Welcome back and adapting to fall 2020

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

From Anupma Prakash, provost and executive vice chancellor

Dear faculty and instructors,

Welcome to the 2020-2021 academic year! This week marks a major transition with many of you coming back on contract. The university is also on track to continue welcoming students back to campus over the next two weeks. There are many important pieces of information I want to share with you as you navigate fall 2020.

What has not changed: Many things will feel different this semester, but one thing remains unchanged — and that is the academic rhythm and our academic calendar. Our classes will start on Monday, Aug. 24, and the week of finals will be Dec. 7-12.

Today's deadline: My recent email messages to you noted that those of you who have elected to offer your course in-person or hybrid modalities MUST fill out and submit this simple fall 2020 course exception google form (Form #2). Your attestation then clears you to continue offering your course in-person or in hybrid mode within our phase B guidelines. I want to remind you that filling this form is required and the deadline for submission is TODAY — Tuesday, Aug. 11, by 5 p.m.

From now till the start of classes: Here are some things to take care of before classes start.

  • Face shields: If you are teaching in person or in hybrid mode and have requested a face shield by filling out the information in the Form #2, you will be able to pick it up at the Facilities Services customer service center on weekdays from Aug. 12-21 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. This desk is located at 803 Alumni Drive.
  • Teaching spaces: Your deans, department chairs, and many staff members have been hard at work preparing classroom and lab spaces and making many other accommodations to facilitate your course delivery. Please check out your teaching space. Familiarize yourself with the seating arrangement, the signage that indicates which way the students will enter and exit the classroom, and make sure that you are familiar with the technology that you are planning to use in the classroom. Please let the dean's office know if there is something missing in the classroom setup.
  • Internet and personal technology needs: UAF OIT has provisions to lend you equipment such as webcams, headsets, styluses, Chromebooks and mifi devices to support your distance delivery needs. Forms to request this equipment are available on this OIT website.

eCampus services and opportunities for faculty: To prepare you for the start of classes, and going forward throughout the upcoming academic year, the UAF eCampus design team has planned multiple pathways to support you.

In addition to the full range of eCampus services, UAF eCampus is designing their fall to be responsive to faculty and student needs; please reach out with feedback and requests.

Syllabus update: Your Faculty Senate worked this summer to include the following required language to be added to the syllabus: "Students should keep up-to-date on the university's policies, practices, and mandates related to COVID-19 by regularly checking this website: https://sites.google.com/alaska.edu/coronavirus/general-info. Further, students are expected to adhere to the university's policies, practices, and mandates and are subject to disciplinary actions if they do not comply."

The first two weeks of class: The first two weeks of class are likely to be disrupted by State Mandate 10, requiring testing and strict social distancing for students traveling from out of state, and by adjustments to students' schedules. Please be flexible with your students during this time and try to avoid high-stakes assignments. I also recommend recording lectures or providing alternative means for students to access course materials.

FERPA and recording: Some faculty have asked about FERPA issues related to recording classes and if students have to sign a waiver for the class to be recorded.

Students need not sign a waiver. They should be notified in advance of the recording or the possibility of recording (in the syllabus, announcements at the start of each class, or preferably both). The recording should be shared through a system accessible only to those enrolled in the course. A statement in the syllabus should let them know that class sessions will be recorded and shared with only other enrolled students.

Week of finals and final exam schedule: Final exams will still take place from Dec. 7-12 as published in the academic calendar. We have made some adjustments to the final exam schedule to allow for more time to transit between classrooms for in-person classes and for setting up online proctoring for those courses where it is required. I encourage faculty to seek solutions that do not require proctoring if possible. The new exam schedule will be communicated by the registrar and posted online this week.

Where to find all the information: There has been a focused effort to pull all relevant information in one place and structure it by user groups and themes. I find the following links really handy:

  • UAF's COVID-19 communications page: has all substantive COVID-19 related communications, arranged by date, and noting who sent it.
  • UAF's COVID-19 information for students: a student-facing website that includes only information directly relevant to students. We have identified several common spaces (such as in the library, Wood Center, the Nook, ELIF) that off-campus and other students can use for accessing online classes. A list of these spaces and the times when they will be available will be shared on this site.
  • UAF's COVID-19 related policies: This includes policies and guidelines. The face covering policy is already included, and the information on how to report if someone is not complying with the face covering mandate will be posted here. Updated testing, reporting, campus access and events policies will also soon be posted on this site.

As always, should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact your dean or me at aprakash@alaska.edu.