COVID-19: Faculty Update #4

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you one and all for your ongoing commitment to quality teaching and student support at UHD.  I know that the transition to the virtual classroom has not been easy and we, as well as our students, will continue to experience challenges. Nevertheless, we are confident that with regular communication, empathy, and cooperation, we can successfully navigate this challenging time.

The Office of the Provost, as well as all of the deans and chairs, are here to support your efforts and identify tools/strategies that can help. In that vein, here are some updates for your attention:

S/U option:  A message was sent today regarding an interim policy that allows students to select an S/U grading option.  Please read the details carefully.  We will shortly send more specifics regarding operational details.  Significantly, this option for students does not require any instructor to adjust any of your grading expectations, assignments, or, most importantly, course learning outcomes.  The S/U grade will be determined based on the letter grade that you assign.  This temporary alternative grading option for students only applies to spring 2020 courses, and it was developed as a cooperative efforts between the Faculty Senate, SGA, UHD leadership, and was improved as a result of feedback from across the colleges and departments of the institution. 

Calendar changes for financial aid, etc.: The Registrar has updated the spring calendar with extended payment and has extended the drop date for students until the last class day (April 27). 

Incompletes:  The current policy describes the incomplete option as being limited to students who “have completed a significant portion of the course requirements and a documented emergency prevents the student from completing the remaining course requirements”—for spring 2020, however, we encourage you to feel free to employ the incomplete under a broader set of circumstances and timelines as you deem appropriate. All recommendations for incompletes remain within the purview of each faculty member.  Any incomplete still requires a documented agreement of work to be completed and a consultation with the department chair.  Students will seek your wisdom, of course—incompletes might under the right conditions offer an opportunity for a student to complete the learning objectives for a class that they might otherwise feel compelled to drop because of COVID-related difficulties. 

Book orders:  Prior to the disruption of normal operations, the Provost’s Office began engaging department chairs on a plan for timely submission of book orders for upcoming semesters; if your chair has shared a plan with you, please follow that process.  In the absence of other guidance from your chairs, please take a few moments of your time to utilize the online book order forms for courses you will be teaching. Please pay careful attention to whether your course can be designated as low-cost ($40 or less total) or open education resource (OER). Correctly designating courses as low-cost or OER and sharing this information with students is required by state law (SB810). Please contact your department chair if you require assistance or have questions.  

Attendance verification:  In order to identify institutional-, as well as possible student-level patterns in these uncertain times, we are asking faculty to conduct a roster verification between March 26 and April 1—you should verify “attendance”based on expectations of actual engagement in an activity in the first week rather than a simple BB login.  Please see the email from Dr. Khoja with details. NOTE:  we are aware that the “last activity date” in BB may not be updating accurately in all courses.  That is why we ask you to base input on participation in an activity.

Final exams:  As we noted previously, you should plan for final exams/activities to occur in the online environment.  Requirements for students to use external agencies like ProctorU with additional costs are not viable for this semester, as we cannot offer the cost-free alternative for on-campus testing.  We will shortly be sending details on best practices in using Respondus options—Respondus Lock Down Browser is a specialized Web browser that secures a student’s computer by preventing access to other browsers, chat programs, and other applications during an online exam. It works on both PCs and Macs. Respondus Monitor is used to capture the audio and video of students while they take their exams and requires the use of Respondus Lock Down Browser.   Respondus Monitor allows greater test security but does require a webcam, which some students may not have. We encourage faculty to be creative in constructing final assessments and to explore a variety of pedagogically and academically viable options for assessing student attainment of course outcomes.

Summer online:  Registration for the summer begins the first week of April.  We ask for your help building a successful array of summer course offerings.  Most, if not all, of the courses we offer this summer must be online.  For now, the Office of the Provost has asked that any class that begins prior to July 1st be a completely online course.  In the event that it looks like we will be back to normal campus operations by June, then perhaps a limited number of late-summer courses might be offered in face-to-face formats; we will render a decision on those late summer courses by the end of April.  

IDEA surveys:  We are discussing alternatives to the IDEA survey that would provide useful feedback for institutional and faculty planning/improvement as well as allow student input while minimizing impact on larger evaluation processes.  Any decisions will go through shared governance discussions.

Computer giveaway:  IT has coordinated with Student Affairs to survey students, contact those in need, package computers, and distribute them in the last two days.  It has been an amazing cooperative effort including staff in IT, the police department, and folks in shipping and receiving. UHD has provided computers to over 120 students along with 108 wifi sticks. You can continue to encourage students to complete the survey  as it covers a range of concerns (computer/wifi access, food insecurity, job concerns, etc.), though we are not sure about the further distributions of equipment at this time given recent “Stay Home” county measures.  Still, if any of your students express concerns, encourage them to fill out that survey and we will do all we can to help our students succeed.  

Rank and tenure:  Despite the considerable COVID-related efforts of the university, the Rank and Tenure process has continued according to the timeline defined in policy.  Meanwhile, department rank and tenure committees should also complete all 2nd and 4th year reviews within the month of April, as per policy.  Certainly, the current factors prohibiting normal campus operations have affected some research efforts at the university.  We are aware of this, and, although there is no plan to take a global action relative to tenure and promotion timelines for individual faculty right now, we are aware of the challenges the current moment poses for some faculty.  We certainly appreciate the scale of disruption to teaching, service, and scholarship/creative activities that the current situation is creating, and some individual faculty may be more severely impacted than others. We will continue to monitor the issue and in the coming weeks will work with faculty and administrators across academic affairs to assess the impact of these disruptions, and we will take such action as needed at that time to address the issue.  In the meantime, should any faculty member have an issue or concern please reach out to your chair or dean, or contact Dr. Jerry Johnson in the Office of the Provost.  All information from these update messages will also be available on the Provost’s Office website:  Keep on Teaching