Fall 2020 Instructional FAQs

What is the charge of the Fall 2020 Academic Planning Task Force?

There are three subcommittees, asked to:

  • Recommend what classes will be on-campus and what class will be remote/online in Fall 2020
  • Recommend resources to assist faculty in building robust and well-designed remote and online classes
  • Understand the student perspective on these issues

What is the difference between Synchronous and Asynchronous Online Instruction?

Synchronous learning is online education where the faculty teaches the course in real time on a set class schedule using video conferencing technologies and the Learning Management System (Blackboard) to collect assignments and organize the course content. A reliable internet and computer, and a well-organized course in Blackboard, are important to student learning in this modality.

Asynchronous learning involves faculty designing a course and pre-recording lectures, preferably in “chunks,” and creating other learning modules, including discussion questions, that allow students to access the course at any time. Faculty presence through planned asynchronous communication throughout the course, and a well-organized course in Blackboard, are important to student learning in this modality. It is possible and encouraged that faculty incorporate optional synchronous learning events into their asynchronous classes in the form of office hours, review sessions, and discussion sections.

All online Instruction, whether synchronous or asynchronous, involves intentional design and implementation of a full online course using best practices for online pedagogy.

What is the difference between remote and online instruction?

Remote instruction was employed during Spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 contingency. In this modality, live classes are simply moved to a remote platform, like Zoom or Webex. Online courses, whether synchronous or asynchronous, are carefully planned and designed to be taught online and utilize online best practices such as course scaffolding of course content, alignment of learning objectives, and a common place to collect and assign work with a structured navigation (Blackboard, the Learning Management System). The careful consideration of different design decisions has an impact on the quality of the instruction. For more information on the distinction, please see:

The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning

What classes are moving to online instruction for Fall 2020?

Most courses in Fall 2020 will be held online. Courses with more than 70 students will be designed as asynchronous as part of a dedicated course builder program. Courses with fewer than 70 students and not designated as live, on-campus can be asynchronous online or synchronous online, depending on the preference of the instructor. However, there will be limited resources for faculty who want to create asynchronous online courses with enrollments of fewer than 70 students. Consult with your department head or chair if you do not yet know if your class is designated as online.

What classes will be held on campus?

Classes that have been identified by the college deans, in consultation with department heads, as having learning outcomes that require live instruction will be scheduled to be live on campus. These include many lab classes and sections, some music and design classes, and several other categories of classes. Live classes will be recorded for students who cannot come to campus can continue their progress. Other classes that will be taught live on campus will be determined based on the type and amount of space available and recommendations provided by the Colleges. All of the planning for on-campus classes takes into account social distancing and other safety precautions as required by state law and recommended by the CDC and our own experts from UI Health.

Do faculty who are teaching classes online with fewer than 70 students have to make their classes asynchronous?

No. These classes can be taught online synchronously or asynchronously. However, if a class with 50-70 students has been substituted for a class with more than 70 students, then that class would be online asynchronously. These substitutions must be approved by the department head or chair.

Why are faculty who teach large lecture classes being asked to create asynchronous classes, while all other faculty have a choice?

  • Lecture classes by their very nature, are well suited for online instruction, as the didactic coursework provides faculty an opportunity to reconceptualize delivery into shorter pre-recorded, relevant and well-packaged, video-collections of core content. Doing so allows students the opportunity to access, replay or reengage with essential curriculum in a manner that suits individual learning styles as well as the goals of larger, lecture course formats
  • Providing students with the best possible learning under the current circumstances of social distancing requires offering classes that are designed as online, not as live classes that are simply moved to a remote platform.
  • Offering large lecture classes asynchronously will allow students and faculty to have some flexibility in their daily schedules, which may involve work and significant family responsibilities and unavoidable distractions at home.
  • Making a large set of classes asynchronous will ease the burden on international students who are not able to be in Chicago for the Fall 2020 semester.

Learning how to adapt a class to asynchronous online delivery is an opportunity that will open up new ways to teach and will help faculty be more versatile in their course offerings going forward.

What is the plan for work with a Graduate Assistant “Course Builder”?

Faculty who are teaching classes with more than 70 students as asynchronous online courses will be assigned a Graduate Student “Course Builder” who will support them in developing their online course.  Faculty are responsible for generating the content and designing the interactivity for their course and the graduate students will assist with populating the Blackboard course site with the content provided by the faculty and organizing the content based on a pre-built template to structure their online courses.

Graduate students will have a full-time, 3-month appointment to support 8 courses OR a part-time, 3-month appointment to assist with a designated number of courses. In early June, faculty will meet with their graduate student Course Builder to review the course and discuss plans. Weekly meetings to develop the course will continue throughout the summer.

Graduate students have been hired by the colleges and will be provided ongoing training and support by ACCC, including taking the Illinois Online Network (ION) online course titled “Overview of Online Instruction”.

Do all faculty have to use the Blackboard platform for their online classes?

Yes. Blackboard is the only Learning Management System supported by the university. Using Blackboard creates consistency across courses for students, helping them know where find the syllabus, new assignments, deadlines, etc., for all of their classes. It also offers a helpful framework for faculty to create their online classes. Using the Fall 2020 Blackboard template is recommended and available per request:

Course Template Import Request

Will all faculty have access to the Illinois Online Network (ION) course titled “Overview of Online Instruction?”

Faculty who are teaching classes with more than 70 students and have been assigned a Graduate Assistant Course Builder will have the opportunity to complete the Illinois Online Network (ION) online course, titled “Overview of Online Instruction,” which runs from June 8 to July 3, and involves 3 to 4 hours/week for 4 weeks, including one-hour, weekly synchronous Zoom sessions.  We are working to add sections throughout the summer in order to accommodate other interested faculty. If you are interested in attending, inform your Dean as soon as possible.

The most difficult aspect of online teaching is secure forms of assessments. How do we ensure that exams are securely taken by the students?

The Academic Planning Task Force continues to look into this topic, and the options we will have to offer.

How is UIC helping faculty with this transition to online classes?

  • Faculty who will be teaching lecture classes with more than 70 students will be paired with a Graduate Assistant Course Builder. These faculty can work with their Graduate Assistant all summer. Course Builders are trained in the mechanics of the course development, but faculty will need to make the important decisions regarding course design and delivery, including the mapping of the course objectives, activities, and assessments using the Course Design Alignment Table. Faculty are encouraged to schedule an Instructional Design consultation as needed. In addition, these faculty are being asked to participate in the Illinois Online Network (ION) class to introduce them to online learning course design elements. All Graduate Assistant Course Builders are also taking this class.
  • All faculty have access to many resources provided on the ACCC website section entitled Online Learning. These are the most important elements:
  • There are instructional designers who are able to meet with individuals or departments to provide information and instruction about building online courses.
    • Request a departmental or unit level meeting via email at LTS@uic.edu.
    • Webinars to learn how to use UIC’s supported learning technologies and access to past recorded webinars. Access the LTS Webinar calendar.
    • These resources are also accessible from the Provost’s website which also includes articles about online teaching and learning.

Are faculty courses (syllabi, curricula, instructional materials) considered "Traditional Academic Copyrightable Works" in the language of the General Rules?

The General Rules Concerning University Organization and Procedure allow the university in these particular circumstances not to exercise its ownership rights over the intellectual property that faculty create for Fall 2020 online and remote classes, including online or remote course material, recordings of lectures, discussion questions, etc. This is the course we are planning to follow for Fall 2020, given this unique situation.

What if I have an underlying condition and do not feel it would be safe to teach on campus?

If you are slated to teach on campus and do not want to do so because of an underlying medical condition or your age and if you feel comfortable doing so, you should first try to resolve it informally by speaking to your department head or chair and request not to teach on campus. If it is not resolved in this way, you may request an accommodation from the Office of Access and Equity

If we have experience with blended and online learning and we want to proactively volunteer, mentor, train TAs, support instructional designers, can we do that?

Absolutely!  Please reach out to Sean Boettcher (sboettch@uic.edu) if you would like more information.