Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
Happy new year! I hope you had a peaceful and restful holiday season and are ready for the start of a new year and the Spring semester.
The next couple of months may be challenging as we continue to operate under COVID-19 restrictions and within a highly charged political environment. But there is hope on the horizon as vaccines become more widely available to our campus community. In the meantime, our students will be back on Tuesday, and we need to re-commit to providing them with the best experience possible under the current circumstances.
This email will address several back-to-school items, including:
- Updates to the Spring 2021 academic calendar
- Vaccination roll-out on campus
- COVID-19 testing procedures
- How to identify students not eligible to attend in-person classes
- Assigned seating and attendance tracking
- A new optional Mental Health Statement for course syllabi
- TLC support of student engagement
- An update on virtual tutoring for school-aged children
- Upcoming awards and recognition
- Additional resources and reminders
I encourage all of our on-campus and online instructors to visit the WVU Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage and the WVU Teaching and Learning Commons website for additional information, resources and support. And remember, each of these messages is archived on the Office of the Provost website for future reference.
Spring 2021 Academic Calendar
As you all know, the semester begins on Tuesday, January 19. As announced late last year and again this week, the University has made changes to the academic calendar for Spring 2021.
There are now three non-instructional days in the calendar: Thursday, February 11; Tuesday, March 2; and Wednesday, March 3. Friday, April 2 is a University holiday that we have each Spring. And there is now a "prep day" on Monday, May 3, which was originally the first day of final exam week. Final exams will now start a day later on Tuesday, May 4 and continue through the morning of Saturday, May 8.
Any variations of this calendar for the Beckley or Keyser campuses will be communicated by their administrations. As always, any additional changes to the overall calendar will be shared through typical campus communication channels and included on the Provost’s Office Academic Calendar webpage.
WVU continues to receive allotted doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and is prioritizing distribution based on guidance from the state, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts. Employees aged 65 and older received priority for the first waves of vaccines, followed by those aged 50 and older. WVU will continue to contact eligible groups of employees as vaccines become available. See the Return to Campus website for details.
As was outlined in Monday’s Return to Campus message, all employees and students who will be on campus at any point this semester are required to be tested for COVID-19 by Saturday, January 16. Unlike the Fall semester, students must receive a negative test result before classes start on January 19 or they will not be allowed into the classroom for instruction. Only those who receive negative results are permitted to be on campus.
Those who have not yet scheduled a test may do so at http://myhousing.wvu.edu, but limited times are available. The WVU Keyser and WVU Beckley campuses are conducting free return-to-campus COVID-19 testing programs separate from the Morgantown program. Students, faculty and staff at these campuses should continue to monitor their email for additional information.
Employees working in hybrid or in-person capacities will continue to have the option to receive a COVID-19 test weekly if desired throughout the Spring semester. Tests may be scheduled at http://myhousing.wvu.edu.
Complete details about WVU’s testing efforts can be found on the Return to Campus website.
How to Identify Students not Eligible to Attend In-Person Classes
To further mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread, students and employees are not permitted to be on campus until they have received a negative test result for this initial testing process, which, of course, has implications for attendance at the start of classes.
Up until the start of the semester and during the first two weeks of classes, faculty and instructors will be able to identify students on their course rosters who are not eligible to be on campus due to COVID-19 testing. Beginning on Monday, instructors will be able to run a report in WVU’s student success management system, Navigate, to identify students who are “ineligible to attend in person,” whether due to a positive test or a lack of test results. Please refer to the step-by-step instructions available on the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage for accessing and running the report.
Although a student may disclose a positive result to their instructor(s), students’ actual test results will not be identified in Navigate – only a student’s eligibility to be on campus. Instructors should use their own discretion around asking students to leave the classroom if they are not eligible to be on campus.
Any new “COVID-related events” beyond the initial back-to-campus testing will follow the COVID-19 Academic Notification Process.
Questions about students’ eligibility to attend on-campus classes or about the COVID-19 Academic Notification Process can be directed to Assistant Vice President for Academic Planning and Implementation Amanda DeBastiani ( email@example.com).
Assigned Seating and Attendance Tracking
To continue to support our local health department’s contact tracing efforts, on-campus instructors will again be required to designate and maintain assigned seating in each class and take attendance for each class meeting. The process remains the same as the Fall semester, and finalized seating charts must be uploaded by the end of the day Tuesday, February 2.
Instructors can find complete details and instructions on the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage. Links for accessing and uploading the seating charts for Morgantown and Keyser campuses are available on this site. Beckley and Health Sciences campuses will follow their own established procedures for seating charts, but the requirements for taking attendance and ensuring compliance with the seating charts apply to all campuses.
Questions about assigned seating can be directed to Assistant Vice President for Academic Planning and Implementation Amanda DeBastiani ( firstname.lastname@example.org).
Optional Mental Health Statement for Syllabi
The WVU Carruth Center for Counseling and Psychological Services recently partnered with the Student Government Association and Faculty Senate to provide an optional mental health statement for course syllabi. Faculty and instructors may choose to include either the long or short version of the statement in their course syllabi but are not required to do so. The full text is available on the WVU Teaching and Learning Commons website and a link is also available on the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage.
TLC Support of Student Engagement
WVU recognizes that ongoing engagement is critical to student success and that instruction should provide opportunities for such interaction. Further, WVU is also required to comply with Federal Title IV regulations to ensure that recipients of federal student aid demonstrate academic engagement even if the student withdraws from a course. This is required across all course delivery modalities and instructors are encouraged to review the TLC’s resource site on Promoting Student Engagement and Confirmation of Academic Activity for guidance.
In the same spirit of engagement, WVU is excited to announce its partnership with CircleIn, a tool that enables students to leverage the power of peer support in studying and learning. CircleIn facilitates and incentivizes remote peer-to-peer studying and encourages students to support one another. This tool is free to students and instructors can add this feature to individual eCampus course shells. Instructions are available on the ITS Knowledge Base.
Update on Virtual Tutoring for School-Aged Children
Last semester, the demand for University-paid tutors for children of WVU faculty and staff far exceeded the available supply. I’m pleased to report that the Office of the Provost, in partnership with WVU Honors Test Well Center and academic units and tutoring centers across campus, has been able to identify additional tutors for Spring 2021. As a reminder, this is a service designed to provide academic support to the children of faculty and staff who wish to augment their K-12 instruction during COVID.
Currently, members of my team are working to ensure that the appropriate background checks are conducted and that Title IX and Child Safe training have been completed by all tutors. We will be reaching out soon to those who indicated interest in this service last semester to begin scheduling. We appreciate your patience as we have moved through this process and look forward to a successful semester. Please watch your email and the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage for updates and details.
Awards and Recognition
You may recall that in Spring 2020 my office launched the “Most Valuable Player” awards to recognize outstanding teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. This awards program expanded in Fall 2020 to honor outstanding service efforts of individuals and teams who worked behind the scenes to support students and faculty in the online and hybrid environment.
We will continue to recognize our Mountaineer family members this Spring for research efforts that have been identified as having significant impact for the campus, regional or global communities during the pandemic. We will celebrate Research MVPs for their commitment to furthering our understanding of the virus and for providing resources and expertise in support of this ongoing public health crisis.
All awards are announced through ENEWS, and honorees are listed on the website and receive a limited-edition WVU MVP lapel pin and information card. Please visit the new MVP Awards webpage for details.
In addition, we will return to some of our more typical programming this Spring to recognize our faculty members’ teaching, research and service efforts. We are now accepting submissions for the Long-Form Scholarship Celebration and virtual showcase through February 9. We’ll also be launching the process for many of our internal awards soon, and that deadline will be February 15 ( CORRECTED from original version that indicated February 19). In addition, we are planning an exciting new virtual version of our Benedum Distinguished Scholars showcase event later this Spring.
Be sure to watch your email and ENEWS for more details about these and other opportunities.
Additional Resources and Reminders
- All academic COVID-19 policies and resources for faculty and instructors are available on the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage.
- Please remind students to visit onlinestudents.wvu.edu for resources to support their online learning efforts. Also encourage students to take advantage of other resources on campus, such as tutoring, success coaching and more. Academic and wellness resources for students are listed on the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage.
- Faculty and instructors are reminded that content from WVU’s digital InfoStations is available to run as an auto-display through screen-sharing or web display. Instructors can screen-share or display the slideshows before a class begins or during breaks. Content options include COVID-19-specific information, WVU-wide information and campus-specific graphics. Visit the InfoStation website for slideshow options.
I would be remiss in not addressing the concerns that many of you have expressed about the safety of our faculty, students and staff during and around next week’s Presidential inauguration. I have been assured that our University police are closely monitoring the situation with local law enforcement and are prepared to take action should there be any indication of unrest or potential violence here. We also have a number of activities planned to engage students in positive and productive ways. Communications will be shared through ENEWS, HSC internal newsletters and on social media channels.
Finally, as we begin the new year, please know how much University leadership appreciates your continued dedication to our students and your academic programs. While this time of turmoil is far from over, the end of the pandemic, at least, is in our sights. It has been a group effort, but we would not have made it this far without your hard work, creativity and flexibility.
Thanks for all you do to make WVU a successful university and a place we can all be proud to call “home.”