NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Fall Instructional Updates

The First Two Weeks

Considering the severity of the rise in COVID cases in the Houston area, UH will have a “soft start” to a semester that was initially planned as predominantly face-to-face instruction.

As stated in Dr. Khator’s email message, for the first two weeks of class, you may make some modifications to your instructional mode to reduce the number of students in a classroom at one time as we await further guidance from the state and our administrative teams. However, you are not required to make any adjustments. All courses will remain in their currently listed mode of instruction.

As you consider arrangements, please bear in mind that all students enrolled in a face-to-face or hybrid class must have at least one in-person experience in the class per week and that course materials must be made available to students not that are not present in the face-to-face classroom.

Options for Consideration

Below are some options for your consideration if you are not comfortable with full face-to-face meetings, particularly in high enrollment classes.

For 3-Credit Hour Lecture Classes:

  • Record the lectures and divide students into groups to attend your class for in-person activities on alternating class days.
  • Offer the class as Hyflex via Teams or Zoom, so students have the option of attending in-person to reduce class density.
  • Offer one day as Hyflex and on the second day teach online or provide a recorded lecture.

For Lecture Classes that Meet Only Once a Week:

  • Offer the class as Hyflex via Teams or Zoom, so students have the option of attending in-person to reduce class density.
  • Post a recorded lecture and provide an optional F2F discussion during class time.

For Lab Classes:

  • Many labs already begin a week late to accommodate late adds and drops or to provide preliminary safety instructions. This will assist late enrolling students, since in-class labs are generally not available for retakes. In some cases, the second week of class could be an abbreviated introductory event with additional recorded material provided online.

Office Hours:

  • These can be entirely online via Teams or Zoom. However, the syllabus should state if a F2F meeting can be arranged by appointment.

Email Students with Plan for First Two Weeks

It is highly recommended that you send a message to your students to let them know how you will conduct your class for the first two weeks. Suggestions are to open with something supportive that acknowledges the fact everyone is struggling with the uncertainty of the situation, i.e., “We are all eager to have safe in-class experiences this fall, and the University is providing some flexibility in course formatting for the first two weeks in response to the local rise in COVID cases.” State your plans and close with a summary note, i.e., “This plan may change as state, local, and university policies evolve in response to changing conditions.”

Fall 2021 Syllabus Language

Fall 2021 syllabus language and updated faculty FAQs can be found under the Syllabus Language Fall 2021 and Faculty Fall 2021 FAQ tabs located on the Office of the Provost website at COVID-19 Updates and Resources - University of Houston. These updates include questions on how to respond to if students or instructors are exposed to, or test positive for, COVID-19.

Other Useful Links

Suggestions to Simplify this Semester

We are entering a semester with great uncertainty as to what the impact of COVID will be on our students, our staff, and our faculty. As you finalize your plans for the semester, there are a few practices that may help minimize disruptions and potential student grievances:

  • Do not require or reward in-person attendance in lecture courses.
  • Record lectures and post promptly. Voice-over slides are sufficient.
  • Develop policies for late work or provide extensions when students provide documentation of positive COVID tests for themselves or someone in their care.
  • Conduct office hours online.
  • Be prepared to allow students to drop an exam or reschedule if they are ill. Be consistent with your policy.
  • Have at least two lecture recordings (possibly from earlier semesters) or activities ready to roll out in the event of yet another extreme weather event or should you become ill.

If you have any questions/concerns, please reach out to Donna Stokes (dstokes@uh.edu) or Donna Pattison (dpattiso@central.uh.edu).