Maintaining Academic Continuity during Spring 2022

Maintaining Academic Continuity during Spring 2022

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Campus Masking Update: 5/2/2022

Beginning on 5/2/2022 and continuing through the conclusion of finals on 5/19, MIT is strongly encouraging all students, staff, faculty, and campus visitors to wear high-quality masks indoors, especially in classrooms and other crowded or high-traffic areas on campus; at gatherings and events; and in residence halls.

Campus Mask Policy Update: 3/14/2022

NOTE: As of 3/14/2022 MIT no longer has a campus masking requirement. Please see MIT Now for the full policy statement. This applies to indoor and outdoor spaces. Exceptions include MIT Medical (including testing facilities) and MIT shuttle buses.

In addition, masks are still required in areas of campus where they were required prior to the pandemic (e.g., specific lab spaces, animal facilities, areas with hazardous materials).

The new policy does not allow individual instructors to require that their students wear masks – but urges all to accept the personal mask-wearing preferences of others.

You’ve read in the January 26th email from Chair of the Faculty, Lily Tsai, and Vice Chancellor, Ian Waitz, of MIT’s goal of ensuring “robust academic continuity” in the face of uncertain pandemic conditions and the likelihood of increased student and instructor absences, especially in the early weeks of the spring semester. Entering this fifth challenging semester, we will all need to be exceptionally alert and thoughtful in planning to provide our regular excellent education experiences for our students.

Along with the context and guidance you’ve already read, we provide here a listing of resources that we hope will benefit you, your instructional team, and your students:

Prepare your Continuity Plan

As stated in the January 26th letter, department heads and instructors are asked to develop written plans for backup instruction and substitute instructors. For example, lab instructional teams should have a written plan designating coverage for in-person labs. Instructors, especially of in-person intensive classes, should develop and distribute a written plan for backup in-person instruction (with backup instructors for each class identified from among the team and elsewhere in the department).

Instructors should also develop written guidance for students on how work should be made up, or what to expect for work that cannot be made up, and include this written guidance on their syllabi.

Plan for Student Absences

It is possible (even likely) that significant numbers of students will not be able to attend class, particularly at the beginning of the spring semester. Experience shows us, though, that it is also likely that the students in isolation/quarantine will be well enough and eager to engage with the course and course materials. (In contrast to previous stages during the pandemic, the isolation period now for an individual who tests positive is only five days, so it is possible that many students may miss only a few in-person class meetings.)

Please see our Planning for covid-related absences post from the fall of 2021 for resources and suggestions for maintaining academic continuity for students who cannot attend class.

Plan for Faculty & Instructor Absences

Consider how your subject(s) will continue if you and/or other members of your instructional team are unable to teach in person.

The two most obvious options for handling instructor absences are:

  1. Identify another member or members of your subject’s teaching staff or another colleague in the department who could provide in-person instruction in your absence.
    • Lay out a plan for how you will share course materials and details on the specific state of student learning.
    • Provide designated colleagues with instructor-access to your subject Canvas site (or other platform).
    • If you will be relying on multiple colleagues, create and share a schedule for coverage, depending on the timing of your absence.
  2. Teach remotely until you are able to return to campus (See Remote Teaching Resources, below for developing a structure and outlining the logistics of your remote teaching).

As mentioned above, two mitigating factors to consider are:

  • Your discretion in changing up to 25% of your class format; and
  • A reduced five-day period of isolation (assuming a symptom-free state at the end).
Remote Teaching and Classroom Capture Resources

In the face of large-scale student absences, instructor absence, or an Institute-wide pause of in-person instruction, it may be necessary to temporarily pivot to remote instruction. The following resources and suggestions may help you plan and facilitate this shift:

  • Set up a Zoom link and share that link with students at the beginning of the semester. Make it accessible from Canvas and/or other prominent course resources. This will help to ensure that students can easily locate and attend your remote class – even if your pivot occurs with relatively short notice.
  • The Teaching + Learning Lab’s Remote Teaching Canvas site (Certificate login required) includes information about:
    • Assessing student learning;
    • Engaging with synchronous class meetings and asynchronous material;
    • Fostering a sense of community among your students; and
    • Checking-in with your students to hear their needs and their ideas for improving the remote learning experience.
Teaching with Masks

Effective 10 February 2022, the “One-Mask-Down-at-a-Time” Policy applies in MIT classrooms and other learning spaces. The policy states:

“When speaking in a group setting where all others present are masked (e.g., a faculty member, instructor, or TA giving a lecture; a guest speaker at an event; a student asking a question in class; a staff member making a comment in a meeting), a fully vaccinated speaker may lower or remove their mask while speaking and then raise or replace their mask to allow others to speak.”

MIT guidelines on face coverings

For resources, strategies, and guidance for teaching while masked, please see our updated fall 2021 post on Preparing to Teach with Masks.

See MIT Now’s Updates page for the most recent policy changes.

Additional Teaching Continuity Resources
  • For questions about any aspect of teaching during the pandemic — from logistical to philosophical — please contact: covidclasshelp@mit.edu.
  • For questions about rules and regulations regarding assignments and final exams, especially assignments or tests planned for the very end of the semester, please contact: exam-termregs@mit.edu.
Self-care

As the pandemic continues to wear on (and wear us out), please attend to your own well-being. It has often been remarked that we find ourselves in a marathon, not a sprint. The resources linked below are available to the entire MIT community. Whenever you need, please reach out for support.


If you are aware of additional resources that support personal and professional well-being, please let us know.

Faculty & Instructor Piazza Forum

Would you like to learn from and share with fellow faculty and instructors across campus? Join the Faculty & Instructor Piazza Forum where you can post and answer questions, and share your teaching successes and challenges with others in the MIT teaching community.

You will receive an access code via email which will allow you to opt-in to the forum.