Instructional Continuity Virtual Town Halls

As part of the university’s broader Smart Restart effort, the Instructional Continuity Team is providing a series of virtual town halls. The town halls focus on key updates, guidelines and resources related to supporting instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide time for Q&A. The sessions are intended primarily for faculty and instructors including teaching assistants. Each session will be hosted by Steve Cramer, vice provost for instructional continuity and academic affairs, who will be joined by other campus leaders.

There are no upcoming town halls at this time. Future sessions may be scheduled for the fall.

Upcoming Town Halls

No events returned.

FAQs from Instructional Continuity Town Halls

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Why did UW-Madison decide to offer face-to-face instruction this fall?

As a premier residential university, we believe deeply in the value of face-to-face instruction and have worked hard to develop guidelines and strategies that mitigate risk and promote instructor and student safety in order to provide it this fall. 

Face-to-face instruction is particularly important for students who do not have access to first-rate technology, reliable internet, and/or a residential environment conducive to effective learning. On-premises instruction is particularly important for freshmen, as they make the sometimes- difficult transition from high school and living at home to college. We are taking every step we can to minimize the risks associated with reopening. These steps are informed by the latest science and public health information and include a robust testing regime, contact tracing, symptom monitoring, enhanced cleaning protocols, mandatory mask wearing in public spaces, and physical distancing in all classrooms and other spaces. One model that was influential in our planning comes from scholars at Cornell. Among other exercises, they modeled a campus restart compared to a fully remote fall. Their results suggest that fully reopening will reduce the number of cases and deaths in the Cornell community, because of the testing and public health measures taken on campus. Our testing strategy likely will reduce spread, particularly by asymptomatic people, relative to a fully remote opening that does not have campus testing.

Is there a minimum % of courses in a department that must be taught face-to-face? If so, how was this % determined?

For planning purposes, we were aiming for at least one-half of all courses to have some sections in-person and about one-third of courses to be available in remote formats. Our goal was for all students who return to campus this fall to have the opportunity to participate in at least one in-person learning experience if they so choose. Individual departments, with guidance from their respective deans’ offices, were ultimately responsible for determining the curricula they are offering this fall and whether their courses are offered remotely, in person or both. Instructors were able to request adjustments to course modality and other accommodations through their departments, in coordination with their deans’ offices.

Is there evidence that students want face-to-face instruction?

When students were registering for classes, they were making their preferences known. Our advisors reported that face-to-face opportunities filled in some areas. We also received considerable communication from students and their families appealing for in-person instruction.

How were decisions made regarding which courses will be offered in-person or remote?

Units across campus were directed to consider how to best carry forward our mission as they developed operational plans for the fall. This includes schools and colleges, in concert with their departments, which have responsibility for curricular decisions, including instruction modality. Such decision-making does not rest with any given individual, regardless of job function. However, individuals throughout campus (including instructors) can seek reasonable job accommodations for clear medical reasons to avoid in-person interactions. This may occur due to their own health or the health of others with whom they live. If there are nonmedical reasons for an employee (including faculty, staff or graduate students) to want to work remotely, such as anxiety about being in the workplace, there needs to be a discussion at the departmental and the school/college level about this request. The Office of Human Resources and Employee Disability Resources Office have developed guidelines surrounding workplace safety, accommodations, and the reporting of COVID-19 cases. This includes a COVID-19 Workplace Safety Policy that provides employee expectations for working safely on campus.

What are the university’s plans for testing?

Testing is key to identifying infection and keeping it from spreading. We have implemented a robust, three-part testing plan:

  • Free, unlimited, on-campus testing will be available to the entire campus community.
  • Surveillance testing to track the prevalence of the virus on campus, including among those who are asymptomatic. Volunteer cohorts of 10 people will be tested on a rotating basis, with up to 2,000 people tested each week.
  • Regular, required, targeted testing of certain groups. For instance, all students and staff in the residence halls are being tested regularly. (Residents of University Apartments will not be part of this.)

Contact tracers trained in conjunction with Public Health Madison & Dane County have been employed. Testing, while essential, is effective only when combined with four other precautions: face covering, physical distancing, cleaning/hygiene, and symptom monitoring. Find more information on testing including on-campus testing locations, getting test results and what to do if you test positive for COVID-19.

Are you concerned about false negatives in your testing plans?

The rate of false negatives in PCR testing (the approach we are using) is low. We nevertheless will be relying importantly on symptom monitoring as one of the essential elements of our risk mitigation strategy. Anyone experiencing symptoms should not come to campus.

Will face coverings and other PPE be provided for instructors and students?

Yes. Face coverings are being provided to all campus employees – including instructors – as well as students, free of charge. Instructors and students may also choose to wear their own face coverings. See campus guidance on the use of face coverings

Face shields have also been provided to instructors. See guidance for instructors on using face coverings and face shields. As stated in the aforementioned guidance document, a face shield alone is not adequate for minimizing either inhalation or exhalation of respiratory aerosols in an instructional setting. Face coverings should be worn in addition to a shield (with few exceptions – see document for details). Review this face covering use care guide for more information on when to use and how to care for face coverings.

Additionally, to help departments obtain additional cleaning supplies, face coverings and other PPE that remain in short supply, the university has created a centralized process for procurement and distribution. These items will be able to be ordered by specially designated divisional staff through a COVID-19 Smart Restart Catalog and will be funded centrally. See more details on procurement and the list of available items.

What are the face covering guidelines, and what are the non-compliance protocols for students?

All campus employees – including instructors – and students returning to campus are required to wear appropriate and properly fitting face coverings. Face coverings must be worn correctly (i.e., covering both your mouth and nose).  

If any student or employee is unable to wear a face-covering, an accommodation may be provided due to disability, medical condition, or other legitimate reason.

Students with disabilities or medical conditions who are unable to wear a face covering should contact the McBurney Disability Resource Center or their Access Consultant if they are already affiliated. Students who request an accommodation related to wearing a face covering unrelated to disability or medical condition, should contact the Dean of Students Office.

If a student is approved for an accommodation in either of the above circumstances, their instructors will receive a notification via email. Students are also encouraged to contact their instructor and notify them of their accommodation(s). 

Students who choose not to wear a face covering may not attend in-person classes; we do not expect students with an approved accommodation to be in in-person classes without some other protective measure in place. 

Any students not wearing a face covering will be asked to put one on or leave the classroom by the instructor. Students who refuse to wear face coverings appropriately or adhere to other stated requirements will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and will not be allowed to return to the classroom until they agree to comply with the face covering policy. An instructor may cancel or suspend a course in-person meeting if a person is in the classroom without an approved face covering in position over their nose and mouth and refuses to immediately comply.

This language is also included in the university’s course syllabus template.

See general employee guidance for responding to non-compliance with campus face covering requirements.

What are the cleaning protocols for buildings, specifically instructional spaces and labs? What about air flow?

Find more information on our “Fall 2020 Instruction” page under the “Cleaning and Disinfection of Campus and Instructional Spaces” accordion panel.

Is there general classroom guidance that instructors should follow and share with students for common activities that occur before, during and after in-person courses?

Yes. See considerations and guidance for some of the most common activities that occur before, during and after an in-person course on our “Fall 2020 Instruction” page under the “General Guidance for Common In-Person Course Activities” accordion panel.

Have course schedules been designed to minimize the number of people entering and exiting a building at the same time? With some courses being moved to Saturday, what happens if a student has a conflict?

Yes. To help reduce the overall density in classrooms and to avoid crowding during class changes, the regular class schedule has been extended to 9:45pm on Monday through Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings. 

Every Saturday course or section has an equivalent course/section that does not meet on Saturday to provide options for students. Students should enroll in non-Saturday sections if they anticipate having a conflict.

The university’s religious observance policy will continue to be in effect.

What resources and support are available for instructors as they are designing their courses for the fall semester? Are there specific resources available for lab, field, and studio and performing arts courses?

As part of our Instructional Continuity efforts, instructional designers from across campus are supporting the development and implementation of courses. Whether your courses are fully remote, blended or in-person in a physically distanced format, there are a wide variety of resources to support your course planning, design and implementation. Use the main navigation on this website to find the most up-to-date resources including:

Can’t find what you’re looking for or need additional support, contact us. Our teams include individuals from units across campus including faculty, instructors and instructional support staff from schools and colleges.

Will there be an updated syllabus template available for instructors to use to help communicate new expectations for students, especially in in-person classes?

Yes. View the university’s recommended course syllabus template, which was updated to include new expectations for students and guidelines for instructors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will there be private rooms or spaces for students to attend remote courses and/or complete coursework if they are unable to return to their rooms or homes between in-person courses?

Yes. There is a directory of dedicated on-campus spaces for virtual learning. Students can use these spaces to participate in, and/or complete coursework for, remote courses. The rooms include drop-in rooms, reservable rooms and special-request rooms (special-request rooms are prioritized based on specific virtual learning needs). There are also a set of spaces just for studying.

What initiatives are underway for instructors, staff, administrators to offer training and support for equity, diversity, and inclusion?

There are a number of initiatives already underway to offer training and support for equity, diversity and inclusion. Additional opportunities are in development and will be shared this fall.

If a student or instructor tests positive for COVID-19, how will the positive test be reported and to whom?

See more information about what happens if individuals working, living or learning on campus test positive for COVID-19. Specific guidance and procedure are outlined for employees, students living in University Housing and students living off campus. Additional information is also provided for how to return to work or classes after testing positive. 

Instructors of only in-person or hybrid courses will receive notification from University Health Services of a positive case within their classroom. The notification will not identify the individual but will alert the instructor that “an individual in your course has tested positive for COVID-19.” Specific directions will be included reminding instructors not to share the information with others in class to preserve Protective Health Information (PHI) and the contact tracing system. Unless the instructor hears from the contact tracers, there is no reason to believe that the instructor or others have had close contact to necessitate isolation for quarantine. 

If an instructor or student in an in-person course tests positive for COVID-19, does the entire class need to quarantine?

No. All in-person classes must follow physical distancing guidelines (capacities of all instructional spaces have been reduced to allow for physical distancing, and seating is separated by at least 6 feet) and all participants – instructors, staff and students – are required to wear face coverings. If these rules are followed, classrooms are not automatically considered “close contact” for the purposes of contact tracing. CDC, Public Health Dane County, our SMPH experts, etc. are clear that transmission occurs from long-duration exposure to the virus from contact of less than 6 feet.

If an instructor tests positive for COVID-19, who will take over their course(s), temporarily or long-term, depending on their circumstances? Will information and directions be provided to TAs in those courses?

Similar to how other situations involving instructor illness and leave are handled, departments are responsible for finding coverage by a colleague or other qualified instructor. TAs will be notified of these changes through normal departmental procedures.

What should students do if they are unable to attend classes due to testing positive to COVID-19 and/or becoming quarantined? Are instructors supposed to provide an online option for them?

Supporting students’ academic progress and success continues to be a top priority. Instructors should share plans for students who may become ill or quarantined in their syllabi at the start of the semester, similar to as they would in previous semesters for known illnesses such as the flu or mono. Details of these expectations and flexibilities, as well as students’ individual situations, will vary from course to course. Students should reach out to their instructor as soon as possible if they become ill or quarantined, and are unable to continue their course work as planned, in order to make alternative plans for how to proceed with the course. See these guidelines and resources for how to help students continue to make academic progress in the event that they need to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.

What are the decision points for switching back to all remote instruction?

Like Dane County, campus experts and leadership continue to monitor cases and hospitalizations. We will continue to rely on the advice of medical professionals and experts in public health and epidemiology.

Will campus be getting a Zoom license?

Yes. UW-Madison now provides access to Zoom.

Why haven’t I (or some group) been consulted on Smart Restart plans?

The work teams for Smart Restart have representation from staff, faculty, administrators and students, including shared governance groups.

The answers to these questions asked in the Instructional Continuity Town Halls are current as of September 9, 2020.