Monday, April 5, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.
Attendees (11): Kristine Artello, Jonathan Becker, Michael Cabral, Amita Chin, Mark Crosthwaite, Kathryn Murphy-Judy, Sonali Rathore, Valerie Robnolt, Carmen Rodriguez, Debra Shockey, Shanaka Wijesinghe
Also in attendance:
Ex officio members - Colleen Bishop, Alex Henson, Mandara Savage
Guests - John Bogan, Jared Parker
Scribe - Jana Avery
Approval of Minutes
Valerie opened the meeting and asked if any changes were needed to the February 22nd meetiFeb 2021 Minutesng minutes. A motion was made and seconded, and the minutes were approved without any revisions.
Valerie reminded everyone that this committee now has a website: https://ftac.vcu.edu/ and a Google Group: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chair and Vice Chair
Valerie opened a brief discussion about the future structure of this committee.
Motion put forth:
This committee will have 2 leadership positions--Chair and Vice Chair.
The motion was seconded and approved by show of hands.
A question was asked about the need for bylaws, and Valerie said that the committee has a charge, so there is no need for bylaws at this time.
- Term Limits
The attendees discussed the need for term limits and how long members should serve. It was agreed that this will be referred to as “length of term” rather than term limits. Valerie proposed having members serve a two year-term. During the discussion, it was also suggested that members have the option to renew their service for another two-year term. Members who have a specific interest in, or expertise in the committee’s objectives, might like the opportunity to continue serving. It was agreed that a four-year maximum be set.
- Member Selection
Details for how representatives are selected was brought up for discussion. Whether or not representation should be voluntary or assigned was considered. If representatives are selected by the schools, this would align with other VCU campus-wide committees, except that they are usually three-year terms. The committee agreed that a three-year term was too long and might prevent interested persons from participating. It was also recommended that we have the Deans solicit volunteers rather than assigning them.
- Representatives for School of the Arts and University College
Valerie informed the committee that all schools should be represented on this committee, but we currently do not have a representative from School of the Arts or University College.
- It was noted that VCU Libraries and the Wilder School are also not represented.
- The Deans for the following four areas will be asked to provide a voluntary representative to serve on this committee.
1 - School of the Arts
2 - University College
3 - VCU Libraries
3 - Wilder School
Motion put forth:
Committee members will be selected by having the Deans request one volunteer from their school/unit. Members will serve a two-year term, with the opportunity to renew for another two-year term, not to exceed four years.
This motion was seconded and approved by show of hands.
Someone asked about the Faculty Senate years ago, having another group that formed a much-needed software review committee for the entire campus. Valerie said that she and Scott Street (from Faculty Senate) are the only ones still on that committee with Alex Henson. Sometimes other units will have representatives attend the meetings.
September Meeting / Labor Day Conflict
It was decided that the committee will meet on September 13, 2021 at 2:00pm.
- Provost Communication
Valerie shared that the Canvas transition communications may not be reaching some units. She stated the importance of saving Blackboard content before May 31, and the need for communications to be distributed to all faculty from a higher level of administration (i.e. The Provost, Gypsy Dempsey, Gail Hackett, Alex Henson).
- Colleen explained that the current mailing list used by Learning Systems does not contain all faculty, just those with an account in Blackboard. Shane Conner in Technology Services is working on a Google Group that will contain all faculty and will automatically update, but it is taking longer than expected. Therefore, another way to communicate with all faculty throughout April and May is needed. These emails would probably be sent twice each month.
- Several members said that they get so many emails from the provost already, that it might be overlooked. They suggested the communication be sent from a VCU Canvas email address or by Alex. Either of these would get their attention.
- The committee asked Alex to send the emails and he agreed. Colleen, Alex and Jana will work out the logistics and get this started right away.
- Other members shared feedback about Canvas communications and faculty needs. Sending to all faculty is good and they are seeing more specific information in the Telegram, which is helpful. Short, specific bits of critical information is what they need. For example, a link to VCU Online’s open office hours, how to get new course shells created, etc. One member described an issue locating information she needed, contacting Canvas for assistance and being redirected multiple times. After contacting Colleen, she had what she needed right away. She noticed just a few days later that the tidbit of information she was looking for was posted in the Telegram.
- Additional feedback about what is most important to faculty right now:
- download Blackboard content to a zip file
- need answers more quickly; i.e. can we have more people available for open office hours?
- Jon Becker shared his instructions for what to do before May 31, which he compiled from information that Academic Technologies and Learning Systems already has posted.
- Colleen talked about the Canvas faculty boot camp coming in late May, which should be very beneficial.
- Support and Other Canvas Topics
- Extension of our Blackboard contract: Valerie stated that in our previous meeting someone asked about getting an extension for Blackboard, maybe just 1 additional month. She explained that this is not an option due to cost and other factors.
- Importing Blackboard content into Canvas: One member who has not completed her Blackboard-to-Canvas transition of older courses noticed that Canvas does not have a nestable folder structure like Blackboard had. Sometimes the imported content is dumped into Canvas in an unwieldy disarray.
- Project Lead: Colleen was asked to speak about the overall project leadership. She explained that the Learning Systems team (who manage and support Blackboard and Canvas) had their manager resign and leave in December. She assumed the role of Project Lead to maintain continuous focus on the transition and ensure a successful completion. The Learning Systems manager candidates have been narrowed down and they hope to have a decision by the end of next week. The new manager will not take over as the project lead because we are so close to the end, but instead will focus on other team and university projects.
- Canvas topics included in the meeting agenda to assist with brainstorming and feedback:
The committee discussed hybrid and hyflex challenges. Several examples scenarios were shared and everyone was in agreement that a decision needs to be made and not left for faculty to decide individually.
Scenarios, concerns and ideas shared and discussed:
- Only 12 students can be (physically) in a lab, which might lead to also having 12 or more students online at the same time, which is very difficult to manage and stressful to both faculty and students.
- A decision to make on-campus classes mandatory for students, might not portray inclusivity. Departments/schools would still need to provide accommodations for students with medical conditions or other needs.
- Some areas are pushing faculty into the classroom (or both online and on campus). These decisions need to be made by the units, with input from the faculty.
- If the course is only face-to-face in the fall, then maybe there could be an online-only section of it in the Spring. This would not work for some classes, due to low enrollment and different modalities.
- Mandatory on-campus classes, while maintaining COVID-19 requirements is not something that our current campus-wide technical infrastructure could handle. It would require funding and planning to take on the ability for mixed learning (even if faculty were onboard). Recent discussions indicate that this will probably not be moving forward and that students would need to provide reasons for not coming on campus for classes designated as on-campus only.
- A focus group that included faculty and Academic Technologies’ staff met last year to discuss concerns about teaching in the classroom and online. VCU’s centralized supported classrooms are equipped to allow the basic setup (i.e. student microphones, etc.) for those who are physically in the classroom.
It was decided that a recommendation and voting would be postponed to allow time to consider all factors thoroughly. Today’s meeting minutes will be shared with members, a motion will be divided into two parts and voting will take place via email.
- Faculty should not be expected to teach both in the classroom and online (HyFlex modality) and units should plan to provide entirely online or entirely in classroom sections.
- Sections that are taught face-to-face only in one semester, must have a section fully online offered the following semester.
- Vote via email for the following motion, divided into two parts. To vote, please use this form.
Motion put forth:
1 - Faculty should not be expected to teach both in the classroom and online (HyFlex modality). Units should plan to provide entirely online or entirely in classroom sections.
2 - Sections that are taught face-to-face only in one semester, must have a section fully online offered the following semester.
The meeting adjourned at 3:05pm.
The next meeting will be September 13, 2:00-3:00pm.