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Coronavirus Update: Changes to academic schedule and instruction

March 11, 2020
Coronavirus Update: Changes to academic schedule and instruction

As a follow up on the message from President Eighmy earlier today announcing that UTSA is extending spring break for students until March 23, 2020, and resuming all classes in an online format on that date.

As President Eighmy explained, these actions are being taken in response to recommendations from our public health agency colleagues to avoid bringing large groups of people together in close proximity for events and gatherings. In-person classes are examples of such events, and the sizes of our classrooms do not generally allow for effective social distancing.

These are challenging circumstances, and we recognize that we are asking quite a bit of our faculty in terms of flexibility, creativity and goodwill as we all strive to conclude this semester successfully for the benefit of our students. We deeply appreciate everything you are doing to ensure that our educational, research and service missions continue as we lead our students and community through this unprecedented public health challenge.

Teaching Online

When classes resume on Monday March 23, 2020, face-to-face classes will no longer meet in person for at least the ensuing three weeks.Instead, faculty instructors are expected to conduct classes, assignments, tests, quizzes and any other classroom activities for students virtually, using online technologies and other remote strategies suitable to the learning objectives of the course.

During the work week of March 16, UTSA faculty are expected to devote their effort to preparing and implementing the steps necessary to deliver online instruction virtually, including utilization of the full range of digital tools in Blackboard, WebEx, Teams, Panopto, Proctorio, VDI, etc. available. Because the campus will be open and operational, faculty should anticipate having full use of their offices, labs, and work spaces, as well as the online technologies, IT infrastructure and human resources needed to plan and implement this modality change. Please be sure to practice good hygiene and social distancing techniques while using campus spaces.

As detailed in the email to all faculty on March 6, the college deans already had been working with their leadership teams and chairs to develop their college academic continuity plans, which include online instruction implementation by course and faculty.

Support for Faculty to Effectively Transition to Online

The division of Academic Innovation has provided some initial guidance on how to quickly utilize our digital tools to enable remote, virtual instruction. If you have not done so already, we urge you to familiarize yourself now with this material and take advantage of the upcoming online training sessions  being offered.

Beginning this Friday, teams consisting of instructional designers, faculty experts, and staff from Teaching and Learning Services and Digital Learning  will work with academic departments and individual faculty to make sure all have the needed support to provide high quality instruction virtually.

Starting Monday, March 16, each academic department will be provided didactic training sessions designed to rapidly develop remote teaching capabilities led by professionals from the Office of Digital Learning.

During this week, support staff will be available to assist faculty in utilizing Blackboard. In addition, faculty who are not familiar with Blackboard should enroll in a Blackboard Essentials Training Course available Friday, March 13. Visit the Rapid Remote Teaching Resources site to enroll in the training and to see the various ways to reach out for support.

If additional IT equipment is needed for you to execute online instruction virtually (e.g., a webcam), please alert your chair and dean’s office. UTSA is reviewing its inventory to determine how its equipment can be best deployed to support these changes.

Changes to the Academic Calendar

Because of the extension of spring break, the academic calendar has been extended by three additional days. The final day of classes will now be May 8, 2020.

In turn, the exam schedule will be compressed to 5 days. Final exams will start May 11, 2020, and end May 15, 2020. As of right now, commencement will be May 16 and 17 as planned.

Please enable your students to turn in assignments remotely during the week of March 16, though there should not be any required due dates during this extended spring break week for students. Midterm grades will now be due March 23, 2020, at 2 p.m.

More details regarding this new academic schedule will be provided to you by the Registrar when available, sometime during the week of March 16. Please refer to onestop.utsa.edu and the Registrar’s Faculty and Staff Resources webpage for updates.

Student Support

In planning the adaptions to your course delivery, we ask that instructors take actions that consider first and foremost the best interests of their students and that you provide students with maximum flexibility as you accommodate these instructional changes. Also, please seek to minimize anxieties for our students to the extent possible, especially anxieties related to how these actions might impact student progress to their degree.

Be assured the University is working to mitigate the potential impacts to student success, including offering advising, peer mentoring, supplemental instruction and academic coaching by using virtual technologies suitable to their work.

UTSA leadership will continue to work closely with public health officials to keep up to date on recent events regarding the virus, potential impacts to the UTSA, and in developing plans to mitigate those impacts. The latest information will always be made available at utsa.edu/coronavirus.

Finally, we recognize that these actions may create significant challenges for faculty, staff and students. Please understand a great many decisions are being made in short order and under stressful circumstances — all with the best of intentions. As an academic community, we ask for patience, compassion, and cooperation on everybody’s part as we all work together toward resolution.