Week Two of Remote Instruction: Roundup

Dr. Gene Bourgeois, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs | April 10, 2020

Email sent to staff and faculty 

As we end our second week of remote instruction, this message provides responses to feedback and questions received by my office on matters related to Texas State’s COVID-19 response. This week’s roundup begins with four decisions that were made after consulting the Faculty Senate and academic leadership.

EP Grades
The university has implemented a one-time process for spring 2020 that allows students to request that a final passing grade be changed to Emergency Pass, or EP, upon approval of the instructor of record. Students are responsible for submitting written modification requests to faculty by Monday, May 25, at 5:00 p.m. and for assessing the impact of EP grades on their GPAs, program requirements, financial aid eligibility, and other academic factors. Decisions by faculty members are due by Friday, May 29, 2020. Faculty will use the Change of Grade Web Application for making grade changes to EP: https://tim.txstate.edu/changeofgrade/. Faculty are encouraged to check with their chair or director for any questions regarding EP grades. Information resources include the provost’s March 31, 2020 email and FAQ for students.

Professional Development Requirements for Teaching Online
The Office of Distance and Extended Learning (ODEL), along with staff in Information Technology (ITAC) and Faculty Development, will support faculty re-designing courses for distance learning for the summer I term. AA/PPS No. 02.03.20 – Maintenance and Improvement of Quality in Teaching requires anyone who will teach an online (INT) or hybrid (HYB) course to participate in an approved professional development program. By mid-April, anyone scheduled to teach a course in summer I or scheduled to teach an INT or HYB course in any summer term and who has not previously been approved for online teaching will receive a message from ODEL about how to access the program.

Faculty only engaged in dissertation, thesis, independent study, and individualized instruction in summer I will not be required to participate in professional development for online instruction. For all other courses coded as INT or HYB, professional development will be necessary for faculty who have not previously completed the program. Questions may be directed to the Office of Distance and Extended Learning at (512) 245-2322 or via email at distanceed@txstate.edu. 

Student Evaluations of Teaching
We’ve received questions about the effect of remote instruction and other changes on student evaluations of teaching for spring 2020 courses. Faculty will have the discretion to include or exclude spring 2020 results in their annual evaluation documents and tenure and promotion files, without prejudice. Faculty, chairs, directors, personnel committees, and other evaluators are encouraged to review spring 2020 student evaluation of teaching results for the purposes of professional growth. This is an opportune time to reinforce a long-term and holistic assessment of teaching effectiveness via peer observations, student learning outcomes, artifacts of learning, philosophy of teaching statements, syllabi review, and other means.

Tenure Clock for Tenure-Track Faculty
The COVID-19 pandemic has created circumstances that may impact productivity of tenure-track faculty who have a mandatory and limited probationary period before the tenure and promotion decision. These circumstances may warrant a request to toll the tenure clock. See section 03.01.g of AA/PPS, 04.02.20, Tenure and Promotion Review for more information. The policy is being updated to reflect these circumstances, as well.

Tenure-track faculty are advised to consult with their chair, director, and others before making a request to toll the tenure clock. Faculty members whose mandatory tenure and promotion review is scheduled for the next academic year (FY21) may make a request no later than May 31, 2020. Faculty members whose mandatory tenure review occurs in FY22 or later have until May 31, 2021 to make a request. The request memo originates with the faculty member and requires approval by the chair/director, dean, provost, and vice chancellor for academic and health affairs at the Texas State University System. Contact Tammy Sharp, director, faculty and academic resources, for more information: tsharp@txstate.edu or 512.245.2475.

Academic Integrity
In response to strong faculty interest, Texas State held a workshop on academic integrity in remote instruction earlier this week. See “Their Cheating Hearts: Tips for Maintaining Academic Integrity While Teaching Remotely,” including an extensive Q&A session, here: https://mediaflo.txstate.edu/hapi/v1/contents/permalinks/Dm43NrZi/view. Closed captioning is enabled for the video.

Community of Practice
Over the past few weeks, faculty have sought ways to stay connected, move projects forward, and strengthen professional relationships. Make plans to join “Let’s Do Lunch,” an opportunity for faculty to exchange ideas about ways to navigate this new world of remote teaching and learning and “Write Watchers” to carve out time and space for thinking, reading, writing, and other completing deep work.

Employee Assistance Program – Bobcat Balance
The university offers a comprehensive set of employee assistance services through the Bobcat Balance program. All faculty, staff and graduate student employees in benefits-eligible positions, along with members of their households, are eligible to use the program. The program includes resources and services related to personal finances, child care, elder care, legal matters, health and wellness, and other areas. Please explore this valuable employee benefit.

Supporting Students During Uncertain Times
Many students feel especially vulnerable at this time. Beyond changes to instruction, some students have moved back home, lost jobs, or are caring for young children and family members. The College Transition Collaborative provides advice on communicating with students with clarity and compassion. Texas State’s Counseling Center has a COVID-19 resource page, including a webinar on April 17, 2020 to support student resilience and success.

Next Friday, I will provide updates on questions and decisions that emerge during our third week of remote instruction. Keep up the outstanding work! I hope you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy.