Below are some of the all faculty emails we sent out as we transitioned our campus from in-person instruction to the online mode in mid-March 2020 and began our discussions about whether to offer in-person or online instruction for Fall 2020. I also include some of the communications to all students in a separate page.

Message Sent on May 22, 2020 to update faculty about our scheduling for Fall 2020 semester, and new features of the fall schedule.

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

As Ed Feasel’s email just indicated, we will be continuing our online instruction for Fall Semester. I appreciate everyone’s contributions in helping us make this decision – including the faculty on the Undergraduate Academic Continuity Committee, the Curriculum Committee, the Science Advisory Group, and the in-Person Education Committee. The comments and thoughts of our community all helped us make an informed and correct decision and it was good to see everyone contribute to our deliberations.

It was also very gratifying to see how all of the Concentrations, Programs and Areas worked together to optimise our scheduling of classes to enable students from around the world to participate in our live and synchronous courses. I appreciate everyone’s willingness to consider teaching in later times to allow for more of our global community of students to join in our seminars and discussions. From this effort, we have been able to shift nearly 40% of our course times to 4PM or later, which will allow students in both North America, Asia and other continents to participate during waking hours.

One interesting new development is the opportunity to offer new courses in the Fall Block period. From the discussions in the Curriculum Committee and in the Concentrations and Programs, we have been able to develop a really interesting mix of courses in Fall Bock that includes courses such as Ecological Methods, Plagues and Peoples, SBS Research Methods, and two sections of Modes of Inquiry. We hope that these block courses will be helpful to students and will give them some flexibility in structuring their schedule during Fall Semester.

Now that we are continuing with online instruction, we also have the benefit of learning from our experiment during Spring 2020, and we will have time to plan for necessary training and redesign of some of our courses. I am grateful for the work of Phat Vu as Curriculum Committee chair in leading discussions about the rescheduling of Fall 2020, and also for working with me to help design some faculty workshops and discussions to help us learn more about teaching online, and how we can redesign our courses for the best results in the online format.

If you have any requests for training, specific software or ideas for how we can help you teach online, please send these ideas to Phat Vu and me and we will do our best to find the resources needed to help us teach online in a compelling and engaging way that preserves as much of the quality of our in-person experience as possible. We have gathered a long list of web resources at https://sites.soka.edu/online-teaching/resources/, and I welcome suggestions for what types of information and training would be most useful to you in your teaching.

In the meantime – please have a great weekend, and we will be sending more email in the coming days and weeks to help gain ideas for how we can best structure our training and develop resources to help us all prepare fully for the coming fall semester.

Best wishes,

Bryan

This message was sent on May 12, 2020 to update faculty on our process for revising our fall schedule and initiating discussions within the Curriculum Committee for optimizing our schedule for possible fully or partially remote populations of students taking classes online.

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

First – a congratulations on reaching the end of a long and challenging semester. I have been very impressed by the creativity, energy and resilience of our community in the face of the enormous challenges created by this pandemic.  Faculty in all of our Concentrations, Programs and Areas have demonstrated great concern and resourcefulness, and I appreciate your help as we have found ways to make the online platforms work well for students to allow them to continue their studies despite the massive disruption from the abrupt move away from campus. During the coming weeks and over the summer we will be asking you to share some of what you have learned from this experiment so we can share your experiences and challenges to help us prepare for next Fall. 

As we prepare for the possibility of a renewed online teaching and learning semester in Fall 2020, we have the chance to apply what we have learned from our experiences in Spring 2020. This process allows us to plan for ways we can enhance our courses to work better if we are online for Fall 2020, and to also revise our scheduling to allow for easier participation from students across the world in our courses. This effort will be needed whether or not we return students onto campus in Fall 2020, as it is very unlikely we could return all of our students to campus for Fall 2020, even if we return to in person instruction next semester. 

To help with this scheduling effort, I have been working with the Curriculum Committee and Registrar to expand our time slots to enable class times that will work for students across the world and allow them to participate fully in our courses during Fall 2020. This revision of our class times to include new late afternoon and evening times will make it much easier for students from across the earth to join in classes and will provide a richer mix of students in our synchronous and live sessions that will come closer to our in-person experience on campus which benefits so much from the diversity of our students. 

Working closely with Phat Vu, Chair of the CC, I have asked the Directors and Coordinators of our concentrations, programs and areas to look over their class schedule for Fall 2020 and expand these schedules to make use of these new time slots. The new schedule of available class times will be circulated by Nancy Yoshimura shortly. Based on discussions in the CC, we will develop a new Brightspace Forum page, which will give the opportunity for instructors to annotate our class schedule to let students know of additional times that they might be available for office hours or small group discussions. This Brightspace page will also be a useful tool for communicating with your students about your plans for modifying your course and any special features for the course in the coming semester.  You should be contacted soon by the Director or Coordinator of your Concentration, Program or Area, and we appreciate your help in working in some of these new timings in your schedule. The new version of the Fall schedule will be needed by Monday, May 18, to allow students to begin registration on Tuesday May 26. 

Phat Vu and I, working closely with the CC, will continue to discuss how we can optimize our classes for the possible online format and what types of training and resources will be needed by faculty to help modify courses and pedagogy to help our students. We welcome your suggestions and ideas, so please do share these thoughts with your colleagues and also with Phat and me as we will be very interested in helping faculty prepare for the upcoming semester. 

Thanks again for your efforts in making our Spring 2020 semester work as well as it has, and also for your contributions in planning for and scheduling our Fall 2020 semester.

Best wishes,

Bryan

This message was sent on April 23, 2020 to update faculty on some of the considerations for how we might open campus during Fall 2020 and our process for making this decision, as well as a shift in our registration timing to allow for students to select courses later.

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I hope you are doing well and managing as best as you can in these challenging times.

I wanted to update everyone about some of the developments in planning for Fall 2020 semester. There are considerable uncertainties in our planning for Fall 2020 from the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are having productive meetings to discuss the possible scenarios for next Fall with the faculty Academic Continuity Committee and with other faculty such as the FEC and the Science Advisory group. I appreciate everyone’s help in bringing their views and ideas to this discussion, so we can make an informed decision about Fall 2020 that will assure academic continuity for our students, as well as safety for students, staff and faculty on campus.

At this point the discussion has identified many of the considerable difficulties that we would face if we did open with in-person instruction for Fall 2020. These difficulties include the challenges of maintaining social distancing in a residential campus and in instructional settings, the limited availability for testing, and other challenges in isolating students who either are suspected of having COVID-19 or have tested positive. We have not made a decision yet for Fall 2020, but the challenges of these issues are sufficiently daunting that a return to online instruction for Fall 2020 is becoming increasingly likely.

To help our faculty committee and administration have more time to discuss and prepare for our Fall 2020 opening, and to make any potential revisions of our Fall 2020 schedule in the case we do decide to go online, we have decided to extend our period of advising and postpone registration for Fall 2020 by three weeks. The new dates have students starting to register during the week of May 25 and will conclude by June 6. We will send out a more detailed announcement about the Fall 2020 registration to faculty and students soon but I wanted everyone to know of this change of dates right away.

I also wanted to let everyone know that we are also planning to allow any non-tenured full-time faculty to opt to delay their tenure review process by a year due to the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has considerably disrupted everyone’s lives but has made it especially difficult for junior faculty to manage the stresses of teaching online and conducting research. We also will allow for faculty to opt to remove the Spring 2020 semester evaluations from their tenure review, due to the disruptions caused but the transition to online teaching.

Thanks to everyone for your hard work, and for helping each other and our students get through this challenging period. Good luck with the rest of the semester, and we will be sending additional updates as our planning for Fall 2020 makes further progress.

Best wishes,

Bryan

This message was sent on April 13, 2020 to alert faculty about revised P/NP and W deadlines, delay in advising and registration for Fall 2020 and updating faculty about impacts on Study Abroad from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy and that you and your loved ones are doing well in these challenging times.

Congratulations to everyone on completing three weeks of teaching online. It sounds like everyone is doing their best and helping each other as we all do our best to learn how to meet the challenge of making these online classes work. I have heard many good ideas and tips for online teaching, and if you would like share an idea or have a suggestion or request on online teaching please do send it to me and I will also be happy to post it on our Online Teaching website at: https://sites.soka.edu/online-teaching/, or you can also find resources and join a discussion on our Faculty Resources Brightspace site at https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/home/15363.

I wanted to update everyone on some of our revised deadlines for advising and Fall 2020 registration, as well as our P/NP and W deadlines. As mentioned earlier emails, our capstone deadline has been moved from April 24 to May 15, to allow for students to have more time to settle and adjust to some of the challenges and dislocations caused by the current semester. We also have have moved our P/NP deadline to May 1, and we will also extend the W deadline to the same date of May 1. All of these changes are hoped to help our students have more time to adjust and manage the many disruptions from the current semester.

As Nancy Yoshimura mentioned in an email to advisors, we postponed our advising week to later in the semester (April 27-May 1) and we also will use a later and more extended registration period for Fall 2020 courses (from May 4-May 15). These dates were selected to allow for students to have more time to make their selections and also to be able to change those selections as needed. The timing for Fall 2020 advising and registration for each class is below (from the email from Nancy Yoshimura):

Advising Week: Monday April 27 – Friday May 1

Registration: All students from the beginning of their enrollment period will register for all classes up to 15 units (NO OVERLOAD UNITS)
Continuing Seniors and Juniors will register from Monday May 4 from 8am PST
Sophomores not going on Study Abroad in the fall will register from Thursday May 7 from 8am PST
First Year students will register from Monday May 11 from 8am PST
All enrollment appointments will end at 5pm PST on Friday May 15th

I also wanted to update everyone on the Fall 2020 Study Abroad. With the considerable uncertainty from COVID-19, we are carefully monitoring all of our study abroad programs and have urged students to reconsider their Fall 2020 study abroad for a later semester. Many students have done so, and the 25 or so students still planning for Fall 2020 study abroad have a deadline of April 17 to postpone the Fall 2020 study abroad to register for SUA classes in Fall 2020. All of our students planning for Fall 2020 study abroad are enrolled in programs which are ready to provide online instruction in case of any disruptions and so we are confident our students will be academically sound in any eventuality.

Those are my updates for now. Good luck with your classes, and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns, or if there are any ways that we can help support you in your teaching online.

Best wishes,

Bryan

This email was sent to all faculty on March 23, 2020 to help provide updates to faculty on our support for students with limited internet access, extension for capstone deadlines, and resources for faculty teaching online.

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

This is just a short note wishing everyone the best as we begin shifting our instructional program and courses online, and reminding everyone of some support resources for teaching online. Good luck with your online courses and also be sure to stay safe and healthy in these difficult times.

Our goal throughout this process will be to preserve a high quality of instruction as best we can, preserving as much interaction as possible as we move online. Our preferred solution for this is to use Zoom videoconferencing, which is integrated into all of our Brightspace course pages. We will still have the challenge of having students in many timezones, which will make it difficult for some of our students to join our scheduled times for our live classes. Zoom has a record feature that will allow class to be recorded and these students can then watch the class on their own at a more convenient time.

Some other students may have intermittent internet access, and I have emailed all students to let them know if they do not have access to internet, SUA can support the costs for internet access so they can participate fully in the online courses. Faculty should be sensitive to students who are unable to make the class time or who have technical issues, and provide opportunities to ask questions via online office hours, to be able to ask questions through email or within the Brightspace environment. Creative use of an online forum, and other asynchronous discussions within class can enable students who were not present in class to still contribute to discussions.

As mentioned in an earlier email, we are going to be extending the Capstone Deadline from its current deadline of April 24 to May 15. Capstone grades would be due on May 27 at the latest to allow for grade audits to be completed for seniors. Since all of our students are dealing with enormous challenges in adapting to this new learning environment, faculty should be sensitive to other requests for modified deadlines in courses, and should try to help our students complete their studies with reasonable accommodations. This should also include allowing seniors to have at least until March 27 before requiring drafts of capstones. We are also going to be providing a late P/NP deadline for students and I will be emailing everyone with more detailed information on this a bit later today.

As mentioned in earlier emails – we have assembled some resources to help faculty manage this challenging transition to online instruction. Below are a few of our resources available as well as contact information for our IT team, Sophia Kawada and Barbara Mcgrath, who will be able to help with any technical issues that may arise. John Min from IT is also willing to help faculty acquire any needed hardware – a loaner laptop, videocamera, microphone, or support for using one of our SUA classrooms for your online class. Please do make use of these resources and feel free to contact them if you need any more support.

Online Resources

• Online Resources and Tools for Faculty (Brightspace) https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/home/15363 – managed by Esther Chang and has a lively online forum, and lots of other resources contributed by faculty. 
• Online Teaching site -  https://sites.soka.edu/online-teaching/ – Managed by the Dean’s Office and has updates to news and other announcements – and includes training videos and materials and some contributed materials from faculty.

Important Contacts for help with Online Teaching

• Barbara McGrath – phone: (949) 480-4195 email: bmcgrath@soka.edu
• Sophia Kawada – phone: (949) 480-4229 email: skawada@soka.edu
• Additional support can be received using the IT helpdesk phone number, which is (949) 480-4357.  

Barbara and Sophia have assembled a Frequently Asked Questions document based on our training sessions last week. A link to that document is here: https://soka.box.com/s/b51h4av03zl7kbsamkxv6b522cvn8mlu

Our IT team is also going to be providing some special online “office hours” for any faculty that need help via Zoom. We will be emailing everyone with more information on this once those times are set.

Good luck with your classes, and please let the IT team and me know if there are any other ways we can support you and our students during this challenging period.

Best wishes,

Bryan

This email was sent to all faculty on March 13, 2020 to help provide guidance for our approach to teaching online after the decision was made to pivot our academic program to online instruction. The email includes a set of principles to help faculty in revising their courses, and identifies some of the main challenges we all face in this effort.

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I would like to write a short note thanking everyone for their work in helping us respond to this very difficult challenge of shifting our instructional program and courses online.  This effort an enormous challenge, but it is gratifying to see how so many are rising to the challenge and bringing creativity and goodwill to helping us together learn how we can continue to offer our courses in this new regime. I also want to thank the many faculty for the excellent comments and questions during our four faculty training sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. Barbara and Sophia are gathering the detailed technical questions for a FAQ sheet that will answer all of the technical questions. Esther Chang is also gathering ideas about how we can make best use of the online environment and to share faculty ideas, tips and tricks as well as suggestions on how we can improve our faculty support. You can contribute ideas and questions at https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/home/15363.

We will also need to answer some of the bigger questions about how best to offer our online courses now that our students will be dispersed across the world. The exact answers to this question will be something we all have to work on together, and we will all learn as a community as we together enable our students to continue their courses despite the difficulties of having their semester disrupted. We all can contribute to this process, and so please do share ideas and support for each other, and also please provide support for our students, who are facing a lot of uncertainty and stress. A kind message from their faculty members will help them a lot in this time so please do communicate to your classes with a reassuring statement about how you will proceed with the online course. 

I wanted to provide a few guidelines and basic answers for our online teaching as we move forward after Spring Break, based some of the questions in our training sessions.  Our goal throughout this process will be to preserve a high quality of instruction, preserving as much interaction as possible as we move online. This will require us to handle the challenges of having students in many timezones, as well as to manage advising capstones with students, and also structuring exams. 

Preserving Interactive and High Quality Instruction.  We would like to have faculty use their existing scheduled class times with interactive (synchronous) classes as much as possible during this period. This is important for students so they can regain a sense of structure and benefit from the social and intellectual interactions from these classes. During our training sessions, we were able to see how Zoom can be used to preserve a very interactive and engaging class with students through videoconferencing. Some of the tools such as sharing screens (which you or students can do during a talk), breakout rooms (which allows for small group discussions) and a whiteboard (for drawing equations or pictures) can all be helpful. Barbara and Sophia can help you learn how to teach with Zoom, and we encourage you to experiment with each other and with IT to help learn these systems. More information on this can be found on the online teaching site at https://sites.soka.edu/online-teaching/.

Handling Different Timezones and Variable Internet.  As much as we would like to preserve the small and interactive classes from our in-person format, with students dispersed all over the world, some students will not be able to make our scheduled times to join our live classes. Zoom has a record feature that will allow class to be recorded and these students can then watch the class on their own at a more convenient time. Some other students may have intermittent internet access, and I have emailed all students to let them know if they do not have access to internet, SUA can support the costs for internet access so they can participate fully in the online courses.  Faculty should be sensitive to students who are unable to make the class time or who have technical issues, and provide opportunities to ask questions via online office hours, to be able to ask questions through email or within the Brightspace environment. Creative use of an online forum, and other asynchronous discussions within class can enable students who were not present in class to still contribute to discussions. We welcome your ideas and so please contribute to the online discussion site at

 https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/le/15363/discussions/List.

Academic Calendar. Considering the enormous disruption to our students, we would like to extend some of our academic deadlines this semester. We would like to extend the Capstone Deadline from its current deadline of April 24 to May 15. Capstone grades would be due on May 27 at the latest to allow for grade audits to be completed for seniors.  Since all of our students are dealing with enormous challenges in adapting to this new learning environment, faculty should be sensitive to other requests for modified deadlines in other courses, and try to help our students complete their studies with reasonable accommodations. This should also include allowing seniors to have at least until March 27 before requiring drafts of capstones. 

Exams.  Students will be able to upload work into Brightspace or email assignments to you, but taking exams may be challenging. It will be hard to not have open-book exams in this environment, and students will have to be asked to cooperate with something of an honors policy.  Some faculty have been interested in finding ways to provide secure online exams, and the suggestion was made to use a “lock-down browser” which offers this feature (https://web.respondus.com/he/lockdownbrowser/). More information on this can be found on the Online Resource for faculty page at

 https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/le/15363/discussions/topics/21943/View

We welcome additional ideas and IT is able to support faculty who want to use this technology. 
Resources. As mentioned in earlier emails – we have a few websites available for you to find tips and have discussions with your colleagues to help us all manage this transition. Below are a few of our resources available as well as contact information for our IT team, Sophia and Barbara, who are eager to help with any technical issues. John Min from IT is also willing to help faculty acquire any needed hardware – a loaner laptop, videocamera, microphone, or support for using one of our SUA classrooms for your online class. Please do make use of these resources and feel free to contact them if you need any more support. 

Online Resources

  • Online Resources and Tools for Faculty (Brightspace) https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/home/15363 – managed by Esther Chang and has a lively online forum, and lots of other resources contributed by faculty. 
  • Online Teaching site (website) https://sites.soka.edu/online-teaching/ – Managed by the Dean’s Office and has updates to news and other announcements – and includes training videos and materials and some contributed materials from faculty.

Important Contacts

  • Sophia Kawada – phone: (949) 480-4229 email: skawada@soka.edu
  • Additional support can be received using the IT helpdesk phone number, which is (949) 480-4357.  

Best wishes,
Bryan


This email was sent to all faculty on March 10, 2020, just as we decided to shift our instruction to online and begin planning for some of the training and technology upgrades necessary to make a smooth transition.

Dear Faculty Colleagues, 

As mentioned in Ed Feasel’s community letter, we are going to transition our instruction to online only after Spring Break and remain with online teaching until April 3.  This is a very difficult choice for us – but we are working to assure the safety of our students, staff and faculty, and as many of our peer institutions are doing, we are responding proactively to reduce the possibility of infection to our campus community rather than waiting for infections to appear and risk a larger outbreak. This situation will require us to all work together to help us provide continuity of our classes to our students.  To help faculty with the transition, we plan to use the rest of this week to provide information and training to faculty to enable you to be able to provide your courses online with the least disruption possible. The Dean’s office has been working closely with IT to set up training sessions for faculty to learn about how to teach online.  We have three different options already available to us which can support classes and which can provide a very interactive learning environment.  Below is a brief overview of each option with some links for more information.  

Zoom – a very versatile videoconferencing software which many are already using. Students only need a link to click into a class and it will support live videoconferencing with your entire class, as well as screen sharing (for slides), screen annotation, and also even supports breakout groups.  This is our preferred platform as it offers the greatest ease of use. It can be used in a standalone mode as a videoconferencing program, and also has been integrated into Brightspace. The IT team will be training faculty in using both modes during our sessions this week. 

Zoom within Brightspace / Virtual Classroom – The Brightspace platform has extra features that allow you to have online videoconferencing and to schedule other kinds of meetings and interactive instruction with your students.  Zoom has been integrated within Brightspace, and the IT staff have created a manual for training faculty in creating online videoconference sessions within Brightspace. Since all of us have our classes already set up in Brightspace, this offers some benefits in convenience over standalone Zoom usage since meetings with the class are easier to set up.  Here is a link for additional information:

Microsoft Teams – a Microsoft product that allows for instant communication with groups of students, video chat, and online forum type discussions among groups of students. This platform has been used with our Study Abroad students, and an increasing number of students and some faculty are gaining experience with the program. Here are some links for additional information: 

Since classes are cancelled for the rest of the week, we can use this week to prepare and provide training for faculty. We are working closely with IT to provide training sessions for faculty for the rest of this week, as well as to provide any needed computer or webcam hardware to help faculty offer their classes online.  Barbara McGrath and Sophia Kawada from IT will be the point people from IT available to support faculty. They will be available by email at bmcgrath@soka.edu and skawada@soka.edu and faculty can also call the IT Helpdesk – which will prioritise calls from faculty and route them to full-time staff. This number is (949) 480-4357. Our first training sessions will begin on Wednesday at 10:00AM, and will offer a chance to answer your questions, and to train you to set up your class using the Zoom and Zoom within Brightspace. Since classes are cancelled this week, this is a good opportunity for learning how to manage the transition to online teaching. Faculty are encouraged to attend either in person or via online using Zoom (links for remote attendees included below).

  • Wednesday 10:00AM at Maathai 207 – link for remote attendees: https://zoom.us/j/886117961 (click to join) or use meeting number 886 117 961
  • Wednesday 1:00PM at Maathai 207  – link for remote attendees: https://zoom.us/j/272487161 (click to join) or use meeting number 272 487 161
  • Thursday 10:00AM at Maathai 207 – link for remote attendees: https://zoom.us/j/143484736 (click to join) or use meeting number 143 484 736
  • Thursday 1:00PM at Maathai 207 – link for remote attendees: https://zoom.us/j/177696772 (click to join) or use meeting number 177 696 772

Please RSVP for these training sessions at the survey link (which also asks about your tech support needs and preferences for online teaching): https://soka.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_b7XLZJupVxjikGF 

In addition, we will be placing training materials online at our website which we have created for this purpose. This site will be available here: https://sites.soka.edu/online-teaching (and is just being set up). This website will be updated with more information on online teaching – including links to training materials for our three platforms for online teaching. Also our IT team will be available for additional one on one consultations.  The Library/IT committee is managing a Brightspace Forum for faculty to share tips and answer questions about the online learning process. All of our faculty have been made instructors on this site – and it is a great place for sharing resources and ideas to help us with this process of learning about online teaching.  This site is available here: https://soka.brightspace.com/d2l/home/15363

This site will have a Forum where faculty can share tips, answer questions and share ideas. If you have any additional questions on the Forum, or suggestions for other needed types of faculty support, you can contact Esther Chang, chair of the Library/IT committee. She can be reached at echang@soka.edu

Finally – we would like to hear from you if you have any ideas or additional support needs. Please respond to the survey link below, which will ask you about whether you have sufficient computer hardware and bandwidth to offer your course online, and if not – which type of equipment you may need. IT has a number of modern loaner laptops with video capability available for check-out, as well as microphones and webcams. Please also indicate any additional hardware needs you might have on this form and we will do everything we can to help support your online teaching.  

The survey is available here (please respond): https://soka.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_b7XLZJupVxjikGF 

Thanks for everyone’s help and patience as we work to respond to this situation. If you have any additional questions or concerns please do let me know and I will work with IT and our staff to help provide whatever support you may need and help to answer some of your questions.  

Best wishes, 

Bryan Penprase

Dean of Faculty