Rethinking My Expectations for Fall Semester

I’m afraid I may have to rethink my expectations for fall semester. I’d been expecting that at least at the university, we’d be in-person by then, with all professors and TAs vaccinated, and a good percentage of the student body too, and R dropping rapidly, hopefully below 1 by then, getting close to herd immunity in America.

But at least right now, it looks like the CDC is expecting to still be recommending social distancing in the fall. That is going to make full in-person classes basically impossible at UIC, I think — even for the smaller classes, we just don’t have that many big classrooms that we can spread out in. (There is some discussion of tents + heaters for early autumn, apparently? Unclear.)

So I think we’re possibly looking at a hybrid model for many classes (divide your class into 1/2 or thirds, students come in for one class a week to get some ‘face time’ with the professor and some classmates, and do the rest asynchronous remote). That will work okay for my lit / creative writing classes, I think, if I have some time to prepare for it, and since I should be vaccinated, I’m comfortable teaching on campus three days / week.

But for larger lecture classes, they’ll likely stay remote at UIC, based on the guidelines I’m seeing from admin right now.

It’s possible that faculty may be asked to consider a ‘hyflex’ model, where they’re simultaneously dealing with some students in person and Zooming out to the rest of the class. I’m not sure. That’s a harder model to teach in, for a variety of reasons, than either hybrid+asynch or full remote (either synch or asynchronous), and if we only expect to use it for fall semester, or even fall + spring, I’m not sure it makes much sense to ask teachers to learn it and try to use it; even if we allocate funds and time for training, they’ll inevitably be clumsy with it, the first time around, so there’ll be some teaching / learning loss in the adaptation process.

I know everyone (teachers and students alike) are feeling sort of desperate for some in-person class contact, but I’m not sure the trade-off for trying to do hyflex is worth it?

I don’t really have any clear answers here for the fall, but I have to think about all this for my faculty union at UIC, so I can weigh in appropriate (I’m a faculty rep for the humanities), and also looking ahead to the D200 board for the fall. (This is also different at UIC in terms of residential life — if the students are trying to socially distance for remote learning, is that even possible in the dorms / libraries? That at least isn’t an issue at the high school.)

All this is mostly me, thinking aloud.

Also struggling a little with my own disappointment — I really had thought we could be safely in-person by fall, and was so looking forward to it, and now, it seems like that’s much less likely than I’d hoped (due in large part to the delays in vaccine rollout).

I just want to be in there with the kids, seeing their bright faces, watching them grow…

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