Academics
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Academics: Guidelines for Teaching and Learning

Context for Academic Guidelines

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the United States in the spring of 2020, Florida Southern College quickly transitioned to a remote learning environment. This unprecedented action responded to what we knew about the SARS-CoV-2 virus at that time. We knew that it was being transmitted easily and rapidly through personal contact, that it had the potential for serious morbidity and mortality, and that there was essentially no native immunity to it. Given this knowledge, as well as directives from state and local officials, the transition to remote learning was necessary for us to continue to fulfill our core purpose of educating students during the final weeks of the spring 2020 semester.

As we head into the fall 2020 semester, the pandemic continues to disrupt our daily lives, forcing us to rethink and reimagine how we will carry out our work as teachers, as scholars, and as members of the campus community. The transition to remote learning in the spring 2020 semester was a stopgap measure. In that specific context, the move to remote learning served its purpose; it made it possible for students to wrap up successfully the final weeks of a semester already well under way. There is no doubt that the tenacity and resiliency of our faculty and students played a key role in that success, but there is also no gainsaying the fact that remote learning plays a very minor role in the educational traditions of Florida Southern. This is not to say that certain forms of remote learning have no place at the College. They do, even under normal circumstances. It simply acknowledges that experiential, engaged learning is the hallmark of the Florida Southern experience and that planning for a successful fall 2020 semester will require us to draw upon the lessons that we learned in spring 2020, to adapt our best educational traditions to pandemic circumstances, and to prepare ourselves for maximum flexibility in the context of conditions that can change suddenly.

Until an effective vaccine or anti-viral therapeutics are in place, campus life cannot return to its pre-pandemic patterns and rhythms. There is still much to be learned about SARS-CoV-2, and we must acknowledge that no plan can guarantee a COVID-19 free environment. The guidelines for teaching and learning, both individually and collectively, are grounded in what we know at the moment. They have been developed by the Deans Council, and they are based on a review of current literature, input from various campus constituencies, discussions with peer institutions and infectious disease experts, and the advice of the CDC and local community leaders. The overall aim of these guidelines is to create an environment that mitigates virus transmission, while maintaining the high-quality learning experiences that make Florida Southern a special place to live and learn.

In the context of this overall purpose, the guidelines for teaching and learning seek to achieve three major goals:

  1. To ensure that students make appropriate academic progress in the 2020 – 2021 academic year.
  2. To maintain campus and classroom environments that significantly reduce opportunities for virus transmission.
  3. To provide students with a variety of well-designed approaches to learning in the fall 2020 semester, including face-to-face, online, and hybrid formats, with an emphasis on conducting face-to-face learning to the greatest extent possible.

Our ability to meet these goals will depend on all members of our community understanding that taking steps to reduce virus transmission is a shared responsibility.

Members of the Deans Council recognize that enacting these guidelines will be challenging, and they have done their best to balance the tradeoffs inherent in such a situation with our shared goal of educating students to make a positive and consequential impact on society. While we are still learning about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we do know that these guidelines, when combined with the measures outlined in the overall institutional plan, can substantially reduce the likelihood of virus transmission. For this reason, academic guidelines rely on social distancing, wearing masks during personal interactions, following hygiene and cleaning practices recommended by the CDC, isolating individuals who test positive or have known exposure, avoiding high-risk situations, and remaining open to modifying elements of the overall plan if conditions change. Neither the institutional plan nor these guidelines respond to every conceivable scenario — nor could they be expected to do so — but they do provide a framework for reactivating campus life that is grounded in the best knowledge of our scientific and medical communities. As such, Deans Council believes that these guidelines and the overall institutional plan will allow us to continue to fulfill our mission in the safest ways possible during this global pandemic. Each of its members stands ready to guide the academic enterprise in the context of the institutional plan, and each sees it as a living plan, which means that they are committed to listening to and working with faculty and students to ensure that the plan is serving our community well and being adjusted when necessary.

Healthy Campus Environment

Physical Distancing

  • Social distancing measures (a minimum of six feet of distance between individuals) must be maintained in all public spaces throughout the campus.
  • To the extent possible, all academic buildings will control when and how students can enter and exit. Signage and other mechanisms will be put in place to direct one-way traffic patterns and to indicate when students should enter a building for the next class meeting. Students should wait outside of academic buildings and maintain social distancing until the time indicated for entering the building for a particular class period. At that time, they should follow the traffic pattern. These measures are designed to reduce crowding in hallways and stairwells.
  • When it is not possible to control ingress and egress in certain academic areas, such as Ordway, students and faculty are asked to ensure that they maintain social distancing and wear masks when leaving or entering classes.
  • For those academic buildings that can control ingress and egress, entry/exit and traffic pattern plans, as well as timetables, will be posted conspicuously.
  • All advising will be conducted remotely through such means as video or phone conferencing.
  • All office hours will be held remotely using means similar to those for advising.
  • Masks must be worn in all academic buildings, unless individuals are alone in their offices, and whenever social distancing cannot be maintained outside.

Personal Protection and Hygiene

  • Masks are required of faculty, staff, and students in all classrooms and labs. Besides classrooms and labs, masks must be worn throughout academic buildings, including the library and archives. The only exception to this requirement is when members of the faculty or staff are alone in a private office. Masks must be worn in restrooms, hallways, stairwells, break rooms, common areas, and anywhere that social distancing cannot be guaranteed.
  • Residential and commuter students required to submit negative COVID tests to FSC.
  • Frequent hand-washing and use of hand sanitizer, dispensers of which will be placed conspicuously throughout campus, are strongly encouraged.
  • Faculty, staff, and students should self-evaluate daily for symptoms, including temperature checks. Any individual who has a fever of 100.3 Fahrenheit or higher, or who is experiencing any other symptoms identified by the CDC, should immediately self-quarantine. Students should immediately contact their healthcare provider and/or the Student Health Center at 863.680.4292.
    • After hours, students should contact 863.680.4305 for assistance and information about next steps.
  • While all areas of campus will be cleaned regularly and thoroughly by custodial staff, individuals must take responsibility for cleaning their spaces and personal effects (laptops, cell phones, bags, etc.) on a regular basis as well.
  • All academic areas will be provided with resources and directions for maintaining personal protection and other safety measures.
  • Per a provost’s message on June 18, 2020, faculty were asked to report to their deans any concerns that they may have about conducting face-to-face classes and to include any requests for appropriate accommodations in that communication. Those were due to deans by June 25, 2020, and they have now all been compiled. Each of those communications will be reviewed by Academic Affairs in consultation with Human Resources. Faculty will receive a response to their requests no later than July 17, 2020.
  • Students may request remote learning accommodations. Such requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by Student Development and Academic Affairs. Students will receive a response to their requests within three business days. Students should email remotelearning@flsouthern.edu.
  • International students may face additional restrictions, and they will be accommodated on a case-by-case basis if there are health or travel restrictions that necessitate remote participation.

Healthy Classroom Environment

  • Classroom and lab spaces have been reconfigured to maintain social distancing among students and to establish a “teaching zone” to ensure that the instructor remains distanced as well. This has significantly reduced the capacity of each classroom and lab.
  • All tables, desks, and seating in the classroom must be maintained to ensure social distancing configurations and to avoid having students facing one another. Classroom furniture cannot be rearranged for any class meeting.
  • Masks are always required of faculty and students in all classrooms and labs.
  • Plexiglas shields will be installed throughout classrooms and labs wherever possible.
  • All classrooms will have cleaning supplies available for the cleaning of personal spaces. While custodial staff will clean on a regular basis, faculty and students will clean their personal areas (e.g., desk) at the start of each class.
  • Antibacterial air filters will be installed in academic buildings.
  • All lab areas, regardless of their nature, must provide a written plan for cleaning and disinfecting and follow that plan. That plan will be submitted to the appropriate academic dean and posted conspicuously in the lab.
  • Attendance must be taken daily, and every class must establish assigned seating (a seating chart) in order to facilitate contact tracing if necessary.
  • At times, outdoor venues may be used for classes that require increased social distancing beyond six feet. Those arrangements must be made through the appropriate academic dean.
  • Eating is not permitted in any classroom or lab.
  • Drinks may be allowed in classrooms and labs at the discretion of the instructor. If allowed, they must have a lid. No open containers will be allowed.

COVID-19 Monitoring

  • Temperatures will be taken randomly across campus, including in academic buildings.
  • All members of our community must take personal responsibility to do temperature checks and self-evaluate their health on a daily basis. Faculty and students who believe that they are ill or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 should not go into any classroom or academic building until they are able to confirm through a healthcare provider that they have not been infected with the virus.
  • Students are advised to immediately contact their healthcare providers and/or the Student Health Center at 863.680.4292 if exposure has occurred, even if they are asymptomatic for COVID-19.
    • A student who has close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 should immediately contact 863.680.4305 for quarantine assistance and information about next steps.
  • Faculty who believe that they are ill or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 should report it to the appropriate dean and Human Resources. Human Resources will provide directions on next steps to take.

How is the College conducting contact tracing for positive COVID-19 tests?

  • To help limit the spread of COVID-19 on our campus and ensure the safety of our community, the College has partnered with Rapid-Trace, a local firm aiding businesses and institutions with contact tracing following positive COVID-19 tests.
    • Rapid-Trace contact tracers will work for the College as contracted employees of the Health Center and will notify you in the event you have had close contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
    • With Rapid-Trace, we will be able to identify and inform people who have contracted the virus and those in contact with confirmed cases, so they can take the necessary steps to prevent further spread. Please cooperate with our contact tracing efforts and Rapid-Trace personnel.

Academic Program Delivery

Pedagogy

  • From August 11, 2020, until the start of classes on September 1, 2020, a series of required and optional professional development sessions will be provided to faculty. These sessions will replace the traditional one-day Faculty Forum that typically kicks off a semester. The schedule of these sessions will be shared with faculty in early August. Faculty can anticipate topics like using Canvas, selecting video-conferencing tools, responding to students not following guidelines, and a host of other topics still to be determined to be included in these sessions.
  • Faculty must post all syllabi, assignments, and grades on the LMS.
  • Courses may use multiple delivery formats—including but not limited to face-to-face teaching, hybrid/staggered instruction, and synchronous and asynchronous online delivery—as determined by class size, room capacities, and instructor needs. Face-to-face instruction, however, is the desired method and should be seen as the default delivery mode unless circumstances dictate otherwise.
  • Graded assignments should be distributed thoughtfully across the semester, with “frontloading” of assignments offered to the extent possible. In particular, faculty should ensure that high percentages of high-stakes grading do not occur only at the end of the semester. This is good practice under normal circumstances, but all the more important under pandemic circumstances, which can change suddenly.
  • Faculty should provide maximum flexibility for student absences and late submission of assignments. While participation can reasonably be calculated into final grades, faculty are strongly encouraged not to calculate absences into them (e.g., three unexcused absences result in the reduction of a letter grade) during the fall 2020 semester.
  • Faculty must prepare to transition to remote instruction at any point in the fall 2020 semester and into the foreseeable future. Planning each course with this contingency in mind is essential.
  • For every class meeting that any student is absent, faculty must activate a video conferencing application (e.g., Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.) and record the class session so that students can participate remotely should they have health reasons to do so.
  • While faculty will be provided with the instructional tools and materials necessary to conduct each class, they are responsible for bringing them to each class session and maintaining them when not in class. IT can help faculty troubleshoot any problems, but faculty should not assume that they will be able to secure quick replacements if they forget to bring these tools and materials to class.
  • In lab settings that require partners, faculty are encouraged to establish lab partnerships that will be maintained throughout the entire semester. Lab partners should only be changed when absolutely necessary.
  • Faculty are encouraged to explore a variety of methods for engaging students across the potential teaching modalities. For classes with first-year students, it is very important to help them connect to our community of scholarship and learning. It will be an especially challenging semester for them, and it is important that we be conscious of this. Doing all that we can to help them feel as if they belong will go a long way in establishing the foundation that they will need to be successful this year and beyond.
  • Faculty also are encouraged to use creative and innovative methods for engaging students in scholarly and creative activities, such as streaming performances that might have been delivered to a live audience under normal circumstances or conducting research through electronic databases in lieu of a field trip to learn about an industry.

Scheduling

  • Unless a specific program has scheduled otherwise, such as the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, fall semester classes begin September 1, 2020, and will be conducted on campus until November 24, 2020.
    • Graduate students should consult with their dean.
  • Thanksgiving break begins on November 25, 2020, and all classes, with the exception of those in some graduate programs, will shift to remote instruction beginning on November 30, 2020.
  • It is very important that faculty hold all classes through November 24, 2020. The Monday (11/23) and Tuesday (11/24) classes before Thanksgiving break must be in session. If there is a legitimate reason that a class on one of these days has to be cancelled, such as illness, then the faculty member must notify their dean and Human Resources prior to that class meeting and prepare an alternative assignment that can be documented as meeting the seat time missed.
  • There will be no fall break in the fall 2020 semester.
  • Commencement will be held on December 19, 2020.
  • All other dates in the published academic calendar should be adhered to when planning for and conducting classes in the fall 2020 semester.
  • All advising and office hours must be conducted remotely.
  • Meetings of schools, departments, committees, and any other academic working groups should be conducted remotely.
  • General faculty meetings will be conducted remotely.

Clinical and Off-campus Experiences

  • Faculty must pre-determine any necessary adjustments for any off-campus experiences in the fall 2020 semester, including but not limited to ensuring that appropriate CDC recommendations can be followed during the experience, and clearly communicate those to students before they engage in those experiences.
  • If reasonably safe conditions cannot be secured for an off-campus experience, then faculty should design an alternative experience that can achieve similar outcomes to the off-campus experience.
  • All students participating in off-campus experiences must first sign the Florida Southern College Student Internship Insurance Coverage, Personal Conduct, Assumption of Risk, Waiver of Liability, Covenant not to Sue, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement, or an approved alternative agreement as established by a particular program.
  • Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from clinical and off-campus experiences.

Instructional Technology

  • Faculty are encouraged to align instructional technologies carefully with the goals of their courses. As with remote instruction in spring 2020, a minimalist approach to technology is recommended. It is important that the technologies selected clearly relate to the learning goals and that both faculty and students minimize the need to learn new technologies “on the fly.”
  • Professional development and online resources will be provided before and during the fall 2020 semester to support the various pedagogies that will be used during this period.
  • Classroom technology tools will be provided to deliver instruction. Any requests should be directed to the appropriate academic dean.
  • Faculty must use the LMS for all assignments and grades.
  • To the extent possible, faculty should have students submit work electronically.

Library Services

  • Librarians will continue to meet with classes via videoconference, provide remote consultations and reference assistance, and develop research guides for courses and academic programs. Until further notice, librarians will not visit classrooms in person for information literacy instruction.
  • In addition to in-building services, the library will offer front door pickup for physical items. Text 863-274-2039 to schedule a pickup.
  • Circulating items will be quarantined for a period of four days upon return, and they may remain checked out to individual accounts until that quarantine has ended.
  • Materials on course reserve will be shelved with the regular collection and will circulate for a predetermined length of time.
  • Study space in Roux Library and in the McKay Archives has been reduced to support social distancing. Tables and seating may not be rearranged.
  • Use of the library classroom is restricted until further notice.
  • Scheduled events held in the library and archives will be limited to small academic gatherings such as dissertation defenses. These events will be restricted to members of the campus community.

Remote Learning After Thanksgiving

To maximize healthy outcomes, the College will end undergraduate face-to-face classes on November 24 of Thanksgiving Week and begin remote instruction on November 30, which will continue through the end of the semester. This means most students will return home to complete the fall semester remotely.

Some graduate programs, such as the Doctor of Physical Therapy, will continue face-to-face meetings after Thanksgiving. Graduate students should consult with their dean.

More Information

  • The final day of undergraduate face-to-face classes will be November 24 (Tuesday).
    • Thanksgiving break begins November 25 (Wednesday), and all undergraduate classes will shift to remote instruction beginning on November 30 (Monday).
    • No on-campus undergraduate classes will be conducted for students after Thanksgiving break, except for international students (Information will be sent directly to international students).
  • Most students will be required to return home to finish the semester and not allowed to remain on campus, excepting circumstances approved by the College.
  • A pro-rata credit for room charges and meal plans will be applied toward the spring semester for the portion of the semester finished by remote instruction.
    • This credit will be calculated using the full costs of room charges, meal plans, and applicable financial aid as of the November 30 start of remote instruction.
    • No tuition adjustments will be made for the transition to remote learning after Thanksgiving.
  • Should the College be required to end face-to-face instruction on campus before November 24, FSC will transition to robust remote learning so students can complete the semester.
    • As they were in the spring 2020 semester, faculty and staff will be prepared to transition to remote-learning plans that challenge and engage students academically.
    • A pro-rata credit for room charges and meal plans will be applied toward the spring semester for the portion of the semester finished by remote instruction.
    • In the event such a transition is required, the College will not offer tuition refunds or credits.

Last updated: August 25, 2020