Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
It’s hard to believe that the new academic year is about to begin. I know this was a busy summer, as you prepared for an altered return to campus. Hopefully, you were able to also spend quality time with family and friends.
Needless to say, this fall semester will look and feel like nothing we’ve experienced before. First of all, there will be fewer students and fellow faculty on campus, since we have moved the large majority of our courses online and to hybrid mode. In addition, everyone will be wearing masks; buildings will be marked for ingress and egress; there will be assigned seating in our classrooms; and there may be limited support staff available on site.
If you are teaching in the classroom or spending any time on campus this fall, there will be a number of new protocols to follow. More will be expected of you than in a typical semester, and you may feel overwhelmed.
To help you navigate the fall semester, this email includes information about new requirements and expectations, along with support structures in place, designed to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus and help you to remain safe and have a successful semester.
Highlights in today’s message include:
- Links to resources and professional development opportunities from the WVU Teaching and Learning Commons
- Links to best practices and resources from the Office of the Provost
- Updates on accessing campus office and classrooms
- Details regarding classroom upgrades and technology support
- Suggested guidelines for contacting students regarding your course delivery mode
- Requirements for assigned seating and attendance in on-campus courses
- Clarification, details and ordering process for PPE in the classroom
- Link to the new COVID-19 syllabus statement
- Link to the new Student Conduct form to report non-compliant students
- Registration link to the new Student Conduct/Care workshop on August 19
- Link to the outlined process for instructor notification regarding COVID-related absences
Please read on for details about these efforts and more.
Ensuring a Quality and Engaging Experience
Many of you have spent significant time this summer planning ahead and availing yourselves of the available technologies and approaches to delivering quality online and hybrid instruction. As you continue to plan, be sure to take advantage of the WVU Teaching and Learning Commons (TLC)’s professional development resources and training opportunities, including:
- Fall Hybrid Teaching Institute
- Course Planning and Contingency Preparedness
- Online Course Development Mini-Institutes
- On-demand session recordings on various tools and techniques
- Best practice rubrics for high-quality course design and course delivery
- Virtual drop-in consultation sessions
In addition, all faculty members and instructors are encouraged to review the COVID-19 Instructor Expectations and Best Practices, which were developed to help guide you through these uncertain times in higher ed.
Accessing Campus Offices and Classrooms
All faculty and instructors can now return to campus to access their private academic offices to obtain their course materials and prepare for classes. Whenever possible, faculty are expected to stay in their offices and not congregate in communal spaces. Those who share an office with another individual are asked to coordinate access times with those other individuals.
If you are in a shared office at the same time as another person, both individuals must be wearing masks and must maintain physical distance. If you are alone in your private office with the door closed, you are not required to wear a mask.
Faculty and instructors will be able to visit their assigned classrooms on the Morgantown campus beginning Monday, August 17. Classrooms on the Keyser and Beckley campuses are already accessible.
Classroom Technology Support
The TLC continues to be an invaluable partner in our efforts to return to campus this fall.
In addition to professional development opportunities, the TLC is implementing significant classroom technology upgrades to meet the demands of the changing landscape of higher education. To better understand the technology available and how to utilize it for course delivery, faculty and instructors are encouraged to:
- Review the TLC’s Classroom COVID Response webpage, which includes a complete list of technology upgrades and changes per classroom.
- Instructors should note that not all classrooms have streaming capabilities (e.g., Zoom, Collaborate). Some only are equipped to record (e.g., Mediasite). All faculty and instructors are encouraged to review their room assignments and technology availability as they plan for the semester.
- Review the site’s FAQs and training initiatives to learn how to use the new technologies being added across campus. Online training videos also are being added on related topics.
- Join one of TLC’s virtual drop-in sessions to ask questions about their classrooms or technology.
- There will be limited hands-on training opportunities on request-only basis.
For technical support regarding a General Purpose Classroom, instructors can contact the number posted for the TLC’s Classroom Technology team, which is 304-293-2832 (CTEC).
Notifying Students of Course Delivery Mode
Be sure to communicate early and often with your students. While we have posted more detailed explanations of course delivery modes on the Return to Campus website, students will take great comfort in hearing directly from their instructors.
Online (synchronous and asynchronous) and hybrid/HyFlex course delivery will likely be very new to many of our students – especially first-time freshmen. Reach out to your students as soon as you are able to let them know:
- How your course will be delivered;
- When they are expected to join online or on campus;
- What specific tools and resources will be utilized in your class (including the WVU-authenticated Learning Management System being used - such as eCampus or SOLE); and
- Any additional expectations that may be different from a typical face-to-face class.
Again, the COVID-19 Instructor Expectations and Best Practices provide a number of suggestions for consideration and outline how to set expectations for your students.
If, as a course instructor, you are unsure of the expectations regarding your specific course delivery, please reach out as soon as possible to your department chair or academic leader and to the TLC for assistance.
Seating Charts and Attendance
As we return to campus this month, the University’s ability to work with local health departments to support contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 incident (e.g., a positive test) in face-to-face classes is essential. If contact tracing involving a student in a particular class becomes necessary, it is important that we are able to quickly identify those who have been potentially exposed.
To support this important effort, on-campus course instructors on all WVU campuses will be required to do two things:
- Use assigned seating in each class
- Take attendance and maintain assigned seating daily, whether attendance figures into course grading or not
Once finalized, all seating charts will be submitted to a central location. We will expect instructors to keep attendance records for each class meeting and provide those upon request for contact tracing purposes.
Having the charts centrally available and the ability to quickly retrieve attendance records from instructors will be crucial steps in the contact tracing process, should it become necessary. If the information on file is not correct, it is possible your entire class may need to be quarantined.
Early next week, you will be provided with specific details on where to access the seating charts, how to submit them and best practices for documenting attendance in your classes.
While we recognize these steps may feel like burdensome tasks in addition to your instructional efforts, we appreciate your commitment to our overall efforts.
PPE and Classroom Instruction
As you know, everyone is required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when in public spaces on campus.
Below are additional details regarding PPE for faculty and instructors:
- An instructor must wear a mask or face shield even when standing behind the Plexiglass barrier. The Plexiglass is offered as an additional safety measure and does not mitigate the need for a mask or face shield.
- Face shields are only to be worn in the classroom if the instructor is behind the Plexiglass barrier. If the instructor moves away from the Plexiglass, they must wear a mask under the face shield or just a mask.
- If an instructor is not using the Plexiglass barrier while teaching, they must wear a mask at all times in the classroom or while in public spaces on campus.
- Instructors are reminded to maintain a six-foot distance between themselves and students, classroom technology support staff and others.
- TLC technology team members onlywill provide support to instructors during class time if the instructor is wearing a mask.
- Face shields can be obtained via Mountaineer Marketplace (under the WVU PPE Store) free of charge. Pick up will be at the WVU Warehouse.
- Supplies of clear or “smile” masks are limited, and requests will be managed judiciously.
- Students needing a clear or “smile” mask for accessibility-related reasons should make a request through the accommodations process.
- Instructors can receive a clear or “smile” mask as part of a student’s request for accommodation as well.
- If an instructor needs a clear or “smile” mask for accessibility-related reasons before the accommodations process has concluded, please reach out directly to Dan Long ( email@example.com) or Jason Kapcala ( firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Office of Accessibility Services.
- For all other non–accessibility-related needs, individuals should contact Associate Provost Mark Gavin ( email@example.com).
- Upon approval of requests, clear or “smile” masks will be supplied free of charge.
Extra masks, disinfecting wipes, disinfecting spray, microfiber rags, and hand sanitizer will be available in each classroom on campus and restocked on a daily basis. Extra supplies will also be available in each building and can be accessed through the building supervisor. In addition, masks will be available for five (5) cents in vending machines across campus.
Managing Student Conduct in the Classroom
There is a lot to consider when planning for how to manage a face-to-face course in the wake of COVID-19. My office has been partnering with groups across the University to help create guidelines and policies to support our on-campus instructors.
Three new items include:
- The University’s new COVID-19 Syllabus Statement, which is available on the TLC website. All course syllabi should include this statement, and course instructors are encouraged to review it with their students at the start of the semester.
- The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities’s new form to report a COVID-19 incident. The button can be found on the homepage of studentresponsibility.wvu.edu. Classroom non-compliance issues will receive high priority.
- A new, virtual Student Conduct/CARE Workshop on August 19 that will highlight support services and tips from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Carruth Center and CARE Team.
Also, all faculty members and instructors are reminded to review the following:
- Ensuring Safe Classroom Behavior – a set of guidelines and step-by-step instructions on how to set classroom expectations and handle both minor and major disruptions.
- University’s revised attendance policy and new emergency leave policy to be prepared and informed in the event of quarantine or illness.
All of these resources and more are available on the Adjustments for COVID-19 page of the faculty.wvu.edu website.
Managing COVID-19-Related Absences
WVU’s Incident Command Center (ICC) is managing contact tracing efforts in conjunction with the CARE Team and the Office of the Provost. If a student or instructor tests positive for COVID-19, the CARE Team will handle reaching out to other students who need to be quarantined. This could include roommates, classmates, resident assistants, etc. The Office of the Provost will handle the academic contacts, reaching out to the student’s instructors as outlined on the process webpage.
All course instructors – regardless of modality – should be aware of the academic notification processes for COVID-related absences. The processes for both students and instructors are outlined on the faculty.wvu.edu website.
In addition, course instructors are reminded of the following resources to help manage COVID-19-related absences:
- COVID-19 Instructor Expectations and Best Practices, which provide faculty members and instructors guidance on how to plan for instruction in case of student illness or quarantine due to COVID-19
- Revised University attendance policy, which has been updated to reflect the impact of COVID-19
- WVU’s new emergency leave policy, whichprovides guidance if a student should be unable to participate in class for more than a week
While you have been busy preparing your courses, an enormous amount of effort has been happening behind the scenes to prepare for the start of the fall semester. The University has gone to great lengths to ensure we can have a successful semester while keeping our campus community as safe as possible. At times, some of these measures may seem overly prescriptive and antithetical to the open campus experience we are all familiar with and treasure.
It’s important to recognize that extraordinary measures are called for because this is an extraordinary time. Until we make it through this period of uncertainty, we must lean in, do what is necessary to support our students and each other, and know that we will eventually return to a more typical campus experience.
Thank you again for your extraordinary effort and for making a difference in the lives of our students — during the COVID-19 pandemic and always.