COVID-19: Faculty Update #5

Dear Colleagues,

As the end of our second week of the “new normal” closes, we hope you have been able to implement strategies for balancing professional and personal challenges.  We particularly appreciate the sensitivity and flexibility that you can provide to our students through your regular engagement with them.

Over the past couple of weeks, UHD has sent multiple messages to University stakeholders trying to clarify process and policy as we meet the current challenge head-on. The Office of the Provost understands that every UHD faculty and staff member has a unique set of circumstances and challenges that she or he is trying to navigate while trying to provide the best learning experiences for our students and keep the university running. We hope that you and your loved ones are well, and encourage you to reach out for advice or assistance at any time. Please let us know if we can be of any assistance, and do not hesitate to send questions to us.

  • For general issues related to Academic Affairs, please contact Dr. Faiza Khoja: khojafai@uhd.edu
  • For issues related to Faculty Affairs, Research, and Sponsored Programs, please contact Dr. Jerry Johnson: johnsonj@uhd.edu
  • For issues related to UHD Programming, Curriculum, UHD Distance Campuses, or Continuing Education, please contact Dr. Michelle Moosally: moosallym@uhd.edu
  • For counseling services and health-related questions, please see this website and scroll down to the Mental Health section, which includes resources and counseling via the 24/7  Employee Assistance Program. We also share this link to a list of general community resources. 

And, of course, any question at all—whether it falls into one of the categories above or not—may be directed at any time to coronavirus@uhd.edu or Lucy Bowen at bowenl@uhd.edu  Any question received at that email address will be directed to the unit best able to assist. 

To keep you informed of key issues on our radar, we ask you to review the following notes:

  • FERPA and Grades:  The current ‘stay at home, work safe’ order has resulted in many faculty transferring confidential, sensitive, and protected information to their homes. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that requires us to protect the privacy of student education records, including grades. Grades should be shared with students only via Blackboard or via UHD-protected email addresses (both faculty and student).  Please be mindful to encrypt and/or password protect any flash-drive, computer, or other device that contains this data for transportation or use when away from campus. Also be aware that personal computers do not have the same protections as your work computer, so please be especially careful of phishing scams or other hacks that might compromise sensitive data. Information regarding all policies and legislation governing data protection and information security can be found at: https://www.uhd.edu/information-security/Pages/policies.aspx. Additionally, best practices for data protection can be found at: https://www.uhd.edu/information-security/Pages/data-protection.aspx 
  • Rank and Tenure Extension Option:  The COVID pandemic has impacted all of our lives in many different ways.  We recognize that for some tenure-track faculty, this disruption from normal operating procedures has also meant a considerable disruption to one’s research program.  This is not universally true, but it is certainly true for some.  PS 10.A.23, “Extension of the Probationary Period for Tenure-Track Faculty,” sets forth the conditions under which a faculty member may request and receive a one-year extension of his/her tenure clock.  Specifically, section 3.4 of that policy reads, “An untenured tenure-track faculty member has the right to request a one-year extension of the probationary period because of serious illness, family emergencies, or other serious personal circumstances.”  Such requests, according to policy, must be made in writing and submitted “directly to the provost within six months after the emergency circumstances or personal circumstances occur.” 

    In keeping with the spirit of this policy, any faculty member whose ability to make reasonable progress in terms of their teaching, service, and scholarly agendas because of the COVID pandemic may request such an extension, and the current COVID-disruption will be considered by the Office of the Provost as adequate justification for granting the request.  In keeping with the six-month window allowed by policy, requests that are made to the Office of the Provost on the basis of this COVID-disruption should be received prior to October 1, 2020.  This COVID-related provision applies to current, full-time tenure-track faculty in their probationary period; it does not apply to faculty whose start date at UHD is after April 1, 2020.”
  • Experiential Learning Courses:  The mid-semester conversion of face-to-face classes to online environments has been, itself, a challenge.  That challenge is heightened for learning experiences that extend beyond face-to-face delivery, such as laboratory classes, studio classes, service learning classes, internships, practicums, group-based capstone experiences, and field placements.  

    Many of these experiences are discipline-specific; as a result, no single set of university-wide guidelines will serve equally well across all units of the university.  Faculty should work with their colleagues, their chairs, and their deans to address situations related to this array of non-lecture-based learning experiences in light of COVID-related stay-at-home and social distancing expectations.  The general position of the Office of the Provost is that faculty, departments, and colleges should seek innovative ways to meet the stated learning objectives for each course/experience, while observing social distancing protocols and, in all cases, acting in the best interest of the health of our students.

    For all learning activities that require engagement with a community partner—a school system, a local business, and so forth—please comply with, and be respectful of, that partner’s rules and policies relative to COVID-related operations.  Shifting the focus of a class from practical application to theoretical appreciation may be useful in some cases, as might moving certain kinds of interactions into an online environment, conducting group work by Zoom, or replacing certain assignments with ones that can be performed in a home office and/or over email.  Taking innovative approaches to ensure that students are still able to maintain progress toward their degree while still achieving the learning objectives of the class is the goal. 

    To the extent possible, we ask that each department/college document these adjustments in some fashion; the Office of the Provost will send a survey to collect this information closer to the end of the semester for purposes of external reporting.
  • Technology Issues and Updates:
    • Zoombombing and privacy:  IT is currently reviewing all Zoom updates and privacy concerns and sent a university-wide email  regarding the need to update your Zoom version to capture the latest security protections.  We encourage everyone to install the most recent version.  We have posted tips on how to minimize the chances of Zoombombing (uninvited participant who disrupt Zoom meetings).
    • Posting Recordings of Class Sessions:  Please remember that if you are recording sessions with students, you may post them in the BB shell for the class but external postings would require permissions from all participants.
    • Blackboard Speed:  with increased BB usage, the system is running a tad slow.  Please take this into account when requesting student uploads, timed work, etc.
    • Last Access Column Glitch:  for some BB shells, the “last access column” is still not updating accurately.  It is best to gauge student engagement based on your own assignments, as the grading records are accurate. 
  • Roster Verification:  Thank you to all who completed the roster verification.  We have reporting from over 80% of our faculty, showing a 91% current student engagement rate and only 1% never engaged rate.  We have also gotten a number of alerts through our Early Alert system and are following up with those students. 
  • Summer Online Courses:  While the spring transition caught many of us without preparation for an online environment, we encourage faculty to consider any online summer teaching as an opportunity to engage the many resources for online best practices provided via the CTLE and TTLC
  • S/U Implementation, Final Exams, and Incompletes:  please see the memo that was sent on April 2, 2020.
  • Student Affairs: While faculty across the university are working to keep our academic programs active and engaging for students, Student Affairs has been busy ensuring that all students have access to activities and support services during these COVID disruptions.  The challenges our students face extend far beyond code-shifting from face-to-face classes to online environments.  A student needs survey conducted by Student Affairs revealed that unemployment, loss of income, food insecurity, lack of adequate technology, as well as a host of health-related issues, are all proving to be barriers for students in these difficult times. 

    To help meet the needs of our students, Student Affairs has quickly brought a wide array of programs into the virtual space, including both telecounseling and telehealth opportunities, as well as virtual career counseling, disability services support groups, and even virtual fitness training and student virtual watch parties, virtual bingo, and SGA activities.  To learn more about all that Student Affairs is making available to students, click here and don’t forget follow them on Instagram or Facebook!

All information from these update messages will also be available on the Provost’s Office website:  Keep on Teaching