Muir College Reverses Plan to have Synchronous-Only Writing Classes in Winter Quarter 2021

In a Dec. 3 email sent out to students enrolled in the John Muir College Writing Program for the Winter Quarter 2021, the MCWP department stated that all remote Muir writing courses during the upcoming Winter 2021 quarter would be held synchronously. Student outcry in response to the change prompted the MCWP to announce on Dec. 7 that it would be continuing Fall Quarter accommodations for students unable to attend remote courses synchronously. 

Students had originally been informed that they should drop their Muir Writing course if they were unable to attend synchronously.

“All remote MCWP classes will occur during their scheduled time,” the Dec. 3 email said. “If you are not able to attend synchronously, you should drop the class. If this leaves you unsure what to do about moving forward with your coursework, send a message through the Virtual Advising Center so we can provide additional support.”

Soon after the email was sent out, students took to Twitter to complain about the change. Much of the pushback revolved around concerns that international students and others residing in different time zones would be negatively impacted by the shift to a synchronous format. 

In an interview with The UCSD Guardian, Muir College sophomore Sophie Wynn said that the initial email likely caused unnecessary stress for students who needed to take the courses to graduate in a timely manner.

“As a student at Muir College, I know how hard it is to get a spot in the MCWP classes and [planning] your schedule around them,” Wynn said. “I empathize with the students who dropped the class after the initial email, because I would be stressed if I received that email too. Having taken MCWP 40 this fall synchronously, I can see the value in taking the classes in real time but that does not work for everyone during these hard times.” 

The MCWP department acknowledged that student input in response to the announcement caused the program to reverse its plans.

“Thank you for your responses after our recent notification about remote MCWP classes,” the MCWP department said. “We now understand that this message may have seemed insensitive to the challenges you, as students, currently face and we have adjusted accordingly.”

Muir College freshman applicant students are required to complete the two-course Muir Writing sequence as part of their general education. Transfer students are also held to similar general education writing requirements. 

Guidelines on remote instructional activities posted by Academic Personnel Services note that course materials should be accessible to students regardless of whether they are participating in either an asynchronous or synchronous format, as some students face personal, technical, or safety challenges in being able to attend remote courses in real time.

“We don’t want [challenges to remote learning] to become demoralizing barriers to their full academic engagement,” the guideline stated. “In recognition of this, we are operating under the shared expectations that course material for remotely offered courses should be made available in asynchronous format and that an asynchronous equivalent (or readily accessible alternative-time accommodation) should be provided for any synchronous remote learning experience (including assessments) an instructor or TA chooses to offer.”  

Students who dropped a Muir Writing class based on the Dec. 3 email are encouraged to submit a message on the Virtual Advising Center, choosing “Muir Writing” as their topic. Although the email did not explicitly state that students would be able to re-enroll with their original preferences, the MCWP will work with students to devise an alternate solution.

Photo courtesy of Erik Jepsen for UC San Diego.

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