 

How can we all keep in touch?

Beginning next week, many staff members will be calling students to check in. Please watch for a telephone call from an Oberlin College staff member. We know it’s not the same as stopping by your favorite office for a check in but we are here to support you. 

Contact Information

Please be in touch with any questions.

My very best to you,
Liz Clerkin

Dear Colleagues,

In light of the rapidly changing public health situation, the Bonner Center recommends pausing off-campus engagement through Community-Based Learning (CBL) and other experiential learning courses and programs. Exceptions should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The Bonner Center is available to support faculty in strategizing to adjust course curriculum to facilitate the completion of CBL courses this semester online to preserve community partnerships and meet students’ learning goals to the greatest possible extent. For instance, there may be ways of shifting the work of a course from direct service to off-site capacity-building activities that could include community-based research, policy research, grant research and writing, marketing communications, or annual report research that supports the organization with whom you are working remotely.

Trecia Pottinger and I will be holding drop-in hours at the Bonner Center for faculty this Friday from noon to 2:30 p.m. to offer customized consultations around CBL course redesign and community partner outreach. I also invite you to schedule time with me at your convenience to discuss CBL course contingency planning and online modifications.

Many thanks,

Tania Boster, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Integrative & Experiential Learning
Director of Curricular Initiatives, Bonner Center for Community-Engaged Learning, Teaching, & Research
Associate Director, Gertrude B. Lemle Teaching Center and Bonner Center
Assistant Professor, Department of History
Oberlin College & Conservatory

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Tutors from a variety of majors with strong backgrounds in mathematics or experience in programming and modeling and other quantitative methods are available to assist you. Each tutor is available by appointment or drop-in sessions during posted working hours. Use this table to view tutor profiles (click the picture) and to filter tutors by major, skills, and specific courses. Click the provided links to sign up for appointments or to drop in during posted session times.

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