Page last updated: 9/18/20 8:45 a.m. The latest information will be at the top of the page.
Additional questions and answers will be added to these FAQs as needed and current answers may be revised from time to time.
If I’m recording class sessions and students are visible and identifiable in the recordings, how do I ensure compliance with FERPA regulations?
All meetings held in Zoom that include course content or student information are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
When recording class sessions or meetings in Zoom, follow the steps below to protect student privacy. When inviting guest speakers, make sure to share this information with them. The same privacy protections apply whether the faculty member or a guest is leading the class.
Don’t share recordings that include personally identifiable student information with anyone that is not enrolled in your course.
If you plan to share a recording for educational use beyond your course, ensure student video is not visible on screen, students’ mics are muted and the chat is hidden. Use the chat feature, which allows students to type questions and comments live. Allow students to turn off their camera and microphone using stop video and mute in Zoom and participate via chat if they prefer.
Although you cannot stop students from using local or personal technology to record a meeting, you can disable cloud recording settings. To be compliant with FERPA, please convey this information to your students and remind them frequently:
“For class sessions recorded during the COVID-19-related remote instruction period, students will be notified. If students do not want their likeness during class participation included in the recorded class session, they may elect to not participate in the video recordings. Recordings will be available for viewing during the remote instruction period subject to the following:
Only students enrolled in the subject class during the remote instruction period may view the recording.
Students may not post or use the recordings in any other setting (e.g., social media) for any purpose. Students who violate this will be subject to student discipline, up to and including expulsion.”
Do I have to wear a facial covering at all times while teaching? What if I’m behind plexiglass? What if the nearest student is more than six feet away from me in the classroom? What if I’m teaching in a large room with only a small number of students present?
Instructors teaching a face-to-face class must wear a facial covering at all times, regardless of the size of the room, the number of students in the room, the distance between the instructor and students, or the presence of plexiglass barriers. This requirement supports the health and safety of both faculty and students, and fosters a campus culture of shared responsibility and compliance with University guidance. While an earlier exception to the face mask requirement “when speaking to a crowd while maintaining social distancing” was included in the online Return Plan Directives, it was removed on Sept. 14 to help address these expectations for classroom safety.
What are the privacy issues related to informing the class about a student who tests positive?
The University of Alabama is committed to providing students, faculty and staff the resources and information they need in this time of change and challenge. The University must, however, balance this against its commitment to protecting the private health information of our campus community. Procedures have been put in place to strike this balance while complying with federal privacy laws, primarily the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA applies to most public and private postsecondary institutions and to the records on students at campus health clinics. These records are not subject to disclosure except in limited circumstances. Pursuant to FERPA, the University does not release any information that can be used to identify a student or employee.
The University has a robust exposure notification program. UA’s COVID Support Program oversees communications and notification related to potential exposure from positive cases. The role that faculty play in the reporting and notification process is generally summarized in UA’s posted Faculty FAQs. UA has not traced a single COVID infection to a classroom. We remain confident that our distancing and face covering protocols provide a high level of safety in the classroom. Nevertheless, should UA’s COVID Support Program determine that a student is positive for COVID-19, they will contact the student to give support and instructions. As noted, the University will endeavor to protect the privacy of students and avoid publicly identifying a student who has tested positive. If, however, the COVID Support Program determines that some or all of a class may have been in close contact with the positive individual, the relevant students and faculty members would be notified of the potential exposure and provided with directions on how to respond. In any such notification, the COVID Support Program will not identify the student by name. Likewise, faculty members are asked not to unilaterally identify a student who has tested positive to other students. Instead, for the sake of consistency and to avoid confusion, all communications to potential close contacts are designed to run through the COVID Support Program. Faculty are encouraged to call the COVID Support Program (205-348-CV19) for guidance or clarification as needed.
What should I do if a student in my class tests positive for COVID-19? Should I inform the other students in the class? Should I report the student’s positive test to the COVID Hotline myself?
If a student tests positive on campus, the COVID Support Program will automatically be informed, and will contact the student to give support and instructions. The COVID Support Program will also tell the student that they should contact their instructors to let them know they will have to participate in class remotely until they have been cleared to return to campus. No action is required on the part of the faculty member, except of course to be as accommodating as possible in helping the student to continue to participate in the class during their isolation period.
If a student tests positive at an off-campus health care provider, and informs you of their positive result, please direct the student to inform the COVID Support Program at the COVID Hotline (205 348 CV19). The Support Program will provide support and instructions to the student, and the student will let you know the instructions they’ve received.
If the established rules for masks and physical distancing are being followed in the classroom, then the risk of transmission from the positive student is minimal, and it is not necessary to inform the rest of the class that they may have been in the same room as a positive individual. For privacy reasons, the instructor should not announce to the class that a student in the class has tested positive, even anonymously.
If mask and distancing protocols were for some reason not observed, and there was in fact a chance that other students may have been within six feet of a positive individual for 15+ minutes, the case managers at the COVID Hotline will discover that information in the course of their interview with the positive student. The case managers will then contact the other individuals who may have had close contact with the positive individual.
It is never the faculty member’s responsibility to inform students of possible exposures. It is also not the faculty member’s responsibility to report positive student test results to the COVID Hotline; students should be directed to contact the Hotline themselves if necessary.
If a student tells me they’ve been directed to isolate themselves by the COVID Support Program, will I get documentation of that from the student or the CSP?
No, the COVID Support Program does not currently have the resources to provide written excuses for students who have been directed to quarantine. If a student tells you they’ve been directed into quarantine, please simply take their word for it and permit them to participate in the class remotely during their isolation period.
What must a student who was directed to isolation do in order to return to class? Must students test negative before returning to class? When they return to class, will they show me documentation that they have tested negative, or that they’ve been directed to return to class?
Following isolation, students may not return to class until they have been authorized to do so by a case manager at the COVID Support Program. After giving medical clearance, the CSP will provide students with an authorization to return to in-person classes via email. You may ask your returning students to see those emails if you wish. Students will not necessarily have received a negative test prior to being authorized to return to class, since current CDC guidelines recommend a time-based and symptom-based isolation period rather than a test-based process for returning to normal activities.
What changes will the University make to the Fall 2020 academic calendar?
The Fall 2020 academic calendar is being updated to provide instruction and testing remotely after Nov. 20. The semester, scheduled to begin on campus with mostly in-person instruction components, will shift to remote just before Thanksgiving week. Calendar changes include:
- Mid-Semester Study Break (previously scheduled for Oct. 29-30) is canceled. Classes will take place as scheduled on these days.
- In-person instruction ends Nov. 20, and all remaining instruction will be remote.
- No classes held Thanksgiving week, Nov. 21-29.
- Study week will continue remotely after Thanksgiving, and finals week will remain Dec. 7-11. All final exams will be conducted remotely.
The schedule change comes after discussions with faculty and planning to provide the best results for the campus community. It aligns with guidance from the UA System Health and Safety Task Force to avoid unnecessary risks caused by holiday travel. Exceptions and accommodations may be provided for students based on specific academic program needs and in close consultation with their academic advisers and for international students or other students who may not have alternate living arrangements. Presently, we do not anticipate any changes to the spring academic calendar.
What course formats will be used in Fall 2020?
UA faculty will deliver courses in four formats: Face-to-Face, Hybrid, AV, and Internet.
Course is taught in person, and may also include Independent Study, Research, and Thesis/Dissertation work. This instructional method includes courses with technology-delivered components such as online syllabi and online lecture notes. The technology-delivered components do not reduce the time traditionally spent in the face-to-face class. Face coverings are required for faculty, staff and students in our facilities. Classroom seating has been modified to assure social distancing. Further, we have installed numerous plexiglass barriers, increased air flow in our buildings, installed air filters and established regular cleaning schedules.
Course is taught both via the Face to Face and Internet methods. The internet-delivered components include teaching and learning activities. The internet-delivered components reduce the time traditionally spent in the face-to- face portion of the class.
Course is taught via remote interactive video and audio from an origination site to one or more receive sites or via streaming media technologies. Lectures and assignments are delivered in real time with two-way exchange capabilities between instructor and student. Alternatively, the course may be accessed online on demand via streaming audio/video.
Course content is delivered online. While online courses may require proctored exams, there are no other place-bound requirements. Regular interactions between students and instructor are a part of the teaching and learning process.
What resources are available to help me conduct classes remotely?
UA has many tools and options available. Find a complete list on the Center for Instructional Technology site.
Faculty have access to Zoom. Local recording is available to free and paid subscribers. Local recording allows users to record meeting video and audio locally to a computer. The recorded files can be uploaded to a file storage service like Dropbox, Google Drive or a streaming service like YouTube or Vimeo.
UA now has access to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra from within Blackboard. This tool has similar features to Zoom.
Blackboard Ally for Learn: In order to help instructors and students transition to online learning, Blackboard Ally for LMS has been enabled in all Blackboard courses. Ally helps make digital course content more accessible by automatically providing alternative formats (such as semantic HTML, audio, ePub, and electronic Braille) and providing instructor feedback and guidance on fixing accessibility issues in a course.
Use Panopto to record lectures or other content for students to access on-demand. Panopto also allows students to make recordings.
How can I help my students communicate and/or collaborate with their classmates in hybrid, AV, and online courses?
Plan for collaboration: Students will naturally seek the assistance of their peers to help them understand and complete tasks. Direct and define the collaboration by creating specific opportunities for your students to work and learn together. For example, Blackboard offers tools to help you build discussion groups where you might ask students to pool their knowledge, course resources, and experiences to discuss an issue or solve a problem. While these exchanges may not completely mirror the in-class experience, you’ll have assessment feedback on their learning.
Plan for asynchronous activities: While planning for some Zoom class meetings can help keep your students on track, asynchronous activities such as discussion boards and student video projects can keep them engaged and help build self-regulated learners.
What are potential solutions for moving labs online?
Simulated/virtual labs: If you are using web-based sites from your textbook publisher, are there resources and virtual tools available? They might help replicate the experience of some labs (for example, virtual dissection, night sky apps, lab video demonstrations, simulations). Alternative free sites such as BioDigital, Merlot or PhET include simulations and accompanying course materials. It is important to note that these tools are not integrated into Blackboard and are not supported Blackboard.
Provide raw data for analysis: In cases where the lab includes both collection of data and its analysis, consider showing videos of how the data can be collected, and then provide some raw sets of data for students to analyze. This approach is not as comprehensive as having students collect and analyze their own data, but it might keep them engaged with parts of the lab experience during a campus closure.
My students still need tutoring support. Will tutoring still be available?
Yes. Capstone Center for Student Success is ready to offer opportunities via videoconference. Courses supported include many introductory and intermediate level courses in accounting, biological sciences, chemistry (general and organic), economics, mathematics and psychology. Tutoring services are available online via Zoom and do not require an appointment.
The Writing Center will conduct all its services online this fall. Both synchronous and asynchronous tutoring sessions will be available. See the Writing Center Q&A for details.
Will students enrolled in hybrid courses be allowed to choose to participate only remotely?
Students in hybrid courses are expected to adhere to the course plan, which in every case will include face-to-face components. Students are expected to be in class for those components of the course. Expectations regarding face-to-face components of hybrid courses should be stated in syllabi, as should attendance policies for missing classes for either face-to-face or synchronous remote class periods. Faculty are encouraged to be flexible on attendance policies.
How should I respond to students who request accommodations on attendance?
Students registered with the Office of Disability Services (ODS) may request accommodations regarding in-person class attendance. Instructors may consult ODS to determine appropriate accommodations regarding attendance. Faculty are encouraged to be as flexible and accommodating as their course plan allows.
How do I implement remote accommodations for students?
The Center for Instructional Technology (CIT) Accessibility page has information on remote accommodation implementation as well as information on how to ensure your online content is accessible, including applying extra time for exams. Contact CIT for any questions or concerns through their website.
Will the passing period be extended? How should I deal with students arriving late to class due to traffic flow restrictions?
There are no current plans to extend the passing period. Instructors are encouraged to ask their students if they foresee problems with punctuality due to traffic flow restrictions, and to work with students to find solutions. The hybrid course delivery model may potentially be helpful here. Students may be able to structure their weekly schedules in such a way that they aren’t required to attend two face-to-face class meetings back-to-back. Faculty are encouraged to be as flexible as possible with students regarding their preferences for in-person attendance days.
How should I design my attendance policy for hybrid courses?
Hybrid courses are designed to permit students to attend class in person on some days and remotely on others. Faculty are encouraged to be as flexible as possible with students regarding their preferences for in-person and remote attendance days. Students are expected to attend classes, whether in-person or remote, as they’ve been scheduled. Attendance policies must be provided to each student at the beginning of the semester. These policies must allow for the possibility that students may experience difficulties beyond their control that can result in failure to attend class or failure to complete an assignment on time. The Center for Instructional Technology can help faculty to develop systems for monitoring attendance of students attending classes remotely.
Am I required to hold in-person office hours?
No. All faculty members must maintain regular and reasonably convenient office hours to answer questions from and to advise students, but until further notice office hours should be conducted through videoconference or teleconference. In addition to their office hours, faculty members are expected to schedule individual appointments as needed. A schedule of office hours must be included in all course syllabi.
What changes should I expect in classrooms and campus buildings?
Signage will indicate how people should enter and exit classrooms and buildings, and in many areas markers on floors will encourage physical distancing.
Classroom seating arrangements will be designed to comply with physical distancing requirements, so faculty and students should not rearrange classroom furniture. Some seats in classrooms will not be available for student use in order to preserve distancing; these seats will be clearly marked as not to be used. Some classroom spaces will be fitted with physical barriers separating students from each other and instructors from students.
Classrooms being used for hybrid courses will have camera equipment to capture and record in-person class sessions.
Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipe stations will be placed in every building with instructional spaces. When instructors and students enter the classroom, they should wipe down surfaces (desks, podiums, etc.) they will be using.
Hands-free modifications will be made to bathroom doors.
How will health and safety practices be enforced?
Social distancing and face coverings are required. We are also requiring education and training tools for students, faculty and staff before you return to campus. Individuals who fail to complete these measures will be asked to repeat the training. Continued non-compliance will result in further review through the Office of Student Conduct or Human Resources and could result in dismissal. Human Resources and the Division of Student Life are developing protocols to address compliance issues. We will continue with messaging on the importance of and requirement to wear face coverings and other PPE. In keeping with Crimson Tide tradition, we are confident the University community will join together to help each other.
Can I dismiss an entire class or a student if someone does not comply with health and safety guidelines in the classroom or if I feel the classroom environment has been compromised?
If a student cannot or will not adhere to health and safety guidelines, they should be asked to leave that class session. Established safety protocols should usually permit the class to continue. However, instructors should use their own discretion to determine whether it is necessary to suspend the remainder of that day’s class meeting. Face covering enforcement tips and safety strategies are provided.
What is the GuideSafe Event Passport and what are the requirements related to its use?
All UA System employees and students must enroll and begin participation in the GuideSafeTM Healthcheck seven (7) days before returning to campus. All UA System employees and
students already on campus must register upon completion of the required training. Participation in Healthcheck is encouraged, but not required, for employees working remotely.
After enrolling, all employees and students must log-in and complete a daily Healthcheck. Upon completion of each Healthcheck, participants will access a clearance screen and be able to download their Guide SafeTM Event Passport. The Passport function will be used to verify whether employees and students have clearance to access campus that day. Faculty are required to verify all students who are present for in-person instruction have a current Event Passport. Students who do not have a current Event Passport should be asked to leave the classroom and, if possible, participate remotely for the day.
Do I have the option to be flexible with the start/end times of in-person class sessions?
Yes. Faculty are invited to be flexible with start/end times of class sessions if doing so will help to reduce the volume of foot traffic in the building during passing periods. Individual faculty members, department chairs, and building representatives, are encouraged to consider coordinating their efforts in this. Faculty are also encouraged to be accommodating of students who may be late to class sessions due to delays caused by traffic flow restrictions.
What arrangements are being made for proctoring of exams?
Consult the website of the Center for Instructional Technology to review the tools available for remote exams. The Office of Disability Services will continue to provide test proctoring services to meet the needs of students who have registered with ODS and their instructors. ODS will have to follow the University’s physical distancing requirements, so there will be limited capacity to proctor in-person exams.
Where can instructors find guidelines and best practices that ensure effective provision of accommodations for deaf and hearing-impaired students in remote components of classes?
Faculty are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services for consultation on implementing approved disability accommodations, referring students who may need accommodations, and submitting videos for captioning.
What should I do with my class if I get sick with COVID-19 or must self-quarantine and am unable to continue teaching (either in-person or remotely)?
All instructors teaching in Fall 2020 should develop a course continuity plan, in consultation with their department chair, to be activated in the event the instructor is unable to teach due to illness. Course continuity plans might include pre-recorded lectures, Box directories containing notes and course materials for prospective substitute instructors, etc. Instructors who become ill should contact their department chairs immediately to discuss course continuity.
May I move my in-person or hybrid class online if at any point in the semester I deem the classroom situation unsafe?
The University is following all CDC recommendations for higher education (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/colleges-universities/considerations.html) to minimize risk. The University expects faculty to maintain the delivery mode of an individual course as it was advertised in the course schedule when students registered for the course, unless a change is mandated by the University.
Any suggestions for the first day of in-class instruction?
Please ask students on the first day of in-class instruction to verbally confirm that they have completed the Test + Train + Check requirements for returning to campus. All students should have been tested for COVID-19, completed the required online training, and be completing the Guide Safe Healthcheck daily. The University is carefully documenting student compliance with these requirements, but reemphasizing their importance on your first day will help to encourage ongoing student cooperation.
Will faculty be allowed to travel for research purposes in Fall 2020?
The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees has prohibited any and all university-related non-essential travel for all students, staff, and faculty until further notice. Additional information can be found here: https://hr.ua.edu/coronavirus-covid-19-faqs/employee-travel-faqs
For additional research-related issues, please see https://healthinfo.ua.edu/research-information/
Will COVID-19-related disruptions to faculty research productivity, teaching effectiveness, and service contributions be acknowledged in annual evaluations and in recommendations for retention, renewal, promotion, and/or tenure?
Faculty should clearly and specifically identify the impacts of the pandemic on their professional accomplishments and progress in letters of application for retention, renewal, promotion, and/or tenure, and in their annual spring performance evaluations. Department chairs, deans, and committees who submit recommendations regarding these types of decisions should explicitly acknowledge in their recommendations the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on faculty research productivity, teaching effectiveness, and service contributions.
How will teaching be evaluated in Fall 2020 given the COVID-19-related teaching modality disruptions?
Faculty are encouraged to document their efforts to maintain teaching effectiveness during this extraordinary time, and the challenges, setbacks, and successes they experience in the classroom. Deans and chairs should clearly state in annual performance reviews and in retention, renewal, promotion, and/or tenure recommendations the extent to which the impacts of COVID-19 and alternative means of instruction have been taken into account when assessing Student Opinion of Instruction survey results and other documentation of teaching effectiveness.