Wickert addresses move to online classes at Faculty Senate

As senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert addressed questions about COVID-19 during the March 10 Faculty Senate meeting, the state Board of Regents released a statement that altered his message.

"Following spring break we are going to move away from face-to-face instruction at Iowa State University, and we will be moving to online instruction in everyone's courses," Wickert announced.

The change will begin Monday, March 23, and continue for a two-week period, with a reassessment during the second week to determine if it will be extended.

"For classes that meet in a classroom setting, a lecture format, a recitation format or seminar format, we will move to an online format," Wickert said. "For laboratories, studios, small-group music instruction, those type of things will be canceled."

The academic continuity team is working through challenges for classes conducted online. The 11-member group has representatives from across campus, including faculty, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), information technology, international students and scholars office, and the registrar's office.

Currently, 63% of spring semester classes are on Canvas, the university's learning management system. CELT also has aids for instructors to move courses to Canvas and help plan for online instruction.

Offices remain open

Although face-to-face instruction will halt, faculty and staff will continue their work on campus.

"The university is open, and services will be provided," Wickert said.

Senators asked numerous questions and made suggestions that Wickert collected to be addressed as planning moves forward.

Wickert acknowledged the large amount of work needed to make the transition, but said the health and safety of everyone is the top priority.

"The action we are taking is one I am very comfortable with," Wickert said. "It is not something anyone wants to do, but in my heart I really believe it is absolutely the right thing to do."

Are your websites digitally accessible?

About 20% of the United States population has a temporary or permanent disability, but nearly 70% of all U.S. websites are inaccessible to people who experience disabilities, digital accessibility coordinator Cyndi Wiley told senators. 

Wiley has partnered with various groups around campus, including student accessibility services, and stressed that providing information to those in need benefits the entire university. 

"Staff, faculty and students experience daily barriers when working toward educational goals," Wiley said. "From inaccessible course materials to some inaccessible web content, these factors are greatly affecting student retention." 

Wiley asked faculty to work with her when developing a game, app or website for teaching to ensure a strong user experience and digital accessibility. Wiley said she often can look at a website and know within a few minutes if it is digitally accessible.

"You don’t have to do this all at once or all by yourself," Wiley said. "I am a resource, and if individual faculty want to reach out to me, I am open to that."

Other business

Senators approved:

  • An interdisciplinary minor in Middle Eastern studies offered by the world languages and cultures, history, philosophy and religious studies, and political science departments. The minor addresses a demand for employees with knowledge of the region's countries and cultures. It also will aid military officer training programs at the university.
  • A policy on the maximum allowable credits from prior learning that can be used to complete a student's undergraduate degree. The university does not have a clear policy and this proposal would allow a maximum of 60 credits of prior learning, no more than 32 from exams. 
  • An undergraduate certificate in soil science in the agronomy department. The 31-credit certificate qualifies graduates for federal employment and meets the criteria to be licensed as a soil scientist. 
  • A name change for the entrepreneurial studies minor to entrepreneurship minor. The change is consistent with other initiatives across campus.
  • A name change in the Faculty Handbook for the last full week of classes before finals, from dead week to prep week.