Fall 2020 Guidance

TO: All Educators

FROM: Thomas D. Jeitschko, Acting Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs; Associate Provost for Graduate Education and Dean, Graduate School

Subject: Fall 2020 Guidance

Dear Colleagues,

Michigan State University will begin fall semester classes with a mix of in-person and online modes of instruction. Academic units are in the process of finalizing decisions on the delivery methods for fall courses to be taught. President Stanley has made clear that the safety and wellbeing of all members of the MSU community is our first priority. We continue to carefully monitor COVID-19 cases in Michigan and across the United States and announcements from public health leaders. The next few weeks will be critical as we prepare for arrival on campus, and we will adapt our plans if the situation requires it. You can learn more on our Together We Will website.

At the start of the summer, the Provost’s Office asked each college’s dean’s office to query faculty to determine which of their classes could meet learning outcomes in online, hybrid, and in-person modes of instruction. Those adaptations were required in order to allow for appropriate physical distancing. We recognize all instructors face different circumstances that will impact their ability and willingness to teach in-person. An instructor may be immunocompromised or otherwise at greater risk from COVID-19, per CDC guidance, or may have household members who are high-risk. If you are at high risk and haven’t notified your chair or dean, please do so as soon as possible if you need an alternative to the planned course delivery method for one or more of the courses you are scheduled to teach in the fall.

Academic units have been instructed by the Provost’s Office to be as flexible as possible with work arrangements. Deans, chairpersons, and directors will not request or gather personal or family health information but have been asked to work with the instructors who request alternatives to the planned course delivery method and to find strategies to meet all responsibilities. If such mutually agreeable strategies cannot be found, the unit administrator should contact the dean, who will engage Academic Human Resources (AHR) to attempt to arrive at a resolution. 

This communication addresses a number of issues related to instruction. It is long, contains a great deal of information, and is intended to help you make decisions about the courses you are teaching this fall so you and your students can have a successful semester.

Safety Guidelines for Classrooms 

For those of you who will be in classrooms, we would like you to keep the following issues in mind and communicate them to students.

  1. Modifications to classrooms have been made. As appropriate, desks, tables, and/or chairs have been removed and the remaining furniture has been placed to ensure physical distance, seats have been strapped to prevent use, and visual cues have been installed to communicate appropriate distance. Please work with these modifications and ensure that students do as well.
  2. IPF custodial will clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains, grab bars, hand railings) daily. Classrooms will be cleaned throughout the day depending on traffic and density. Floors will be spot vacuumed and mopped daily. Chalkboards and whiteboards will be cleaned daily. Disinfecting misting systems will be used in larger classrooms. Many classrooms will also have wipes or cleaning stations so that students can wipe down their personal space at the start of each class. They should be encouraged to do so.
  3. Realign lesson plans so that communal objects (e.g., lab equipment, computer equipment, desks) are minimized whenever possible (e.g., assigning each student their own supplies, lab equipment, computers) and cleaned between use.
  4. Encourage students to keep their personal items (e.g., cell phones, other electronics) to themselves and clean.
  5. Encourage students to use disinfectant wipes to wipe down shared desks, lab equipment, and other shared objects and surfaces between uses and disposing of these cleaning materials in the nearest trash bin. Cleaning supplies will be available near or inside classrooms.
  6. Ask students to bring their own closed top water container to minimize the use of water fountains.
  7. Consider hosting class sessions outdoors if and when feasible.
  8. Identify for yourself and your students the closest restroom and hand sanitizer stations to your classroom.
  9. Contact IPF Custodial Services at 517-355-1855 if cleaning supplies are running low.
  10. If you are concerned about contamination, contact Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) at 517-355-0153 for assistance with disinfection procedures.

New Technologies in University Classrooms

Across campus, we have updated 225 of our lecture halls and classrooms to add audio and video streaming capabilities. These new capabilities are installed on the podium, tech cart, or mounted to the ceiling by projectors, depending on the size of the room. The new technology enables recording and live streaming for students who connect remotely. A list of rooms that will have the new technology is being compiled. We will share these details in a future communication and will post this information to the keepteaching.msu.edu website when available.

We have installed wide-lens, high-definition cameras and echo-canceling hand-held and lavalier microphones in each of the rooms we have upgraded. The University recognizes the issues of contamination associated with microphones and is working on a solution that we will share soon. 

We recognize that new technologies require professional development. We are developing documentation on how to use the new room technology set ups and will post this information to the keepteaching.msu.edu website when available. A video explaining the use of the new technology can be found here. Perhaps most importantly, we are providing opportunities to come to a classroom and work with the new technologies before the semester begins. We will share a sign up form and details for this in a future communication and on keepteaching.msu.edu when ready. Zoom is our official recommendation for use with these new classroom technologies because of its webinar features and related functions. For those who would like more training with Zoom, resources can be found at Keep Teaching and via Zoom

Finally, as we continue to rely more on technology to support instruction, we would like your feedback. We have developed a survey to help us foresee trends and patterns of faculty and student technology adoption so that we can better support your needs. It should only take 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

Use of University Core Technologies for Instruction  

By using MSU’s core teaching tools, you can ensure students have access and that there is support from MSU for the tools you are using to teach. We learned during the spring semester that we can address issues of accessibility for students by using our core teaching technologies. This includes ensuring we create an inclusive and accessible learning experience for students with disabilities and access to technology for international students who aren’t on campus. We cannot guarantee that our core technologies are accessible in every country, but we know that they are currently accessible most places. Accessibility is a priority.

MSU core technologies for teaching include the following:

  1. D2L
  2. Email
  3. Zoom
  4. MediaSpace (for storing and streaming video and audio)
  5. Office 365
  6. MSU Virtual Desktop (for access to licensed university software and applications)
  7. Snagit (to capture screenshots, record short videos via capture or webcam, and edit content)
  8. Camtasia (to capture your screen as a recorded video, edit captured videos, and create quizzes) 

More information on these core tools and accessibility can be found here

Hybrid Courses and Professional Development (both Hybrid and Online)

It has come to our attention that there is some confusion around our teaching modalities, and I would like to provide some clarification. MSU has many categories of courses defined in the Academic Programs Catalog. Many of these (e.g. lecture and online vs. seminar and in-person) can be combined to accurately describe what students might expect with regard to course modality. The Catalog also notes that a hybrid course must provide at least 50% of its instruction online. But the Catalog doesn’t stipulate the percentage of in-person instruction. The percentage of in-person instruction in a hybrid course should be driven by learning outcomes and how instructors can best meet them. For more detailed information, please review the course modalities document. 

We understand that many instructors are teaching online or using a hybrid course design for the first time. The University has provided professional development this summer for online course design and instruction (more on these offerings below). Nearly 1,000 educators have taken advantage of those opportunities. Thank you for your efforts.

We have one more SOIREE (Summer Online Instructional Readiness for Educational Excellence)workshop this summer during the week of August 17. The five-day workshop will have facilitated sessions that occur from 9-10 a.m. and 4-5 p.m. These sessions will be recorded and can be reviewed at a later time. To register for the SOIREE workshop, please complete this Sign-up Form. We are limiting this workshop to a total of 200 people on a first-come, first-served basis. The registration deadline is two weeks prior to its start date. Our ASPIRE (ASynchronous Program for Instructional REadiness) workshop is self-paced and always available to instructors. Registration and self-enrollment for the ASPIRE workshop can be found here. Please note that the SOIREE and ASPIRE workshops are equivalent; you should not sign up for or complete both. Each workshop will take roughly 20 hours to complete. If you have questions related to these workshops, please direct them to Ashley Braman (behanash@msu.edu) or Breana Yaklin (yaklinbr@msu.edu).

A limited number of slots in the College of Education's August intermediate-level micro-credential in online teaching are available and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants must have taken SOIREE, ASPIRE, or another introductory online teaching course before enrolling. Interested faculty should contact Kaitlin Klemp at klempkai@msu.edu by the end of the day Friday, July 24.

We are also offering an online workshop on alternative assessments and feedback. This workshop, Assessment Options Beyond the Exam: High-impact Assessment Design, is for educators who are looking for resources and help with formative assessments and alternatives to traditional exams and quizzes such as projects, posters, and reflections. We will also focus on technological approaches for giving feedback at scale. The workshop runs 90 minutes and will take place on July 28, 29, and August 19 from 10:30-12:00 (Zoom, details provided after signing up). If you are interested in our assessment design workshops, you can sign up here.

In addition, we are offering an online workshop on Exam Design. This workshop is for educators who are looking for resources and help with academic integrity on summative quizzes and exams. We will focus on writing multiple-choice and short-answer questions, creating a climate of integrity in the course, the pros and cons of video proctoring, and creating exams specifically in D2L. Assessment design must balance some acceptable level of “risk” with attention to equity and decreasing student anxiety. The workshop runs 90 minutes and will take place on July 28, 29, and August 19 from 12:30-2:00 (Zoom, details provided after signing up). If you are interested in our exam design workshops, you can sign up here.

We recognize that hybrid/blended instruction, in particular, presents specific challenges. To help, we have created a new resource that describes the basic principles of hybrid instruction and provides examples of hybrid MSU classes across disciplines. We also have a stand-alone workshop scheduled twice before fall. The Hybrid Teaching Primer builds on the online teaching skills covered in the SOIREE and ASPIRE workshops this summer. This course offers a quick 6-8 hour primer for instructors of courses scheduled to be offered in a hybrid format for fall 2020. We will cover hybrid pedagogy and models for hybrid courses that will help you maximize the benefits of both in-person and online modalities. The course features paced online instruction with an in-person session, an option of which will be available via Zoom. You can self-enroll in this workshop for the week of August 10 or the week of August 24. If you have questions related to this workshop, please direct them to Brendan Guenther (brendan@msu.edu) and Ashley Braman (behanash@msu.edu).

Finally, a reminder to please visit the following for additional support on how to navigate software, if you need further instruction on how to access course material, or if you need to know where to find technical and course development assistance. Please make note of the following: 

Suggested Syllabus Language

It is reasonable to assume that the pandemic might again force the University into remote instruction, so instructors should inform students in the syllabus about the alternatives planned to adapt the course for remote instruction. Here we provide language that should be included in the syllabus. This is meant to reinforce the communication on syllabus language that has already been sent by the Council of Undergraduate Education Deans (CUED).

The following should be included in syllabus materials and clearly communicated to students to ensure expectations are consistent:

  1. Office Hours: For fall 2020, all office hours should be via computer or telephone. No matter what the modality of the course, instructors are required to hold the number of office hours specified by their college. Indicate the platform that office hours will be held on and how appointments can be made outside office hours. Be explicit about communication channels and expectations (e.g., if you'll need 24 hours to reply to student emails). Provide both a phone number and an email address for contact as appropriate. We suggest Zoom meetings and the use of a Zoom waiting room for office hours.
  2. Course Description: Instructors are responsible for ensuring that the content of the courses remains consistent with the course descriptions approved by the University Committee on Curriculum and the University Council. Please ensure that all class activities are clearly directed toward the fulfillment of course objectives and that student performance is evaluated in a manner consistent with these objectives. Please communicate that the mode of course instruction could change at any time given changes in public health guidance or changes in University operations.
  3. Required Textbooks and Course Materials: Include detail such as the full title of each textbook, author, edition, ISBN, and where it can be purchased. If a required text is available online, indicate where it can be accessed. Specify any additional materials, including software and hardware, that students must purchase for the course. Describe how students can access all technologies that will be used. Identify the hardware or software, if any, that is required for assessment (e.g. a webcam). In selecting and preparing materials abide by the MSU Accessibility Policies. For recommended texts and other readings and resources, state clearly how and where to access these materials, especially for online courses. You can find additional instructional support here.  
  4. Course Schedule: This must include the date of the final examination and tentative dates of required assignments, quizzes, and tests, if applicable. This should be arranged in a list by date or week.
  5. Grading Policy: The syllabus must make clear how students will be evaluated and specifically how final grades will be determined. This can be in the form of a detailed and complete rubric or chart. Grade percentages must be provided so that students may understand how their final grade will be calculated. If a grading curve is used, this must be shared, and instructors must let students know how the curve will be calculated. Include any information about required proctoring, and particularly in an online course; this includes proctoring sites, lockdown browsers, and software requirements necessary for proctored exams or assignments. Please include a statement to the effect that proctoring arrangements will be decided at the discretion of the instructor, or that all exams will be proctored using a specific method if that has been decided. Note as well that proctoring arrangements are subject to change in the event of an unanticipated circumstance.
  6. Staying Home or Self-Isolating when Appropriate: Include language that encourages students who need to quarantine themselves, have been sick with COVID-19 symptoms, tested positive for COVID-19, or have been potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 to follow CDC guidance to self-isolate or stay home. Include language that clearly states that you will make accommodations for those who must miss class due to illness or self-isolation that will not harm their performance or put them at a disadvantage in the class. 
  7. Cloth Face Coverings On Campus: Cloth face coverings are required for everyone on campus. Please include the following language in your syllabus: 
    • Face coverings must be worn by everyone (including all faculty, staff, students, vendors, and visitors) indoors and outdoors while on property owned or governed by MSU and while participating in MSU-related or MSU-sponsored activities. If you have a medical condition that may prevent you from safely wearing a face covering, you should contact MSU’s Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to begin the accommodation process.
    • Face coverings should (a) be non-medical grade to maintain supplies for health care use, (b) fit snugly against the side of your face, (c) cover your nose and mouth, (d) be secured with ties or ear loops, and (e) allow for breathing without restriction. Cloth face coverings should only be worn for one day at a time, and they must be properly hand washed or laundered before subsequent use. Face coverings may vary (for example, disposable non-medical face coverings or neck gaiters are acceptable).
    • Failure to wear a face covering for those without an accommodation will result in the following: (1) A reminder of the requirement, the reason for it (to minimize spread), and a request to comply. (2) A request to leave the classroom if no compliance. (3) If no face covering compliance and the student refuses to leave the classroom, class will be dismissed. (4) Should an emergency develop that you feel cannot be resolved by classroom dismissal, consider calling 911 for assistance. Note: Calling the police should be the last resort for genuine emergencies and not used as a way to handle non-emergency conduct issues.

If there is an incident related to face coverings in class, instructors should immediately file a report with the appropriate academic unit leader (e.g., department head, director of academic affairs, or director) and, as soon as possible, produce a written record of the facts. For students who initially violated the requirement, but who chose to comply when addressed, consider an email or other communication to remind the student of the requirement for future classes and to engage the student in a conversation about the situation. It will be helpful to allow the student to explain their actions in a way that might help in the future. Important information on the compact compliance can be found here. More detail on University directives, including processes for sanctions can be found here.

Similarly, supervisors will use the regular processes outlined by Human Resources for any situation involving an employee. Academic Human Resources should be contacted for situations involving faculty and academic staff.

Again, Thank You

I can’t thank you enough for all of your hard work and dedication to student success during these times. I know you have put in many hours of additional time and effort into this transition and will continue to do so well into the semester. As additional guidelines are developed, we will continue to share those and post them to keepteaching.msu.edu. I want to assure you that minimizing the spread of COVID-19 will remain our highest priority as we work hard to support an engaged and connected experience for us all. Together we will. 

Thomas D. Jeitschko
Acting Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs;
Associate Provost for Graduate Education and Dean, Graduate School
Michigan State University
(he/him/his)