News and Events

Dear RELS Majors, Minors, and Friends,

As we prepare for the new semester, we want to share with you how we plan on teaching our courses. Our goal in doing so is to reassure you that no matter the model of delivery, we will continue to provide the rich liberal arts education we pride ourselves on offering in our department. This has been our preoccupation this summer and we want to share with you what we have achieved. Following is the general framework we are all committed to in preparing your classes.

(1) While the College anticipates in-person classes, we are also preparing for 100% online delivery so that it would not catch us off guard if that happened. Adjusting from there is better than assuming in-person instruction and changing on the fly. As a result, each of us has devised our own way of ensuring that content is delivered in as rich and engaging a fashion as possible while also guaranteeing plenty of stude nt-faculty and student-peer interaction. For instance, some of our courses will employ a lecture video + tutorial (or “Vid + Toot,” if you wish!) model that brings small groups of students into conversation with each other and their instructor on reading and pre-tutorial video viewing.

If we are on campus together, students may be divided into cohorts so that one group is in the classroom while another participates online for a given class session, then for the next session the groups switch places. Since our classes will thus have simultaneous on-campus and online elements, students who chose to (or must) attend all classes online can be integrated into the class alongside the on-campus students.

(2) As you can see, then, we are “game planning” for various forms of in-person instruction. For example, while some lectures will be provided as online videos, real-time interactions can be done in-person in classroom/outdoor spaces and/or on Zoom. That is to say, mindful that virus protocols may drive us to digital delivery of “in-person” instruction, we are planning for approaches that ensure personal encounters that have all the features of in-person instruction, even if those encounters have to go online.

(3) Delivering some course content as online material, such as video lectures, will give students more flexibility and make real-time connections more valuable. In this and other ways we are striving to maximize the impact of synchronous time, whether in-person or online. In fact, your synchronous experiences in class may be meatier than if we were 100% on campus together. Oddly, the virus has created a situation that might revolutionize the way we teach going forward—in ways that benefit you as students.

(4) Lastly, you can be assured that we will use thoughtfully curated syllabi that maximize impact and minimize busywork. One of the upsides for all of you that come out of this is the way our thinking about effective modes of delivery has also forced us to give careful thought to what we ask you to read, to write, to know, and to be able to manage on the way to becoming the educated, thoughtful participants in your own education—and in a changing and challenging world!—that we want to help make of you. As a result, you are sure to see much more targeted assignments, ones that ensure that when we have synchronous encounters what you have done in preparation is focused on achieving the most from those experiences. Yes, as strange as it is to say, this difficult landscape is likely to result in some significant enrichments in your educational experience.

To sum up, then, we are confident in the Religious Studies Department that no matter its mode of delivery in the semester to come, your educational experience among us will remain of the same high quality you have come to expect—and receive—from us. We are committed to that.

We look forward to seeing you in class!

Rob, Paul, and Susanna