Supporting the Yale Educational Experience

Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Dear Colleagues,

As you read in President Salovey’s message, the university will hold all classes online after spring recess until at least April 5. Moving our courses to an online format represents a significant challenge, and I realize that it will require substantial effort from faculty, teaching fellows, and staff across the university. In spite of this change, Yale is, and must remain, fully committed to providing an exceptional educational experience for our students.

As we prepare for the end of spring break, the challenge for each of us is to determine how we will deliver this educational experience under unprecedented circumstances. The university will provide central support for this transition. I encourage you to seek help and advice from the Poorvu Center and you can find detailed guidance and resources at the Educational Continuity Support page. I also encourage you to collaborate and to support each other. I have seen first-hand during Faculty Bulldog Days that Yale has a community of extraordinarily gifted and creative teachers. We have almost two weeks to get ready. I hope we will take maximal advantage of that time.

As you move to an online format you may experience some technical challenges. Yale is not the only university making this transition in the next few weeks. We may encounter some capacity issues or glitches in the software. I encourage you to be patient. The staff in ITS, the Poorvu Center, and your schools and departments will do their best to help solve these issues. Please treat them with courtesy for the service that they are providing during what will be a challenging time for everyone.

Online courses will also present an interesting learning opportunity for our teaching community. For example, I am scheduled to give lectures in the Biology, the World, and Us course at the end of March. Like many of you, I have not taught an online course and I do not have personal experience using Zoom to deliver synchronous lecture content. I will have to learn. Fortunately, there are powerful tools that make it possible to do many things online, including live group discussion, replicating the chalk board experience, polling, and exam proctoring. This is an opportunity to refresh and reimagine how we all - including me - educate our students.

Moving Yale’s courses online in the face of a global health crisis is not what I expected to be doing in the first semester after I signed on as provost. I’m sure it isn’t what you anticipated when you accepted teaching assignments this semester. But as former provost Ben Polak said yesterday when I asked him for his advice, “It’s time to muck in!” It wasn’t a phrase I was familiar with, but it is the right one for this situation: it is time to share the work that needs to be done, to pitch in, and to help each other.

I will send updates and additional information in the days to come. In the meantime, thank you for all of your efforts to make the rest of the semester a success.



Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
Professor of Chemistry