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Return to Campus webinar: Faculty instruction guidelines and scheduling

The focus is on faculty instruction guidelines, and scheduling.
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Chris Nelson
: Welcome, everybody. My name is Chris Nelson. I’m the communications director for the University of Utah. I want to welcome everyone to our second Return to Campus conversation. Today’s focus is on faculty instruction guidelines, and scheduling. We’re scheduled for just about 30 minutes. I want to welcome today’s guests. Our speakers will include President Ruth Watkins, University Registrar Tim Ebner and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Reed. We’re also joined on the call today by Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Dr. Michael Good, Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Lori McDonald, as well as Dr. Sarah Projansky, who’s the associate vice president for Faculty and Dr. Wendy Hobson-Rohrer, who is the associate vice president for Health Sciences Education. They’ll be joining us during the Q&A, if questions come up for them to speak to. Again, we’ll hear from President Watkins first. With that, I’ll turn it over to the president.

President Watkins: Thank you, Chris. Thank you colleagues for taking the time to join this conversation. Today, we are talking, as Chris mentioned, about teaching and learning in a hybrid environment as we plan for Fall 2020. I want to particularly extend my thanks and appreciation to Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Reed and to our registrar, Tim Ebner, who have worked so hard to develop a plan for our campus. That work is even more difficult because of the very dynamic and fluid situation that we are in. There are quite a few comments and questions about the uncertainty that is introduced by this moment. As we know, we are dealing with cases of coronavirus and COVID-19 and an environment where we are uncertain.

So, what we want to do today is really talk about how we are planning for fall and provide some information about the fact that we acknowledge that this is dynamic, this is fluid, and it may need to be adjusted. There are a number of questions that have arisen about whether everything is firm as it stands today. And I want to say, we are monitoring the situation, we are looking at some of the metrics that matter, and we are always considering how we manage risk and continue the work of the campus. I know you share a commitment to pedagogy in-person to the extent we can, that what happens on a college campus really matters, that we all believe in our mission of vibrant co-curricular and curricular activities face-to-face. We also know that while there is no clear end date to the pandemic, our work is important. And when you put all those things together, we want to do what we can to safely manage risk and be in a face-to-face environment.

Now, clearly there will be many modifications. I want to mention some of the priorities that have guided the planning thus far, that Dan Reed and Tim Ebner have really led. We know that we need to think about our first-year students in particular. These are students who haven’t had a college experience. They need to have some face-to-face engagement. We also know we want to prioritize our seniors who are trying hard to finish their degrees. So as we think about a hybrid of in-class, face-to-face with physical distancing, with face coverings, with many modifications, we are thinking about our first-year students and our graduating students, and providing meaningful engaged experiences in safe and adapted environments.

I think probably others will talk a little bit more about lab experiences and things that simply cannot be done online. We need to prioritize some of those, but all the while trying to create a balance and a hybrid of face-to-face and using technology when we can to support instruction. All those things matter. And I do want to reiterate, metrics, health status, will inform what we’re doing and how much of which things and how and when, and we are watching and monitoring and engaged in this conversation and the decision-making every single day. So I want to provide that assurance and I think I am now passing to Dan and Tim to take it from here.

SVP Dan Reed: Thank you, President Watkins. And I believe Tim Ebner is joining us by phone. Tim, are you there?

Tim Ebner: I am, yes. Thank you.

SVP Reed: So I just want to very briefly say a huge thank you, as President Watkins did, to our registrar, Tim Ebner. He and his staff have been working very long hours, taking input from campus, to work on provisional scheduling processes. I want to give Tim just a few minutes to say a few words, and then I’ll talk more broadly about an amplification of some of the issues that President Watkins mentioned. Tim?

Tim Ebner: Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Reed. What I want to do just briefly is to walk you through the process that we just completed in the revision of the fall schedule. We worked with facilities management and space planning to measure over 530 classroom, lab and performance spaces to properly convert to the new capacities for appropriate physical distancing and enter those into the system.

In the first week of June, we sent to over 90 departmental schedulers an Excel spreadsheet with their Fall 2020 schedule, asking them to identify the courses within their departments that meet the institutional priorities for providing the maximum number of in-person offerings possible. We also sent a timeline for completing this work by the June 30 deadline. At that time, we also paused registration for fall and notified our students and advisors that this was necessary while we revised the class schedule. We removed all room assignments for classroom lecture spaces, and in the spirit of One University, all classrooms, lecture spaces, including departmental spaces, became general assignment classrooms.

When the schedules were returned to our office in the second week of June, we began working through them one-by-one manually, over 4,000 sections, and began placing room assignments by hand. Yesterday, we notified the departmental schedulers that the revised class schedules were complete, and we asked them to review our work and we will continue to finetune the schedule as we work toward the August 24 opening of our fall semester.

Today, we will be sending an email to continuing students, reminding them that registration resumes beginning tomorrow, July 1, as well as a reminder to our academic advising community. New first year and transfer students will begin registration once again on Monday, July 6, and notifications will be sent to them and advisors as well.

I wish to recognize all of the cooperation that we have had from our departmental schedulers and the leadership within the academic departments in colleges. Everyone has been very patient and understanding in this monumental undertaking. And finally, I wish to recognize and thank Liz Johnson, our associate registrar for scheduling and her staff, who have done an outstanding job with this revision process. So thank you to all of you, to everyone that’s been so cooperative in this.

SVP Reed: Tim and his staff have just done an amazing job. And so thank you, Tim. I want to frame a little bit of what Tim said in a broader context and describe the collaborative process to continue to evolve our fall plans. And as President Watkins said, we are continually mindful of the shifting nature of reality around us.

As Tim said, we ask for each department to roll up through the college a list of preferences for modalities, priorities for instruction in the fall. As you know, concurrently, we asked our faculty to complete temporary work adjustment forms that could highlight ADA, CDC, or other concerns that would shape the modalities in which they might teach in the fall. And the integration of that activity with what Tim described is what’s really going on now. It’s an iterative process in which faculty department chairs and deans work with Tim’s office to match faculty needs together with these scheduling priorities, emphasizing experiential education—the parts that we know really matter to have an in-person, hands-on experience in the first year is our priority.

What Tim alluded to was we’re really looking at four modalities for fall instruction. Obviously, some in the traditional in-person mode, others in our fully online mode. We offered many courses in that mode before COVID struck, and we’re continuing to expand that response to societal needs. But between in-person and fully online, there are, of course, our hybrid modes because we have, in some cases, classrooms where we want to deliver an in-person experience but can’t accommodate all the students. So that includes options for rotating a subset of the students through the classroom, but of course, delivering the content electronically to the remaining students. And then of course, in some cases where we’re doing interactive video conferencing, so live classes, but electronic. And so all of those modalities are available. We have options to shift the percentages among those four based on shifting circumstances. And that will be how we continue to adapt.

I want to share just a couple of other things before we turn to the Q&A. We will be sending out later today a faculty memo that’s been developed by the Project Marmalade team with input from shared governance from all of you and others on this video call and in consultation with public health and U Health, and a variety of other sources. This is very concrete guidance about such things as language to use in your syllabus about face coverings and actions to take in response to students. Very specific things about inclusion of items in campus, the need to recognize that we will have students in multiple modalities, some local, some remote. And so it attempts to try to fill in a bunch of questions that all of you who will be teaching will face, in a very specific way.

We will also be offering, and that memo will include, details on a long list of webinars and training materials that the Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence, as well as Teaching & Learning Technologies, will be offering over the summer to help faculty and instructors and teaching assistants prepare for these new circumstances.

We are also investing substantially in technology to upgrade classrooms, to support video recording, amplification, and other issues, recognizing that we will need to provide more support for classroom technology in these new modes. And I just want to conclude by emphasizing that all of this recognizes that we need to be flexible and accommodating for shifting circumstances. The plan that we have designed will allow us to do that.

But if I may offer one really pragmatic piece of advice in terms of preparing for the fall it would be the following. Prepare as if you expect to teach online because you will, in part, given the need to shift online for the previous fall break, when the VP Debate is here, and certainly post-Thanksgiving, when we will be all online. In the happy circumstances that some of you are teaching in-person, you have a wealth of experience and knowledge in doing that. And so that would be the normal thing, but prepare for the scenario that you might be teaching online, knowing that we may need to adapt as circumstances evolve.

So that would be my best, really pragmatic, advice, but we will soon be sending out a memo that tries to summarize guidance based on input from a wide variety of sources—faculty, staff, and students.

And I just want to end by saying thank you for your patience. I know certainty is what we all crave, but nimbleness and flexibility is really what we have to preserve, recognizing that that’s the hallmark of who and what we are—the ability to be creative, nimble and adaptive in shifting circumstances. And I have great faith that together, we will be able to do that and deliver a high-quality experience to our students and one that also very appropriately, and is our highest priority, protects the health and safety of everyone. And so just thanks for your partnership in this amazing journey.

Chris Nelson: Thanks, Dr. Reed. Just a reminder to everybody. A lot of information is on the website, as well as the website. We got about 20 pre-submitted questions this time. And if you go back to previous recording, which you can see on this link right now, you’ll see answers to those questions as well. Again, I want to thank Shawn Wood and Brooke Adams for being the producers of today’s session.

Let’s get to the questions. Kind of following up with what you were talking about, Dr. Reed, a lot of questions around when will this be a final decision. When is that go/no-go decision and what metrics will go into to make that decision? So maybe I offer that to President Watkins, then Dr. Reed.

President Watkins: Right. So because of the dynamic nature and the fact that we are all kind of working our way through a pandemic for the first time, I think we want to keep open our communication with you and from you, and also continue to provide updates over the next six weeks or so. As we get closer to August 24, the first day of class, we are going to need to be clear with our community about exactly how this will look. And I would imagine that the month of July is going to be an important month for that.

We are, as we mentioned, monitoring the public health situation, and we know some of the metrics that matter. Certainly the percent of tests that come back positive, the percent positive rate, is an important metric. So is the rate of transmission of infection, which has hovered around one, and we’d like it to be less than one. But that is a metric that really matters. I think our hospital capacity matters, our mortality rate matters. Our team in housing has set aside isolation and quarantine space, and they have some additional space available. But if we were to come to a situation where those spaces were fully occupied, I think that would be a metric that matters. Maybe I’ll turn it to you, Dr. Good, to expand a little bit on that, if I’ve missed any of the key features that we are watching all the time.

SVP Mike Good: President Watkins, you’ve covered the metrics that matter quite well. We watch the overall cases, particularly the positive cases here in Salt Lake County, and then the translation into hospitalizations. At the moment, we’re doing fine. Over the last three days, we had one, two and zero patients admitted to our hospital with coronavirus. Now, there are certainly days where we get three or four or five, but the last few days have actually been just a few.

And again, the question was about a go/no-go. I’m trying to—words like opened or closed or go or no-go really don’t capture the modulation that’s necessary as we watch those metrics. So back in March, before we knew a lot about coronavirus and we thought we might need more hospital beds, we stopped all elective surgery and we created a lot of beds. We created over 120 beds in University Hospital that we didn’t need in retrospect. So now, knowing much more about coronavirus, if we should need additional beds in the hospital, I would look to surgeries where the patient is typically in the hospital for four or five, six days. Surgeries where the patient is only in the hospital for one day, we can probably continue.

So we would modulate with a much greater degree of learning. And same kind of thing that we’re trying to do in our classes, Dr. Hobson-Rohrer is joining us. We’ve had a lot of talk about how 150-seat classroom seats 38 and what that does to the instructional program and which students need to be in those seats and so on. This is a very innovative faculty and I’m confident we can modulate, not go/no-go, but modulate our activities to be in concert with what’s happening with the virus in our community.

SVP Reed: I’ll just add to that. That’s exactly why we have multiple modalities of instruction and knobs that we can turn across that continuum. We are, of course, continually talking to our peers around the country and comparing ideas, strategies and approaches. And so you can certainly expect us to be in tune with that and responding to the best shared wisdom across the country about strategies and options. But I just echo what President Watkins and Dr. Good said, this is not a binary thing. It’s a continuum of choices and we will continue to be nimble as we look at evolving circumstances.

Chris Nelson: Dr. Reed, a lot of questions kind of talking about the nuance of this. A lot of very specific questions we received about in-class experience. The first one kind of focusing on faculty who may be at-risk, what would be your message to faculty who might fall in that high-risk category?

SVP Reed: Well, as I said, our highest priority is to protect the health and safety of everyone. And that’s the reason that we’ve made available the temporary work adjustment disclosure forms. My advice to anyone would be look at your personal circumstances, be thoughtful about your own risk assessment, consult with experts, and then make a wise and thoughtful personal choice. Every individual circumstance is different. There’s not a single answer. We’re not trying to dictate personal choice. We very much believe in individual liberty and academic freedom for faculty to make those choices, but it is important to make it wisely and thoughtfully, being aware of whether you are at a high-risk category or not. And certainly that’s where health professionals can provide that advice and expertise.

Chris Nelson: Thank you. I know there’s a lot of resources out there for faculty, but maybe a reminder to faculty. We had a question around instructors who might not have funding for curriculum planning as they adapt their in-person learning curriculum to online.

SVP Reed: And that’s what I was alluding to earlier. We will have an ongoing series of webinars, online resources, bootcamps and training for faculty that will be offered all summer long. Those can be used either synchronously, if you have time to participate in a live event, but a wealth of online resources and best practices to evolve and adapt. And of course, we’ve highlighted some of the insights from the spring experience that will go out in the individual faculty guidance. And those are some, if one thinks about it, some of them are fairly obvious things, the importance of personal contact and interaction if you’re teaching online, making sure that your materials are available in Canvas for student access. So some really pragmatic guidance there, but a wealth of resources online, as well as the great work of our folks in CTLE and TLT to provide resources, recognizing that even if you’re teaching in-person, you will likely have some online students and for several reasons.

Our incoming international students and some of our returning international students find themselves in challenging situations with respect to getting visas. We need to be sensitive to that fact. If we have students who themselves have health issues, we need to be aware of that reality and provide access for them. And then of course, just recognizing that there are a variety of different modalities and expectations. And in the case that we might have to isolate according to the students, VP Lori McDonald set aside space and student housing for the students who are staying on campus. But for those who live in our communities who may need to self-isolate, we still need to be able to provide educational content to those enrolled students. And so that’s why I said earlier, the best guidance I can offer is prepare as if you will be teaching online because even an in-person class is likely to have some students who will need that remote asynchronous access.

Chris Nelson: All right. I’m going to hit the hard one here, probably for Dr. McDonald and Dr. Reed. A number of questions, which I’ll kind of summarize here. We’re in class, we have a student who doesn’t want to wear a mask, doesn’t want to wear a face covering, what happens in that scenario?

SVP Reed: Well, I’ll take the first part of it and then perhaps throw it to Lori for a few of the other part. As I alluded earlier, we have, in consultation, with Lori’s office as well as consulting with shared governance and also with the General Counsel’s office, developed a standard set of language that could be included in each syllabus. It reminds students that wearing face coverings is required for both faculty and students and the standard protocol to ask students to wear that.

An example of the really pragmatic guidance is faculty bring a few face coverings to class because there’s a good chance some students may forget. And departments can order a supply of disposable face masks from central stores and just give faculty a few to take with them because we all remember that 18-to 20-year-olds are sometimes a bit forgetful about things like that. But then a process to remind people they’re required to ask students to leave. And then ultimately, something we hope is not a frequent occurrence, the possibility of student discipline for multiple, blatant disregard to request. With that, I’d probably throw the rest of the observations to Lori to flesh out.

VP Lori McDonald: Well, I think you’ve explained it readily. We certainly hope that as a community, we would treat this new situation with respect, with focusing on communication, education, trying to diffuse any situations with some conflict management skills, hearing somebody out. I think that this probably will not happen very often, but we do have to be prepared for that situation. And I think we also need to be aware that some students may very infrequently, again, but may be approved to not wear a face covering for an accommodation situation. And that needs to be respectfully communicated, I would suggest, in consultation with the Center for Disability & Access in terms of how to explain that to the class, if needed or to people who are asking those questions.

But I think we are all tasked often with managing classroom situations and using your best judgment in terms of diffusing interactions going on between everyone and eventually making a referral to the Dean of Students Office. I get the question a lot about whether people can call the police if this requirement is not being met. I would hope that people could use other methods before going to that situation. But, of course, if there was ever any type of situation where people felt unsafe or escalated to a very high level, yes, our Department of Public Safety is a resource. Thank you.

Chris Nelson: Excellent. We’re closing in on a half hour. Again, we will post all the answers to the questions as we post this content as well. I know Dr. Reed also has information for syllabus language that will be going out very shortly, and so lots of information coming as well. Again, I want to thank everybody for submitting questions and very practical questions as well. As we close out, I’ll turn back to President Watkins to have the last word today.

President Watkins: Well, my thanks to an amazing team of people on this campus. Our faculty and our staff are extraordinary. Please know that we appreciate your time, and also that you’re asking these questions and your engagement and your partnership in solutions. Stay tuned and we will continue these updates as we go forward and we hope to see you again for the next one. Thank you so much.