Spring 2020 academic questions


  • President Harris’s March 17th message indicated that some courses will start engaging course material Week 1, while others won’t. How will I know about my own courses?

    You can expect to hear from each of your faculty members on this topic by the end of the day, Friday, March 27th.

  • What does "online" mean?

    "Online" will mean different things in different courses, depending on the subject matter, faculty preferences, and faculty members' assessment of students' needs. Some will be holding classes "live", synchronously, on Zoom. Others will be pre-recording lectures for students to consume when they choose, and then holding live, on-line discussions, office hours, and/or help sessions. Many faculty members will be using a specialized software tool that allows members of a course to read and annotate course materials in a collaborative fashion online. Most courses will be housed in Union's Learning Management System (Moodle), which allows for discussion threads among course participants, at the same time that it facilitates assessments and the posting of the results of assessments. As in any regular term at Union, faculty will be asked to keep track of students' engagement, and to alert the appropriate dean if there are concerns.

  • How will I take my required lab, studio and performing arts, etc. classes if we’re taking classes online?

    Faculty members offering such classes have been hard at work, re-imagining and adapting these courses to an online format. Indeed, this is an ongoing national conversation at this unprecedented time. Fortunately, *very* few such courses will have to be cancelled. These courses will have a different feel, certainly -- but again, faculty are working very hard to be able to make the best of the circumstances we face together this spring.

  • When will my classes meet?

    Each class is still associated with its scheduled time slot. You will not be able to register for courses that have time conflicts in terms of these scheduled time slots. This is for two reasons. First, to the extent that faculty run synchronous (or “live”) class sessions -- via a Zoom meeting, for example -- this will prevent time conflicts. Second, this prevents you from being scheduled for two final exams at the same time.

  • What if I am in a different time zone or can’t participate in synchronous sessions for other reasons?

    Faculty are very sensitive to the fact that some students’ ability to participate in “live,” synchronous class sessions will be affected by time zone and other variables. All effort is being made to ensure all students’ equitable access to the course and course material. Many faculty will be using asynchronous approaches. Contact your professors with more specific questions and concerns.

  • Will professors hold office hours?

    Yes, you can expect that your faculty members will offer office hours.

  • I am a student with approved learning accommodations. Will these be supported in the online environment?

    Yes. We are committed to meeting the needs of our students with approved learning accommodations. The Dean of Studies is working with the Office of Accommodative Services, which is in communication with registered students.

  • I am a graduating senior. Will this impact my ability to graduate?

    In terms of course offerings for Spring 2020 -- and any adjustments to offerings -- Union is committed to facilitating the continued progress of our students toward their degrees.

  • How can I “try out” a class if classes are meeting online?

    First, be sure that you are enrolled in three (or, where relevant, four) courses by the start of the term: Monday, March 30th. If you are not registered for a course but wish to learn more about it, email the faculty member to request a syllabus. The faculty may also be able and willing to give you temporary access to the course Nexus site so that you can get a feel for the material, and the modalities through which it will be covered. Again, be sure you are enrolled in the courses you plan to take by the start of the term -- otherwise you won’t have access to the course material.

  • What is the Pass-Fail policy for spring term, 2020?

    During spring term 2020, students will be able to take any of their courses on a “pass/fail” basis, with no limits on the number of courses that can be declared “pass/fail.” The “pass/fail” designation is available for any course, including courses that are required for the major, a minor, the Common Curriculum (General Education), or Writing Across the Curriculum; elective courses; and Independent Study courses. Any courses taken as “pass/fail” during spring term 2020 will not count toward a student’s annual limit of “pass/fail” courses or toward the total limit of four. Spring term 2020 “pass/fail” courses will not count toward a student’s total limit of one “pass/fail” course per department or two per academic division. The option to declare some spring term 2020 courses as “pass/fail” is available to all students, including those who are in their first or second term at the college.

    The deadline for declaring a course as “pass/fail” will be Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 5 pm EDT. This date is after students will have completed their coursework but before their final grade for a course is released to them. The Registrar’s Office has created an electronic form for students to declare courses “pass/fail.”

    Dean’s List standing for the 2019-20 academic year will be determined based on a student’s grades for their graded (non-“pass/fail”) courses. There will not be a minimum number of required graded courses for attaining Dean’s List standing.

    Courses that carry minimum grade requirements can be declared “pass-fail.” However, the minimum grade requirements will still be in effect (e.g., for fulfilling pre-requisites in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering or for satisfying the minimum grade required in core courses to be able to continue pursuing an Economics major). If any of these courses are taken “pass-fail,” a “pass” will be recorded on the transcript for a grade of D or above, but the student must earn the required minimum grade for the course to satisfy pre-requisite or major requirements.

    These changes to the pass/fail option will be in effect for spring term 2020 only.

  • How can I register for independent study/senior thesis/scholars project courses?

    Students can access the permission form on the registrar's website. It is now a fillable pdf form and has new instructions on how to proceed.

  • What will happen with practicum courses?

    Each department that offers practicum opportunities will be making decisions regarding whether and how practicum courses can be offered. If you are currently enrolled in a practicum course, contact your supervising faculty member or department chair for guidance. Departments will work to accommodate seniors who need a third practicum credit to graduate.

  • Can I withdraw for the spring term? What would that mean?

    Students may withdraw for the spring term, but would want to have done so before the first day of spring classes, Monday, March 30th. Click here for a link to the relevant financial policies and guidance regarding informing the Dean of Students office of your decision. Note that withdrawing for the spring term will result in the need to return to Union for an additional trimester per our enrollment requirements. It will not be possible to withdraw from Union for the spring trimester and make up those credits elsewhere. In addition, withdrawing for the spring term would render students ineligible to participate in fall terms abroad. Click here for eligibility rules pertaining to participation in international programs. Feel free to reach out to your class dean if you wish to talk about this issue further.

  • How will I get my books for the Spring term?

    Spring books are available to order. Please order your books online at the bookstore. Standard shipping will be free (use promo code Spring2020) to the continental US for orders containing textbooks during this time. Please email the Union College bookstore at bookstore@union.edu or call (518) 388-6188 with any questions. Even though the store will not be open, they will be answering emails and phone calls when possible as well as filling orders regularly.

  • I’m nervous about the spring …

    Clearly, this will be a first for all of us. Students and faculty chose to be part of our residential liberal arts college community in large part because of the in-person interactions that lie at its core. I want to assure you, however, that while you have been moving home, and working on final exams and papers, the faculty have been busy attending training sessions delivered by our IT Learning Environments staff, plus an instructional design consultant with significant experience with online teaching. They have also been engaged in a lively discussion via a listserv, trading ideas, tips, and insights. In other words, they are doing their very best to be prepared to deliver the very best possible learning experience to you in the spring term.