Fall 2021 Message for Instructors

August 17, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

With the summer coming to a close, I want to share a few resources that will support your work preparing for the fall semester, including information on syllabus statements and preparation, Prep Week, class attendance, and promoting student engagement.

COVID-19 Mitigations

As noted in recent communications from President Wintersteen and Provost Wickert, Iowa State encourages all members of the university community to wear masks in indoor spaces when around others. This includes classrooms, studios, teaching laboratories, advising offices and other academic environments. Note that while both masks and vaccinations are encouraged, they cannot be required, consistent with current Board of Regents guidance.

Syllabus Statements and Preparation

Iowa State’s Free Expression Syllabus Statement is required to be used verbatim in all university courses, as communicated in November 2020, and affirmed by the Board of Regents. Additional information on the Free Expression statement can be found here.

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) offers a Mindful and Learner-Centered Syllabus Checklist, which many instructors have found useful. The checklist includes required and recommended syllabus statements related not only to free expression, but also to COVID-19, academic integrity, disability accommodation, Prep Week, harassment and discrimination, and religious accommodation.

The Syllabus Statements option is now available in the Canvas course navigation. If not visible by default, instructors must enable Syllabus Statements inside their Canvas course(s). This option is automatically populated with the required and recommended syllabus statements, and can help ensure students are aware of these important policies.

Instructors are also encouraged to provide students with information on how to access resources related to health and wellness. A list of resources can be found on page 5 of the Syllabus Checklist.

Class Attendance

For Fall 2021 we will return to the attendance policy outlined in the Faculty Handbook whereby faculty set their own standards for attendance with one caveat: at a minimum, for Fall 2021, faculty are expected to treat a positive COVID test result as appropriate documentation for a university excused absence. The excused absence must extend to the full length of the isolation period under current CDC guidance. Students seeking accommodations to make up exams, assignments, and other missed coursework, must be willing to present proof of a positive COVID test.

Instructors should communicate their attendance expectations clearly to students through the course syllabus, in-class and Canvas announcements, and other relevant means. Instructors are encouraged to be flexible in their expectations as the conditions related to COVID on our campus continue to evolve. Encouraging students to stay home when sick and to follow the Cyclones Care recommendation will help keep campus safe.

Prep Week Policy

The last full week of classes before final examinations is designated as Prep Week. Instructors generally may not give final examinations during Prep Week; due dates for mandatory graded submissions that occur during Prep Week must be listed on the syllabus and communicated at the start of the semester. Exceptions to the policy must be approved by the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost. More details are available here.

Required Course Presence in Canvas

All Iowa State courses are required to have a presence in Canvas, the university’s learning management system. CELT has a number of resources available on the Canvas@ISU website, including a Quick Start Guide. The website also includes a helpful section if you are planning to use the Online Testing Center to administer exams this semester.

CELT has many teaching resources available online, including a section of their website devoted to Creating an Inclusive Classroom which can help you create an environment that supports learning for all students. To learn more about using Canvas and other CELT professional development programs visit CELT’s upcoming events site.

Student Engagement

The COVID-19 pandemic has created numerous changes to students’ academic experience over the last two years. Fall 2021 will include our first-year students as well as those who started last year but may have missed out on many opportunities to connect with staff, faculty, and peers. These students, many of whom finished high school online, will be working to successfully navigate their experience on campus while also adapting to the increased rigor of college coursework.

Office hours can help students connect with instructors and engage with the course. As communicated in the Provost's April 19 Fall 2021 Instruction memo in-person office hours are expected to be the standard format for Fall 2021. Instructors can also meet virtually at the request of students either during the times faculty are in their offices or during special virtual office hours set outside the regular workday. Directing students to the numerous campus resources available is another way to help them successfully engage in their learning.

Resources for Students

Iowa State’s Dean of Students portfolio consists of a variety of departments with resources to assist your students, including Student Accessibility Services, Multicultural Student Affairs, the Academic Success Center, the Writing and Media Center, and the Office of Student Assistance. Other services such as Student Counseling are available through the Thielen Student Health Center.  Many college Student Services Offices also provide support options for students who may be struggling academically or financially.

Learning Spaces

The IT Audiovisual Experience Team encourages you to visit your classroom before the semester starts to do a test run with the technology. If you have questions about the learning technology please contact the team at 4-6894 or email at avxt@iastate.edu. As a reminder, should an unexpected classroom technology issue arise during class, contact the Solutions Center at 4-4000 and they will quickly route issues to the Audiovisual Experience Team as needed.

Best wishes for a successful Fall Semester.

Ann Marie VanDerZanden
Associate Provost for Academic Programs
and
The AY21-22 Academic Continuity Working Group