COVID-19

Fall 2020 Courses At Texas A&M University

Information from the Office of the Provost about class scheduling and instruction.
By Texas A&M University Office of the Provost June 29, 2020

Dear students,

I want to share the most current information available on how Texas A&M University plans to implement classes this fall. As you know by now, it is incredibly difficult to predict just how the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease will impact us locally. Our teams are working diligently to adjust and prepare for the return of our campus community this fall. We are prepared to be fluid in our planning and are building in contingency plans as needed.

Updates:

  • The tentative course schedule for fall 2020 with new course start times and new locations is expected to be available in Howdy on Monday, July 6.
  • Colleges will have two weeks to make changes to this schedule, so check Howdy regularly for updates.
  • The schedule will be finalized in Howdy on Friday, July 24.
  • Open registration begins Monday, July 27 to add or drop courses in your schedule if you wish to do so as in previous years. Please contact your academic advisor with questions.
  • Last week, you were e-mailed about the university’s new Bring Your Own Device policy.
  • Details about how courses will be taught, exams, schedules, and other details are provided here.

Please note that some graduate and professional school programs follow a different academic calendar and course schedule. Affected students will receive separate communications from their respective college or school regarding fall classes.

Much will change this fall, but what will not change is our firm commitment to you that Texas A&M, as a public land grant institution, will fulfill our commitment to provide the best possible education, research and service to our state. With everyone’s help, we will do this as safely as possible considering the current pandemic situation that has encompassed our state, country, and the globe.

Thank you for your continued patience as we continue to plan for the fall semester. I anticipate updating you with additional information the week of July 13.

Sincerely,
Carol A. Fierke
Provost and Executive Vice President

Below you will find information about academic operations for fall 2020, including the university calendar, scheduling changes and the instruction of courses and labs.

Please note that some graduate and professional school programs follow a different academic calendar and course schedule, and affected students will receive separate communications from their respective college or school regarding fall classes.

Section 1: University Calendar

  • Courses for most programs begin on Wednesday, Aug. 19.
  • The last day of instruction is Tuesday, Nov. 24. No additional face-to-face meetings will be held. All assignments and projects that require face-to-face interaction must be completed at this time. The only remaining graded activities that are permissible are those which may be accomplished remotely and final exams.
  • Reading days are Wednesday, Nov. 25 and Monday, Nov. 30. No classes, exams, or other university-related graded activity may be scheduled for these days. Instructors may hold virtual office hours and review sessions.
  • Final exams for most programs are scheduled from Tuesday, Dec. 1 through Wednesday, Dec. 9, and all final exams will be administered online. Additional information about exams is provided in each section below.
  • Additional details are provided on the official university calendar website.

Section 2: Scheduling Changes

  • The standard course schedule is being adjusted to accommodate 30-minute passing periods throughout the day and one 45-minute mid-day passing period to allow for additional cleaning of classrooms. This means the day will extend later into the evening, up to 8:35 p.m. on some days. Preliminary time periods are located here.
  • Courses previously scheduled using a non-standard time are being rescheduled into a standard time pattern to maximize the use of classrooms and allow for the elongated passing periods.
  • Room assignments are being made to accommodate optimal use of available classrooms based on physical distancing seat capacity.
  • Classrooms available for courses include non-traditional spaces, such as the Memorial Student Center, portions of the Rudder complex, Annenberg Conference Center, the Equine Center, and some athletic venues. All of these spaces will have the same minimum technology standards referenced below.

Section 3: Modes of Course Delivery

At this time, Texas A&M University is planning to offer courses in three ways:

  • Face to face, which are also synchronously streamed remotely via Zoom from the classroom
  • Remote only (not face to face; instruction generally delivered synchronously during scheduled class time via ZOOM although asynchronous activities may be used)
  • Online (not face to face; prepared specifically using principles for online learning; instruction may be delivered either synchronously during scheduled class time or asynchronously)

3.1 Face-to-Face Courses

3.1.1 Instruction

  • A face-to-face class is generally defined as a class that allows students to attend in person in a classroom with a faculty member a minimum of one time a week.
  • Only classrooms designated in the final course schedule may be used. For safety reasons, the location shall not be changed.
  • In some classrooms, instructors will be asked to rotate students for face-to-face instruction in cohorts so that all students have the opportunity for a face-to-face class with an instructor at least once during the week while attending remotely the rest of the week. For example, an instructor teaching a Tuesday/Thursday class would assign half the class to come on Tuesday and the other half to come on Thursday. Or, a class scheduled for Monday/Wednesday/Friday class would have one third of the students attend each day of the week. All students would attend remotely on those days that they are not assigned to be in class. The decision on how to rotate students will be determined by the instructor. Colleges and departments will notify those instructors who are being asked to use cohorts to ensure students receive one face-to-face class meeting each week.
  • All face-to-face classes will also be delivered in a synchronous, remote delivery. Instructors should provide a mechanism for students joining the class remotely to ask questions, such as using the chat function in Zoom.
  • With the exception of some professional programs, students may opt out of face-to-face instruction voluntarily. A student cannot be required to be in the classroom. Students are still expected to complete assignments by deadlines unless otherwise excused by the instructor. Some students may opt out at the start of the semester for the entire semester. Others may need to opt out if they have been exposed to COVID-19 and need to self-isolate.  Still others may become ill and need to quarantine until cleared by a medical professional. Therefore, attendance in a face-to-face classroom is likely to fluctuate considerably over the semester. However, given the concerns over illness, flexibility is the most practical approach. For those faculty who plan to use an attendance policy, be prepared to allow attendance either in person or remotely. An instructional video on how to take attendance in Zoom is available here.
  • If team projects are assigned, they must be facilitated in a way that allows for participation by students electronically for those off campus as well as safe physical distancing for those students choosing to meet face to face.
  • Instructors may require that students turn on cameras during class and this should be stated clearly in the syllabus. The university’s new Bring Your Own Device policy requires that students have access to a webcam.
  • Local health care facilities are presently focused on testing and treatment.  To prevent overload at local health care facilities, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee has approved the use of this form in lieu of a medical confirmation note as required in Student Rule 7. This form must be submitted within two calendar days of returning to class. An electronic version of this form will be available for fall 2020, and once completed by a student, a notification will automatically route to the student’s instructors and the student’s dean. Additional details will be provided closer to the start of classes. Timelines, requirements for make-up work, and other types of absences described in Student Rule 7 are still applicable.
  • Instructors should end the class on time in order to facilitate the exit of students from the marked doors in a timely manner while maintaining physical distancing. Students should exit the building without delay and not congregate in hallways. Students should wait outside the building before the start of class and not congregate in the hallways.
  • Instructors should schedule an adequate amount of online office hours so that students attending remotely can get assistance. This semester will present unforeseen challenges, so we encourage instructors to consider offering extra time for students to ask questions.  Although office hours may also be offered face-to-face at the discretion of the faculty member provided that face coverings, physical distancing, and other safety protocols are in place. Directions for scheduling office hours through Zoom are available here.

 3.1.2 Enhanced Classroom Safety Measures

  • Classrooms are equipped with a movable plexiglass shield that can be positioned in front of the instructor at the podium or place of instruction. Faculty should maintain a six-foot physical distance from the students in the class to maximize safety.
  • Classroom occupancy capacity to maintain physical distancing is established by the university and will be clearly marked for each classroom. Occupancy for classrooms is set at approximately 33% of normal capacity unless the room configuration allows for a higher percentage. Seats will be clearly identified so that students maintain a safe physical distance.  In some classrooms, seats may be marked to minimize use by multiple students between cleanings.
  • The new face covering policy (SAP) is in effect for all on campus. Those without a face covering shall not enter the classroom unless they have a note indicating an approved exemption and communicate this information to the faculty member. Individuals with an TAMU-issued exemption should wear a face shield if consistent with ADA accommodations. Faculty may request a student without a face covering or exemption to put on a face covering or vacate the classroom and join the class virtually. If the student refuses to leave, the faculty member should notify the Student Conduct Office,which will treat noncompliance as a conduct violation.
  • Instructors may use a face shield in place of a face covering while lecturing, although face coverings are safer. More information is provided in the face covering FAQ. If the instructor can maintain at least six feet physical distance from the nearest member of the class and the a plexiglass barrier is in place between the instructor and students, then a face shield may be used while lecture. Instructors should still wear a face covering when entering and exiting the classroom since face coverings provide more protection than a face shield.
  • In most locations, the university is able to increase the amount of fresh air that will circulate through the ventilation systems in classrooms.
  • In most locations, classrooms will be cleaned twice a day – once at midday (45-minute passing time) and again either at the end of the day or the beginning of the next day before students and faculty arrive back into the room.
  • Students and instructors exhibiting any symptoms of infection or who do not feel well should not attend class in person, only remotely or come to campus.
  • Students shall not be required to attend any face-to-face lecture class. In general, students should not be required to be on campus with the exception of professional programs that must meet strict accreditation and licensure requirements.

3.1.3 Technology

  • Cameras and microphones have been installed in all university-managed classrooms. The camera will be preset to capture a broad area near front of the room, however, instructions for zooming and panning the camera will be provided in the near future for instructors desiring to change the settings.
  • Recording synchronous lectures through Zoom is encouraged so that students have an opportunity to revisit the class session. However, please observe the following: (1) at the beginning of each class period, please remind students that the session is being cloud recorded, and (2) the cloud recorded lecture may only be accessible to students enrolled in the course in the current semester through NetID and password. It is recommended that course instructors use the Zoom integration through the LMS (available in both eCampus and Canvas) to ensure access is limited to students enrolled in the course in the current semester.  Because of FERPA, be aware that recordings should not be used in future semesters.
  • All courses will be pre-loaded in both eCampus and Canvas. The course syllabus should clearly identify which LMS the students will use as both will be available for use during the next year. The instructor of record will be responsible for activating the course (in eCampus) or publishing the course (in Canvas), which will allow students to access content for their class.
  • The university has implemented a new Bring Your Own Device policy that requires that students have access to technology for online and remote delivery. This policy allows inclusion of the cost of this device as part of the financial aid calculation. Additionally, students can request emergency aid to help purchase the required technology.

3.1.4 Exams

  • During the regular semester, all non-professional school exams and other assessed projects or assignments must have a remote option. All non-professional school final exams and assessments will be administered online. Please see keepteaching.tamu.edu for additional details. Alternative methods of assessment are encouraged where possible.
  • If the instructor plans to administer a synchronous final exam, the assigned day/time slot for the course will be used to determine when the final exam may be conducted.
  • Per university policy, proctored exam fees may not be passed along to students.
  • Additional details about exam proctoring are under development and will be forthcoming.
  • While connectivity with our LMS and with Zoom to the university was generally reliable in the spring, internet connections in many off-campus locations can be unreliable at one time or another. In many cases, there isn’t anything the student can do about these situations. Instructors should be as flexible as possible as students cannot guarantee reliable internet connections. We encourage faculty to set up a mechanism for a student to contact you in the event that difficulty with technology prevents the student from accessing or completing the exam. While this is less than desirable, it acknowledges a technological component that is beyond either the instructor’s or the student’s control. We are working to maximize study spaces and computer labs on campus while maintaining physical distancing. We are considering ways to enhance the use of outdoor spaces for studying and internet access, but these spaces may not be suitable for taking exams.

3.2 Remote Course Instruction

3.2.1 Instruction

  • Synchronous remote courses allow instructors and students to meet at the assigned day and time on the schedule. Asynchronous activities may also be utilized as well although fully asynchronous courses are strongly discouraged.
  • Instructors teaching more than one section of the same course should deliver each the same way so that students are not disadvantaged by type of instruction.
  • The course syllabus should be clear on the instructor’s expectations for synchronous and asynchronous activities.
  • Instructors should establish regular office hours for students to engage and ask questions.  See this resource for more details on how to do this through Zoom.
  • For non-professional school courses, if the instructor plans to administer a synchronous final exam, the assigned day/time slot for the course will be used to determine when the final exam may be conducted.

3.3 Online Course Instruction

3.3.1 Instruction

  • Courses identified by colleges and departments for online instruction should be delivered online, and faculty should be already working on course design.
  • Development of online courses should follow best practices and be prepared using standard online principles, including accessibility considerations.
  • Online classes being converted from planned face-to-face instruction will have an assigned day and time to meet in order to accommodate synchronous course activities. However, asynchronous activities may be utilized as well. If synchronous delivery is selected by the faculty, the assigned day and time must be used.
  • For non-professional school courses, if the instructor plans to administer a synchronous final exam, the assigned day/time slot for the course will be used to determine when the final exam may be conducted.
  • Faculty should establish regular office hours for students to engage and ask questions.  See this resource for more details on how to do this through Zoom.

Related Stories

Recent Stories