January 7, 2022
To: Teaching colleagues
From: Debbie Storrs, Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
RE: Spring 2022 Instructional Guidance
Classes begin on Monday, January 10th, and I wanted to provide guidance for your Spring 2022 courses. The University continues to monitor and follow CDC and public health guidelines and update our COVID-19 website. Here is what we expect and know based on the most recent science, CDC guidance, public health, the UNC System Office, and our own UNCG data:
- The Omicron variant transmission rate is significant.
- According to the CDC, vaccinated and boosted individuals who test positive for Omicron are likely to have non-existent or mild-to-moderate symptoms. Those who are unvaccinated or who have other medical conditions, however, are at risk for serious symptoms and hospitalization (as has been the case since the beginning of the pandemic).
- We should all expect an increase in positivity rates as we are seeing rates increase in the county and across the state.
UNCG faculty, staff, and students are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated (and, if not, must engage in required testing) and boosted, and are required to wear face coverings (three-layer surgical-style masks) during in-person interactions, including in classrooms, labs, galleries, and performance spaces to provide the best protection against serious illness. Those who test positive are required to self-report and must isolate. UNCG has transitioned and is following the updated CDC isolation and quarantine guidance which shortens the standard isolation and quarantine time from 10 days to 5 days.
We must adjust our lives to live, learn, and work as safely as possible in light of our continuing and evolving COVID-19 reality. For students who are enrolled in in-person degree programs, the academic experience and outcomes are better when offered face-to-face. In light of our safety measures and student learning, our plan is to continue to offer our courses as currently scheduled, with the majority of courses taught face-to-face at full classroom capacity. Because we can expect higher than previous numbers of positive cases among students, staff, and faculty along with subsequent requirements for isolation, I offer some suggestions below for managing your courses.
Supporting Student Learning
Below are some of the ways instructors can continue to support student learning without permanently moving their courses online:
- If the number of students in your course needing to isolate raises to a point that it becomes impractical to accommodate them while still holding class in-person, instructors are encouraged to temporarily move their course into a virtual environment and to continue to meet virtually as according to the course schedule. Teaching synchronously in this manner accomplishes several things: it minimizes changes to the planned pedagogy, drives continued student engagement, and provides a means of accountability for students. It is critically important that we continue to keep educational disruptions to a minimum, even as we make flexibility a priority. If this need occurs, instructors are asked to first consult with their department chair/head/director so they can help problem solve solutions and document this temporary shift to allow us to report to the system and to ensure students and advisors are informed. Chairs/Heads/Directors are asked to record any approved changes to course delivery using this form.
- If a manageable number of students need to isolate such that it is reasonable for instructors to continue to teach face-to-face, instructors can use the basic video capturing capabilities through Panopto to allow students who are isolating to participate virtually. All classrooms have basic video and audio capture capabilities: either a camera with pan/tilt/zoom or webcam (depending on the size of the room) via Panopto.
For more information on how to use Panopto, see:
- 6 Tech Panopto Help Playlist
- 6 Tech Article and Additional Panopto Resources
- Faculty can request training from the University Teaching and Learning Commons by completing this form
- Review the “Keep Teaching Website” for more helpful hints
- Please prepare your students in your face-to-face classes for what they can expect this semester. Consider adding this message to your course syllabi for your face-to-face courses:
Spring 2022 Course Delivery: This course is scheduled to be taught in-person and all participants are required to face coverings in the class at all times. Students are strongly encouraged to wear three-layer surgical-style face coverings in class which are available at designated on-campus locations. No food or drink (including water) is allowed in the class. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may require changes to our meeting plan; we will be monitoring the situation closely. If I need to change the format of the course temporarily due to outbreaks of illness, I will announce this via email and the course Canvas page.
Students who test positive: Students who test positive for COVID-19 are required to self-report and isolate per University guidelines. Students can still participate in class virtually. I will provide details on how students will continue to engage.
Instructors can accommodate students who need to isolate in a number of ways, including asking them to participate through recorded lectures or through live classroom capture via Panopto. Instructors should determine what works best for them and their students and communicate expectations to students.
Instructors with further questions about flexibility options for Spring 2022 should be directed to Associate Vice Provost Andrew Hamilton (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will also coordinate with deans, heads, chairs, and directors on any necessary changes. Graduate Teaching Assistants who have questions about flexibility options for Spring 2022 should consult with their Department Chair/Head/Director.
Preparing Instructors for the Spring
Instructors who test positive for COVID-19 are required to self-report and to isolate. Instructors who have no, mild, or moderate symptoms and can still teach remotely can do so by temporarily moving their course(s) to a virtual environment. I encourage synchronous instruction in this case as well. Those who are unable to continue to teach should inform their department chairs/heads/directors who will be asked to find a replacement. I ask all colleagues to be willing to step in to support one another if an instructor is unable to teach. The support could take the form of a) guest lecturing, b) temporarily taking over the instruction of a course/section, or c) providing alternative educational activities for students to complete while the instructor is recovering.
Documenting & Reporting All Changes to Delivery Methods
The mode of delivery impacts our accreditation compliance. We are required to have an accurate record of online offerings and report to SACSCOC all programs that offer 50% or more of program credits online, even if those courses are offered only once online. In addition, courses that move online create problems for our international students in light of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations.
In addition, we are required to report our instructional delivery methods and any changes to the UNC System.
As such, we must keep track of your instructional changes. Before instructors make any temporary change to their delivery methods, please first consult with your department chair/head/who will be asked to document the change and how long the course will be online. Any permanent requests to change the delivery method should be discussed first with the department chair/head/director and dean, with final approval from Associate Vice Provost Andrew Hamilton.
Instructors with Medical Conditions
Any instructors requesting a permanent shift of face-to-face courses to online because of a medical condition should contact Patricia Lynch (email@example.com) or Latisha Perry (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Human Resources for assistance.
The start of every term for the last two years has required us to assess our situation and to make adjustments to the best of our ability and in the best way we see forward to excel in our mission while in the throes of a shifting pandemic. Because of your flexibility and dedication to our students, we have consistently done so successfully. We enter the spring term with high vaccination rates on campus, a great deal of hard-won experience in how to support students and each other, and a readiness to make further adjustments if the course of the pandemic makes it necessary. I remain confident that, if we follow community health guidelines closely, we can safely offer the in-person instruction (and in-person student support services) so valuable to our students and their learning.