Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
I’m writing to you from my home office – missing the bustle of campus and the daily interaction with students and faculty. I’m sure that you, too, are feeling the absence of others and wishing we were operating under normal conditions. But as we know, that is not the case.
Monday, we begin offering all of our academic courses online. This may be the first time you have taught using distance-delivery formats. I can only imagine that you are anxious, not knowing exactly how this will go. To help you prepare, I’m sharing some information that we hope will be of use.
Tenure and Promotion
We recognize that faculty in the pipeline for tenure and promotion may have particular anxiety about the impact this online semester will have on their teaching and research. To ensure our tenure-track faculty are not impeded in their progress, the Office of the Provost is granting automatic one-year extensions to the tenure clock for all tenure-track faculty members who are currently not in their critical year. Tenure-track faculty will need to “opt-out” of the automatic extension if they do not want to move back their critical year. Please visit the faculty.wvu.edu website for complete details.
Supporting Our Students
Our students also are anxious about the impact this unusual semester will have on their success. As we announced yesterday, undergraduate students will be given a pass/fail option for their courses, with just a few exceptions. The goal is to ensure that this unprecedented situation doesn’t have a lasting negative impact on our students’ grades or academic progress or, in the case of West Virginia students, their PROMISE scholarships. Complete details about this policy change and others can be found online.
WVU Online also has launched a website dedicated to helping students transition to the distance learning environment. The onlinestudents.wvu.edu site includes quick links to services that have moved to virtual delivery – such as tutoring and mental health – as well as tips, best practices and answers to general student questions. We encourage you to refer your students to this website and become familiar with it as well.
Specific resources for students in Health Sciences programs can be found on the COVID-19 website pages of the Health Sciences school sites.
Web Access Issues
We have received several emails from faculty with concerns about reliable Internet access at home. We are asking those faculty to contact their deans to discuss alternative arrangements.
Even if you have high-speed broadband or Wi-fi at home, you may still have trouble accessing your online courses at times. With millions of Americans working at home and K-12 students studying at home, all phone, Internet and cloud-based service providers are facing unprecedented demands. You should prepare for the possibility of slow load times, dropped connections, loss of video feeds and other disruptions of service. Homes that rely on a cable company or analog (DSL) service, and those with copper-wire connections, will be among the first affected. This is most of West Virginia.
The key is to be realistic about what you can – and cannot – do. Scale back your
expectations and have a back-up plan in case you or your students encounter technical
issues. Remember, there are always low-tech options to consider, such as calling
your students or emailing them their assignments. Be sure to refer to the
WVU Teaching and Learning Commons website
for guidance and online teaching tips.
Reminder: While going to your office on campus might seem like the easiest solution, we must all remember that the goal is to maintain strict social distancing and continue to limit our physical presence on campus. If you need to stop by your office to pick up something you’ve left behind, you have permission to do so. Such visits should be very brief and very infrequent. However, any extended period of time on campus must be pre-approved by your dean’s office. The Health Sciences building’s main entrances are open for access to patient care areas. Faculty and staff access to the HSC should be coordinated through Health Sciences Incident Command at HSIC@hsc.wvu.edu .
We are becoming increasingly certain that the University will need to lengthen finals week to ensure we have enough bandwidth to handle the number of tests being given. We plan to share the finals schedule with you next week.
We also know that we need to make a decision soon about summer term. Many universities have already cancelled their on-campus summer classes, with the understanding that social distancing may continue through June. While we don’t want to act prematurely, we do need to consider our options if students and faculty are unable to return to campus this summer.
In the Short Term
We know next week will be different as you start teaching online and students begin accessing your courses. Please be patient and calm when you encounter difficulties, knowing that it may take time to resolve problems. Below are contacts for your reference:
- For instructional support questions about non-HSC online courses, please submit a ticket to the WVU Teaching and Learning Commons.
- For HSC course support, please submit a request to SOLE support.
- For general technology issues not related to HSC, please submit an ITS Help ticket.
- For general HSC technology support, please submit a ticket through the HSC ITS website.
Both TLC and ITS have reallocated staff members and student workers to expand hours and offer more support in the coming days. HSC will continue to offer its 24/7 emergency support through the HSC Help Desk number.
On a Positive Note
To share some positive news, I want to give a shout out to faculty from several colleges who were asked to use their creativity, expertise and resources to provide much needed supplies to health care workers around the state. Members of several schools and colleges are making masks, producing hand sanitizer and donating safety gear from their own labs to support our community members in this time of unprecedented need. Read the full story on WVU Today. Please let us know how you and your students are helping out in your own ways.
Finally, thanks to all of you for your herculean effort! We know this is a unique situation, but you continue to be productive and positive with the primary goal of serving our deserving students. We applaud your efforts and know that together we will come out the other side of this crisis — better, stronger, and more connected to one another.