Several Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Fall 2021 Instruction

 

Date:              September 7, 2021

To:                  Iowa State University Faculty

From:            Jonathan Wickert                                  
                      Senior Vice President and Provost
            

Subject:        Several Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Fall 2021 Instruction

 

Thank you for successfully launching Iowa State’s fall semester. Over the first two weeks of the term, I’ve heard two important messages loudly and clearly. First, our students very much appreciate the opportunity to be back on campus and in the classroom, to learn from you, and to take part in the many activities and traditions that are the hallmark of the Iowa State University  experience.

I have also heard from many faculty. You, too, are excited to be back sharing your knowledge and experience with students. At the same, important questions and concerns remain regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on instruction and other academic activities. Several common questions are listed below.

As with previous communications about instruction, I ask that department chairs share this memo with graduate student instructors, teaching assistants, and academic advisors and staff engaged in instruction and student success.

May I record my lectures and post them online?

Yes.  While not a requirement or expectation, making lectures available online to students is a valuable and accepted pedagogical practice that supports learning.  Online access to lectures enables students to catch-up on material they may have missed and to review difficult material for improved comprehension.  Instructors should be sure to clearly explain to students that lectures posted online are a supplement, not a replacement, to in-person instruction.

May I hold virtual office hours?

Yes.  Virtual office hours can provide students with added opportunity and convenience to interact with instructors, ask questions, and receive guidance.  Again, they should be a supplement to in-person office hours, and not be viewed as a replacement. Instructors know their students best and have discretion when arranging their office hours.  Pre-pandemic, some faculty held virtual office hours to improve access and participation for students, such as evening hours before an exam assignment was due.  Additional options such as holding office hours outside when weather permits or using larger spaces such as departmental conference rooms or atria, may also be considered.

I am having symptoms but have not yet received the results of my COVID-19 test. Should I stop teaching in the classroom?

Yes.  The Cyclone Cares program emphasizes that if an employee is not feeling well, they should not come to work.  Instructors who are not feeling well (including being symptomatic and waiting for a COVID-19 test) should follow the absence processes and policies of their college or department, and use the leave options available to them, including sick leave (if accrued) and, in the case of a positive test result, Board of Regents COVID-19 Sick Time Off.

If I tested positive for COVID-19 and am feeling well enough to teach, may I temporarily move my class online?

Yes.  Specific guidance and process are available here.

Can the phrase “(But not required)” be removed from the face mask signs in my classroom?

Yes.  New signs which simply state “Face masks encouraged” are available here and may be used in classrooms, offices, and other indoor spaces. 

What should I do if I’m concerned about absenteeism in my class?

Absenteeism can be problematic if it negatively impacts the in-class, interactive, student-faculty learning experience.  Indicators of unusual absenteeism include absenteeism that differs materially from experience in prior semesters;  a substantial number or percentage of students being absent; consistent or growing absenteeism over time; and absenteeism believed to be associated with COVID-19 cases and isolation. Instructors who are experiencing problematic, unusual, and substantial absenteeism should discuss options, including temporary ones, with their department chair, who will timely confer with the cognizant college associate dean.

What guidance is available for an instructor who has close contact with a person infected with COVID-19?

It depends on vaccination status.  Instructors who are not vaccinated and come into close contact with an infected person are directed to quarantine for 14 days, whether exhibiting symptoms or not. In this case, one should follow the department’s standard planned absence procedure with a focus on making sure classes are covered with substitute instructors, or temporarily moved classes online.

According to the university’s COVID-19 Quarantine Workflow, instructors who are vaccinated and asymptomatic do not need to quarantine if they come into close contact with an infected person. These individuals are asked to test 3-5 days after the exposure; if the test result is positive, they would follow the temporary course modality change process outlined on September 1.  If an instructor is symptomatic, they should not come to work and should follow established absence processes and policies. 

What options are available if my child must remain home to isolate or quarantine?

Instructors who need to be home to care for dependent children are encouraged to use the standard leave options available to them. These include sick leave (if accrued) or Board of Regents COVID-19 Sick Time Off.  Note the Board of Regents Sick Time Off may also be used if a childcare provider has closed due to COVID-19.