Office of the Provost
Provost’s Message: Returning to In-Person Academics
As we approach the start of the fall semester, I am sharing details on several items related to the classroom and other academic activities. Some of you have been on our campuses regularly over the past year and a half, while many others are beginning to make your first return back to your offices or classrooms in many months. This message provides information on a variety of resources and guidance to prepare for the start of this new academic year. I also encourage you to visit the University’s COVID website, to find information on our plans in one location, at covid.uconn.edu. Additionally, the Provost’s Office maintains a set of academic-related FAQs on our website.
I understand that our community is experiencing a mix of emotions as the first day of classes draws near. Our plans for the fall are intended to allow as much of a return to in-person operations as possible while still prioritizing the health and safety of our community. This includes keeping close watch of new developments such as the spread of the Delta variant. This is a true community effort, as multiple offices and teams have led our planning and preparations to come together again on our campuses.
At the same time as many of you are preparing for a return to our campuses, you’re also continuing to manage the complications of caregiving, family, and community responsibilities amid COVID. Self-care and compassion for others in this challenging time will be crucial to our success as we all navigate our return to in-person operations over the coming months.
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Fall 2021 Guidance and Resource Highlights
Classrooms and In-Person Teaching
- Masking: Masks are required in most indoor scenarios on campus, including the classroom, until further notice. The most up-to-date information on mask requirements across University settings can be found by visiting the UConn COVID website.
- Clear face masks that cover the nose and mouth are available for instructors to use while teaching. Please use this link to make a request through CETL: https://cetl.uconn.edu/request-for-clear-masks-for-teaching/.
- Distancing: We shared earlier this summer that classrooms would return to full capacity with the removal of distancing requirements. The most up-to-date information on distinctions in distancing across University settings can be found by visiting the UConn COVID website. We will continue to monitor the status of COVID-19 and guidance from the state regarding distancing throughout the semester.
- Ventilation in classrooms: Facilities Operations has been performing a number of strategies to improve ventilation in spaces, particularly in classrooms. Guidance for re-opening over the last year has focused on increasing ventilation rates, enhancing filtration, and increasing the percentage of outdoor air that circulates where possible. Please review their full report by clicking here.
- Instructional modality: For Fall 2021, about 90% of classes are listed with an in-person modality. This includes lectures, discussions, labs, seminars, and hybrid courses. It does not include independent studies, field placements, practicums, etc. It also includes undergraduate and graduate courses, and all regional campuses.
Aside from an ADA accommodation, the only instances in which classes may be taught in an online modality are based on sound pedagogy and the best interests of academic programming. With the semester set to begin shortly, additional changes based on pedagogical and academic programming reasons will be extremely limited and will require department head and dean approval.
- Teaching assistants: Whether they serve as instructors of record or as leaders of a discussion or laboratory section, teaching assistants are expected to offer instruction in the modality for which a course was scheduled. Any change in teaching modality requires approval of the relevant department head and dean.
- Classroom technology: IT provides a wide array of guidance on classroom technology in its Knowledge Base. These can be viewed here: https://confluence.uconn.edu/ikb/teaching-and-learning. In particular, you may want to bookmark the Classroom Quick Start Guide, https://s.uconn.edu/startclass.
Instructors can request training on classroom and instructional technology from IT staff. Please click this link to be directed to the request form (requires NetID login).
- Classroom and quarantine management: Throughout the last year, our office provided guidance in our FAQs on how to set expectations of behavior in your classrooms, managing accommodations for students in quarantine, and a host of other academic scenarios affected by COVID-19. Please click here to view our FAQS.
Other Academic Considerations
- Travel: Travel Services has shared a number of updates regarding work-related travel. Please see their website, travel.uconn.edu, for the latest information. In addition to guidance from Travel Services, Human Resources has provided guidance on returning to campus post-travel.
Employee personal travel follows guidance issued by the State of Connecticut. Visit their website for the latest guidance and restrictions at portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/Travel.
- Field trips: There are no formal restrictions on domestic travel out of state. However, all faculty or instructors planning field trips should work with their department head and dean to assess potential COVID-related risks associated with their field trip. Guidance may also change throughout the semester, so faculty or instructors planning such trips should ensure they are following updated travel guidelines if these change at the State or University level.
- Library Services: The Library is working to complete some projects that will both welcome our community back in a safe and welcoming manner, as well as increase the discoverability of resources. Changes have been made to platforms that access collections, including databases and the extension of electronic access to course reserves to the degree possible. Click here to learn more.
- Events and Meeting Scheduling: Units will be permitted to host outside guests and speakers, subject to University public health restrictions. Because conditions can change quickly, any invitation to outside speakers should include a strong indication that changes or cancellation may be required if conditions worsen again. Please consult the latest UConn Campus Visitor Guidance for more information on hosting guests and events by clicking here.
When scheduling events and meetings, consider how the time and format may affect the accessibility for potential attendees. For instance, an in-person event at 4 p.m. meant to appeal to junior colleagues may conflict with pick-up times from school or day care, and may be better suited to a different time and a virtual format.
- Incident Reporting: The InForm website is a tool to help the UConn community navigate the reporting process and support available for a variety of incidents including bias, harassment, safety concerns, and other types of misconduct. InForm is available to anyone coming into contact with UConn, including students, faculty, staff, visitors, and community members who have a concern to report, including bystanders.
- Syllabi: CETL has created a portal for faculty and instructors to upload their syllabi for students to review before starting classes. We encourage all faculty and instructors to upload your syllabi here as soon as they are available. Please click here to get started.
- SET feedback: The Provost’s Office had for several years sent letters to faculty and instructors with feedback on high or low SET scores. After consultation with deans, the Faculty Standards Committee of the University Senate, and the AAUP, we have decided to no longer distribute these letters. SET scores will continue to be collected and shared; however, we heard growing concerns that these letters elevated the importance of SETs beyond their intended purpose. SET scores should be considered one of a set of measures to evaluate successful teaching. We appreciate the work being done in the classroom to support our academic mission and we will continue to find other ways to acknowledge our many examples of outstanding teaching and support continuous improvement in our educational mission.
- COVID-19 testing: The University will offer testing for employees. The details are still being established and more information is forthcoming.
- Training: Environmental Health and Safety has updated its COVID-19 safety training for this academic year. Please visit this link to access the training on the EHS website.
- Tech check: ITS encourages faculty and staff to return early to test their on-site setups and notify ITS staff of any issues or equipment deficiencies. On and after Aug. 16, ITS will operate using a tiered approach that will allow their staff to efficiently serve as many people as possible with available resources.
- For installation requests, please start with the self-help guide to set up equipment: techsupport.uconn.edu/device-setup.
- If additional support is needed, faculty and staff are encouraged to request assistance remotely first, by submitting a support ticket through techsupport.uconn.edu. If issues remain unresolved at this point, ITS staff will schedule a time to assist you in-person.
- Future of Work and Future of Learning reports: These two committees have produced reports with an overview of their recommendations. You may view the Future of Work report at this link, and the Future of Learning report at this link.
- Cleaning and disinfection: Facilities Operations will follow guidance and best practices from the CDC. For more information, please click here to see a detailed update from Environmental Health and Safety.
- Signage: University Communications has updated signage to reflect UConn’s restrictions and guidance in place for Fall 2021 as it relates to COVID-19 protocols. Many of these signs will be placed in university buildings by Facilities Operations; however, these are also available for departmental and office use. Please click here to view and download this signage.