To my Spring 2020 students:
I'll try to make this brief. But please read it in its entirety.
First, I hope everyone's healthy and able to find some peace and calm in the midst of this weird mess.
Second, as I understand things, this week is supposed to be an extension of Spring Break, which means that academics are not supposed to resume until Monday of next week (March 23). So, unless and until I'm told to do otherwise, that's the plan: no coursework until March 23.
Now, I understand that many of you left your notes, textbooks, and other course materials in your dorm, and may not be able to retrieve them until sometime after March 23. So, sometime this week, I plan to visit campus so that I can scan and upload any and all reading assignments not already available to you on Moodle or course websites. I can't do anything about your notes and such; but I can at least help you keep up with the readings.
Third, I'm teaching three courses this semester: one at the intro-level (PHIL 102: Introduction to Ethics), one intermediate course (PHIL 261: Philosophy of Mental Illness), and an advanced seminar (PHIL 302: Ethical Theory: Virtue). The seminar should be fairly easy to transition online -- it'll basically just be a discussion forum. But I still haven't figured out the best way to transition the other two courses online. Once I have a plan, I'll contact those students directly with more detailed instructions, links, etc. However, one thing is certain: all three courses will be conducted asynchronously, meaning that you won't be required to participate at a certain time (e.g., over video chat), but will instead be free to participate at whatever time of day, and whatever day of the week, works best with your schedule.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly: in case you've never done this before, online learning shifts much of the burden over to you, the students. The expression "you get out of it what you put into it" is an apt one. For example, as long as you can rely on a professor to spend an hour-or-so in the classroom breaking down each reading, it's relatively easy to "get by," especially in 100- and 200-level courses, merely skimming the readings or even neglecting to do them entirely. But, for obvious reasons, that's no longer an option. Of course, it's still my responsibility as your instructor to do my part to help you understand the material. But "my part" no longer involves preparing and giving lectures.
For my 100- and 200-level courses, I'm expecting our classes to consist of some kind of combination of (1) brief videos of me talking over class slides, and (2) moderated discussion forums. Certain assignments may need to change as well: for example, in-class exams will obviously have to become take-home exams; and since take-home exams are open-book and open-notes, you can bet that the expectations will change as well (e.g., rather than simply regurgitating course material that's sitting right in front of you, you'll have to actually do some philosophy on the exam). In-class exams typically test your recollection of course material; take-home exams are supposed to test your proficiency with course material. So, to do well on the exam, it won't be enough merely to recall it, even in great detail. You'll need to understand it.
If you have any questions about any of this, please email me.
* EDITED TO ADD: In the interest of finding a little humor in the present circumstances, read this article to get a sense of how my colleagues and I are feeling right about now.