Classes of 21, 22, and 23,
Welcome to a historic moment for USAFA! You are the first cadets to be enrolled at USAFA during a global pandemic, to take classes remotely, and to attend classes from over 3000 locations. This email provides you an update on DF preparations for remote classwork, the help the faculty and I need from you, and the steps you can take now to prepare for remote classwork. Warning: this is a lengthy email…and I need you to read every word…twice.
Thank you in advance for reading through this email in its entirety (twice) and forwarding any questions that you might have through your cadet chain. It is only through your dedication that we can make this happen!
DF Preparations for Remote Classwork: Your faculty has been hard at work converting all of our classes to remote learning courses. As you might imagine, this is no easy feat. We are taking a crash course on various software platforms and learning the best practices associated with on-line learning. We have also been procuring some new software capability to ensure faculty and cadets have the tools you need to best work in this new virtual environment.
So to the question you want answered: when will classes start? Classes will resume remotely for all four classes on Wednesday 25 March…Mountain Daylight Time. This lesson will be T23…right where we stopped. A revised academic calendar will be published later this week.
To make sure we have all the computer/technical kinks (yes that is a technical term!) worked out, we will hold two “soft starts” where faculty members will connect with you during your regularly scheduled class time. This “soft start” will ensure you can connect and interact online. The schedule for these communication checks will follow your normal class schedule on the following days:
- Thursday 19 March: Soft Start #1 (i.e., Communication Check) for T-day classes
- Friday 20 March: Soft Start #1 (i.e., Communication Check) for M-day classes
- Monday 23 March: Soft Start #2 (i.e., Communication Check) for T-day classes
- Tuesday 24 March: Soft Start #2 (i.e., Communication Check) for M-day classes
So, if you have a Calculus class during T2, you will log on to your computer at 0830 (Mountain Daylight Time) on Thursday on the platform selected by your professor. Stay tuned for details on the soft start from your faculty members. We anticipate that we still have a great deal to learn…so we are giving ourselves two “at bats” for the soft start.
Help We Need from You
- Understand the difference between in-person and remote learning classes. Taking and teaching online classes is different than doing them in-residence. Your classes may come in the form of synchronous classes, which meet online at a specific time for "live" interaction, and asynchronous classes, which can be attended at any time and have interaction as needed. Your instructors will let you know which method your class will use…and many will use both types! Synchronous classes will be conducted during your regularly scheduled class time using Mountain Daylight Time. This means that if you live in California and have a first period class, your class will start at 0630…sharp. If you live in New York, that same class will start at 0930.
- Learn how to operate Teams and BlackBoard Collaborate Software (before Thursday). Where is the microphone mute button? How do you turn your web camera on and off? How do you dial in using a telephone number if your internet goes down? How do you ask a question in the chat room? How do you share a document? Your first class cadet supervisor should be helping you today and tomorrow learn both of these software platforms. If you haven’t heard from your firstie, give him or her a shout!
- Identify early if you have computer or internet challenges. If you are having internet difficulties, work with your first class supervisor on how to solve. Notify your faculty and AOC. Understand clearly that if you do not have reliable internet service, you will be required to come back to USAFA for the remainder of the semester. Additionally, you need a workable email…and you need to check it multiple times a day. If your inbox is full, empty it. Faculty and cadets must be able to email back and forth…and a full inbox is not an acceptable excuse for “not knowing”. If you are not able to communicate regularly and complete your class work, we will be left with one of two options: 1) having you repeat the course or 2) bringing you back to USAFA for the remainder of the semester. Neither of those options are ideal…so proactively work issues and solve connectivity problems. Your first class cadet supervisor, your AOC/AMT, and your faculty are here to help!
- Understand expectations. The same expectations hold for online classes as in-residence classes: completing work with honor and integrity, finishing work on time, and communicating with your instructors. Later this week, I will share a classroom standards letter to clarify all of my expectations in more detail. Your first class supervisor and your instructors will also go through these expectations with you.
- Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Re-read #3 & #4. If they are facing challenges, communicate with your first class supervisor, your AOC, and your instructors. I know that some of you will get sick or your family members will. Some of you may find the online learning environment really difficult. Share those difficulties with us. We are here to help.
Steps you can take NOW
I suspect that with large group gatherings and nation-wide restaurant and movie closures, some of you may already be bored. Let me offer two suggestions:
First, get smart on online courses and how to be a remote learner. Our Center for Educational Innovation is pulling resources together for both you as students and for our instructors. Check out this video for a few tips on how to be a better remote learner. If you find some other great resources, share them with your cadet academic staff, and we will share them broadly!
Second, get started working on your course work…today. If you have a paper or project due lesson 30 (or lesson 40), get started. You have your syllabi (and all of your books!) for the remainder of the semester…get started now. Pull forward homework, projects, readings, and papers. The more you are able to get done over the next week, the more you can handle if you get sick later in the semester or if one of your family members gets sick, and you are spending extra time helping him or her get access to resources. I cannot stress enough that the ball is in your court…don’t wait to be told the play…execute. If you have questions, reach out to your faculty; but in the meantime, get started. (Have I said “get started” enough?)
Well you made it to the bottom of this lengthy email. Now re-read it again and make sure it all makes sense. Communicate up your chain if there are more questions we can answer about how academics will progress. Finally—and most importantly—thank you. Converting from purely in-person classwork to purely on-line courses will be the largest wholesale change in USAFA’s history. Each one of you is critical to the success of this effort. And as my teammate and our Commandant emphasized: stay safe, stay healthy, stay connected, stay in shape, stay committed! And my short add, stay studying!
LINELL A. LETENDRE
Brigadier General, USAF
Dean of the Faculty, U.S. Air Force Academy