Maintaining educational continuity in the context of COVID-19

To: UC Santa Cruz Faculty

From: From: Chancellor Cynthia Larive; Interim Campus Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer; Onuttom Narayan, CEP Chair; Lindsay Hinck, CCI Chair; and Don Smith, Graduate Council Chair

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, we are doing everything possible to protect the health of our students, faculty, and staff. The safety and well-being of our community is our number one priority. Campus experts have been communicating often and broadly about ways that the community can take precautions (see the most recent update here). We are also preparing for potential situations in which members of our campus community become ill or need to be placed in isolation or quarantine. We remain committed to ensuring that our students continue to receive a top-quality education, along with support services and extracurricular experiences, while protecting the health of our faculty, staff, and students. 

We write to share best practices for instructors and academic units, for the educational benefit of our students. The goal of this preparation and planning is to minimize educational impacts should participation in coursework become difficult for health reasons for academic staff or students. If you encounter challenges, please consult with your department/program chair or college provost. Units should work closely with their dean’s office.

The CDC recommends that anyone who is sick not attend class in person. As such, instructors should consider how to accommodate students who may not be able to attend class in person, due to illness, quarantine, or travel restrictions: 

  • If feasible, arrange for lecture capture/webcasting of your course. 

  • Consider alternatives for instruction and student engagement (such as Zoom) that allow remote participation and assessment, including pre-recording lectures that can be accessed in the event the class cannot meet interactively. We acknowledge that this is not possible for some classes, such as studio or lab classes.

  • We strongly recommend adjusting course policies related to class and examination attendance so as not to penalize students who become ill or are placed under quarantine. Inflexibility regarding attendance will increase the chances of others in the class and on campus being infected.

For assistance with the items involving educational technology, please contact the Faculty Instructional Technology Center (FITC). The Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning (CITL) has posted a resource folder for instructors relevant to teaching during unplanned events/maintaining educational continuity, including modifications to design and delivery of courses. 

Instructors are encouraged to make class resources available to their department or course sponsoring agency, in case they are physically unable to continue teaching due to illness or quarantine.

  • Establish a complete and regularly updated gradebook, either in the Canvas learning management system or through another mechanism that provides access to department staff, so that if the instructor or other course staff become ill or are under quarantine, there is an up-to-date record of coursework.

  • Consider establishing a plan for submission and grading of final exams and papers, and for the submission of course grades, should the instructor or other course staff be unable to work if ill or quarantined.

  • Publish all key course documents (e.g., syllabi, assignments, reading lists) on Canvas, so that students can access them remotely even if unable to come to campus due to illness or quarantine. Alternatively, if the course has a separate website or other online resources, provide a link to it from Canvas, and ensure that your department can get access to it in case you are unable to continue instruction. If you are using Google Drive to store your course documents, consider giving your departmental staff and Chair access to your drive.

  • Give your department access to webcasts of course lectures, particularly for regularly taught courses, so that these can be used in instances where an instructor is unable to deliver lectures.

Academic administrators (deans, chairs, directors, and provosts) are encouraged to make contingency plans for how your unit will keep courses running if instructors or course staff become ill or are quarantined.  

  • Plan ahead to meet the ADA needs of quarantined instructors or students who had arranged for accommodation. The Disability Resource Center is available to answer instructor questions regarding continuing to provide accommodations to students who qualify for them. 

  • Discuss these issues and approaches with the faculty in your unit, and work with each to develop plans for academic resilience by taking the steps outlined above or through other approaches.

  • Work with Summer Session to increase summer course offerings for summer 2020 to support the academic advancement of students from abroad who cannot go home during summer 2020. 

  • Inventory courses for which lecture capture exists already. Make faculty aware of the inventory and make the material available as needed to support current courses.

  • Help arrange for key courses to undergo lecture capture in Spring 2020, Summer 2020, and beyond, so as to provide the greatest coverage in future times of need. 

Thank you for taking steps to ensure the educational resilience of our campus and to support our students’ academic success in the face of the challenges posed by COVID-19.

We understand that this is a stressful time for students and faculty alike. We are here to support you as we navigate this situation together. If you need further assistance or have ideas to strengthen our educational resilience protocols, please reach out any time.