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Supporting Student Success in Remote Learning

January 11, 2021

To: The Campus Community
From: Cindy Weinstein, Vice Provost, Chief Diversity Officer, and Eli and Edythe Broad Professor of English
Date: January 11, 2021
Re: Supporting Student Success in Remote Learning

In November 2020, the Committee on Reconstituting Campus Instruction (CRCI) conducted a survey of students asking them about the iPad loaner program, our new Learning Management System, and their experience, more broadly, with remote learning. There were many positives and I want to thank each of you for your efforts and dedication to student success. The data also unsurprisingly show that the current environment is challenging for a variety of reasons, and it is clear that many students are feeling isolated and disconnected. What can we do to help?

On behalf of the CRCI, I ask that those of you who are teaching or serving as TAs in the winter term keep in mind the following ways we can work to bridge the disconnect:

  • Provide students with consistent and timely feedback.
  • Increase office hours, if possible.
  • Have office hours that can accommodate students who may be in different time zones (the undergraduate deans have asked that this point be emphasized based on student feedback, especially among first-years; the deans would also be happy to let instructors know about students who are experiencing difficulties because of their location).
  • Help students connect with peers for collaboration, when appropriate (e.g. post a discussion thread where they can share contact information voluntarily, arrange collaboration meetings, etc.).
  • Be flexible, when possible. 

Because the mid-quarter survey data also indicated that students would like more opportunities for non-course related faculty interactions, the offices of the vice provost, the undergraduate dean, and residential experience have created a new program called "Conversations with Caltech Faculty." Several faculty have already agreed to participate in these informal talks, slated to begin next month, about their research, teaching, and path to Caltech. We are optimistic that these small gatherings of faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students will be another mechanism by which the Institute can overcome the distance in distance learning.

A summary of the survey results, including top requests from students and recommendations from Caltech faculty, is available online. 

Thank you and please let me know if you have questions.