Classroom Protocols, Processes and FAQs for Faculty

 

Fall 2021 Temporary reduction in classroom density policy

 

PROVOST LETTER TO FACULTY - AUGUST 16

PROVOST LETTER TO FACULTY - SEPTEMBER 8

 

ACHIEVING REDUCED CLASSROOM DENSITY [Updated 9/8/2021]

To accomplish reduced classroom density, we asked that faculty implemented a plan to rotate student attendance in on-campus and hybrid classes, starting at the beginning of fall 2021 through September 8, 2021. Faculty may begin the transition back to normal classroom capacity starting September 13 and should be fully transitioned by September 20.

Below is guidance provided to faculty before fall courses began on how to achieve reduced classroom density:

For large classes (100+ students) and those where enrollment is greater than 50% of the classroom capacity, faculty should prepare, communicate and implement a student attendance rotation system to reduce classroom density to approximately 50%. For example:
  • Faculty teaching a course scheduled to meet on-campus twice each week (e.g. Tuesdays and Thursday) would teach in the classroom both days, with half the class attending on-campus on Tuesdays and the other half attending on-campus on Thursdays.
  • For classes that meet three days per week, faculty may divide students’ on-campus classroom attendance into thirds with a third attending each campus class.
  • In classes that meet once per week, faculty may choose to rotate student attendance by week or split the class time each week and rotate students’ attendance accordingly.
Please note that any attendance rotation should include at least one on-campus class session for each student per week in each course during this time. Classes that meet once per week, students need to attend at least once every two weeks.
Faculty should check with their department for a classroom’s capacity.

For small classes and those with enrollment less than 50% of the classroom size, attendance rotation is not necessary. It may be implemented at the discretion of the faculty member. The implementation of attendance rotations for studios, labs, clinicals and similar courses is also at the discretion of the instructor.

RECORDING CLASS ACTIVITIES

Students are responsible for and will need access to instruction delivered in class meetings that occur outside of their scheduled on-campus rotation. To provide access to classroom instruction, faculty should record or livestream lectures and other classroom activities for students not attending that day.

Streaming and recording should be done through Teams, Echo 360 or a similar tool; every UTA classroom is already or can be equipped with the necessary streaming and recording technology to utilize Teams and Echo 360. UTA's Classroom Support, Center for Distance Education (CDE), and Center for Research on Teaching and Learning Excellence (CRTLE) are excellent resources to support your adjustment to this teaching environment. Please see these quick reference guides for information and resources on utilizing Microsoft Teams and Echo360 to manage in-person and online teaching during this time.

COMMUNICATING REDUCED CLASSROOM DENSITY PLANS

For the return to normal classroom capacity (to take place between September 13-20), be sure to let students know your classroom plan. Students will be working with various online and on-campus schedules, so notifying students in your courses of your plans as soon as possible will help them with their planning and transitions.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Faculty may ask students to maintain social distancing while in the classroom. This can include requesting that students do not sit in the front row(s) and maintain distance when asking questions before or after class. Faculty have the option to assign on-campus classroom seating or maintain seating charts; this is not a requirement. While we are practicing a reduction in classroom density, faculty may also choose to hold office hours fully online.

FACULTY TEACHING SCHEDULES

With the reduction in classroom density plan, faculty will need to maintain their scheduled teaching on campus. Through our employment of precautionary measures (using fresh air with no recirculation, availability of masks and disinfectant wipes), campus wide mitigation efforts, and reduced density in the classroom, we believe it is possible to successfully and safely provide an enriching experience for all.

REQUESTING WORK ACCOMMODATIONS

UTA encourages employees who have a disability to contact the Office of Human Resources and the ADA/ADAAA Coordinator or ADA/ADAAA Liaison for assistance or to request accommodations.

VACCINATIONS

UTA strongly encourages all faculty, staff and students to get vaccinated if they are able. On-campus vaccination clinics will be available on a walk-in-only basis as students begin to move in and return to campus activities. In addition, through a partnership with Texas Health Resources (THR), employees and students have priority access at THR clinics around the DFW Metroplex.  Vaccinations are readily available to students, faculty, staff and the community. More information is available on UTA’s COVID-19 Vaccination Information and Resources page.

Faculty should not inquire about anyone’s COVID-19 vaccination status—individually or the class as a whole (directly, polling, show of hands). Any restrictions or expectations communicated by faculty to students must be consistently applied to all students regardless of vaccination status. All students must be treated equally.

The Maverick Motivator Program has been established to encourage you to Mav Up and Sleeve Up.

COVID-19 TESTING

Information about UTA’s COVID-19 testing requirement and processes is available on UTA’s COVID-19 Testing Policy and Resources page.

MASKS AND FACE COVERINGS

UTA also strongly encourages everyone to follow CDC guidance and wear masks, especially inside classrooms or other areas where social distancing is not possible. Masks are available free of charge at the University Center Campus Information Desk, the Main Library and at The Commons Information Desk, and can be ordered by departments from Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) using the Face Mask Request Form.  More information can be found on UTA’s Face-Covering Guidance page.

UTA cannot require masks and faculty may not require students to wear a mask. Any restrictions or expectations communicated by faculty to students must be consistently applied to all students regardless of their decision to wear a mask. All students must be treated equally.

UPDATED INFORMATION

As the public health situation continues to change, UTA will continue to monitor, plan and respond as needed. Additional information and updates will be shared via email and posted on UTA’s Coronavirus Information page and on the Provost’s website.

 

Fall 2021 Faculty FAQs

 

Future Plans

Q: When is the reduced density classroom plan scheduled to end? [updated 9/8/21]
A: The decision to temporarily decrease on-campus classroom capacity to 50% was originally announced to take place from August 25-September 8, 2021. While our current COVID-19 mitigation strategies have been successful thus far—as evidenced by low positivity rates, no known classroom transmissions, and predominantly mild or asymptomatic cases on campus—we are extending the date for courses to pivot back to normal classroom density out of an abundance of caution. Rather than transitioning to normal classroom density on September 9 as originally planned, faculty may begin the transition back starting September 13 and should be fully transitioned by September 20.

Q: What is the academic and course plan if the public health situation does not improve? [updated 9/8/21]
A: The University will continue to monitor regional and local COVID-19 data and consult with health officials to guide our plans for the fall 2021 semester.

Q: Will there be future listening sessions with faculty, staff or students? [updated 9/8/21]
A: At this time, no additional listening sessions with students, staff or faculty are scheduled. Listening sessions may be scheduled in the future in the future to help guide University decisions and implementation.

Required COVID-19 Testing

Q: Where can I find more information about the required COVID-19 testing?
A: Information about UTA’s COVID-19 Testing Policy for faculty, staff and students is available online; an additional Required COVID-19 Testing Policy FAQ is also available online.

Q: Is COVID-19 testing required for faculty who will not be on campus this fall (on leave or teaching exclusively online)? [Updated 08/24/2021]
A: No. Testing is only required for employees and students coming to campus in any capacity for the fall 2021 term. More information about UTA’s COVID-19 Testing Policy for faculty, staff and students is available online.

How to Handle Positive COVID-19 Cases

Q: How will my classes be covered if I (instructor) test positive for COVID-19 and cannot come to campus? [updated 9/8/21]
A: Individuals personally diagnosed with COVID-19 are required to report to the University by filling out the Personal Diagnosis form and are expected to self-isolate. Faculty who test positive should work with their chair to determine the best course of action. This may include temporarily moving the course online or finding a substitute instructor.

Q: What should I do when a student from my class notifies me they tested positive for COVID-19? [updated 9/8/21]
A: If a student notifies you directly that they had a COVID-19 positive test result or have been in close contact with someone who is confirmed COVID-19 positive, guide them to the forms linked on Reporting and Daily Self-Monitoring webpage. The processes in the following question will then be followed.

Q: What processes take place when a student tests COVID-19 positive? [updated 9/8/21]
A: When UTA Health Services is notified of a positive case, a series of actions is initiated:
  • UTA Health Services will generate a letter via email for affected students to present to faculty to request accommodations. Please work with any student who presents an email from Health Services instructing them to isolate or quarantine due to virus infection or close contact; these students will need accommodations so they can continue to learn remotely as they are able while away from campus. Students should share with you documentation once they have been cleared by a nurse or physician to come back to campus.
  • UTA Health Services conducts contact tracing efforts. The contact tracing team determines if the COVID-positive student has been in contact with others while infected and if those individuals need to be contacted to self-isolate or get tested.
  • A notification will be sent to the dean(s) whose college taught the course(s) enrolled by the student who tested positive.
  • UTA Health Services monitors positive cases for evidence of any classroom transmission. If any classroom transmission is found, the dean will be contacted to determine appropriate actions to prevent any further spread.
  • UTA Health Services also assesses if additional disinfecting is required in the areas the individual visited while infectious and notifies the Office of Facilities Management of said areas. The Office of Facilities Management completes the disinfecting process the same day or night they receive notification.
  • Because of the actions above, courses do not need to pivot online due to positive cases (unless directed otherwise).
Q: What can I do to prevent the virus from spreading in my classroom? [updated 9/8/21]
A: Faculty may take many measures in the classroom to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some possible measures are:
  • Bring masks to classes and offer them to students (masks cannot be required, but they can be encouraged). To request additional masks, departments may complete the Face Mask Request form.
  • When there’s space in the classroom, leave the first two rows empty and/or have students spread out.
  • Consider using plexiglass to separate yourself from students. Plexiglass can be ordered via this form.
  • Use a classroom seating chart that may assist with contact tracing, if needed.
Q: What if a student tells me they have symptoms of COVID-19? What if I have symptoms?
A: All students, staff and faculty must measure their temperature daily before coming to campus. Prior to coming to campus or while on campus if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms that are new, worsening or occurring in a way that is not normal for any chronic conditions you may have, please remain or return home. Employees should notify their supervisor.
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The UTA mobile app provides a convenient, confidential tool to assist with conducting the daily self-assessment, or you can download the daily self-monitoring checklist for easy access. More information is available on UTA’s Reporting and Daily Self-Monitoring page.

Q: How is “close contact” defined? What if a student tells me they have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19? [updated 9/8/21]
A: Close contact is defined as being within six feet of an individual that is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

Students, staff and faculty who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 are required to report this through the University’s Close Contact form. Different protocols are in place based on vaccination status. When a student reports a close contact incident to the University, they will be provided a letter from the Health Services’ contact tracing team if self-quarantining is required. Students who share this letter with their instructors should be accommodated while they self-isolate. They will be provided documentation from Health Services once they have been cleared by a nurse or physician to come back to campus. More information is available on UTA’s Reporting and Daily Self-Monitoring page.

Q: What is the contract tracing policy and process?
A: When UTA is notified of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis within the campus community through the submission of a Personal Diagnosis form, a University team begins contact tracing efforts.

The contact tracing team determines if the COVID-positive individual has been in contact with others while infected and if those individuals need to be contacted to self-isolate or get tested. More information is available on UTA’s Reporting and Daily Self-Monitoring page.

Q: Is the University tracking COVID-19 cases?
A: UTA began tracking COVID-19 positive cases in faculty, students, staff and on-campus vendors in March 2020. An updated list of confirmed cases is available on the Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 page.

Vaccinations

Q: Why can the university require proof of meningitis vaccination but not COVID-19 vaccination?
A: UTA is a “governmental entity” and is thus prohibited under Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38 signed July 29, 2021 from requiring vaccination against COVID-19 at this time.

UTA does strongly encourage all faculty, staff and students to get vaccinated if they are able. Vaccinations are readily available to students, faculty, staff and the community; more information is available on UTA’s COVID-19 Vaccination Information and Resources page.

Q: Will UTA incentivize COVID-19 vaccination?
A: UTA believes vaccines are our best defense against COVID-19 and is committed to providing easy, free access to the vaccine for its community. All Mavericks are encouraged to get the vaccine if they’re able. The Maverick Motivator Program has been established to encourage you to Mav Up and Sleeve Up.

Masks and Face Coverings

Q: May I require a student to wear a mask or face covering when they meet with me in my office?
A: The university cannot require students, staff or faculty to wear a mask or face covering. Faculty members may choose to move the meeting to a different location for health and safety purposes, including online.

Q: May I give students who do not wear a mask in the classroom the option to attend class online?
A: No. Students may not be treated differently based on their decision to wear a mask. Any restrictions or expectations communicated by faculty to students must be consistently applied to all students regardless of their decision to wear a mask.

Q: May I assign unmasked students to sit in one area of the classroom, separate from masked students?
A: No. Students may not be treated differently based on their decision to wear a mask. Any restrictions or expectations communicated by faculty to students must be consistently applied to all students regardless of their decision to wear a mask.

Q: Why are some ISDs allowed to have mask mandates but UTA is not?
A: Independent School Districts (ISDs) fall under a different governance structure than the public universities and public university systems in the state of Texas. The mask and face-covering mandates some ISDs have in place are allowed while their cases are moving through the judicial process. UTA does not have any exceptions from the Governor’s Executive Order prohibiting mask mandates.

Q: Can IRB-approved research require students, researchers, research teams and others to wear masks?
A: In the context of specific human subjects research protocols, the Institutional Review Board may require masks—similar to any other safety measures or procedures that the IRB could require for the protection of human subjects.

Individuals who did not want to wear masks are able to withdraw from participating in the research study; UTA personnel conducting the study may also have an accommodation to be assigned other duties if they withdraw. Unlike a classroom situation, research participation as a subject is voluntary, and withdrawing from the study will usually incur no cost or harm. Participation as an employee is also voluntary and without cost if there is an alternative work assignment.

Holding Office Hours

Q: May I require students to wear a face mask when we meet in person in my office?
A: The university cannot require students, staff or faculty to wear a mask or face covering. Faculty members may choose to move the meeting to a different location for health and safety purposes, including online.

Q: May I hold office hours online instead of in person?
A: While the University is under the reduction in classroom density plan, and with departmental and college approval afterward, faculty office hours for fall 2021 may take place online.

Classrooms and Technology

Q: Do I need to utilize assigned seating or a seating chart for my classes?
A: Faculty have the option to assign on-campus classroom seating or maintain seating charts; this is not a requirement.

Q: May I require social/physical distancing in the classroom?
A: Faculty may ask students to maintain social distancing while in the classroom. This can include requesting that students do not sit in the front row(s) and maintain distance when asking questions before or after class.

Q: I wear a mask when I teach in the classroom. Is there a way to amplify my voice so students sitting in the back can hear me?
A: Depending on the classroom size, existing technology, and instructor’s ability to project their voice, an additional microphone and speaker may be helpful to allow students in the on-campus classroom to hear the instructor. If you need access to a classroom microphone and speaker, contact your department to ask about availability.

Q: Is personal protective equipment available from UTA?
A: The University will provide disinfecting wipes in all the classrooms. Face masks are available to individuals, departments and groups; more information and the form to request masks is available on UTA’s Face Covering Guidance page. Departments can also request plexiglass screens for transactional areas by submitting an online request form or calling 817-272-2000.

Q: What technology is available for teaching in the classroom and online? Will I be able to livestream or record my lecture?
A: All classrooms will have Microsoft Teams and Echo 360 (either the full version or the desktop Universal Capture version) installed on the classroom computer.

Most classroom computers are also equipped with webcams and microphones for video and audio capture. If you are using Microsoft Teams for lecture capture, you may choose to bring a Bluetooth headset for better audio quality and to hear real-time online student interaction if you are livestreaming. If you do not have access to a headset, contact your department to ask about availability. If the classroom computer does not have a webcam installed, contact your department to ask about availability.

Not all classrooms are equipped to capture information and images shared via a classroom’s white board, smart board, or document projector. Faculty are encouraged to use alternate ways to share the same information with students participating remotely (e.g. upload slides or accessible PDFs, use Wacom tablet).

Depending on the classroom size, existing technology, and instructor’s ability to project their voice, an additional microphone and speaker may be helpful to allow students in the on-campus classroom to hear the instructor. If you need access to a classroom microphone and speaker, contact your department to ask about availability.

Q: Where can I find information on how to use the classroom technology?
A: Quick-start guides on using Microsoft Teams and Echo 360/Universal Capture are available here.

Additional resources to support teaching online are available through the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning Excellence (CRTLE) website—on CRTLE’s main page and from Fall 2020 under CRTLE’s Going Online page. The Office of Instructional Technology’s UTA Remote page offers a list of faculty resources. The Center for Distance Education (CDE) hosts information on using Canvas and Trainings.

Q: What type of classroom support will be available this semester?
A: Through the first week of classes, the Educational Technology/Classroom Support team and embedded technology support through departments and colleges will be on call and ready to respond to classroom technology questions or issues as they arise.

ADA/ADAAA Accommodations

Q: How should faculty submit requests for accommodations?
A: UTA’s Office of Human Resources oversees ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) and ADAAA (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008) accommodations requests. More information and instructions on how to apply for an ADA and ADAAA accommodation are available on the Office of Human Resources ADA/ADAAA

Q: If a faculty member is approved by Human Resources for accommodation that includes a fully remote work situation, will the modality of the classes they are teaching need to change?
A: If an accommodation is approved that includes moving an existing course to online modality, the assigned course modality will need to be updated. In this case, faculty should work with department chairs to submit course modality change requests to the Registrar’s Office for HR-approved accommodations. Other arrangements may be possible to meet the accommodation.

Academic Policies

Q: Will language about COVID safety and recommendations for syllabi be provided?
A: The University syllabus template has language about COVID safety included. The link to the syllabus template is available on the Office of the Provost’s Course and Curricular Resources and Policies page.

Q: Can I change the modality of my class to be online? Or can I offer a fully online section of the class?
A: At this time, the University must limit the number of class modality changes in the fall 2021 class schedule. Academic programs need to maintain compliance with THECB and SACSCOC guidelines that limit the number of courses offered online unless the program is approved for blended/hybrid or online delivery. Modality changes may also affect student billing and/or financial aid. Offering a fully online section of a class in addition to the on-campus section may be an option in a limited number of cases.

Q: If a student asks if they can take my on-campus course fully online this semester, am I expected to do so?
A: Faculty need to work to accommodate students with documented needs including accommodations reports issued by UTA Health Services or the Student Access and Resource Center. Given ongoing concerns about COVID-19 and the University’s requirement that anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 not come to campus, flexibility will be critical. After the temporary reduction in classroom density period ends, faculty should resume teaching their class in the modality assigned in MyMav and offer flexibility as they are able.

Campus Events

Q: While we are practicing reduced classroom density, are there reduced density guidelines for on-campus events? Department and staff meetings?
A: UTA maintains up-to-date guidelines for safe campus operations on the Campus Events Updates page.

Recording: August 13 Fall 2021 Course Planning-Faculty Listening Session
Fall 2021 Course Planning - Faculty Listening Session - August 13 2021

Continue to monitor UTA's official COVID-19 webpage for important campus updates.