Dear WVU Faculty and Instructors:
Welcome back from winter break and happy new year. I hope your holidays were peaceful andrestful.
On Monday, we will begin the new semester with COVID-19 still a factor in our lives, and the omicron variant has added another level of concern. While this variant appears to have less serious health effects than previous strains of the virus for vaccinated individuals, its potential spread will likely lead to a challenging start to the semester.
As you heard earlier this week, the University is taking a number of precautions designed to protect both students and employees, including requiring that masks be worn in all indoor spaces of University buildings. KN95 masks will be widely available, and it is strongly advised that these be used instead of single layer cloth masks. Details about the masks and more can be found on the WVU Return to Campus website.
While the University is committed to providing our students with as much of an in-person experience as possible, we also understand that the situation may become difficult to manage – with the possibility that many students and some of you may become ill or be exposed to the virus. To that end, we are recommending continued flexibility in handling student absences and adapting instruction.
Following are updates regarding classroom policies and procedures, including:
- Attendance policy and practices
- Teaching modalities
- Seating charts, classroom tracing and academic notifications
- Faculty accommodations
Because the situation continues to remain fluid, I encourage each of you to visit the WVU Return to Campus website, the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage and the Teaching and Learning Commons website for additional information, resources and support and to watch your email and ENEWS for important updates. And remember, each of these messages is archived on the Office of the Provost website for future reference.
Attendance Policy and Practices
As a reminder, the University’s Attendance Policy requires students to work with their instructors on how to best complete the course requirements and demonstrate the necessary learning that was missed. If students are quarantined, in isolation, or are symptomatic but undiagnosed, they are expected to contact you for direction on how to keep up with the content and required work in the course. Official documentation may not be available for all COVID-19-related absences, such as in cases of self-quarantine.
Instructors are expected to provide “reasonable” accommodations to students, which does not mean having to repeat course lectures verbatim for individual students. Some examples of reasonable accommodations are:
- Providing recorded or streamed lecture video and/or audio
- Giving students notes or presentation slides for missed classes
- Allowing make-up assignments, homework and exams
- Providing substitute assignments
- Dropping the lowest quiz and/or exam score(s)
- Holding a make-up quiz or exam day at the end of the semester
Please consider alternative ways of assessing your students’ mastery of the course material if they are unable to be physically present for exams, quizzes or in-class assignments. While you may drop an individual exam or assessment for students, doing so should be considered carefully. This practice increases the weight of other assessments and reduces the number of opportunities students have to practice their skills and receive feedback on their performance.
For more on assessment of learning, see the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage and Teaching and Learning Commons website for more information.
It may become challenging to teach your course in person if there are multiple students absent or if you are ill, required to quarantine or stay home with a sick or quarantined family member. As always, you may request permission from your department chair for a temporary change of course modality – from on-campus to hybrid or fully online. These changes should generally not exceed two weeks in length. After two weeks, if you need to continue to teach in a modality other than what was originally scheduled, your chair should seek approval from the appropriate dean.
Seating Charts, Classroom Tracing and Academic Notifications
Again this semester, you will be required to upload seating charts and should encourage students to stay in those seats throughout the semester. Classroom tracing will continue, but faculty will not be required to maintain or supply daily attendance rosters.
The Provost’s Office will use the submitted seating charts to identify students who may have been exposed to the virus and submit those names to the Care Services team. The students will be contacted, accordingly, and if applicable, will be asked to quarantine and reach out to their instructors to make arrangements for missed coursework.
Faculty and instructors will only receive a notification letter if a student has been directed to isolate due to a COVID-related event.
If you have any questions about whether a student should be in your class, please reach out to Amanda DeBastiani (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Seating charts will need to be uploaded by end of day January 21, 2022. Please visit the Faculty Adjustments for COVID-19 webpage for specific details on the seating chart and notification processes.
As a reminder, the Office of the Provost, in consultation with General Counsel, Medical Management and the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, developed a process for managing requests for COVID-related accommodations. Faculty, instructors and graduate assistants may request a COVID-related accommodation for the Spring 2022 semester but should also be aware that accommodations may differ from those provided in previous semesters. Please visit the Coronavirus Modifications webpage on the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website for updated information and the revised request form.
To say that this has been a challenging two years is an understatement. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has upended our regular ways of teaching, conducting research and engaging in outreach.
The good news is that our experts believe that the omicron variant should move through our community quickly and by mid-February, if not sooner, there should be relief in sight.
Regardless, we recognize that, for our faculty and instructors, the extra work involved in providing instruction and support to students in so many ways has been hugely time consuming and draining. Please know how much we appreciate your continued dedication, flexibility and patience. And trust that the University leadership will continue to do everything we can to support you as we work through these challenges.
Finally, as you tackle what could be another challenging semester, please be kind to yourselves and take time whenever possible for self-care and connecting with friends and loved ones. You are appreciated and valued.