University of Miami
Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost logo
May 14, 2020
Dear Colleagues,

What will higher education look like in the age of COVID-19 in our fall and spring semesters? What will it look like by our centennial and beyond? This is what we are planning for right now, mindful of our immediate responsibility for the near term and our fundamental opportunity for the longer term. Resilience and renewal are in our DNA. This puts us at an advantage to plan for, adapt to, and, most importantly, embrace change.

We just completed perhaps the most challenging semester of our collective careers. In a matter of 10 days, we plunged into remote delivery of classes, ensuring that students could complete the semester. We now have valuable experience and information that we didn’t have 10 weeks ago. We have learned much through practice and feedback, and now is the time to apply these to continue to improve in the future.

So what does this previously unimaginable future hold for us? Change. That’s definite.

Some University of Miami fundamentals won’t change, such as quality teaching, dedication, and creativity. As faculty in a research-intensive university, we not only impart knowledge, we create it. Our students learn from teachers who are defining and expanding their fields—educators, experts, and innovators.

Right now, we are preparing for the start of the fall semester—on time, on site, and with comprehensive safety precautions for faculty, staff, and students. A set of university-wide task forces are examining all aspects of resuming campus operations, including instruction, research, and other activities.

While the specific details are being defined, here are some of the types of changes we can expect:
  • Physical distancing measures in dining spaces and common areas
  • Face coverings, disinfecting wipe stations, additional sanitizer stations, and enhanced cleaning protocols
  • COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and vaccinating (especially against seasonal flu)
  • Reduced classroom density
  • Hybrid course models that combine both in-person and remote instruction
  • Enhanced digital resources and technology
  • Increased training for distance learning:
    • The Platform for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (PETAL), has been expanded to include all faculty and will continue to provide course mentoring. You can sign up here.
    • The Division of Continuing and International Education (DCIE) and Academic Technologies have developed an entire curriculum for faculty that will run throughout the summer and is focused on maximizing the virtual course experience through pedagogy and technology. Specific information is forthcoming.
These efforts offer an exciting opportunity to enrich learning with tools and approaches that deepen understanding and spark imagination and inquiry. When I was a child (a fledgling engineer), I used a hammer to put in screws. Then, I learned how to use a screwdriver. Virtual education is a new tool that we have available to us; learning how and when to use it will forever become part of our professional tool-belt.

We also continue to take full measure of COVID-19’s impact on the University’s finances. Much will depend on the duration and magnitude of the pandemic, not only in South Florida but across the globe. We are taking steps to mitigate both the negative affects we are already experiencing and those we can anticipate until operations fully resume (and are not disrupted by further evolution of the pandemic)—this is essential to sustain our mission.

While change is inevitable, the University of Miami continues to offer an educational opportunity like no other. In the fall, we will convene academic leaders to really begin to reimagine the University in the future. What is the role of research, distance learning, the classroom, the residential experience, or the lifetime student? What is the definition of a course, degree, badge, or certificate, and, ultimately, how do we achieve the highest value proposition and impact for our learners? Planning for a new future will be mission critical in 2020-21. I look forward to working with you to define our future together.

With gratitude, admiration, and appreciation,
Jeffrey L. Duerk, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
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