NOV. 11: Message from President McPhee – A Special Note to Our Students
A special note to our students:
As we begin the second week of November, and look ahead with a sense of anticipation to the end of this extraordinary semester, I want to take just a few minutes to share some thoughts about what we — and most importantly, you — have accomplished.
I could not be prouder of our student body. As I've said before, no one could have predicted the enormous impact a previously unknown virus would have on our global community. And I am confident that many of you would have not have chosen to work through a fall semester with so many unknowns, so many changes to your routine and so much technology. Whether you struggled, discovered a new appreciation for the possibilities of online learning, dropped a class or surprised yourself by thriving, I know none of it was easy. I am grateful that you took on the challenge with the determination our students are known for.
Others also had to learn and adapt. Just like our students, some of our faculty and administrators thrived in the new environment, while others struggled. Nearly 1,000 faculty embraced the challenge and sought out additional training and development in effective teaching through our MTSU Learning, Teaching and Innovative Technologies Center. Moreover, determined to hold ourselves to the same standards we hold our students, we surveyed our students twice so that we would have concrete data to give feedback to our instructors so that they, too, could learn and improve.
We learned a great deal from your responses to our surveys. As one example, we were pleased that 71% of the students responded “often” and 23.8% responded “sometimes” as to whether or not their instructor communicates with them at least weekly. Similarly, almost 95% of students responded with either “often” or “sometimes” as to whether they have opportunities to interact with their instructor.
However, we are concerned that as many as 5% of you may not be getting regular communication or interaction with your instructor. We expect that in a totally online course there may well be, by design, limited on-going communication. However, in all other course types, our deans and department chairs will be following up to make sure we have more consistent contact between students and the instructor.
That’s just one example. We’ve also learned where the glitches have been in our technology, and we are working to address those issues. We recognize that students miss traditional classroom interaction with their peers and we are encouraging instructors to look for more engagement opportunities — even in classes meeting remotely. We see differences in satisfaction levels between the various colleges and majors, and we are encouraging our deans and faculty to share best practices with one another, so that we can see improvement across all disciplines. And in some cases, we received specific feedback about particularly problematic courses and department chairs are following up with individual instructors to make corrections.
As we look ahead to the spring semester, the Provost, deans, department chairs and faculty are actively engaged in creating the highest-quality instruction for every course, in every department. While the coronavirus dictates we must still responsibly manage our campus, we will take what we have learned and put it into action in the face-to-face and online classrooms that will still be a part of how we function. We have carefully defined the parameters for each course type, so as you register for spring, please consult the definitions at https://www.mtsu.edu/registration/spring2021schedule.php to ensure that you know what to expect for the various course types.
All indications are that, while COVID-19 will be a challenge through the winter months, a vaccine may be coming soon, and our work with wearing masks and remaining socially distant really does make a significant difference. MTSU is very close to successfully finishing the fall semester and everyone will have a well-deserved break. I look forward to welcoming you back for a spring term in which students and faculty are reenergized and where we are able to continue to educate the next generation of leaders for this state and the nation.
Sidney A. McPhee