Maintain Your Rights While Teaching This Fall!

CUFA supports the University mission for knowledge creation and dissemination, its role as an open forum for debate, and as a bastion of learning. Indeed, the University’s success in these endeavours is only possible because of the expertise and efforts of faculty members.

CUFA values its role in student learning. Our members take great care to design courses and develop course delivery methods that are most appropriate, in their judgement, to best guide student learning. Higher education goes beyond simply imparting knowledge, to include the development of analysis skills, the application of knowledge and skills, and to assist students to become individuals capable of critical thinking with the ability for lifelong self-learning and self-assessment.

CUFA is proud to be a part of the Concordia community as well as the broader community. CUFA members play an essential role within that community. Its members are instrumental in community outreach and instrumental in encouraging students in outreach efforts.

Nevertheless, while the CUFA Executive and Council do support the University and the community, and while we are especially aware of student concerns, we know that our focus must be our members and their concerns

We work constantly, though often behind the scenes, to support the rights of our members. We are being especially diligent in these times to address concerns over

  1. academic freedom, especially as it concerns course delivery;
  2. work-life balance during the disruptions to work and life due to the pandemic, and due to the emergency needs of the University to move to remote learning so students can continue in their programs; and
  3. accommodation for members faced with difficulties working from home during isolation, where the usual support from day-care, schooling, social downtime, and lone time is not available.

This is a task not only for us but for all CUFA members. Faculty members need to be aware of their rights, and safeguard their academic freedom, work-life balance, and the handling of the pandemic emergency. When these are impinged upon, take steps to discuss it with colleagues, and make your concerns known to your Chair, Dean, and to the Provost. It is especially important to let CUFA know of your concerns as well.

Especially in this extraordinary situation, you need to be diligent and active. Do not pretend that “everything is okay” and it is “situation normal“. These are definitely not normal times.

Do not underestimate the workload required for a shift to emergency remote learning.

As you all know, a new eConcordia online course is usually planned over at least a one-year period, and comes with a 3-credit remission.  It is then developed with the help of the eConcordia team, well-versed in their platform.

For Fall 2020, you are being asked to shift delivery of your course to emergency remote learning in a three-month period. This transformation may entail that you learn several new platforms and technologies. Even with support of manuals and 20-hour webinars, and links to best practices for this mode of delivery, it necessitates a significant commitment of time and imagination to re-jig the course content, delivery modes, and assessment modes.

Do not expect miracles! You may be committed, motivated, caring, talented, and conscientious, but you are not a miracle worker. Unlike Douglas Adams’ hitchhiker across the galaxy, you do not perform three miracles before breakfast. Put the situation into the broader context of your work and life. The vast majority of faculty members were not hired to become experts in online education. Are you now going to devote your life to researching the topic of online education, and becoming an expert? There needs to be a balance, a compromise, between goals and time and effort.

It is especially important to note that there may be courses, or components of courses, for which there are no known methods for delivering an excellent learning experience remotely. You may believe that your pedagogical approach does not lend itself to prerecording of lectures. You may also doubt whether asynchronous learning gives the student a meaningful learning experience in your course. Whatever the reason that you have for an approach to your course that is different from the suggestions coming from the University, you have the academic freedom and the support of CUFA to make that choice.

In fairness to your students, however, be transparent in your course outline, so students are fully aware of what Fall 2020 holds for your course content, delivery, and assessment. Be clear on any equipment requirements, whether delivery is synchronous or asynchronous, the timeslots for delivery, and the availability of yourself, TAs and lab demonstrators, on various modes of communication, including email. Students need to be able to make an informed decision whether to register in your particular course in Fall 2020.

Be careful in your use of language in the course outline, as guided by the text from the University, in order to avoid student complaints and to avoid potential legal issues for the University. Avoid creating workload for yourself, and others, who may have to deal with them.

The four-page document of 25 May 2020 on Online Teaching Fall 2020 which bears no signature, promotes “expectations” for your Fall 2020 courses. It is full of statements aimed at motivating you to adopt their suggestions, carry out extensive “development” (rather than preparation) of courses, become experts with online platforms, online methodology, and best practices, accommodate asynchronous access by students, and be ready for a future of online teaching.

Note that you are not doing Online Teaching. This is emergency remote learning!

A band-aid to get us through a very difficult time. A period when we do not have the time, nor the resources, to consult, discuss, reflect, negotiate, develop, assess as we should do for such a shift in workplace practice.

Please be aware of your rights, exercise your rights, and defend your rights. CUFA certainly will.