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COVID-19 Instructor Expectations and Best Practices

Given the likelihood of continued COVID-19-related disruptions, all instructors of record should approach AY20-21 course design with a contingency plan for rapidly moving between delivery modalities (on the spectrum of face-to-face to fully online) should circumstances warrant a return to remote-only instruction. Instructors also should be prepared for students to be physically absent from the classroom due to illness or quarantine. Allowing for more flexibility and learner choice in the delivery of course content is strongly advised.

To facilitate student engagement and academic success, the Pedagogy and Instruction Committee has drafted the following expectations for instruction that apply to all instructors of record. While all of the expectations may not pertain to certain modalities, adopting the relevant policies and including them in the syllabus is expected of all instructors.


Expectation #1

Develop a plan to achieve your learning outcomes if we return to online learning, if you have to self-isolate, or if some students have to attend remotely because of a COVID-related or other emergency. Students must have every opportunity to meet the course learning outcomes if they become sick, are quarantined, or if we have to move to online only instruction.

Best Practices

Consider what you can do to enhance the experience for your students over what you may have done during the Spring semester. Consider how you will work with your unit to ensure instruction continues if you become sick. The Libraries and WVU Teaching and Learning Commons (TLC) can assist in enabling students to access to the course content online. They have a variety of tools and encourage instructors to reach out to their subject liaison librarian or the TLC website to problem-solve where need be.

Expectation #2

Address the requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE) use in the classroom in your syllabus and be prepared to enforce the University PPE and physical distancing policies (face-to-face only).

Best Practices

Add the Faculty Senate approved syllabus statement on PPE use to your syllabus and link to the Student Conduct policy on ensuring safe classroom behavior.

Expectation #3

Include in the syllabus your communication strategies, naming the tools that you will use to communicate with your students and the time frame for an answer.

Best Practices

Reflect on your communication strategies and consider the overall course structure you want to provide your students. Will this strategy be effective if we must return to online only instruction?

How will you accommodate and communicate with students who may become sick or who cannot be in your classroom due to underlying health concerns approved by the Office of Accessibility Services? Be confident that you can effectively communicate with online students (even if only temporarily distanced due to illness). Be ready to adopt different instructional approaches and stay flexible.

Research indicates that engagement is critical to student success, retention and ongoing recruitment initiatives. Instructional strategies need to include opportunities (at least weekly) for interaction on three levels based on the Community of Inquiry framework: Student-Instructor, Student-Content and Student-Student. With that in mind, we all know that physical presence doesn’t necessarily mean engagement. Consider meaningful activities that foster student participation such as polling or “check your understanding questions,” which can provide valuable formative feedback.

Expectation #4

Review and, if necessary, modify your attendance and participation policy in light of a likely increase in student absences and tardiness. Familiarize yourself with the University's revised attendance policy for University sanctioned absences, the new emergency leave policy and the expectations for students who cannot attend class due to illness or quarantine. Whenever possible, you should exclude physical attendance from your course grade and adopt alternate means of measuring engagement.

Best Practices

The overarching goal of any attendance and participation policy should be to assist the students in meeting the course learning outcomes. We encourage you to focus on engagement through formative assessments, discussions, interactions or other means that students in any modality can complete. These activities are more directly correlated with learning than physical presence.

Expectation #5

Include in the syllabus how testing and other assessments will occur. Review your assessment strategies (especially testing) in light of online finals and likely student absences from the classroom.

Best Practices

There are many effective ways of assessing student learning. You don’t necessarily have to give a big final exam. Think about your course learning outcomes and how students may be able to demonstrate their learning relative to each. Prioritize a variety of frequent, low-stakes assessments rather than high-stakes exams. Students don’t need to meet the learning outcomes in the same way; it’s fine to use different kinds of assessments for the same learning outcomes if they are all equitable and aligned with the expected level of learning. There are several technology tools available that can be used as a vehicle for students to demonstrate their learning. For assistance, contact the TLC to schedule a consultation.

Expectation #6

Upload a copy of the syllabus and post students’ current course grade and/or scores at least once every two weeks to an online gradebook in an approved WVU-authenticated Learning Management System (LMS), such as eCampus, SOLE or WVU-sanctioned Google offerings.

Best Practices

Use the LMS to make available electronic versions of your course syllabus; highlight important course announcements; link to content, assignments and notes; engage your students asynchronously via discussion prompts; manage your gradebook data; and deliver brief tests of engagement to supplement traditional attendance policies.

Expectation #7

Offer virtual office hours through a live web-conferencing tool like Collaborate Ultra or Zoom.

Best Practices

Use Collaborate Ultra or Zoom to provide a secure option for synchronous communication with students when face-to-face interaction isn’t viable. To encourage participation, you might offer a “Just the Facts in Five” introduction that covers the key points from the week’s content and then continue with open Q&A. It is interesting to see how providing just a brief introduction can set the stage for a great interactive session.

Expectation #8

Adopt a tool, such as Mediasite, that provides the capability to record lecture content in case some students are unable to attend physically, or we need to move your course online or to a hybrid format.

Best Practices

Use Mediasite to record a short introductory video that you can add to your course shell. What will students be learning in this course and how might it fit into their broader educational goals? Keep in mind that students also have access to this tool, which could be a nice option for presentations and building digital assets. This tool can also help you have a contingency plan should WVU need to move completely online at some point. You also can embed quizzes and request time-stamped comments from students. You can find an example of what you can do with Mediasite on the TLC's Mediasite page.