Arts & Sciences Instructional Practices and Policies

Applicable to AY2020-21

The Instructional Planning Task Force has generated a set of policies for instruction across Arts & Sciences for the 2020-21 academic year, set forth here. These recommendations have been revised based on feedback received from faculty. The task force believes these practices and policies will support a robust and equitable educational experience for our students.


1. Canvas

Regardless of the delivery mode, all Arts & Sciences courses should: (i) be published in Canvas with a syllabus; (ii) ensure all digital course content is accessible in Canvas (may be hosted elsewhere, but linked in Canvas); (iii) have grades for all course assignments and assessments entered in Canvas (overall and/or final course grades are not required); and (iv) ensure course-wide communication is available through Canvas.

Why? Consider the perspective of a student who must navigate several courses that might have different ways of accessing key course information (e.g., policies, procedures, assignments, grades, etc.). The best strategy for ensuring a holistic academic experience for students is for faculty to use a common platform (Canvas) to design and deliver courses. We also must protect the privacy of student education records (e.g., grades) and using technology with WUSTL Key restricted access helps ensure that we comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). With respect to posting grades, instructors who do not wish to display an overall course grade to students can choose to hide the overall course grade that is automatically calculated by the Canvas gradebook. Posting or providing links to digital course content in Canvas also helps to ensure that students have easy access to the information that they need to succeed in each of their courses. If instructors are using material that is only available in print, they should make sure that students are able to obtain print versions before the course begins.


2. Student Interaction

Regardless of the delivery mode, all Arts & Sciences courses should create opportunities for interaction between students and instructor(s) as well as among students themselves.

Why? Interaction is critical to student learning, motivation, and well-being. Although students can learn individually with minimal interaction, the knowledge and skills that they acquire would be impoverished relative to what they would learn with rich student-instructor and student-student interactions. Learning is a process of construction and students come to college because the environment affords the opportunity to learn with and from others. In addition to learning, interactions within courses represent important opportunities for students to bond with one another and instructors. The appropriate amount and nature of interactions (e.g., synchronous, asynchronous, or both) will depend upon the nature of the course, the instructor, and the students. When creating opportunities for interaction, instructors should be mindful of disparities that may exist in students' access to technology, need for privacy, and competing demands on their time. Any in-person activities in the classroom should have an alternative for students who are participating remotely, either synchronously or asynchronously.


3. Access to Instructor for Academic Support

Regardless of the delivery mode of the course, all Arts & Sciences instructors should hold weekly office hours or an equivalent help session that is open to all students. It is strongly recommended that instructors make themselves available for a minimum of two hours per week that are regularly scheduled, while also providing the option for students to make an appointment. Office hours can be held in-person and/or remotely.

Why? Feedback is critical to learning, and students must have access to instructors in order to obtain the academic support needed to close the gap between actual and desired performance in a course. Providing asynchronous feedback to students on their performance is a starting point, but they often need help interpreting how to use that feedback to improve. Having reliable access to the instructor in a friendly, inviting setting is one of the best predictors of student success.


4. Course Policies and Procedures

Regardless of the delivery mode of the course, all Arts & Sciences instructors should consider whether their usual course policies and procedures offer enough flexibility to manage potential disruptions due to COVID-19. Any flexibility available should be explicitly communicated to students so that they understand how potential disruptions will be handled. Such flexibility might include an option for completing components of the course asynchronously, the opportunity to make-up assignments after missed deadlines, or the potential to drop the lowest grade on a set of assignments.

Why? Life happens to all of us – we get sick, have accidents, and experience other things that we cannot control. Some students inevitably experience more things that are outside of their control and disrupt their learning than others. Such disruptions are all the more likely in the coming year given the COVID-19 pandemic and they should not impact a student’s chances of succeeding in a course. Providing students with flexibility in course policies and procedures is critical to ensuring that all students have a chance to succeed. Flexibility does not mean giving students free rein; rather, it involves considering what is reasonable and fair to both students and instructors, and then explicitly communicating how potential disruptions will be managed.


5. Accommodations

Regardless of the delivery mode of the course, all Arts & Sciences instructors should ensure that students receive their approved disability accommodations.

Why? By law, instructors are required to ensure that student receive approved disability accommodations. In light of potential changes in the modality (e.g., hybrid, remote) of courses this year, instructors should work with students and WU Disability Resources to ensure that students with documented disabilities have the resources that they need to be successful.


6. Syllabi

Regardless of the delivery mode of the course, all Arts & Sciences instructors should upload their syllabi into Syllabi Central by September 1, 2020 for Fall courses and January 11, 2021 for Spring courses. If instructors are concerned about intellectual property, they may upload a version of the syllabus stripped of the creative content.

Why? Students should have access to the key information about a course (policies, grading scheme, assignment schedule, etc.) before enrolling so they can make an informed choice based on any constraints they may have (e.g., time zone if fully remote).