March 11 Message to Faculty/Staff: Updates on Remote Learning, Travel, and Reimbursements

To Our Faculty and Staff:

We recognize that Tuesday’s announcements represent major disruptions for all of you, and deeply appreciate the steps you have taken to help the university respond to this rapidly changing situation. 

Preparing for remote delivery of courses, canceling travel and events, and answering waves of questions from students, parents and colleagues all require significant additional effort; doing so in a time of great concern and uncertainty is even more challenging. 

You have responded with exceptional professionalism and dedication, and we are profoundly grateful.

Our university leaders are doing all they can to support the campus community in making these adjustments, and many of you already have or will receive additional guidance from deans and other supervisors.

That said, we also have seen several common questions; for the sake of efficiency, we will answer them below:

Remote Delivery of Education

Q: Other universities say they’re putting their classes online. What does “remote” mean?
A: In some instances (such as certain small seminars), faculty may prefer to have students participate on a conference call rather than use an online option (such as a videoconference). The Office of the Provost and [U]Tech are working closely with professors to provide assistance and answer specific questions; for additional resources and guidance, please visit UTech's webpage.

Q: What about courses (or parts of courses) that require hands-on participation (for example, labs, performances, etc.)?
A: The specific adjustments necessary will depend on the course, but among the recommendations offered have been:

  • For some lab courses, faculty can provide types of results students would have achieved through their experiments and have them conduct the analysis part of the assignment.
  • Performance-based assignments could be completed and observed via videoconference.
  • Faculty can consider other kinds of assignments that align with the course objectives.

Q: When will we know whether remote delivery will continue past April 6? How will the university make this decision?
A: Because of the rapidly changing nature of this situation, we cannot yet predict the timing of such decisions. We will provide updates on potential changes and are committed to keeping the community informed in as timely a way as possible.

Q: What about graduate students’ thesis or dissertation defenses, which are required to take place in person?
A: In these unusual circumstances, the School of Graduate Studies will adjust those rules to allow those activities to take place remotely. Deadlines to submit materials for degree certifications also will be revised to accommodate the timeline changes this situation creates.


Q: Per the university’s direction, I have canceled my work-related trip(s). How will I be reimbursed for the costs involved (registration, hotel, airline and other fees?
Those who paid personally for travel that had to be canceled per the university’s direction will be reimbursed per the university’s usual policies and protocols. Please see Item #7 on this online document for more information. 

Q. Just want to make sure I understand: The direction right now is that we take no sponsored international travel for everyone and no sponsored domestic travel for individuals who engage directly in delivery of health care. Other sponsored domestic travel is strongly discouraged (i.e. we can only go if it’s absolutely essential). Is that all correct?
A: As of now (Wednesday, March 11), it is correct, but keep in mind it can change at any moment. The university will update you promptly should this direction need to be revised.

Working on Campus: Information to Come

The university has received several questions from staff about working from home. The university is evaluating those options in light of federal laws and regulations governing some categories of staff employees—as well as distinctions among positions. Leaders are working as quickly as possible to provide more specific guidance, but also are taking great care to ensure that the information provided is accurate and does not carry the prospect of unintended negative consequences as this situation evolves.

Please know that the university’s highest concern continues to be the health and well-being of the campus community. We continue to encourage those who are ill to remain home, teams to hold meetings virtually (conference call or Zoom), and all employees to maintain some distance from coworkers (ideally about six feet) whenever possible.

Again, we appreciate your efforts amid these difficult times, and will provide additional updates as soon as we are able.

Barbara R. Snyder

Ben Vinson III
Provost and Executive Vice President