Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
After a rocky start to the semester, it looks as if we are on track to continue in-person instruction for the next four weeks preceding Thanksgiving break. The temporary shutdown last month significantly reduced the number of COVID-19 cases among our students, and our classroom safety protocols and additional testing have contributed to the safety and well-being of our campus community.
Today’s email message includes updates and reminders, as well as new resources available to faculty and instructors. Highlights include:
- Specific dates to keep in mind for the remainder of the Fall 2020 semester
- Reminders and details about COVID-19 testing
- New networking opportunities for faculty and staff who are parents
- New professional development opportunities from the TLC
- Specific dates and details about the Spring 2021 semester
- WVU ADVANCE’s new Inclusive Hiring Initiative
As always, I encourage all of our on-campus and online instructors to visit the WVU Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 and the WVU Teaching and Learning Commons websites for additional information, resources and support. And remember, each of these messages is archived on the Office of the Provost website for future reference.
Fall Semester Reminders
While the end of the fall semester is still several weeks away, below are just a few things to keep in mind as we all look toward a well-deserved winter break. Please also see the full academic calendar on the Provost’s Office website.
- The last day of in-person instruction for programs on all campuses is Tuesday, November 24. Following the recess, the fall semester will resume online on Monday, November 30.
- The last day of classes for all campuses is Friday, December 4.
- Finals weeks for all campuses is Monday, December 7 through Friday, December 11. All finals will be conducted virtually.
- December Commencement will be a virtual ceremony on Saturday, December 19. More details will be released at a later date.
COVID-19 Testing Reminders
As was announced earlier this month, the University continues its COVID-19 testing efforts. Please refer to the Return to Campus website for all testing updates and details.
- All in-person instructors who wish to be tested can register for their preferred testing date/time via StarRez (WVU’s housing portal). As with sample testing, time slots are available Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the WVU Student Recreation Center.
- In partnership with the WV National Guard and the Monongalia County Health Department, WVU also offers free testing to WVU students, employees and residents of Monongalia County every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the WVU Student Recreation Center. Please note the following exceptions:
- Testing on Wednesday, October 28, will be held from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Testing the week of November 16 will be held on Friday, November 20 (instead of Wednesday), from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will allow time for individuals to receive test results before the Thanksgiving holiday.
- There will be no testing on Wednesday, November 25.
- Sample testing is ongoing and, generally speaking, will not impact faculty and instructors. However, some in-person instructors might be included in required screening testing as determined by the school and college deans.
- Any questions about required testing should be directed to WVU Shared Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-293-6006.
- There will be ongoing testing between Thanksgiving and the end of the semester. The operational hours and days for testing are still being determined and will be shared at a later date.
- WVU continues to share the daily percentage of positive COVID-19 tests and the number of students in quarantine or isolation on the public-facing COVID-19 testing dashboard. The dashboard is updated Monday through Friday by 11 a.m. with information regarding students and employees broken out by campus. Updates also are posted via the WVU Safety social media accounts. The dashboard will be updated weekly on Mondays beginning November 30 through early January. We will resume daily updates after the first of the year.
NEW! Online Communities for Faculty Parents
Responding to a request from faculty who are parents, the Provost’s Office has partnered with Talent and Culture and the Office of Strategic Initiatives to create discussion boards in the Microsoft Teams platform to serve as a parents’ network for WVU faculty and staff.
The virtual community is designed to provide all employees with children a platform to share ideas, discuss concerns and collaborate on solutions in terms of the parenting challenges they face related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussion boards are moderated by WVU faculty and staff who are part of the parenting community.
Faculty and instructors who wish to join a community can find the link on the WVU Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 website or visit the Talent and Culture website. Because they are on a different network, Health Sciences employees will need to email TalentandCulture@mail.wvu.edu to request to join a community.
TLC Professional Development Opportunities
- Engagement Roundtables:The WVU Teaching and Learning Commons (TLC) will be hosting a series of “engagement roundtables” during the month of November. They will be small group discussions on the topic of student engagement, and the goal is to create an environment for peer-to-peer sharing and discussion. These will be open to all instructors across all campuses. This idea was originally generated by TLC faculty associates on the Keyser campus and led to great tips for engaging students. Dates for future roundtable discussions will be posted on the TLC website next week.
- Blackboard Webinar/Digital Teaching Symposium:Interested in learning more about what’s on Blackboard’s roadmap for teaching and learning? They will be offering a webinar on October 27 that will explore updates on Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate. TLC also encourages faculty and instructors to register for Blackboard’s upcoming Digital Teaching Symposium, scheduled for November 5. The free event will feature faculty from across the country sharing lessons learned and best practices for digital teaching.
- Video QA Contest:The TLC is launching a contest in which faculty and instructors submit short videos answering some of the most pressing questions around teaching and learning during COVID-19. Share your best answers with the TLC and your peers! Select videos will be shared on the TLC website and social media channels. Interested participants can find details on the TLC video contest page. As a token of appreciation, every entry will receive a small thank you from the Teaching and Learning Commons. Those who submit also will be entered into a drawing for a paperback book from the WVU Press Teaching and Learning in Higher Education series.
Planning for Spring
As shared in previous communications, we are looking ahead to the Spring 2021 semester and planning for a reduced on-campus presence, similar to the approach taken this fall. By continuing this approach, public health experts believe we will likely be able to maintain an on-campus presence throughout the semester. The colleges and schools determined their mix of on-campus and in-person instruction with guidelines provided by my office.
- While the majority of instruction will be still delivered online, a total of 43% of seats will be offered in course sections that are in person or hybrid.
- More than half of our online courses will offer synchronous or “real-time” instruction.
- To guide students on the various modes of instruction being offered and to help them read their schedules and understand the modality of each course, we have added detailed information to the onlinestudents.wvu.edu website.
- Registration dates, as well as add/drop dates, are available on the Office of the University Registrar’s website.
- Faculty and instructors are reminded that there will not be a spring break next semester. Instead, there are non-instructional days on Thursday, February 11 and Wednesday, March 3. The complete academic calendar is available on the Provost’s Office website.
- Faculty, instructors and graduate assistants are encouraged to submit requests for modification for Spring 2021 by November 1. Details are on the WVU Faculty website.
Finally, while all intentions are to begin the semester as scheduled, faculty and instructors are encouraged to prepare contingency plans should we need to shift to remote learning for a period of time as we did this fall. Please continue to refer to the WVU Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage for best practices, resources, classroom procedures, and more.
New Faculty Hiring Initiative
Yesterday, the WVU ADVANCE Center announced its new Inclusive Hiring Initiative, which is supported by my office and the Office of the President.
In the coming weeks, ADVANCE-trained facilitators will begin working with departments and academic units who are interested in a 90-minute, virtual work session focused on rethinking approaches to faculty recruitment and hiring. The sessions will help units focus on identifying new areas of specialization that could potentially attract applicants from underutilized populations, as well as reshaping and broadening their advertising and search plans.
The Initiative aligns with WVU’s collective strategic transformation vision (Goal #4) to “create avenues of access and success for students, staff and faculty and nurture a university where historically underserved people are supported and valued.” Future sessions will focus on retention, mentoring, promotion, and tenure.
Learn more about this and other offerings on the WVU ADVANCE website.
While Thanksgiving may be a month away, I want to express my thanks and gratitude to our faculty, instructors and staff who have weathered this difficult time with a sense of purpose and mission — and with kindness, empathy and a sense of humor. While we don’t always get along perfectly, we remain a strong community of individuals that puts students first and supports and cares for each other.
We can’t predict what will happen in the months ahead, and we know that our best-laid plans could be upended at any time. But, if and when we have to change course, I am confident that we will manage the disruptions and difficulties together, guided by our shared values and our ever-resilient Mountaineer spirit.