COVID-19 Update: A note to faculty and staff

March 6, 2020



Dear faculty and staff,

Let me start by saying, “Thank you.” Many of you have reached out in the last week with ideas and suggestions that are being incorporated into our plan to address the challenges associated with the spread of COVID-19.

There are no known cases of COVID-19 on our campus. At the same time, the safety and wellbeing of our faculty, staff, students, patients, and the community is of paramount importance. As the important daily work of all members of our campus community continues, I want to share with you the strategic steps we are taking to respond to this situation as it evolves.This is to ensure that we have plans in place if needed.

  • Medical Preparedness: Our colleagues and experts at MU Health are meeting on a daily basis to discuss medical preparedness. Using the Pandemic Influenza plan built several years ago, and now modified for specifics for Sars-CoV-2/COVID-19, this team has updated protocols for health care workers and for patient care so we can protect the health of our community in the event of a pandemic.
  • Students: MU International Center and the MU Study Abroad Office have been working closely with returning students and their families on travel, academic resources, and other issues.
  • Academic Preparedness: We have convened a Task Force that is developing an Academic Preparedness Plan (see below) with representation from every college and unit. This plan will maintain continuity of academic operations in the case of campus closure.
  • Communications: We are reaching out to parents and students and sharing campus-level information clearly and regularly. We encourage everyone to continue to seek national information from reliable sources such as the CDC. We also encourage everyone to check updates posted on the MU Alert website.
  • Travel: Rather than halting all travel to places where COVID-19 has been a concern, we are asking everyone to carefully consider all university-related travel, and if you travel, to take appropriate precautions when you travel and upon return as needed. Right now, university travel is prohibited to China, South Korea, and Italy because of CDC and State Department warning levels. Changes to this position may occur if the US State Department Travel Advisory Level changes to level 3 or 4 in any specific location. We will alert campus if travel to any additional locations becomes prohibited. Information about travel to areas of concern can be found on the MU Alert site.
  • Research Infrastructure Preparedness: Vice Chancellor for Research, Mark McIntosh, is working on a plan to manage the research infrastructure on campus in the event that we experience a disruption in operations. This will be shared in the coming weeks.
  • System level planning: A System Emergency Preparedness Planning Task Force has been meeting to assess risk and potential risk based on information from the CDC, the State Department and from local and national news media.

Academic Preparedness Plan

The goal of this plan is to ensure continuity in our academic operations should events unfold in a way where it becomes necessary to partially or fully close campus. We have formed a committee with representation from all schools and colleges to oversee the development and implementation of this plan. A list of all committee members will soon be available on the MU-Alert website.

If you are teaching a face-to-face course, we recommend that you begin thinking about how you would deliver course material via alternative formats. I want to make it clear that we are not cancelling any on-campus courses at this time. But, considering the fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation, we need to be prepared to make adjustments so the learning of our students can continue in as uninterrupted a manner as possible. In many instances, faculty can deliver course content using our university-wide online learning tools—Canvas and Zoom—which are available to all faculty and students. More details on these services are provided below.

In some instances, faculty may be able to deliver course content via other strategies (e.g., directed readings and email discussions for smaller seminar classes; independent research assignments). We also recognize that wet labs, experiential learning, and other activities will be more difficult to address and we encourage you to be creative. Please consider which strategy or strategies will be most effective for your particular students, and plan accordingly if we do experience any campus disruptions.

If we do have to rapidly convert on-campus courses into an online format, we will do everything we can to support you. Here are several initial resources and suggestions we ask you to review and consider implementing:

Resources for faculty

  1. Visit http://umurl.us/teachon to find out more on how to move pieces of your course online quickly. Contact coursehelp@missouri.edu for additional questions or support.
  2. Canvas: To request a Canvas site if you don’t already have one — https://courses.missouri.edu/courses/#request
  3. Zoom: Many faculty and students already have full Zoom licenses, but we are rolling out full licenses for all, which allows for unlimited time in meetings and recording. If you need a new Zoom pro account, please go to https://umsystem.zoom.us. If you already have a pro account, you don’t need to do anything different to continue to use Zoom. Resources for installing, using, and hosting zoom meetings are located at http://teachingtools.umsystem.edu.
  4. Faculty can record lectures using a variety of tools (e.g., Panopto, or Zoom, depending on the lecture needs) and post them on Canvas for students to view. Synchronous activities, such as live lectures and office hours, can be performed using Zoom. Neither of these approaches requires a class to be fully online, but rather, allows flexibility for faculty and students to respond quickly and effectively to a given challenge.
  5. For students in graduate programs, defense, proposal, and comprehensive examination meetings could be hosted on Zoom, if necessary. We understand that courses and programs involving lab work, archival work, performance, etc. that are not available online, may have to slow down completion. As a reminder, the last day we accept defense approvals is May 3 and the very last day for submission is May 10. All the submission and forms can be completed via Canvas. If it becomes necessary, we will look to see if we can move these dates where possible.

Other steps for faculty to consider

  1. Check in with your department chair: Your department may issue more details about the situation and guidelines about their expectations for classes.
  2. If you assign points for class attendance, do not penalize students for missing class if they are sick. We should encourage students to not come to class if they are not feeling well and/or are demonstrating symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (or any other significant illness).
  3. If you do have to adjust the format for delivery in the middle of the course:
  • Consider realistic goals for continuing instruction. What do you think you can realistically accomplish during this time period? Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some assignments to add structure and accountability? Consider ways to keep them engaged with the course content.
  • Review your course schedule to determine priorities. Identify your priorities during the disruption—providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc. What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself some flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than you think.
  • Review your syllabus for points that must change. What will have to temporarily change in your syllabus (policies, due dates, assignments, etc.)? Since students may also be thrown off by the changes, they will appreciate details whenever you can provide them.
  • Pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students. Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary.
  • Clearly articulate your new expectations for students. You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.

4. Create a detailed communications plan to implement in case you have to make modifications to your course delivery. Once you have more details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with more information about how they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). A useful communication plan also lets students know how soon they can expect a reply. They will have many questions, so try to figure out how you want to manage that.

If you have other general questions about campus’ response to the current situation, you may direct them to: musrasocprovost@missouri.edu. We will triage them and direct them to the appropriate individual to provide you a response.

Sincerely,

Latha Ramchand, PhD

Provost &

Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs