Thank you for the extraordinary efforts you are putting into your teaching and mentoring in these difficult times. We have heard many stories of instructors going above and beyond to enhance student learning and a feeling of community despite the many challenges we are all facing. Many of the challenges for our students now are similar to the ones we would see in a normal semester, just on a much larger scale: food and housing insecurity, stress, and poor mental health, for example. One area of challenge, however, is brand new: the challenge of time zones.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our students are taking courses from time zones different from Berkeley's. Due to travel bans and difficulties obtaining visas, some students have no choice but to be many time zones away. For example, our students in Europe and China are mostly on clocks set 9 hours different; those in India are 11-1/2 hours different. Taking what is an 11 am course here at 2 am, for example, creates a serious challenge for those students.
This challenge can be mitigated by recording your class sessions and permitting students to access those recordings asynchronously. If this is a feasible option for your class, we kindly ask that you please permit students who need to access the course at other times. In addition to being a kindness to our students, providing asynchronous access where feasible is consistent with the ethical principles set forth by the Association of American University Professors (AAUP), that a faculty member seeks to ensure access to instruction and does not arbitrarily deny access. These principles are also incorporated into the University of California's Academic Personnel Manual. If you designated your course for asynchronous instruction, it is extremely important that you in fact provide it that way.
We also would like to warmly remind you to consult the Academic Accommodations hub, which explains that hardship is one of several justifications for providing reasonable accommodations to students so that they can have a fair chance at succeeding in their classes. We regard being required to attend a lecture at 2 am as a hardship, and encourage your attention to the principles of equitable access and reasonable accommodation.
There are several reasons why instructors might hesitate to record class sessions and make them available. For example, courses in which a significant proportion of the learning objectives are met through interaction do not easily lend themselves to asynchronous instruction, although there are strategies that instructors can use to engage students who cannot join synchronously (see Remote attendance & participation).
Faculty may also have reasonable concerns about their intellectual property being stolen, or about the potential misuse of their video if they teach on politically sensitive topics. Some of these concerns may be partly allayed by making recordings available only to those students who specifically request them, and by using a statement on syllabi such as, “Course material, including all video, is copyrighted and reposting to third party sites or any other form of redistribution is prohibited." While such a statement cannot prevent abuse, it may reduce it, and can make imposing sanctions easier. Several committees of the Academic Senate are exploring what additional steps we can take to support instructors with concerns of this kind.
Resources are available to assist you in making your course accessible to our students in different time zones via the Keep Teaching website.
If you have questions or concerns about accommodating students in different time zones, please discuss them with your department chair or dean (as appropriate).
Thank you for considering this request.
Catherine P. Koshland
Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education
Lisa García Bedolla
Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division
Chair, Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate
This message was sent to UC Berkeley faculty and instructors.