Fall 2020 Guidance for Instructors: Introductory Messaging, First-Day Discussion Points, and Conducting Face-to-Face Classes

August 5, 2020

Before Classes Begin

At least one week before classes start, send an introductory e-mail to your students highlighting key information for the fall semester. This is especially important for faculty and students in face-to-face classes. Instructors of online courses should also send a welcoming email sharing examples of what class engagement in your course will look like during the fall.

Setting the Tone

Students, like faculty, are experiencing a range of expectations and emotions as the fall semester begins. Introduce yourself, convey a positive message about the semester, and share how you will work together during the semester to achieve the course learning outcomes.

Review Key Expectations and Protocols

  • Share First Day of In-person Class Need to Know Information:
    • Face coverings: Students are required to enter the building wearing a face covering and keep it on throughout the class period, as well as and when walking through the building afterward.
    • Signage: Alert students to signage that will indicate entry and exit pathways, gathering and queuing spaces, as well as where they may obtain masks and hand sanitizer.  
    • Designated seating Seats will be blocked off in university scheduled classrooms to maintain physical distancing standards. Instructors are asked to establish designated seating in order to assist with contact tracing. (NOTE: Fillable PDFs for university scheduled classrooms will be available on the SVPP website.)
  • Invite students to contact you: Some students may not be able to attend the first class meeting due to self-isolation. Others may have questions about classroom protocols, and others may have underlying health conditions and are at higher risk for COVID-19. The Dean of Students Office has initiated a procedure for students to request placement in online courses. The deadline for submitting these forms is August 16. Encourage students to contact the Dean of Students Office for assistance.
  • Syllabus: Attach a copy or a link to your course syllabus and highlight elements you want students to be familiar with on the first day. Include the COVID-19 Health and Safety Syllabus Statement and consider adding this information to your syllabus this semester:
    • Classroom entrance/exit information
    • Procedure for implementing designated seating
    • Class rotation information if students are alternating in-person attendance
    • Information about whether the final exam will be held in-person or online
  • ISU computer requirement: Beginning Fall 2020 all students are required to own or acquire a laptop computer or other device appropriate to their discipline.

First Day of Class

Plan to spend a good portion of your opening class period discussing the protocols outlined below and answering questions about how students and instructors can work together to mitigate the risks posed by COVID-19.

Course Information

  • Explain how you will handle office hours: virtually, in-person, or by appointment.
  • Advise students that many academic success services, including advisor meetings and Academic Success Center services, will only be available by appointment, and most of these meetings will be virtual.
  • Review with your students the COVID-19 Health and Safety Syllabus Statement so they are aware of your expectations.
  • For labs, studios, and other courses that occur in specialized learning spaces, distribute and discuss the Experiential Course Participation Agreement (DOC, 31KB).
  • Describe your plans for exams and other assessments for students who are in quarantine, ill, or unable to complete the assessment in-person. If you are teaching an online class but are planning to administer in-person exams, ask students to self-identify if they are not physically able to come to Ames so alternative arrangements can be made.

Review Key Protocols

Face covering requirement (PDF, 154KB). Appropriate face coverings (e.g., cloth face covering, disposable cloth mask, or face shield) must be worn by all individuals in classrooms and campus buildings. The university has provided two cloth face coverings to all students, faculty, and staff who requested them. The Dean of Students Office has created Guidance for Supporting Community Expectations during COVID-19, which contains helpful scenarios and proactive planning tips that faculty should review before the first day of class.

Physical distancing. All members of the campus community are expected to cooperate in the effort and maintain physical distancing wherever possible. Maintaining at least six feet of physical space between persons may not be possible in all situations, but members of the campus community are expected to abide by all physical distancing measures such as following traffic patterns as indicated, respecting room occupancy limits, and being mindful of one’s surroundings.  

Seating. Designated seating in classes is recommended to assist with contact tracing efforts, if necessary, and to facilitate physical 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.

Exiting the classroomState your plan for how class will be dismissed and in what order (e.g., row-by-row starting from the back). Stress the need to keep face coverings on and to maintain physical distancing. If available, instruct students to wipe down their desks/table spaces with sanitizing wipes. Discourage students from approaching you with questions at the podium, or in the hallway, where physical distancing might be harder to maintain. But do let them know how to contact you with their follow up questions.

Signage. Remind students to pay attention to signage. Specific information students should look for:

  • Reminders to wear face coverings
  • Entry and exit pathways
  • How to congregate and queue before entering a classroom
  • Physical distancing guidance for using tables and chairs in common areas
  • Instructions specific to elevators, stairwells, and restrooms
  • Locations of sanitation stations and hand sanitizer dispensers

If a class member tests positive for COVID-19. In the event of a positive test among students in a given class, the instructor will be notified, and contract tracing will occur. More information on designated seating and the contact tracing process is available on the SVPP website. Faculty, staff, and students who test positive for COVID-19 should self-report that information to the Thielen Student Health Center. More information is available in President Wintersteen's June 24 campus memo (PDF).

Links to additional information

University COVID Updates and Resources

Planning for Fall 2020 Instruction - June 17, 2020  (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #12)

Academics and Instruction Update: Guidance for Online Courses Fall 2020 – July 10, 2020 (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #13)

Academics and Instruction Update: Fall 2020 General Updates – July 16, 2020 (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #14)

Fall 2020 In-Person and Online Exam Updates – July 16, 2020 

Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Resources