COVID-19 
Academic FAQ: Deans and Faculty
Last Updated: April 6, 2020

 

Please note that recently added/updated questions have been moved to the top of the document.

I have read this document, but I still have questions or problems. Who should I contact?

Please use the following email addresses and links to get further assistance with particular questions: 

What if I prefer to use Zoom to Google Meet? (updated: 4/6/20)

The university’s Google suite (G Suite) includes access to Google Meet.  As such, it is a product that is supported by Technology Services and is integrated with other Google features.  We are providing training on how to use it. Google Meet has relaxed some of its normal restrictions until July, allowing larger meetings of up to 250.

We have heard that some of you prefer to use Zoom.  The Provost office has a limited number of licenses which have all been distributed.  However, you are able to get a free Zoom account. If you create it using your Catholic University email, Zoom has temporarily lifted the 40 minute restriction for meetings using the free accounts.  Go to zoom.us to sign up for a free account.  They also have training that is quite helpful to get you started.

You may also have seen recent news stories regarding the security of Zoom. As a result, Zoom has updated a number of features for edu accounts. Please consult this blog post for best practices for a Zoom virtual classroom and consult this blog post for useful security tips.

How should I plan to hold my Final examinations? (added: 4/1/20)

Final examinations must be administered per the published final exam schedule and are subject to the final exam policy.

If you are planning to administer a “traditional” final exam via a virtual methodology, it will be critically important that you comply with the published exam schedule so that students can plan for the time and will not have overlapping exams.  If you wish to request an exemption from this rule, please email the Dean of Undergraduate Studies or the Dean of Graduate Studies so that they can work with Enrollment Services to reschedule the exam. The exam will be rescheduled, if possible, for one of the existing exam time blocks.  Reasons for exceptions, in addition to the ones already included in the policy, include but are not limited to Time Zone considerations for students.

If you are planning to administer a non-"traditional" final exam, please be cognizant of not imposing a large, time-consuming substitute that impinges upon the regular exam schedule.

If you have received a letter of accommodation from a student, ensure that applicable students have access to their accommodations (e.g. extended time on timed-tests, accessible materials, extensions on assignments) for the final exam or assignment. For timed exams on Blackboard (or any other platform), extend the individual student’s time within Blackboard. If a student requires an accessible test, please work in advance with DSS to ensure that the test is accessible. If the final exam is a take-home, paper, or project, please be aware that a student may need an extension due to a disability.  If there are ever any questions, please contact DSS (cua-dss@cua.edu / 202-319-5211).  Please contact cua-instructionalcontinuity@cua.edu if you need help adjusting the exam in Blackboard.

Although you alone, as instructor of record, can rightly determine how best to assess a student's performance in your course, we invite you to consider the following suggestions, in view of the fact that in-person final examinations will not be administered for the spring semester.

  • Consider designing the exam to be open-book and/or open-notes.  This strategy is recommended if you are concerned about the illicit use of outside help during an exam.  If you design the exam to be open-book and/or open-notes, then you will not need to worry about students consulting their books or notes.
  • Consider substituting exams with a paper. Under current circumstances, this approach might enable students to demonstrate mastery of the course material more effectively than an exam would do. 
  • Consider substituting exams with a project, for the same reason stated in 2 (b).
  • If you elect to evaluate your students by means of a final exam, consider implementing the exam in Blackboard
    • Consider designing open-ended exam questions. For example,
      • Open-ended design problems; 
      • Short answer questions; 
      • Essays of various types (also consider including reflective essays).
    • Consider varying the order of questions for individual students to make it difficult for them to consult one another. 
    • Consider using a set time window for the exam. You can also set a time window for which the test is open as that also is known to help prevent academic dishonesty in online testing.  
    • Consider video proctoring.  You can also require the students to be “video on” for Google Meet or Zoom if you would like to be able to watch students take the exam.  But, please keep in mind that students with bandwidth issues or connectivity issues may have difficulties with this type of arrangement and should know in advance for planning purposes.
    • Also, for those of you who need the exam to be more secure, the University is in the process of acquiring Respondus lockdown browser and Respondus monitor for proctoring exams. (See Respondus Higher Education for more details.)

See the Center for Teaching Excellence, particularly the hyperlinks copied below, for more information. [Important to note that some of the information/material developed on best practices for online instruction/assessment was written for people creating online classes vs. converting in-person classes to online during a global emergency - so decisions should be made with the current circumstances in mind.]

What supports are currently being provided by the University to help me deal with how I am personally handling the COVID 19 situation? (added: 4/1/20)

The Carebridge Employee Assistance program is available for employees and their families.  Please call 1-800-437-0911 or visit www.myliferesource.com.  The access code for Catholic University is HSBH4.

What is the plan for summer courses? (added: 4/1/20)

At this time, no decision about summer courses has been made.  However, recent decisions by the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland imply that the summer may need to begin online.  As you plan your summer courses, you should consider that they might need to start online and/or continue as blended if we are able to hold in person classes.

What should I do if a student tells me that he or she has COVID-19? (added: 4/1/20)

We recommend that you encourage the student to follow our typical practice of notifying the Dean of Students by email to deanofstudents@cua.edu. Using our normal practice during this atypical time will allow us to track the impact of this virus on our campus community and will facilitate a coordinated response.

What if undergraduate or graduate students ask to take a class pass/fail or tell me they wish to withdraw? (added: 4/1/20)

We have modified the Academic Calendar to give students more time to make this decision.  We want students to give online learning a full chance, but at the same time recognize that students may find themselves in challenging personal and academic situations.  We will implement a university-wide process for undergraduate students to make the request to switch to pass/fail with a requirement to have discussed this option with the course instructor first.  If students express intentions to withdraw, try to engage with them to see if there are any barriers to them continuing that we could assist with.  

The Academic FAQ student page will be updated to include more information on this process.

What resources is the University providing to help the move to online learning?

The Center for Teaching Excellence and Technology Services have collaborated to create a website with suggestions. They provided training, as well as office hours, during the week of March 16th.  One the training sessions was recorded and posted. The website will continue to add resources as we develop them for instructors.  More trainings are under development.

In addition, Technology Services has been checking classrooms and adding microphones in case instructors want to record lectures in the classroom.  

Blackboard mobile apps are active, which should be helpful to both students and instructors. Note that there are two separate apps, Blackboard (for courses in which you are enrolled as a student) and Blackboard Instructor (for courses in which you are an instructor).

Also continue to consult the Center for Teaching Excellence website.  We have been adding resources to the pages regularly with tips on how to teach online in different disciplines.

How should faculty hold office hours?

Instructors should hold virtual office hours so students can stay connected and ask questions.  That will be a critically important step in keeping students engaged in classes. Office hours could be individual or group using Google Meet.  Students are understandably concerned about the move to online learning so support from and connection to instructors will help. This will also help you feel a continued connection with your students.

What about academic advising and other mentoring by faculty?

Faculty should consider alternate ways of advising, mentoring, and meeting with students, including holding Google Meet virtual meetings.  For undergraduate students, notes should be made in the Cardinal Success platform as that will facilitate better communication as some of our colleagues work remotely.  Undergraduate student advisors have been asked to contact all of their students by email this week and then to email as a check in weekly.  They have been asked to hold one phone or virtual meetings with each student by March 27 and then offer meetings every two weeks after that.  

This Cardinal Success platform can also be used for a record of graduate student advising.  If you would like training on the platform, reach out to cua-undergradutestudies@cua.edu and we’ll arrange a time to walk you through it.

Should I still be advising my students for fall registration?

We have modified the Academic Calendar to change the registration dates for undergraduate students.  This was done specifically to allow faculty and professional advisors a bit more time to meet with students.  Understandably, the focus this past week has been on moving online and we need to allow sufficient time for that.  The change to the calendar is to help take some of that pressure off. The appointments have been updated in Cardinal Students.

What should I do if students tell me that they are having difficulties accessing materials for the class?

There could be a number of reasons for this situation so the response may vary.  We have heard that some students do not have internet access (either normally or because of a temporary issue) and/or that their data plans do not support the needs of online learning.  We have heard as well that some students do not have the technology necessary at home to participate in online learning. While normal circumstances might prompt the response of suggesting the student go to a coffee shop or the library, that will not be possible right now as we are all social distancing and quarantining as necessary.  This might challenge us to think outside of the online learning platform box at the same time we are using it. For instance, could students without a laptop do an assignment in hard copy and email you a picture from their phone? Could they do that with an exam?

We have also heard that some students have connectivity issues with large downloads of videos or other materials.  The first suggestion for that might be to ask them to work with their families on how many people are streaming movies, etc, at the same time.  What could also be helpful would be to think through: how you are delivering materials? Could you do shorter videos that will be easier to download?  Another suggestion that has been made is to compile a set of resources that you post to Blackboard (or email) to students for them to use; not an ideal solution as the best practice would be for students to find their own sources, but it could be helpful if, for example, they are experiencing bandwidth issues searching for sources.

What do I do if I have concerns about a student personally or academically?

If you have a concern about a student’s personal situation, please contact the Dean of Students office.  They are continuing to work with students during this time period. If you have a concern about a student’s academic situation, contact the student’s advisor and Associate or Assistant Dean.  We know that students right now are facing multiple challenges and we want to be supportive as they negotiate this complicated situation.

How do I manage attendance?

This question is another one where the answer may vary.  We would ask you to be flexible with any attendance requirements in how they impact grades.  We know some students might be ill, they may have family members who may be ill, they may not be available for synchronous classes at home because their schedules at home are different, etc.  We are concerned about attendance, though, so if you notice someone is not participating at all, please either issue an alert through Cardinalsuccess, email the Dean of Students office, or contact the advisor so that we can do the appropriate outreach to check on the status of the student.

What if undergraduate students ask to take the class pass/fail or tell me they want to withdraw?

We have modified the Academic Calendar to give students more time to make this decision.  We want students to give online learning a full chance, but at the same time recognize that students may find themselves in challenging personal and academic situations.  We will implement a university wide process for undergraduate students to make the request to switch to pass/fail with a requirement to have talked to the instructor of the course first.  If they express an intention to withdraw, try to engage with them to see if there are any barriers to them continuing that we can assist with.

What about textbooks and other reading materials?

Not all students will have access to their textbooks during this time.  It is likely they did not bring all of their materials home with them before the break.  While you can follow the library assistance described below to facilitate access, it might be prudent to provide students scans of their existing reading materials and/or to revise reading assignments during this period to sources available online

What is our bookstore doing to help with textbooks?

Barnes and Noble will offer free access to textbooks for students enrolled in universities impacted by COVID-19 if the publisher has supported this action. They are also extending the date for textbook returns (most students are probably not thinking about this issue yet but they will be concerned with it when May comes.)

Please see this news release for more details. 

Are there other resources for textbooks?

The Open Textbook Network has freely available e-books that may serve as an alternative to an assigned textbook reading.  Their offerings are arranged by subject on their website. Faculty also can find earlier editions or translations of a text that are no longer under copyright and are available online by searching “open textbook + the subject” in engines such as Google or Bing.

Do I need to worry about copyright issues if I share pdfs and scans of materials?

Fair use should allow for scanning materials during this situation, particularly since students find themselves in a situation not of their own doing. See the growing list of signatories to Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research. Remember that PDFs are not always accessible. Consult with DSS as needed. Also it is recommended that instructors mark pdfs and other scanned documents as “one time educational use.” 

How do I account for students with accommodations for disabilities?

Instructors should endeavor to provide accommodations in the same manner that are provided in the classroom. Students should be guided to reach out to DSS if they have specific questions.  For the most part, what instructors do in the classroom can be done online - providing notes, allowing recording, giving extra time on tests. Google Meet has captioning functionality, which could also help depending on the accommodation of the student.  If instructors have questions on how to meet an accommodation, they should schedule a meeting by phone or Google Meet to discuss the situation with the student. Instructors should also contact DSS for guidance.

Should an instructor worry about or prohibit recording by a student of a synchronous lecture?

This likely already occurs under regular operating scenarios since anyone with a smartphone can already do so in a normal classroom setting. In fact, instructors are advised to use Google Meet or Panopto to record and make available their own lectures, even when providing synchronous instruction, recognizing that some students’ internet connections may cause dropouts, freezing up, etc.

Is the Library providing any additional help/resources for instructors during this time?

Yes. Please consult the Library’s COVID-19 website for up-to-date information about Library access and services.

Where can I scan materials?

Departmental and school Ricoh copiers provide scanning capabilities. Also many of us could use our home scanners and even many more of us own smartphones that allow for easily producing pictures and scans of printed materials.

Can I use my office or University classroom to teach or prepare my course?

Yes. The University remains open so you may use your office and University classrooms. You also can teach and prepare your courses remotely from home.

I intend to teach my course synchronously. Can I shift the meeting time of the course since no one “needs my classroom” at a different time?

No. All synchronously taught courses must follow the published spring semester class schedule since students are enrolled in multiple courses.  You might want to consider recording the class to share with students who miss the class. If you record, you should alert students that you are going to be doing that so that they are aware.  You can ask them to view and post a discussion board response or email you. This will help given we know some students may not be available for every class.

Am I required to teach my course synchronously?

No.  We are finding that students enjoy the feeling of connectedness from synchronous classes but recognize that there are timing issues with synchronous courses due to students being in different time zones, bandwidth issues, etc.   You have academic freedom to decide how you deliver the class.

What about clinicals, practica, student teaching, laboratory work, performances, and other similar educational experiences?

Instructors should discuss their plans for handling these scenarios with their department chairs or deans and then communicate their plans to the students. Generally, the goal is to continue the educational experience of the students; however, instructors may need to be creative in modifying or substituting in-person experiences with virtual experiences such as alternate assignments, audio and visual recordings, simulations, and so on, or with developing alternate assessment methods.  The requirements for these are likely determined by the accrediting bodies of the various disciplines so different programs may have different policies and procedures in this regard.

What about internships for credit?

We need to recognize not all students will be able to complete their required hours.  Their sites might be closed, the student might need to quarantine, the site might not support social distancing, or the student might be home and not where the site is.  Each academic unit should come up with a strategy to manage this situation so that students are treated fairly. For instance, how many hours are enough to consider it complete?  If a student has not done that number, what project or assignment will fill in the gap of hours?

Are Undergraduate Comprehensive Examinations taking place?

All Associate and Assistant Deans were asked to report their comprehensive examination plan to the Dean of Undergraduate Studies on March 13.  In person exams are not allowed. They must be administered online or modified to a project-based assignment (i.e., research paper). Some exams were completed before the break and are not impacted. Some exams are already project based and not impacted.

Are Graduate Comprehensive Examinations taking place?

Department chairs or deans should be in contact with their students regarding their program’s plans.

Some basic guidelines for chairs and deans: 

  • In-person comprehensive examinations are not allowed for the remainder of the Spring Semester.
  • Alternate ways of administering the examination, e.g., have a student virtually proctored using Google Meet.
  • Alternate forms of examination (such as written papers, delivering a lecture via Google Meet for review board, etc.)
  • If necessary, assign incomplete grades and move the examination to a date after the conclusion of the semester (if the student is not graduating in May).

How are master's and licentiate theses being deposited?

  1. A candidate contacts Terrie McPherson at mcpherson@cua.edu to have the thesis reviewed for formatting as normal.
  2. As soon as the candidate has his/her thesis formatting approved, the candidate must obtain email approvals from the thesis director and reader that the thesis is ready to be deposited. These email approvals must be sent to both the candidate and to Terrie McPherson at mcpherson@cua.edu.
  3. After deposit approval has been obtained from the director and reader, the candidate will be given the link to upload the thesis to ProQuest. The thesis deposit will follow the same instructions as doctoral students.
  4. All students must also complete the ETD@CUA Submission Copyright Statement, which is found online at https://graduate-studies.catholic.edu/_media/docs/etd-submission-copyright-statement.pdf. This form can be returned electronically or mailed to the Graduate Studies office.
  5. The successful candidate will mail the thesis deposit fee of $50 to the Graduate Studies office after uploading the thesis to ProQuest and completing the ETD@CUA Submission Copyright Statement.  The deposit fee can be paid in check or money order made payable to The Catholic University of America.

Please note that Terrie McPherson is the first point of contact for all thesis processing.

Are oral doctoral defenses happening?

All doctoral defenses are to be offered in the spring 2020 semester as online/remote defenses under the following guidelines:

  1. Everyone participating is aware of the arrangement so that no one “is taken off guard.” 
  2. The examination must be conducted with both video and audio available for all participants.
  3. The entire dissertation defense process can be conducted remotely; namely, the candidate, chair, secretary, major professor, and readers may all participate remotely as needed. 
  4. If the candidate or any member of the examination panel (chair, secretary, major professor, and readers) requires the use of technology that is not available remotely, arrangements must be made with the school and/or department to allow for the use of University resources and technology. This may require some participants in the defense process to come to campus for the defense itself.
  5. If for any reason the telecommunications link between the remote location of the candidate, the remote location(s) of the examination panel, and/or any examination room used on The Catholic University of American campus in Washington, DC, breaks down for a prolonged time, the examination will be deemed cancelled and it will have to be rescheduled.
  6. The chair of the oral defense can sign the oral defense forms on behalf of any member of the examination panel unable to attend in person, though the member of the examination panel will need to provide an email granting the chair that authority. The email should be attached to the appropriate form.
  7. It remains the responsibility of the school/department to arrange/handle all the logistical/administrative details.
  8. The University has a license for Google Meet which has the video/audio capabilities necessary to conduct a defense in the manner described above.

How are doctoral dissertations being deposited?

  1. Once a candidate has been approved for a defense this semester, he/she must contact Terrie McPherson at mcpherson@cua.edu, who will send the Permission to Publish form to him/her as a fillable PDF. The student would then be responsible to get the signatures electronically and send it back to Terrie electronically. Terrie will then print it out as usual and include it in the candidate's dissertation file.
  2. As soon as the candidate has his/her dissertation formatting approved, Terrie will print out the title page, abstract, and signature page on cotton paper. This will go into the candidate's dissertation file, as the cotton paper is needed for University Archives.
  3. Terrie will print out the approvals from the committee listed in #6 above. These approvals will need to be sent to me by the school deans.
  4. The successful candidate will mail the dissertation deposit fee ($50 or $100, depending on the degree awarded) to Terrie McPherson after the defense is completed. The deposit fee can be paid in check or money order made payable to The Catholic University of America.

Other deposit processes, such as the review of the dissertation for formatting, the completion of the ETD@CUA form and the SED questionnaire, and the uploading to ProQuest, remain unchanged.

This dissertation formatting review process should begin no later than one week before the scheduled defense date.

Please note that Terrie McPherson is the first point of contact for all dissertation processing.

Should Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows continue their work?

The short answer is Yes. 

Students should contact their advisor, faculty supervisor, department chair or dean for more detailed information.

Should Research Assistants continue their work?

In further response to the coronavirus Covid-19 situation, the university has revised our guidance regarding research operations.

At this time, the university is suspending all data collection activities related to research, except in those situations deemed by the Provost to be “essential”.  We are not suspending research.  Data analysis and writing should continue to the extent possible, but in-lab production of data should be shut down.  

It would be wise for any operations that continue under the “essential” label to prepare for the possibility that campus access could be restricted in the future, or for the possibility of health-related issues within a laboratory.

Any questions regarding research operations should be directed to David Long, Assistant Provost, at longdp@cua.edu, or the Office of Sponsored Programs at 202-319-5218 or CUA-OSP@cua.edu

What about communications with Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, and Research Assistants?

Supervisors should maintain regular appointments/meetings with graduate student employees. These meetings should be regular, not long in duration, and can easily be done via Google Meet if needed.

What about faculty and staff meetings?

Faculty and staff should contact their department chair or dean for more information.

Some basic guidelines for chairs and/or deans to consider: 

  • Please consider having regular, not too-long in duration, and frequent “check-in” meetings via Google Meet. 
  • While these meetings should be structured for overall effectiveness, time should be reserved for Q&A.
  • Common discussion themes should center on communications, serving students, technology needs, struggles with teleworking and distance learning.

What are some best practices for running a synchronous virtual lecture or meeting?

  • The host should get things setup and running several minutes before the start of the lecture or meeting.
  • Think about your environment as you are running (or participating in the meeting).  Your immediate environment will be visible on a video call so take a minute to see how it looks before you join the meeting.
  • Everyone should join the meeting in “muted mode”.
  • Stick to an agenda.
  • Don’t let the lecture or meeting drag on too long, and certainly not more than an hour without a break.
  • EAB provides some virtual tips you may find useful.

Is the University Post Office open? 

Until further notice, the mailroom will be open to pick up and send items during these days and times: Monday - Friday from 9 am until 4 pm. The package room also will be open Monday - Friday from 9 am until 5 pm.