Information for Faculty | Webster University

Information for Faculty

COVID-19: FAQs for Faculty from the Office of Academic Affairs

DATE: March 25, 2020

NOTES:

  • The information and guidelines below will be revised as needed should the status of the main campus change.
  • The information and guidelines below are particularly focused on questions that arose on the main campus in St. Louis as the decision to move courses online was reached. To the extent that these guidelines apply to situations at other Webster campuses, directors may implement them. However, we understand that campuses are in different situations and must follow local directives, particularly at our international locations. Directors at those locations have discretion to adjust guidelines as needed or determine that they are not applicable to them.

As our community knows, Webster University has moved courses online for the remainder of the Spring semester at most locations. As this decision was being reached, the Online Learning Center (OLC) reached out to all faculty impacted by this decision and staff of the OLC, FDC, Academic Advising, the ARC and other units are working diligently to prepare faculty to move their classes online. This page will not duplicate the excellent advice and guidance of the OLC in their outreach. (See the Faculty Knowledge Center at: https://worldclassroom.webster.edu/courses/1346121.) Instead, we seek here to answer common questions that faculty members are asking as they prepare to deliver courses online and adhere to institutional policies.

At this time, the main campus remains open but in Modified Operations Status. That, in addition to local governmental orders in St. Louis and St. Louis County, means staff and faculty at the main campus are urged to work remotely whenever possible and to follow social distancing measures when visiting campus. During this time, all classroom and administrative buildings on the main campus will only be accessed with a faculty/staff  Webster ID card. Students who need to access any building must coordinate with a faculty or staff member who can meet them to let them enter. All faculty and staff members are required to let Public Safety know ahead of time when meeting with a student in these buildings. Faculty and staff can do this by e-mailing publicsafety@webster.edu and reporting when the student will be in the building and what room(s) the student will visit. This measure has been enacted so Public Safety is aware that students are in the building. 

Below are common questions from faculty members who are at impacted campuses and will move their courses online:

Q: [Updated] The original decision was to move courses online until April 3. Do I need to prepare for continued online course development after April 3?

A: Note: Since this question was originally posted, most campuses have been moved to online instruction till the end of spring semester. The following answer is instructive to the campuses (China, Ghana, Uzbekistan) that, as of March 24, were scheduled to resume in-person instruction in April: Yes, prepare for online course development for beyond April for two reasons. First, we do not know how things will develop, and there may be need to extend this time. Second, even if we are able to move back to face-to-face instruction, there will be students who will need to continue online for various reasons. Two examples: 1) Students who returned from our international campuses mid-semester are continuing their courses online, but will not be able to return to the international campus once on-ground courses are able to run. 2) Students may have returned to their home states or countries, or may have health-related reasons for being unable to re-join face-to-face courses. Keeping our students first, faculty should be prepared to be flexible to continue online with all, or some, students in their courses.

Q: My class is small, under 10 students. Can I continue to hold the class face-to-face?

A: No. As noted above, the first directive above is that all face-to-face instruction, with the exception of 1-to-1 instruction will change to online. This clear directive supports social distancing, avoids “splitting hairs” on class sizes (especially when we may see some withdrawals in the next days), and serves students who must or desire to go online for various reasons, including health.

Q: Can I teach my online class from a classroom?

A: Yes. If you were scheduled to teach in a classroom space, you can use that space. However, be aware that support services will be limited to phone and email. The OLC will not be able to provide on-site support for VTC rooms as they can during normal operating conditions; they are stretched thin to cover the numbers of courses now online around the network. It is recommended that you only use the classrooms if you have experience with the equipment. In general, faculty members are encouraged to teach from their office or home, where they have more familiarity with their computers and camera setups. The OLC reports fewer calls for assistance from faculty members teaching from their office or home.

Q: I have 1-to-1 instruction this spring. Can I deliver that instruction face-to-face?

A: Yes. 1-to-1 instruction, such as music lessons, may be delivered. Instructors and students should follow the Health & Safety Tips on the COVID-19 website.

Q: My course has a special need for access to specialized equipment or space on campus. What do I do?

A: We understand that there are components of classes that are very challenging to deliver online, especially in a short time. We have research in labs with specialized instruments, studio components in our fine arts programs, and many other similar situations. This guidance is two-fold: First, to the extent possible, faculty members should think creatively about whether and how more activities can be adapted for online delivery. We know that is already taking place in departments and programs. Second, as noted above, the campus remains open and faculty members may conduct essential activities on campus. While the “fewer than 10” standard applies, we encourage faculty to minimize person-to-person contact as much as possible; thus, larger spaces and smaller numbers of people are prudent.

Q: My course has a planned off-campus event imbedded into it. Do I need to cancel or postpone it?

A: In almost every case, yes. As noted above, we are discontinuing face-to-face instruction and limiting, to the extent possible, person-to-person contact. Thus, any nonessential activities such as visiting museums, going to conferences, or visiting companies on field trips should be cancelled or postponed -- and in most cases, have been prohibited by public authorities anyway. Faculty are encouraged to work with the OLC to find alternative ways to deliver guest lectures and other activities in an online format. Note: We recognize that there are rare instances in which off-campus activity would be acceptable under our guidelines. For example: a class in which individual students go off-campus to a site to work on specialized equipment. In these instances, maintaining the activity is allowed, with the same guidance offered above in cases of labs and studies on campus: person-to-person contact should be minimized. Talk to your department chair and/or dean if you have questions about your class activity. Be prepared to be flexible with students who may have reasons that they cannot participate in these activities.

Q: We have individual course-related experiences (such as practicum, internship, apprentice teaching) that take place at off-campus sites (such as agencies and schools) that are open. Can these experiences continue?

A: Maintaining these activities is allowed if they meet with public authority guidelines. Talk to your department chair and/or dean if you have questions about your class activity. Again, be prepared to be flexible with students who may have reasons that they cannot participate in these activities.

Q: Can I access my office?

A: Yes, the campus is open under Modified Operations. However, carry your Webster ID with you at all times, as you will need them to access campus buildings.

Q: Can I hold office hours?

A: To maximize social distancing and reduce person-to-person contact, faculty members should encourage conducting office hours online or by phone. For any in-person meetings that do occur, spaces larger than offices are advised.

Q: What about faculty and staff meetings, including curriculum committees, department meetings, and so on?

A: Committees, task forces, departments and other groups are strongly urged to use WebEx, conference calling, or other technology to the extent possible. Committees should limit in-person meetings to those that are essential, meet in a space that allows for adequate social distancing (six feet or more), and keep the number in attendance under 10. Groups should think creatively about utilizing WebEx or conference calling to limit the number of attendees in a space.

Additional Questions? Please contact your department chair or dean’s office with any questions. We will update this document as additional questions arise so that all faculty members are informed.


Online Learning Center Faculty Support

All faculty teaching in Spring or Spring 2, 2020 have been communicated to via their @webster.edu email addresses regarding expectations and support for moving on-ground courses to online formats. Please visit the Online Learning Center's website at http://www.webster.edu/olc/faculty/ for up-to-date information.