Academics and Instruction Update: Fall 2020 General Updates (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #14)

July 16, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

In preparation for Fall 2020, my office in conjunction with the Fall Academic Continuity Working Group, are providing updates on several items related to academics and instruction. Further communications will be forthcoming as additional procedures and policies are finalized by the multiple groups involved in fall planning.

This and future communications will be posted to the SVPP website where an up-to-date list of division-wide communications and COVID-19 Faculty and Staff Resources are available. Provost Wickert’s June 12 Planning for Fall 2020 Instruction (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #12) outlines initial decisions regarding fall instruction.

Course delivery modalities and course scheduling

Face-to-face: Classes offered in- person will be similar to those offered in person in other semesters, with the exception that there will be additional spacing between students and face coverings will be required, consistent with CDC and other public health recommendations.

Online: Classes offered online will be similar to those offered online in other semesters. Students will not be physically present in the room with the instructor. The online content may be delivered asynchronously (students may access it at any time) or synchronously (during a scheduled class time to facilitate real-time engagement). Class engagement may occur through discussion boards, group work, online apps, and other activities.

Hybrid: Hybrid courses will use a combination of face-to-face and online teaching. Learning activities and assessments can occur both online and in person. Online activities may include some synchronous online engagement (with participants meeting at the same time), and/or asynchronous content delivery (with participants accessing the materials independently). The mix of delivery modes will depend on an instructor’s teaching strategies and course learning objectives.

  • Over the past four weeks programs and departments have been reviewing course offerings and determining delivery modes for Fall. Based on this information, Room Scheduling will create a new schedule of classes for Fall 2020. The course delivery mode and room assignments should be visible to students by August 3rd via the schedule of classes. The original schedule of classes will be maintained whenever possible.

General Guidance 

  • All courses, regardless of their modality, must be delivered through Canvas. The adoption of the ISU Template is recommended.
  • Faculty teaching face-to-face may wear either a cloth face covering or a face shield.
  • For online and hybrid courses (PDF) content may be delivered synchronously and/or asynchronously.
    • For courses with a “www/arranged” designation that plan some synchronous delivery, the delivery should be scheduled based on the course meeting times in the schedule of classes.
    • If an online course has no set meeting times, the instructor must communicate in advance when synchronous meeting will occur and be mindful of scheduling conflicts with other courses and students who are not physically located in Ames.
  • Guidance on the expected level of student-faculty engagement for online courses is available on the SVPP Academic Programs website. This guidance is based on new guidelines recently issued from the U.S. Department of Education, which require that online courses contain substantive and regular interaction between instructors and students.
  • A university level syllabus statement focused on student responsibility to abide by the established general health and safety expectations for all students and personnel as outlined by the President, is being developed and will be shared by the end of July. The Dean of Students Office is also developing guidance on expectations for student behaviors and an FAQ which will be available on their website soon.
  • To facilitate students and faculty transitioning in and out of the classroom space, faculty should avoid congregating with students in the classroom in advance and/or at the end of their class period.
  • Designated seating in classes is recommended to assist in contact tracing, if necessary, and to augment social distancing. In a hybrid course with alternating attendance days, a seating chart will be needed for each group of students meeting face-to-face. For studios, labs and other specialized spaces in which students might not have specified seats, a location chart will be needed. Plan to adjust the seating/location chart as enrollment changes.
  • Given overall constraints of faculty office spaces and risks in managing one-on-one meetings in-person, we recommend that office hours occur virtually. When necessary, in-person office hours can be arranged if physical distancing is feasible and if both student and faculty are comfortable with in-person meetings. To avoid students congregating near office spaces we encourage in-person meetings to occur by appointment only.

Exams and Assessments

The Academic Continuity Working Group’s Classroom Scheduling subcommittee has worked collaboratively across campus to identify options to support faculty plans for examinations and assessments for Fall semester. The committee acknowledges that many courses will be taught using different formats from previous semesters, which might affect examinations. A summary of online and in-person exam updates is posted on the SVPP Academic Programs website.

Instructors are encouraged to use online assessments whenever possible and utilize Canvas for course assignments. For online courses, if in-person testing is preferred, the instructor should plan for alternative arrangements for students off campus and/or unable to access our testing centers at Iowa State.

COVID-19 related student accommodations: 

    • Students at a higher risk to develop severe illness from COVID-19 based on their age or underlying medical condition, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), can self-identify so colleges can assess the need for online sections of in-person courses; students will be given preference for placement in these courses. However, it is important to note that we will not be able to offer every existing educational activity in an online format. While some small course sections, labs, and studio classes may be offered online or in a blended format, in many cases, especially in labs and courses where students use special equipment or unique pedagogy, it is not feasible to offer an online experience that will meet the university’s expectations for student engagement, achievement of course learning objectives, or the requirements of disciplinary accreditation bodies. For courses that are not delivered exclusively online, program directors and department chairs in consultation with the faculty member teaching the course have the discretion to create, where possible, alternative arrangements for students who fall into the established high-risk CDC criteria.
    • Guidance for students who may need to take extra precautions due to COVID-19 are available on the Dean of Students website.

Course Attendance Expectations

  • Establishing course attendance expectations this fall will be challenging. Instructors are encouraged to follow university requirements (PDF) for students who are feeling unwell to stay home and that all students self-isolate if they receive a positive COVID-19 test result or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • Instructors should base grades primarily on the achievement of course learning objectives, rather than attendance.
  • Additional guidance on a fall semester attendance policy will be forthcoming.