Transition to Distance Learning at Grinnell College

March 09, 2020

Dear faculty and staff colleagues,

In the interest of providing you with the latest information as it emerges, I write to provide advance notice of the College’s very likely transition to distance learning upon our return from Spring Break. I do so guided by the principle of safeguarding the health and safety of our community as well as course and degree completion. For some of us, this transition will signal a radical change in pedagogy and practice; for others, it will be an occasion to share lessons learned from previous online teaching experience. For all of us, this transition presents disruption and obstacles.  I thank you for all the ingenuity and collaboration that you will bring to this unusual and challenging situation.

I am very grateful for the partnerships and expertise that Mo Pelzel (CTLA/DLAC) and Dave Robinson (ITS) are mobilizing to provide resources for all faculty and staff in this transition. Many thanks to David Lopatto (CTLA) for converting the March 13 Faculty Friday to a session on distance learning, and for already providing options and resources in his e-mail this afternoon.

The pace of change over the past five days  – from the decisions of other institutions to transition to online teaching to the epidemiological spread of the coronavirus – strongly indicates that, upon our return from Spring Break more than fifteen days from now, we will be finishing out the semester through distance learning. An upcoming call with the Executive Council of the Board of Trustees will supply the final confirmation but I wanted to provide as much notice as possible for your planning. More communications from the President’s Office will be forthcoming tomorrow.

Many thanks to those of you who were able to attend today’s Divisional meetings and bring forth questions and experiences.  The questions you have raised and the online teaching experiences you have shared will continue to guide planning and options; please keep sending questions and solutions to members of Executive Council, including Todd Armstrong and me, and we will bring them forward for discussion at the daily academic continuity meeting that will take place this week and include divisional Council members or their designees.

Thank you for supporting each other, and for the multitude of ways in which your efforts in this transition will safeguard  both the health of our community and many others, and preserve the academic mission we hold in trust with and for our students.

In gratitude and admiration



Anne F. Harris
Dean of the College

Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Art History
Grinnell College

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