With the Spring semester’s start just a week away it’s time for an update on how REL classes will be working in the new semester.
First off, just as in the Fall, all REL faculty, staff, and students should again be prepared to be nimble and adaptable to the possibility of changing conditions.
The virus’s current rate of spread in the nation and the region, and the continued possibility of severe and even life-threatening results if infected, should prompt everyone to continue to be cautious by wearing masks, socially distancing, washing hands, and minimizing risks to both themselves and those around them (whether family, friends, roommates, etc.) The University of Alabama is poised to begin inoculating employees with the newly developed vaccine, doing so in prioritized groups, so we are hopeful for a time in the future when current measures will no longer be needed — though it is important to recognize that the authorities inform us that immunity takes time to develop, so even those vaccinated will be wise to be cautious this semester.
Because all classrooms continue to have reduced capacity (to ensure that all masked occupants are properly distanced from each other), and because of the high demand on campus for large classrooms that can accommodate all those enrolled in mid-sized and smaller classes, no Spring REL course is currently assigned to a classroom capable of holding all those who are enrolled. This means that your REL course will more than likely begin virtually. You should therefore look for an email from your Instructor conveying how each of your REL courses will begin and operate in the weeks following.
Apart from a small number of routine, Blackboard-based online (i.e., asynchronous) 100-level courses that REL always offers each semester, to meet the needs of distance students enrolled at UA, a few of REL’s larger undergraduate courses are listed as AV (audio-visual), which means that they retain their meeting time (i.e., they are what we call synchronous) but will be completely virtual (using such technologies as Blackboard and Zoom). However, the vast majority of REL’s Spring classes are listed as Hybrid, involving both in-person opportunities and real-time virtual instruction.
REL faculty are committed to meeting in-person with their Hybrid students, in a safe fashion, as much as is possible. This will take the form of a variety of opportunities, ranging from voluntary office hours to voluntary tutorials each week or even routinely rotating a portion of the course’s students through in-person and masked class attendance while the remainder of the students attend that lecture or seminar virtually. Be assured that each faculty member is being creative in achieving this goal. While courses exclusively taught through Zoom present their own challenges, of course, simultaneously teaching in-person and virtual students present their own unique challenges, thus your adaptability is important. Each REL faculty member will determine the best way to ensure that their courses are pedagogically effective, keep students on track to earn their degree at the proper time, and engage their students.
There has been news reported that, while aiming for more face-to-face instruction in the Spring, some colleges in the country have decided to begin their Spring semester virtually, for the first few weeks, to ensure that safe in-person classes are possible later. While UA has not made that decision at this time, everyone must be prepared to move to a virtual environment if the situation requires it. Please watch your email in case such announcements are made at any point in the semester. The University and the City of Tuscaloosa are working closely to monitor the changing situation.
So please look for your Instructor’s email, ask them any questions you may have, and know that REL faculty members will work with you to ensure that you have a successful semester.
Finally, although it is regularly staffed, the REL main office will likely remain closed to the public for much, if not all, of the semester; we therefore ask you to call (348-5271) or email Ms. LeCretia Crumpton if you have questions that we can address. You should also never fear directly contacting Prof. Altman, our Undergraduate Director, Prof. Ramey, our Graduate Director, or the Chair of the Department, Prof. McCutcheon, if they can assist in any way.
The occupants of the newly renamed Presidents Hall are committed to helping you continue to make progress in your REL classes and degrees — good luck with the semester and we hope that you and your families and friends are staying healthy and safe.