Instructional Continuity During COVID-19
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Instructional Continuity: Instruction FAQs

Upcoming Faculty Due Dates

  • Notify students of course changes: Friday, March 27, at 12:00 PM
  • Submit Course Plan for Instructional Continuity: Friday, April 3, at 5:00 PM

New FAQs - Updated March 26

Instruction and Technology 


Assessment


Academic Accommodations


Instruction and Technology

What options do I have for continuing to deliver my class?

We encourage you to be as creative as possible and to work with other members of your department when adapting your class during this time. Lecture delivery and capture can be done using a variety of tools, including Zoom (now under license for the entire campus), Microsoft Teams (available to the entire campus), or other tools. These sessions can be recorded and placed on Canvas. Guidance can be found here. In addition, please reach out to your local teaching and centers to rally up support and resources.

Am I allowed to change my syllabus in response to this situation?

NOTE: An updated syllabus should be posted to Canvas no later than noon on Friday, March 27, to allow students to plan for the remainder of the semester that begins on March 30. Syllabus updates would likely include updated grading rubric, schedule, assignments, exams, expectations for participation, how students should contact you and how students should access help for the course.

Yes, you will likely need to update your syllabus and you must communicate those changes with your students by noon on Friday, March 27th. However, all changes should result from the need to adapt to the changed semester schedule and environment. Any changes to the syllabus should be made before the March 27 posting deadline. Once posted, your syllabus should be considered set and only changed further if necessary to respond to changing conditions.

Be careful to be equitable to all students. Changes made should not favor some students over others, and options provided should be available to all students. Also, avoid changes that would increase costs for students.

If your course is associated with a program that has to comply with specific accreditation, certification, or professional standards, please consult your school/college’s academic administrative team regarding changes allowed and alternatives that may be available to you.

Note that we do have to satisfy the U.S. Department of Education and accreditor requirements that we maintain “regular and substantive interaction with students.” Keep that in mind as you adapt, and you must submit your plan for each course by completing the Qualtrics survey found in this link: “Course Plan for Instructional Continuity.” A brief description of the survey and the questions that are included can be found on the FIC site, and the survey itself is found here. This information is due Friday, April 3, at 5:00 PM

Do I have to fill out the “Course Plan for Instructional Continuity” if the course I am teaching is already an online course?

It would be helpful to the assessment team, for completeness, if you would complete the survey, simply indicating “Course was previously online. No changes required.” The form is short and it wouldn’t take more than a minute or two. This assumes the material is asynchronous and will still be delivered as planned; if content needs to be compressed or revised to complete the content during the semester, you should indicate that.

What if a course doesn’t easily transfer to technology-based learning, such as labs, performance, fieldwork, and research?

Unfortunately, for the safety of the campus, all classes are now required to be online. This includes labs and other difficult-to-remote courses. Clearly this is a challenge. Consider what other approaches might support learning in these courses and maintain educational momentum and progress. In some cases, a video demonstration could supplement instruction. In others, a short independent research exercise could replace the class setting.

So far, we know of the following specific approaches being followed at UT Austin (this list will be updated as we learn about other adaptations):

  • “We are going to still be holding lectures.  However, they will be online with either live streaming during the lecture, or with live help sessions after.  The labs themselves…we are looking at supplying the students with data [for analysis] and also a video of a run-through for each experiment.”
  • “For skills-based labs, our plan is to cover what can be covered online (skills, techniques, etc.) and then have a boot camp at a later date where the students demonstrate the skills. The boot camp would just be time set aside where students would come at scheduled times to demonstrate the skills while maintaining the social distancing (if that is still necessary) or over a day or two if social distancing is no longer required. We have 3 main components that must be hands-on [and] we can [move] all but [one] to the start of the fall semester if necessary.”

Again, we suggest that you reach out to your local teaching and learning centers to rally up other relevant solutions that might work well for you. Other options you might consider include:

  • Investigate virtual labs: Online resources and virtual tools might help replicate the experience of some labs (for example, virtual dissection, night sky apps, video demonstrations of labs, simulations). These vary widely by discipline but check with your textbook publisher.
  • Increase interaction in other ways: Sometimes labs are about providing time for direct student interaction; consider other ways to replicate that type of interaction or create new online interaction opportunities, including using available collaboration tools, such as Zoom. 
  • Adjust schedule to accommodate for social distancing. If a lab needs to continue in-person meetings, you may need to develop a schedule that allows for appropriate social distancing. This may mean breaking the lab into smaller sections and meeting times to allow for fewer students to participate at a time.

Can I convert some course assignments or exams to projects or independent research?

Yes, if that kind of assignment makes sense for your course and helps to achieve the course objectives, you can do that.

If a student is unable to access course materials or participate in the remote instruction, for instance, due to technology limitations, what options are available?

Students are expected to make a substantial effort to access class and course materials, in collaboration with their instructors.

We understand that access to technology may be a particular burden for students with limited resources beyond campus. For this reason, among others, the university has created a system by which students can request to remain on campus after Spring Break, so that, even though their classes are delivered online, they can access the resources they may need.

If you know of a student who needs additional support, please refer them to Student Emergency Services (SES). Part of the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, SES has committed to helping students to resolve these situations and they will be aware of the ways in which students are dealing with a lack of technology and will try to help the students find a solution.

As a last resort, a student may request a grade of Incomplete (X) per the incomplete policy if they have satisfactorily completed a substantial part of the coursework but are unable to participate under remote instruction after making a reasonable effort in your judgment. However, they may not request that you extend differential treatment such as grading them differently than other students in the course. Please be aware that for many students, especially those who face financial challenges and are on financial aid, taking an Incomplete can have adverse consequences.

How do I use Zoom, MS Teams, etc?

The Faculty Innovation Center has developed detailed information to educate the campus on technology. This provides step-by-step instructions on how to make these and other tools available. We are actively working to provide additional tools and more details will be provided as soon as possible.

Where can I get help identifying or using the technology I would need for remote delivery of my class?

Contact information in each college and school is available at the bottom of this page. You can also email instructional-continuity@utexas.edu or call them at 512-471-5000.

What if I don’t have access to the technology I need to deliver my class remotely?

The technology required for tools like Zoom is fairly rudimentary. Most laptops are powerful enough and have a camera and microphone built-in. And UT provides resources such as Canvas, Box, and high-speed networking to make file transfer and storage work. If you have questions, please contact your unit’s technology team.

Note that simple approaches to remote class delivery can be surprisingly effective. Cell phone video and photos have been used by faculty in past closures (e.g., ice days), video-recording board work with their cell phones, backed up by some digital photos of the boards. Zoom makes this easier.

Can I cancel the rest of my classes?

No. As announced by President Fenves, we are switching to a remote-teaching model after the extended Spring Break, but all classes are expected to continue.

Can the student receive partial credit for the course and take the grade earned to date?

No, this is not an option. All courses are expected to continue as originally planned, but updated as per the revised syllabus, after the extended Spring Break.

What if I am required to self-quarantine according to university guidelines?

If you are required to self-quarantine, please consult with your supervisor about options. Your class must continue to be offered and in most cases that will mean that you will continue providing instruction remotely. This can take a variety of forms, including but not limited to Zoom sessions and recorded lectures. See this page for more information and ideas.

If I am self-quarantined, can I change my class meeting schedule?

No. The class, in whatever format, should continue to meet at the regularly scheduled class time, especially if the class requires active and synchronous student participation. You are encouraged to record your classes so that they can be viewed by students at alternate times.

What if I am sick?

If a faculty member is ill, unable to work or is working part-time due to illness, then he or she should use sick leave for the hours of work that are missed. If a faculty member’s department (or host unit) becomes aware of a possible need for Family Medical Leave, he or she should notify HR, which will send relevant information to the faculty member. Information summarizing sick leave and related policies for faculty members can be found here.

Can I still receive support from the university museums and special collections (Ransom CenterBlanton MuseumBriscoe CenterLBJ LibraryTexas Memorial MuseumWildflower Center) as I continue my courses this semester?

Yes. While the museums and special collections have closed their doors to the public until at least early May, 2020, staff and instructional specialists are still available (remotely) to help and several units have expressed a desire to be helpful to faculty as they prepare for remote teaching. You can click the linked name above for more information, or contact the person with whom you previously made arrangements, to discuss ways in which they can help you adapt to remote teaching as it pertains to their holdings.

Are the UT Libraries available to me and to my students during the remote teaching period?

All UT Libraries are closed until further notice. They report that “Our staff is equipped to provide essential services from home to support the UT community.” UT Libraries has a COVID-19 web page available with regular updates about library services and links to a variety of resources, including a Libraries Services Continuity 

I heard that the Co-op is offering students free digital textbooks. Is that true?

Yes. The following was sent out from the Co-op: 

“With our transition to online learning, some students will lose access to course materials that they previously shared with classmates or instructors, or accessed via the library. To support these students, we’ve partnered with our digital course materials provider, VitalSource, and leading publishers, to launch VitalSource Helps, a program that provides free access to ebooks to all University students through May 25th. Students may begin accessing these materials today at bookshelf.vitalsource.com. [The student will need to create an account.] If you are using "Custom" materials, those materials will not be available through this program. Further information, including how to access the program and answers to frequently asked questions for students and faculty please click on the following link https://support.vitalsource.com/hc/en-us/articles/360044467674. If you want your students to have access to this free program, please forward them the above link. Additionally, please let them know they must use their ".edu" email. Personal emails will not work for this program.”

If you are using what the Co-op refers to as “Custom” materials, and those materials are drawn from a text published by a participating publisher, please help your students to identify the correct pages or chapters of the free digital text. If you are using self-published materials, we encourage you to make them available digitally in Canvas, since it won’t be available via the VitalSource site.

Where can I find resources to answer questions I have about adapting an experiential course to remote delivery?

The Experiential Learning Center in the Faculty Innovation Center is our center of excellence on practices related to experiential learning. You can contact the ELC’s director, Hillary Hart, at hart@mail.utexas.edu.

What are the student confidentiality (FERPA) issues associated with recordings I make for my remote courses?

Per UT Legal, to be compliant with FERPA we must adopt at least one of two types of controls around educational use of class recordings: rules-based controls and technological controls. As long as we communicate rules around limited dissemination of the recordings then any non-educational use by a student becomes a “student misconduct” violation and is not a violation of FERPA.

Consistent with this, every faculty member should include the following warning (rule-based control) in their syllabus:

Class recordings are reserved only for the use of members of this class (students, TAs, and the instructor) and only for educational purposes. Recordings should not be shared outside the class in any form. Violation of this restriction could lead to Student Misconduct proceedings.  

We also recommend that faculty members announce this restriction at the beginning of their first remote class and remind students of this restriction frequently.

Another recommendation is that faculty members who use Zoom for their classes set up and manage recordings via the Zoom integration in Canvas (rather than setting up recordings directly in Zoom). Recordings made available to the students via Zoom’s Canvas integration can be streamed but they cannot be downloaded (except by the instructor). This provides a technological control that will help limit unauthorized use of the recording and further protect against FERPA violations. While students could use a third-party program to capture streamed video, together with the syllabus warning this technological control will make it difficult for a student to share the recording inappropriately and certainly not accidentally or in ignorance of their responsibility.

Can a student refuse to be recorded during a class recording?

Students don't have a right to be anonymous in class regardless of whether it's in-person or virtual, live or recorded.


Assessment

How do I change an in-class exam to a take-home format?

Take-home exams can be administered via Canvas or other means. But because of uncertainty about the reliability of the internet over a defined period of time, you should design the exam for an extended time period (e.g., a take-home exam format).

Regardless of an exam’s format, expectations about academic integrity remain in effect and you are encouraged to provide explicit guidelines regarding collaboration.

The university has licensed Proctorio and integrated it with Canvas. This software allows for remote monitoring of exams. More information is available here.

Note, however, that in light of challenges that both students and faculty are likely to experience with internet lag and dependability, it is recommended that you design your exams so that they can be completed and submitted flexibly.

Can I change how performance in my class is assessed?

Yes, in responding to this fluid and evolving situation it could be appropriate to adapt the course assessments The following guidelines should be followed in any such adaptation:

  • The weighting, timing, and nature of assessments may be changed, but only to benefit the students and adapt to the changed circumstances.
  • Any changes should be equitable for all students.

My course carries a Skills and Experience Flag. If I change my course this semester in response to this situation, will my students be at risk of not receiving the Flag?

No. Your students will not be at risk of losing their Flag.

Is there any change in policy regarding students dropping the course (Q-drops), withdrawing from the university (W), or opting for Pass/Fail status?

Yes, students will be given until the last class day, Friday, May 8, to Q-drop a course or to withdraw with a W from the university, overriding existing deadlines. Note that all Q-drops will be treated as “substantive, non-academic course drops,” which means that they won’t count against the maximum of six allowed Qs.

For courses in which Pass/Fail or Credit/No Credit are currently available as grading options, students will be given until the last class day, Friday, May 8, to change the grading basis in the course. Note that other academic policy changes, including some that would allow any class to be taken P/F or CR/NC, are currently being studied by the Faculty Council.

If a student asks you about any of these changes, please be aware that dropping a course, withdrawing, or changing grading basis to Pass/Fail or Credit/No-Credit can have adverse effects on a student’s academic standing, affecting scholarships, financial aid, and other important issues. Please direct them to speak with their academic advisor before taking any action.

How can I proctor an exam remotely? Can I use Zoom for this purpose?

Proctorio is an AI-based software product for monitoring student activity during an exam. It is licensed by the university and integrated with Canvas (see directions here). Zoom is not designed for exam proctoring. The School of Nursing also offers some excellent resources about the use of Proctorio including how-to videos and a Trouble-shooting Guide for Students.

Are instructors expected to do their online final exam at the officially-scheduled time as usual?

The provost is advising that faculty members should avoid requiring synchronous meetings as much as possible. If synchronous meetings are preferred for pedagogical reasons, then instructors should plan to accommodate any students who are unable to participate at a scheduled time (e.g., for child- or elder-care needs) without penalty. This guidance applies to exams as well as classes. Instructors have been given wide latitude to adapt their syllabi to the current unusual circumstances, and accordingly we recommend that those instructors giving a final exam should avoid synchronous exams and instead use an asynchronous online exam or an alternate assessment method.

However, if a synchronous final exam is preferred (with the accommodations required), then following the official final exam schedule is a good way to minimize student exam time conflicts.

Note that Canvas and Proctorio, discussed above, can be adapted for use with an asynchronous assessment, for example, allowing a particular amount of time starting from whatever time the exam is started.

Can I cancel the final exam that I had previously included in my syllabus and instead assess learning differently?

Yes. Instructors have been given wide latitude to adapt their syllabi to the current unusual circumstances, and this may include eliminating a final exam. However, be sure to be fair to students who were counting on that opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge (or bring up their grades) by providing an alternate assessment.

Note that the catalog restriction against assessments during the final week of classes that count greater than 30% of the course grade is still in effect.


Academic Accommodations

If a student has an accommodation from Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), do I have to do anything different for them?

You should continue to comply with academic accommodations authorized by SSD. Students with SSD accommodations should have provided you with a letter outlining their approved accommodations. If a student has new or updated accommodations for any reason, SSD will provide them with a new letter to give to you. Clarifications and suggestions from SSD about how to comply with accommodations under the new circumstances can be found here.