I am writing to encourage college deans, academic department heads, and members of the faculty to review information available to help both students and faculty members plan for and alleviate the possible impacts of a flu outbreak on campus.
The success of students is paramount and we as a university need to do everything we can to facilitate the teaching and learning process so that instruction can continue and students can complete their semester successfully.
Toward that end, there are several sources of information that can help your department in planning for academic continuity in the event of an outbreak. Virginia Tech’s main flu information page has information on preventing and responding to the flu as well as links to other websites that can provide valuable information. In particular, I encourage you to review the Academic Continuity Primer: Alternative Instructional Delivery Strategies available at www.iddl.vt.edu/acplan.
To increase preparedness, please consider the following actions:
- Academic departments and their faculty members should develop flexible guidelines for addressing student absenteeism in the event of a flu outbreak. The plan should be equitable, and the method of response capable of responding to large numbers of requests for some type of accommodation. Please note that in the event of a major outbreak, asking students to obtain notes verifying illness from the Schiffert Health Center may not be feasible.
- Faculty members should talk to their students about what to do in the event they become ill during the semester. In general, students should be referred to the university website for more information on flu symptoms and treatment and they should call the Schiffert Health Center for advice on treatment. If the student has flu like symptoms, they should be advised not to attend class and should be provided additional guidance under the department’s absenteeism plan on completing assignments.
- Faculty members should ensure that all students have electronic access to course syllabi and assignments. If possible this information should be available in the university supported Blackboard or Scholar course management system (Contact: https://learn.vt.edu/ for information on creating a course site).
- Faculty members should ensure that they have access to students’ email addresses so they can stay in contact with students in the event classroom attendance is medically discouraged. Creating a course listserv is encouraged.
- Departments and faculty should consider alternative ways to deliver content, information and assignments through email or online in Blackboard or Scholar. The Academic Continuity Primer: Alternative Instructional Delivery Strategies available at www.iddl.vt.edu/acplan provides additional information on specific instructional strategies that you can employ and directions on how to use them in the event of disruption to the academic term.
In the event of a significant flu outbreak on campus, faculty members should:
- Implement their student absenteeism plan and respond to the needs of students in a way that will help them complete their required coursework.
- Use the electronic communication tools with which they are comfortable to provide students with the best alternative teaching and learning experience possible under the current conditions.
In the event the faculty member teaching the class becomes ill and is unable to teach for a short time, the department should work with other faculty colleagues to provide class coverage.
I trust this information will be helpful to you and your faculty members. Our experiences as a university have shown us that our dedicated faculty members and students are resilient and ready to respond to emergencies of all types with reason and compassion and I am certain you will be able to prepare for and respond creatively to whatever challenges the current academic year may hold.
Mark G. McNamee
Senior Vice President and Provost