Using your course syllabi to set student expectations for Fall 2020
University of Miami
Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost logo
August 11, 2020
Dear Colleagues,

This week’s message is intended to provide you with information for the upcoming semester. First, the We Are One U: COVID-19 Safety Principles module was launched the last week of July and is available at; it is required to be completed (~25 minutes) by all faculty, staff and students. To date, only about 30% of faculty have completed it.

Second, below is important information for your courses and for your syllabi to help you set clear expectations for students during the Fall 2020 semester. For your convenience, we have included information on the following areas:
  • Teaching Modalities
  • Required Course Syllabi Updated Language
  • Safety Precautions
  • Faculty Resources
You can also find this information in the Faculty and Research page on the University’s dedicated COVID-19 site. Once again, thank you for your dedication to our students and to the U.
Jeffrey L. Duerk signature
Jeffrey L. Duerk, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

Teaching Modalities

While most classes will include in person instruction, to allow for proper physical distancing and to meet the specific needs of faculty members whose preexisting health conditions may limit their on-campus activities, some classes may be offered in remote or hybrid—a mix of online and in-person—formats.

However, all classes (to the extent possible) should also be offered in both synchronous/asynchronous modalities since we are requiring all non-residential and residential students to have a negative test prior to coming to campus, and we want to ensure that students who become ill during the semester do not have an incentive to come to class. This is now the most basic version of our online commitment to students.

Faculty 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 the instructor. In very large classrooms, we are currently exploring the option of undergraduate work-study student advocates to serve in this role (e.g., Watsco Arena, Shalala Ballroom, etc. We expect to have an answer on this by 8/14/2020 and will need a few days to find students for the various classrooms if feasible.

Required Course Syllabi Updated Language

Camera While Remote: There is an expectation/requirement that students will have their camera on if they are attending a session remotely. That is, the expectation/requirement is for students who are remote/online to engage visually with faculty by enabling their video and applies to students who are in a hybrid out-of-classroom day, are taking the course online, or are in quarantine and remote. Faculty may require students’ video participation by noting this in the course syllabus. “Students who are attending a class session synchronously are required to have their video enabled.”

Face Coverings : Face coverings are mandatory at all times while in public spaces on our campuses (whether indoors or outdoors). Failure to follow this requirement will result in disciplinary action for students, faculty, and staff. This is a matter of public health in which the entire community must act in concert to help one another. The CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings; for special circumstances they can be used by those with conditions that prevent other forms of face covering. Appropriate masks tightly cover the entire nose and mouth. Faculty should include explicit policies requiring face coverings and appropriate physical distancing while in the classroom, laboratory, or studio in their course syllabi. Reinforcing this requirement and the right of a faculty member to restrict a student from participating in person should be clearly stated in the syllabus. “Face coverings are mandatory at all times (with the exception of when drinking water) while in on-campus class sessions. Failure to follow this requirement is grounds for disciplinary action and may lead to removal from the classroom and/or the course.”

Recordings: Course syllabi should include language prohibiting class recordings. Below is sample language that also must appear in a syllabus. We are expecting that all courses will be captured for asynchronous access.

Students are expressly prohibited from recording any part of this course. Meetings of this course might be recorded by the University. Any recordings will be available to students registered for this class as they are intended to supplement the classroom experience. Students are expected to follow appropriate University policies and maintain the security of passwords used to access recorded lectures. Recordings may not be reproduced, shared with those not in the class, or uploaded to other online environments. If the instructor or a University of Miami office plans any other uses for the recordings, beyond this class, students identifiable in the recordings will be notified to request consent prior to such use.

Class Attendance Policy: Because students who register for hybrid or in-person instruction must be in class, the following class attendance policy language must be included in course syllabi and reviewed with students:

Unless you are approved to take this course under the Remote Learning Option, physical attendance in the classroom is required as scheduled. You are expected to participate with your video enabled during your non-classroom days. If at some point in the semester you cannot physically attend class sessions due to illness, injury, or other approved absence, you must contact the instructor for permission to temporarily attend the course online. Unexcused absences from the classroom may affect your grade or lead to failing the course. (Please also include your normal attendance/participation language, language on excused and unexcused absences, etc.)

Synchronous Course Language: Keep in mind that this semester, approximately 25% of our students will be online and about 1/3 of those are international students who are at their permanent residence. “If you are approved to take this course under the Remote Learning Option, attendance in the virtual class is required as scheduled unless this creates undue hardship due to differences in your residential time-zone and that of Miami Florida. If you are a Remote Learning Option student, you may not under any circumstances physically attend the class on campus. If you cannot attend the virtual class due to illness or other reason, you must contact the instructor. Unexcused absences from the classroom may affect your grade or lead to failing the course. The Attendance Policy for this course is noted…”

Asynchronous Course Language: If you are approved to take this course under the Remote Learning Option, you must keep up with the virtual class as scheduled. You may not under any circumstances physically attend the class on campus. If you cannot keep up with the virtual class due to illness or other reason, you must contact the instructor. Failure to keep up with the virtual class as scheduled may affect your grade or lead to failing the course.

Assigned student seating: Students should remain in their assigned seats for the semester to enable the most effective COVID-19 contact tracing, should it be required. All students will be assigned a seat unless your school/college elected to assign seats for students themselves. There will be a link in Blackboard to the assigned schedule. “Your BlackBoard or Canelink assigned seat is your seat for the semester.” -or- “The seat you select on the first day of class must be from among those identified as meeting the physical distance requirements for COVID-19; this seat will be your assigned seat for the remainder of the semester. This will enable the most effective COVID-19 contact tracing, should it be required.”

Daily symptom checker: Students, faculty, and staff who are on campus are required to use a daily symptom checker and respond appropriately to the guidance it provides. When using the daily symptom checker, a student must receive a green “Good to Go” message before attending class. If a student receives a Red “PLEASE STAY HOME” message after completing the daily symptom tracker then they are required to stay home and must notify their instructor. The daily symptom checker takes no more than two minutes to complete and will soon be available online (available for download from Google Play (Android) or the App Store (iPhone/iOS)). “Students are required to use the Daily Symptom Checker and be cleared to attend class each day. Students may be asked to show the green “Good to Go” notice. You may be required to produce your notice at any time while on campus. Students who fail to comply or to produce their “Good to Go” notice will be asked to leave the classroom.” You could also think about positive rewards for those who produce the app on multiple days, for example.

Intellectual property: Faculty work hard to create their courses, and this semester is certainly no exception. The University affirms its commitment that your coursework is yours by reiterating the longstanding university statements on this. Specifically, 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 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 faculty note in their syllabi that “Professor X is the copyright owner of the courseware; 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.”

Online Exams with Respondus LockDown Browser in Blackboard: It is important to clearly state on the syllabus how students will be assessed. If you plan to give online exams using the Respondus LockDown Browser available in Blackboard, students must install the Respondus Lockdown Browser software on their personal computer before taking the exam. The webcam feature (Respondus Monitor) will record the student during the online exam so each student’s personal computer must have a webcam, microphone and a broadband connection. Students can download and install the LockDown Browser with this link: Students can also review instructions in the Student Quick Start Guide:

Safety Precautions

Return to campus kit: A “Safe Return Kit,” which will include a cloth face covering, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, a thermometer, and information cards, will be available to faculty, staff, and students upon their return to campus. These kits are to get you started for the semester; thereafter, it is each individual’s responsibility to secure additional supplies for your individual use. Many schools and colleges are also beginning to secure these supplies for faculty during the semester. Face coverings with structures that can be shaped to conform with the bridge of the nose have worked best in our informal tests involving significant talking as might occur in a lecture course.

Cleaning and disinfecting: Individuals will have increased access to hand sanitizing stations across our campuses, along with face shields for faculty to supplement their face coverings, plexiglass barriers, other forms of personal protective equipment (PPE), and increased sanitization of facilities and common areas, including classrooms. We recommend that individuals clean their personal areas at the start and end of each workday, or sessions in which equipment is shared.

Within the classroom, studio, laboratory or other academic space, individual instructors or courses may have other identified expectations for cleaning and disinfection.

We will be reallocating existing and hiring additional staff to support disinfecting of spaces during both day and night shifts and includes cleaning touchpoint and common areas three times per day.

Disinfecting of all classrooms will be done nightly with EPA registered fogging systems.

Faculty are responsible for:
  • Cleaning and disinfecting podium area (wipe down podium, microphone, keyboard/mouse, etc.) immediately upon entering the class.
  • Staying within an identified area during the lecture that is at least 6 feet from students – and refrain from walking among students or back and forth in front of the class.

Teaching Resources for Faculty

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.

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.

Teaching guides: The Division of Continuing and International Education (DCIE) and the Office of Academic Technologies offer teaching guides for faculty: Online Course Development Workshops: 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: The 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.

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.
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