University of Miami
Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost logo
July 15, 2020
Dear Colleagues,

Last week we shared two important announcements in preparation for the start of the Fall 2020 semester. First, students were provided with a virtual/remote instruction option. Second, the University announced its opposition to a new immigration policy that adversely impacts our international students engaged in remote instruction. We joined 170 institutions of higher learning in signing the amicus brief in support of the Harvard and MIT lawsuit against the new immigration policy, which was just yesterday rescinded—a victory for our international students. This week I would like to provide you with information to assist in your planning to teach in the fall semester.

Teaching in the Fall 2020 Semester

Providing in-person instruction in a manner that conforms to CDC physical distancing guidelines is crucial to all of our students and faculty. The Course Grid and Reduce Campus Density Committee has worked to reduce the density of students within every teaching space. The committee has focused on two critical areas—room inventory and course grid offerings—to offer the greatest opportunity for the face-to-face (F2F) and hybrid instruction our students and their families expect.

Room inventory: The committee surveyed all academic spaces and other spaces not traditionally used for instruction on the Coral Gables and Marine Campuses to ensure CDC guidelines could be met in each. Spaces were converted to instructional spaces (Watsco Center; Shalala Activity Center ballroom; Fieldhouse; Hurricane 100 room; Newman Alumni multipurpose room; Lakeside Village Expo Hall, Auditorium, Pavilion, and multipurpose room; Kislak Center; Toppel Career Center loft; Founder’s Hall; Casa Bacardi), and three large air-conditioned tents will be installed on the Coral Gables Campus as additional classroom space.

Course grid assessment: To ensure remote instruction courses are distributed across both course levels (4xx, 3xx, 2xx, 1xx) and schools and disciplines, the committee collaborated with deans to identify courses that could be transitioned to remote learning, hybrid, and face-to-face modalities. As new spaces were identified, courses were converted from remote to F2F or hybrid modalities. At this time, the committee has assigned rooms to 98 percent of all courses where schools requested a larger space. The Office of Faculty Affairs is currently reviewing faculty accommodations and course assignment modification requests in consultation with deans, chairs, and faculty to identify the best course delivery options by July 20.

Adjusting classroom spaces: University Facilities has been adjusting classroom spaces to ensure physical distancing. This will be completed by July 31. Facilities will remove excess furniture, label fixed furniture, and affix floor labels to maintain appropriate furniture layout. In some classrooms, student safety shields will be installed. Starting on July 20, you will be able to schedule a walk-through to become familiar with your classroom and technology in the classroom. Details on how to make an appointment will be provided by the Office of Classroom Management.

New technologies: We have purchased more than 1,600 lapel microphones, 530 web conference cameras (webcams), and 245 conference microphones. Currently audio-visual staff are installing webcams in teaching spaces. Each faculty member will be provided with their own personal lapel microphone, along with face shields as noted in my prior communications.

Teaching continuity plans: Faculty should, in consultation with their dean or chair, develop a plan to address the teaching continuity of their course should they become ill. Plans may include, but are not limited to, a backup instructor (e.g., faculty member colleague, teaching assistant, post-doc), pre-recording class sessions, and/or developing backup class projects that meet course objectives.

Preparing to teach hybrid and remote courses: The Office of Academic Technologies has created a guide for faculty, “Preparing to Teach a Hybrid Course.” This guide provides recommendations for creating and delivering a hybrid course in accordance with physical distancing requirements. Sample topics covered in the guide include how to divide students into groups, engaging students in hybrid formats, sharing handwritten content with Zoom participants, and exams. The guide also provides suggestions on how to structure the beginning, middle, and end of each class session.

Other resources:
  • The Division of Continuing and International Education (DCIE) and the Office of Academic Technologies are working on two additional guides: one for faculty who are teaching fully remote courses; the other addresses the flipped learning method. Both guides will be available by July 20 and made available to faculty by DCIE and Academic Technologies.
  • Online Course Development Workshops are available to all faculty. They are 10, one-hour Zoom sessions that provide essential information about teaching online, remote, and hybrid courses. Topics include using tools in Blackboard, engaging remote students, using polls and breakout rooms in videoconferencing, accommodating students with disabilities, and using narrative techniques such as case studies and student-generated media. To see the schedule and register for a workshop go to
  • Online Course Delivery Checklist covers the Three Ps of Preparation—plan, prepare, and present—as well as nine crucial etiquette guidelines to follow for a successful remote and/or online session.
Intellectual property: Pursuant to the University’s Policy on Inventions, Intellectual Property, and Technology Transfer, “courseware” includes: course syllabi, assignments, assessments, and/or other materials that are first created and made available to students as part of the educational curriculum at the University. Courseware is owned by the faculty member, unless otherwise agreed to beforehand in a written contract between the University and the faculty member. This policy and position has not changed due to recent circumstances and this policy and definitions apply in the same manner to courses delivered in virtual environments, whether in a synchronous or asynchronous format. Due to the unique nature of the asynchronous format, however, materials developed for such instruction will not be used for faculty reviews. Review of the materials hosted on Blackboard, or any other classroom management software, will be governed by the University’s Policy on the Use of Computing Facilities, which requires notice to the affected individual in the unlikely event of a review.

We recommend that you note in your syllabi that you are the copyright owner of the courseware; that individual recordings of the materials on Blackboard and/or of the virtual sessions are not allowed; and that such materials cannot be shared outside the physical or virtual classroom environment.

Course syllabi: The following instructions should also be included in your course syllabi and reviewed with students:
  • There is an expectation/requirement that students will have their camera on if they are attending a session remotely. That is, your expectation/requirement is for online students to engage visually with you by enabling their video. It was noted by many faculty in the spring semester that their ability to engage with the material and work at their best as instructors was negatively impacted by students who failed to engage in the “classroom.” You may require students’ video participation by noting this in your syllabus.
  • All students in the classroom, laboratory, studio, or anywhere on campus are required to wear face coverings. Again, while this is mandated across the campus and in any situation in which physical distancing cannot be continuously guaranteed, we recommend including your requirement for face coverings in your syllabus as well.
  • All classes will be offered in both synchronous/asynchronous modalities, initially to ensure that students who become ill do not have an incentive to come to class. This is now the most basic version of our online commitment to students.
You should consider assigning one student each day to be the emissary/advocate for the online students and be responsible for relaying questions or providing awareness of their questions to you.

Assigned student seating: We recommend that you use assigned seating for the semester. The seat students take on the first day of class can be their assigned seat for the remainder of the semester to enable the most effective COVID-19 contact tracing should it be required.

I hope that this information is helpful to you. More than ever, you play a central role in our students’ experience and well-being, and I am deeply grateful for your efforts.
Jeffrey L. Duerk signature
Jeffrey L. Duerk, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
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