We recognize the challenges posed by the uncertainties of our spring planning and very much appreciate the extra effort required by each faculty member to make decisions and changes to your carefully planned semester vision. The Office of the Provost offers the following details regarding class and academic plans for the Spring 2022 Semester [soft] opening referenced in the President's message from January 7, 2022. Please be vigilant with your own health safety whenever you are out and about in Houston in these few weeks.
Please contact your department and college leadership or email us with questions.
Key Action Items for Faculty
- If you are scheduled for a traditional face-to-face class that meets twice a week, you are expected to hold class at least once a week; the other class time may be synchronous or asynchronous. If you have a once-a-week meeting schedule, you should plan to hold class in person at least once each week.
- You should ensure that any course adjustments should include plans to handle assignments and activities that support the course learning outcomes and consider the intended contact hours. Please document any change to assignment types or deadlines or delivery for the first three weeks for students in writing via the syllabus and/or messages through Blackboard (BB).
- By 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 13, you should communicate to students via GatorMail to explain your plans (or confirm no changes)—please do so even if you have online-only courses. The announcement needs to include expected meeting days and any Zoom meeting info if that is your plan. You can use your class roster or BB to send the Gatormail, but an announcement in BB is not sufficient—you need to choose the option in BB to send it via email. If you don't intend to fully open your BB courses at this time, please be sure students have your email address to reply to and ask questions. [Announcements sent from BB to student emails are “no reply" emails so include your contact info it it.] Please send multiple emails because students are dropping and adding.
NOTE: At noon on Sunday, January 16, all BB shells will be automatically opened by IT if you have not done so—please remember that you must combine sections prior to this time if you are planning to do so. Blackboard remains our most consistent method to engage our students; thus, we ask that you leverage this resource for regular messaging in addition to Gatormail, if only to confirm that nothing has changed with your plans.
- Identify and post at least one synchronous office hour per week (or more if required by departmental or college guidelines). You may offer virtual office hours through the first three weeks of classes, but please work to schedule an in-person meeting upon student request.
Class Scheduling Options
- For a traditional face-to-face class that meets twice a week, you can choose to hold class as scheduled on both days and ask students to attend. However, some students may express concerns and as such, you should be prepared to respond to that in terms of your class policies or other options that you are comfortable with. Please direct students with COVID-related issues to 1) report diagnosis or exposure as directed and/or 2) contact the Office of Disability Services for possible short-term accommodations.
- If you have a hybrid class or a once-a-week class, you need to meet your classes each week.
- No matter the modality of your class, please remember that the first meeting with your students needs to begin to establish a rich relationship with your students, as a critical step in their path to success in your class.
Classrooms: Many classrooms are equipped with a webcam and if they are, the Zoom capacity is limited to the desktop webcam without tracking and audio range is not robust. If you want to offer this to students at any point, you will need to understand what that looks like in your specific classrooms. If you are in a HyFlex room (see list), and would like to try to use this for the first three weeks, please seek training from Nikhil Bhatt's team in order to use the advanced technology.
Students: Most computer labs will remain open for student use per regular hours. IT is also continuing its partnership with Student Affairs to provide technology to students in need. Please also see our website on recommended technology and resources.
Faculty: Most faculty have been issued a laptop which you can use here or away from campus. If you anticipate needing additional equipment (printer, scanner, webcam) for use off-campus, please check with your DBA about any options—please do not simply remove the equipment from your office as this violates our capital property policy. If you want to use your assigned classroom to hold a Zoom class, feel free to do so but check to be sure that your classroom has the needed webcam and note that the webcam has limited scope in the room.
Alternative Rooms or Density Questions
Faculty may request classroom space capacities if they are interested in understanding current density for their courses; they should contact their department chairs and the Office of the Provost will work with departments to provide the information if needed, as well as some alternate, larger rooms where possible.
Non-classroom Meetings and Activities
We continue to support decisions for the soft opening that maximize opportunities for reduced density on campus.
Other Planning Ideas for Spring Start
- Identify activities for the in-person period that are focused on class preparation and resources and move primary course content to the BB environment.
- Consider allocating activities that require demonstration or practice or collective engagement for the in-person meetings. Please check out our CTLE website for more information on flipped classrooms, particularly via the Magna videos.
- If you meet twice a week, identify groups of students to come on different days each week where crowding is a concern.
- Schedule one class meeting each week as synchronous online and the other as in-person for all students.
- If you split the class for in-person days, you could cover the same information during the in—person meetings with each group and then post content for the “other half" of the content as asynchronous online content.
- For a 2-day/week class, try to have it be the same day each week (e.g., Tuesdays) for consistency.
General Best Practice Tips
- Be specific about all meeting times and locations and send email reminders at the beginning of each week about the plan. If you are splitting the class, list actual student names rather than saying “A-F" students attend on certain days.
- Be specific about what students should be doing outside of class each week (note that there can be work beyond the already planned “outside class work" to recognize the time that is not spent in class, unless you hold synchronous meetings). Consider this time for assigned readings, video review, writing, virtual group work, or discussion boards for the asynchronous time.
- Be very clear about how students can contact you by email and/or phone –see tips on Syllabus Resource page. Check your own email daily M-F and your BB shell for student engagements--information and circumstances change rapidly and the daily review will help mitigate confusion and anxiety.
- Acknowledge student contacts within 48 hours as expected for all faculty.
- Be clear about what content on your syllabus will be covered during in-person meetings.
- Consider minimizing in-class group work unless some distancing can be maintained.
- Include in your messaging any information about technology needs for students and encourage them to contact firstname.lastname@example.org if they have technology needs. Please also see our website on recommended technology and resources.
- Post links to virtual lobbies virtual lobbies, student resources, student counseling, etc.
- You are welcome to promote safety protocols as per UHD recent communications.