The following provides important academic information from the UNE Onward plan, organized for online reading. Download the UNE Onward plan (PDF).
Academic Calendar 2020-21
The current plan is for the University’s academic calendar for 2020-21 for undergraduates to remain as previously published with the exceptions noted below. This calendar is subject to change depending on the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Face-to-face orientation for new undergraduate students (including residential transfer students) ordinarily scheduled in the summer months was held from Friday, August 21 to Tuesday, August 25. Orientation for commuting transfer students was held on Tuesday, August 25.
- Face-to-face classes began as scheduled on Wednesday, August 26 and will run without interruption through Friday, November 20. In contrast to the prior published calendar, the normal schedule of classes was held on Labor Day (Monday, September 7), the Fall Break Day (Friday, October 9), and Veterans Day (Monday, November 11). Face-to-face classes and most student on-campus residency ended on Friday, November 20.
- Following the break for Thanksgiving week, classes resumed Monday, November 30 and continued through Friday, December 4, by remote delivery only for most students.
Students in some health sciences programs returned to campus following the Thanksgiving Break for clinical skills assessments that cannot be scheduled prior to the Holiday Break and that are required for progression to the next semester.
Some of the graduate and professional student programs essentially followed the undergraduate calendar for fall 2020, i.e., ending face-to-face classes on Friday, November 20, and completing the term remotely. However, other graduate and professional programs followed a different calendar due to requirements for continued clinical skills training and other experiential components. Students in each program were notified by mid-August about their specific calendar and any planned modifications to the prior published calendar.
- Final examinations were conducted as scheduled, but by remote means only, from Monday, December 7 through Friday, December 11, and the term ended on December 11, as scheduled.
- The spring term is currently scheduled to begin on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.
Schedule of Classes
The schedule of classes for fall 2020 and spring 2021 and related room assignments were reviewed to ensure that the public health and safety parameters outlined later in this plan could be maintained. Every effort has been made to minimize disruption in the existing schedule to students and faculty. However, a number of adjustments were needed to be made to accommodate the additional sections required to maintain social distancing in classrooms and teaching labs, which have necessitated an approximately 40% reduction in classroom capacity overall. Students and faculty were notified well in advance of the start of classes about any alterations in their schedules that were necessary due to the modifications in classroom capacity. (See Section III.A for more information about the curriculum delivery plan and class schedule.)
Clinical practica schedules for the various health professions programs involve student placements at clinical sites across the United States. The schedules for students in these programs are coordinated and managed at the individual program level, as external program accreditation standards and regulatory body guidelines vary across state lines. The faculty and professional staff who oversee the clinical education components of the curriculum will communicate directly with the students about any modifications to their practica schedules.
Again, it may be necessary to make other adjustments to class schedules over time, depending on the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The faculty, academic professional staff, directors, department chairs, and deans of UNE’s academic programs and colleges are all focused on providing a high quality, safe academic experiences for students, maximizing opportunities for face-to-face interaction to the extent feasible given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and in accordance with CDC and state guidance for social distancing and limits on group sizes. As noted earlier in this plan, a detailed classroom and teaching laboratory analysis has been conducted using current 6-ft. social distancing guidelines to inform revisions and updates to the current schedule of classes. Class sizes, number of sections, and time slots will balance face-to-face teaching and learning with available resources.
In order to ensure that students can safely attend class while maintaining 6-ft distancing (and wearing the required face masks), classrooms seating has been adjusted accordingly. There are several consequences to this change in capacity. This results in many courses only being able to accommodate about one-half of their enrolled students on a given day. In order to balance physical and scheduling constraints, UNE moved to a “hybrid instruction” model for fall 2020 and spring 2021 for undergraduate courses, which involves a mix of face-to-face and asynchronous online learning experiences. The hybrid model is a common teaching pedagogy which has been developed over the past 20 years.
Structural Model: This plan is always subject to change based on the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current plan for the basic structural model that UNE followed for fall term and will continue to follow for spring term is as follows:
- Most undergraduate courses will follow a Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday schedule (except for a small number of classes that already meet once a week or have other alternative formats).
- Each class meets in a 90-minute block (80 minutes of instruction) on this schedule, and most teaching labs will meet for 3 hours (two 90-minute blocks) as usual.
- For course sections that cannot be accommodated in a single classroom due to the reduced capacity of the rooms with 6-ft distancing (which is the majority of sections even for small classes), each course or section has been split into two sub-groups. Each sub-group meets alternately on one of the two scheduled classes, i.e., Monday or Wednesday, or Tuesday or Thursday following a similar pedagogical model. The other half of the coursework is done online using various electronic resources (recorded lectures, readings, etc.) depending on the course and faculty preference.
- Likewise, most teaching labs have been split into two sub-groups. Each sub-group meets on alternate weeks, and the sub-group that is not meeting that week does lab work online (modeling, writing reports, data analysis, recorded demonstrations, etc.).
A group of faculty worked collaborating with UNE’s Center of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) to develop a suite of hybrid teaching and learning approaches that individual faculty were able to choose from in modeling their course structure, depending on the discipline and level of the course, the style and preferences of the instructor, and the types of learning that can be adapted to remote teaching and learning. The most popular of these models is the so-called “flipped” classroom, where students do pre-work (reading a chapter, watching a recorded lecture, or other self-directed work prior to each section of a class) for the remote portion, and then engage in active learning (discussion, group work, etc.) based on that pre-work for the face-to-face portion.
However, there are many variations on the general hybrid model, and faculty have a range of options to choose from. Workshops, online resources, communities of practice, and other support and resources for development and refinement of their teaching and learning models within this basic framework have been and continue to be available for faculty. These approaches were either already in use or were developed in summer 2020 to allow faculty time to adjust their courses to this new format. Prior to the start of the term, students were also provided with information and guidance on these models and the expectations of the faculty as they adapt, including sessions during first-year orientation, and other similar sessions for returning students.
Recorded Class Sessions: In anticipation that some students may be temporarily unable to participate in face-to-face class sessions (due to illness or other reason), the faculty are required to record each of their face-to-face class sessions using Zoom and to make these recordings available to all students in Blackboard, the University’s learning management system. This allows absent students to keep pace with their coursework through remote methodologies. The addition of the recorded class sessions to the asynchronous online materials essentially produces a full record of the course online, allowing students to stay in synch with the course. Faculty are also be encouraged to consider alternative assignments for graded class activities that students miss and cannot replicate on their own. Students attending class in the normal face-to-face/hybrid modality are also able to refer to these recorded sessions for review and reinforcement of key material as part of their regular learning.
Support for Online Learning: We also recognize that some non-residential students may not have reliable internet service, live in environments that are not conducive to study, and/or require technology support to continue the online component of their education. To address these concerns, we are continuing our computer laptop loan program and provide designated spaces on campus for students to complete the online portions of their classes. This includes several proctored study halls on each campus, as well as individual small rooms that can be reserved by students to study, take an exam, meet by Zoom privately with an advisor or counselor, and for other specific student academic needs.
Graduate and Professional Programs: As noted earlier in the plan, many of the graduate and professional programs already had students on campus during summer 2020 using the basic hybrid instruction delivery model described above, with the larger classes broken into a series of smaller cohorts. The instructional plan for those programs and other graduate and professional programs that began in fall 2020 (and continue into spring 2021) were refined based on the experiences in these summer programs, but will also involve variations of the hybrid model based on room and scheduling constraints.
Experiential Learning (including Clinical Practica, Internships, Service Learning and Student Research)
Clinical practica/internships continue to be coordinated and managed at the individual program level, as these experiences occur at different types of health care facilities (e.g., acute care hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics) and different locations throughout Maine and the United States. The curriculum in all of UNE’s health sciences programs already includes content and skills training regarding the risks associated with being a health care provider and the protective measures to prevent transmission of infectious diseases (e.g., appropriate handwashing technique and the use of personal protective equipment) prior to these clinical experiences. Current information regarding the transmission of and protective measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is included in this training.
Other types of internships in non-healthcare environments are coordinated and managed by the central advising office of the Student Advising Center, in collaboration with the specific internship and practicum coordination that occurs at the individual program level (e.g., the College of Arts and Sciences Internship Office for credit-bearing internships, the various Westbrook College of Health Professions programs for individual clinical rotations, etc.). The faculty and professional staff are responsible for ensuring that internship sites have the necessary health and safety measures in place before students are assigned to sites.
For the time being, service-learning and volunteer activities shall continue remotely. When face-to-face experiences resume, the faculty and professional staff who oversee these experiences for UNE students will be responsible for ensuring the service-learning/volunteer site has in place the necessary protective measures before placing a student at that site for face-to-face activities.
Like internships, clinical practica, and service learning/volunteer experiences, student research lies at the heart of the experiential component of the UNE educational experience. Our goal has been for students to return to research activities as soon as, and to the extent that is, reasonable. Most faculty have already developed detailed plans for resuming their research activities, including plans for incorporating students where applicable. Students are required to follow all research-related policies and training guidelines. Students who are completing thesis work or who are nearing graduation will have priority for participation in research. Wherever possible, scholarly projects that can be completed remotely are encouraged in order to minimize the number of individuals in research labs. In the case of students who conduct research in facilities outside of UNE or who have affiliation with another institution, consideration of policies and procedures at the outside institution are crucial factors in decisions to approve such experiences (See Section VI for more details about UNE’s plan for resuming on-campus research and scholarship). v
Research and Scholarship
As a university with a high level of education-linked research and scholarship, virtually all of which involves students, discovery, and the creation and application of new knowledge are core to UNE’s mission. As noted in Section III.B above, research and scholarship is integral to the student experience at UNE. In response to COVID 19, on-campus and face-to-face research operations were largely closed down with the exception of essential functions and COVID-19 related work, as was the case across higher education institutions.
The phased return to on-campus research is underway via a rigorous review process overseen by the University’s associate provost for Research and Scholarship (APRS) and the University Research Council. Given the diversity and complexity of research conducted at the University, specific plans are being developed for each research program and reviewed for compliance to best practice guidelines, e.g., for human subjects or vertebrate animal research. Other recommendations for travel and extramural funding processes during the COVID-19 pandemic are also in development. A key component of this process is timely communication with the UNE research community and outside research partners concerning changing regulatory policies (national and state) as well as UNE plans, policies, and protocols. This communication is facilitated via the Office of Research and Scholarship blog.
Access to UNE Research Facilities: Research operations will follow UNE’s general health and safety plans and protocols (including, but not limited to, social distancing and use of PPE). This includes activities that are occurring on campuses as well as off-site (e.g., fieldwork, research vessels, and human subjects research sites). Access to research facilities will be dependent upon the specific size of the research space, the number of individuals involved in the specific research activity, and the appropriate use of PPE as determined by consultation with UNE’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). These details will be outlined by the principal investigator (PI) of each research group as part of the approval process described below.
Approval Process: There is a three-part approval process to reopen a research program through the APRS: 1) Each investigator (faculty, professional staff, student) must provide documented completion of UNE’s COVID-19 training; 2) Each research team/lab must submit a Resuming Research Activity Plan, providing details specific to the type of research to be conducted; and 3) Each research group must complete a safety plan/checklist as appropriate for its research facility, in consultation with EHS.
Off-Site Facilities Including Field Work: Research activities conducted by members of the UNE community must comply with all policies, wherever they take place. Specific guidance relating to these activities will be provided by the APRS as Best Practice Guidelines. In some cases, additional guidelines must be considered, including policies of partner institutions or clinical research sites. These details must be included for review as part of the Resuming Research Activity Plan.
Situations When Social Distancing Is Not Feasible: Some of the spaces in which research is conducted are not conducive to social distancing (e.g., research vessels and small laboratories). In these situations, plans will be developed, in consultation with EHS and APRS, to employ appropriate PPE to minimize risk. These details must be included in the Resuming Research Activity Plan.
Remote Work: As an ongoing guiding principle, all scholarly work that can be conducted remotely should be done in this manner.
As of the date of publication, UNE tentatively plans to move forward with all normally scheduled study-abroad programs for the 2021 fall term (academic year 2021–22). These plans are subject to change if travel and residency conditions are not optimal for educational and cultural experiences. In that case, students will take their courses on our Maine campuses.
In the best interest of our students, during academic year 2020–21, UNE’s fall undergraduate semester-abroad programs in Spain, France, and Morocco as well as all of UNE’s short-term travel programs and the Professional Science Master’s in Ocean Food Systems program in Iceland were canceled due to unexpected viral surges and travel restrictions. The undergraduate semester abroad in Iceland, however, moved forward as scheduled.
As part of the Office of Global Affairs’ contingency plan, all students who signed up for study-abroad programs also registered for our Maine-based courses and on-campus housing for the fall semester, and therefore, students who have been impacted by canceled programs abroad are having their educational and housing needs met on our Maine campuses.