Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Latest Virus Advice for Courses

Email circulated late yesterday afternoon:
To:  Deans, Directors, Department Chairs, Administrative Officers, and Faculty
Dear Colleagues:
As we face uncertainty in the near future as to whether UCLA will need to respond to the current local emergency of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Academic Senate has been working with UCLA administration to make sure there is guidance available to you. I apologize that we have not been able to consult as widely as is the Senate’s typical habit. I want to applaud you for the handling of students’ anxieties about what is next and also thank those of you who in the spirit of preparedness have developed a Plan B that you have ready to go should the typical means of ending the quarter be disrupted.
First, and most important, we are still operating in the mode of business as usual and there are no requirements at this moment for any changes on your part, however, that can change at any time. As of this moment, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at UCLA and I hope that this continues to be the case. Nonetheless, as Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carter and I indicated on Friday, the campus has begun contingency planning in order to ensure academic continuity in the winter and spring quarters. If you would like more information on issues to date as well as campus-wide resources, go to the COVID-19: Planning for Academic Continuity page at the Administrative Vice Chancellor’s website. In addition, the campus is offering workshops to provide guidance to faculty and teaching assistants in preparing for online teaching and learning in the spring quarter. Both of these pages will be updated as new information and options become available.
As the body that authorizes and supervises courses and curriculum, the Academic Senate would also like to provide guidance for faculty as you plan for the end of the winter quarter and the beginning of class in spring quarter. Although we remain hopeful that UCLA will be able to complete the winter quarter without disruption, please keep in mind the following points:
  • Should it become necessary in the final week of classes to employ alternatives to in-person class meetings or review sessions, the campus is making possible a wide range of alternative modes of delivery. As you consider accommodations for alternate approaches, you should determine whether all of your students have access to the tools, particularly if they are not at the UCLA campus. Suggestions for those areas that involve equity in resources would include access to a computer and the internet, access to sufficient bandwidth, and a quiet or private place to take the course assessment. If any of these do not exist, please try and problem solve with the student. Examples might include: If a test must be taken on a phone, it may take longer to complete so you could offer extended time; if they lack access to a computer or if there are no available computers, suggest before they leave campus that the consult with the Campus Instructional Computing Commons. Discuss these options in advance with students and TAs. Remember that not all of our students have the same access to online resources and that students should not be penalized for lack of access. Be responsive to students who are entitled to special accommodations through the Center for Accessible Education (CAE).
  • In the event that it is determined that final assessments cannot proceed in their scheduled manner, instructors have options within UCLA Divisional Regulations. With the support of their department and approval of the Undergraduate Council (see systemwide Senate Regulation 772), instructors may decide to cancel their finals. However, instructors may feel it is appropriate to accommodate all students by offering exams through alternative delivery modalities. For example, instructors could administer a written exam digitally — so long as it does not change the nature of the assignment and you ensure that all students have access to it. For courses where this method is not possible, I encourage you to work with your department chairs and students to discuss possible accommodations and assessments that might fall outside the scope of the original syllabus, if necessary. The key, however, is that any solution needs to be mutually agreeable to both faculty and students.
  • Please be sure to keep both your students and departments informed of your plans and any changes in either mode of delivery or assignment. It is extremely important that students receive accurate and timely information from you.
As you plan ahead for the Spring Quarter, I urge you to do the following:
  • Discuss contingency plans with your department chairs should you or a TA become ill. Are there colleagues who would be able to substitute until you recover? Make plans to ensure that materials are available online in ways that allow all students to have access to them. Familiarize yourself with the various online options that the campus is making available to faculty.
  • Ensure maximum flexibility in your syllabus. You might, for instance, reconfigure your assignments to allow for the possibility of disruption. You might build in extra quizzes, exams, or writing assignments in case some assignments need to be cancelled. Plan final assignments or exams in such a way as to allow you flexibility should there be a disruption at the end of spring quarter. It is, however, essential that you indicate clearly in your syllabus the flexibilities that you are adopting, so students are informed at the beginning of the quarter about possible scenarios in the face of COVID-19. Clear communication is essential.
  • If, due to COVID-19, you are unable to hold an in-person dissertation defense or oral qualifying examination please contact the Graduate Division.
UCLA’s faculty have time and again worked to enrich and preserve academic quality while also working to ensure the safety and well-being of our community. I trust that our instructors will work collaboratively with their departments and their students to enact solutions that are fair and equitable for all.
If you have any questions about appropriate ways to deliver your courses or your department’s curriculum, please do not hesitate to contact us. The Academic Senate stands, as always, ready to support your endeavors.
Michael Meranze
Chair, UCLA Academic Senate

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