Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
Believe it or not, we are just two months away from the start of the Fall 2020 semester. I’m sure that many of you are already preparing for your Fall courses given the need to plan for multiple modes of course delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. To give you as much lead time as possible, this email provides details about the updated Fall 2020 schedule, as well as expectations and guidelines for instruction under these unique circumstances.
Fall 2020 Course Schedule
This week, we released the revised Fall 2020 course schedule indicating changed locations and modes of instruction for many of our courses. These changes were not made lightly; adjustments were considered carefully and with several parameters in mind.
As mentioned previously, many locations were changed due to physical distancing protocol, which requires larger spaces for even the smallest of classes. This need inevitably required moving many classes to new locations with which you may not be familiar.
If your classroom location is significantly differently from where you would normally teach, I urge you to visit the WVU Facilities website to see photos of our general purpose classrooms and get a better feel for your classroom layout. If you still have questions about a particular classroom or an off-campus venue, please reach out to your associate dean for details.
While we don't intend to change room assignments from this point forward, there are some possible scenarios that would necessitate a location change for an individual course. In these instances, the instructor will be notified by the Provost’s Office, Scheduling and/or dean’s office.
Modes of Instruction
Students and instructors will note that the schedule reflects only three types of courses. Face-to-face courses are listed with designated location, day(s) and time. Online asynchronouscourses typically appear with no location, day(s) or time listed. Online synchronouscourses usually include day(s) and time during which the course will convene online.
The schedule does not indicate other modes of instruction at this time – although we are working toward an update for Spring 2021 that will be more comprehensive. Students have been encouraged to reach out to their instructors to inquire about the delivery mode for their courses and to review the updated definitions of these modalities in the WVU catalog.
However, I encourage you to connect with your students this summer to provide them with some general guidance and reassurance. If your course has moved online, help them understand whether it is synchronous or asynchronous and what that means. If you plan to offer your course using any form of hybrid instruction, let your students know and be clear about expectations.
While only a small number of courses were selected for the Hybrid-Flexible mode of delivery for Fall 2020, all WVU faculty and instructors should consider utilizing the resources and expertise of the WVU Teaching and Learning Commons as they prepare for their courses. Take advantage of the opportunity to implement new tools and techniques into your teaching and coursework.
Attendance Policy Changes
Anticipating potential absences due to illness and quarantines, the University has amended its attendance policy for University sanctioned absences to reflect the impact of COVID-19 and has instituted a new emergency leave policy that provides guidance if a student should be unable to participate in class for more than a week.
The changes to the attendance policy are fairly simple and two-fold:
- Students who are ill or quarantined (self-imposed or institutionally imposed) cannot be punished academically. This means that they cannot lose points. Students will be given the opportunity to make up any missed assignments or tests, although they may receive an alternative assignment. The major difference between sick and quarantined students is that we expect quarantined students to be working through their material online while they are in quarantine. Sick students will clearly have to make material up once they return to health.
- If a student becomes ill (or injured or experiences any other unfortunate event that removes them from class for an extended period), they can use the emergency leave policy to work through the best possible resolution. It works similarly to the military leave policy. While it does not guarantee a particular outcome, it does provide the student a measure of protection. Documentation of some sort may be requested depending upon the resolution.
And, of course, to avoid spread of the virus, faculty and instructors should discourage students who aren’t feeling well from coming to class.
Expectations and Best Practices
A crucial factor to successfully delivering instruction under these circumstances will be flexibility. We have an obligation to deliver high-quality instruction to all our students – wherever they are – and to ensure they are able to meet the learning outcomes of their courses.
To facilitate student engagement and academic success during this time of change, the Pedagogy and Instruction Committee has created a set of expectations and guidelines for instruction that apply to all instructors of record for the 2020-2021 academic year. Of particular note is the expectation to approach course design with a contingency plan for delivering course content to students beyond the traditional classroom setting – that may include pivoting to fully online should circumstances warrant the need to make that shift.
Some of these expectations include:
- Having a contingency plan in place for campus-wide or student-specific remote teaching
- Addressing the use of personal protective equipment, communication strategies and testing/assessment in your syllabus
- Reviewing your attendance and participation policies and understanding the WVU Emergency Leave Policy in light of potential COVID-19 impacts
- Utilizing approved web-based tools to provide online access to your syllabus, bi-weekly
gradebook and course content Offering virtual office hours
The Provost’s Office will be sending a communication to all WVU instructorsasking
for a description of their contingency plans for pivoting to online instruction
and accommodating student absences due to illness or quarantine.
Ensuring Safe Classroom Behavior
To keep students and faculty safe, we are requiring that everyone wears a mask or uses appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) in the classroom. To help you manage this expectation, we have developed guidelines for ensuring safe classroom behavior.
These guidelines outline a series of proactive steps for setting classroom expectations, which includes incorporating a new approved University COVID-19 statement into your course syllabus and explaining the reporting process if students should be non-compliant. The statement will be shared with instructors once it has been reviewed by Faculty Senate.
The new guidelines also provide instructors with sample scenarios and steps to follow should students fail to comply with the PPE and physical distancing requirements. The goal is to give you guidance on how to de-escalate a potential confrontation and to provide direction should you need to take stronger action.
Another approach currently under discussion is to require assigned seating in our face-to-face classrooms. This would enable instructors to more easily identify students who aren’t complying with safety requirements and allow for contact tracing should a student become ill with the COVID-19 virus. We hope to be able to provide more information on this in the near future.
These continue to be trying times as we as prepare for an atypical Fall semester under the shadow of COVID-19. Everyone is working very hard, and there is a still a great deal of uncertainty about what lies ahead, including the University’s financial position.
Earlier this week, you received a communication suggesting the possibility of future furloughs or salary cuts. Please know there are no current plans to take such a drastic measure. However, the University must keep the option open should we face additional financial impacts from this crisis. Our leadership believes it is imperative to be open and transparent about the challenges we still face in a dynamic and evolving situation.
I continue to be impressed with how well our faculty and instructors have responded in the face of these challenges and uncertainties. Please know how much the entire University leadership team appreciates your dedication to our students and educational mission. Your work is absolutely essential. Expect more communications from my office this summer on initiatives designed to support your efforts and help you stay safe.