Fall Opening 2021 - Academics

The Purpose of these Guidelines and Recommendations

The Academic Planning Committee sought to prioritize the health and safety of our community and the academic success and progression of our students in making these plans. In addition, this report includes recommendations designed to support faculty in implementing the best teaching practices for various risk levels and scenarios.

General Considerations
  • On-campus Zoom rooms will be identified for students who need space to take online synchronous classes. Campus locations are listed below.
  • Students may borrow laptops and hotspots for the semester from IT User Services.  
  • The Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL) will provide faculty with template language for their syllabi.
  • Faculty will be provided with information about the technological supports available, including lecture capture technologies.
  • The Provost’s Office will provide reminders about Withdrawal and Incomplete policies and options to help guide their students.
  • Faculty will be highly encouraged to put the core components of their courses in the LMS (Blackboard or Google Classroom), such as their syllabi, course readings and assignments. The FCTL will provide guidance for faculty.
On Campus Zoom Rooms

These spaces are first-come, first-served. We ask you to bring your own laptop or digital device, as well as headphones. Please be respectful of other students who may be attending class and keep noise to a minimum. Finally, no eating or drinking, and you must adhere to the in-door mask mandate.

Common Spaces and Lounges

Alger Hall Student Lounge (Second Floor)
Fishbowl Conference Room (Second Floor)
Craig-Lee Hall Both floors (1st and 2nd) have two student lounges/common areas.
Fogarty Life Science Lobby (Fogarty Life Science)/Nursing Student Lounge (School of Nursing)
Forman Center Lobby
Gaige Hall Lobby
Seating outside of both Gaige 200 entrances. 
Guardo Hall (School of Social Work) Atrium Lobby
Roberts Hall Lobby Common
Student Union Sitting areas on both 1st and 2nd floor
Whipple Hall Common Area (1st Floor)

Dining Spaces
These spaces can be used even when not eating, providing you are adhering to the mask mandate.

  • Donovan Dining (both floors)
  • The Beestro (Student Union lower level)

There is also outside seating throughout the Quad that receives WiFi service. Once all course locations are finalized, we will be posting information on classrooms for when they are available for Zoom Room usage.

Course Modalities with Increasing Risk Levels
  • At the Low (Blue) transmission level, faculty teaching in-person or hybrid will be highly encouraged to remain in-person or hybrid. Faculty teaching fully online classes should not plan to move to in-person classes as some students are taking online classes as an alternative to being vaccinated.
  • The Delta variant poses a threat to the unvaccinated and persons at high risk (as may future variants). In addition, vaccinated individuals can be “carriers” of the Delta variant and possibly spread the disease while being asymptomatic. Therefore, in Moderate (Yellow)/Substantial (Orange)/High (Red) transmission levels, if a professor had originally indicated that their class would be in-person, but they, or someone in their household is “high risk” (or they document that they are needed to care for a high-risk family member), they may change their course modality to a hybrid or remote option. (HR will provide details to all faculty and staff.)
  •  Additionally, faculty with classrooms which do not accommodate distancing requirements will need to adjust either classroom location or modality.
  • High-risk instructors may consider shifting to a hybrid version of their courses. If lecture based, faculty should ensure that prerecorded lectures are posted online and/or record their lectures live. Hybrid modality options might include A: meeting on campus only one day for two-day courses; B: moving small group work online; and C: meeting half the class on one day (e.g., Tuesday) and the other half on the second day (Thursday) for two-day classes. They may also elect to teach remotely.
  • At any transmission level, a course that is listed as online asynchronous may not at any time be changed to online synchronous or on-campus.
  • Faculty are highly encouraged to include template language in their syllabi explaining how their courses will be taught.
Course Modalities with Decreasing Risk Levels
  • Faculty teaching hybrid courses are encouraged to return to in-person instruction and to notify their students, department chair, dean and provost of such changes.
  • Faculty teaching fully online courses should not move to hybrid or in-person classes without first verifying with Health Services as to whether unvaccinated students are enrolled in their course).
  • Logistics for safely implementing in-person instruction will follow guidance provided by RIDOH and health experts and may be updated when new information is made available.
Teaching Supports
  • RIC has been incorporating an increasing number of online learning opportunities into its curriculum for some time. The Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL) will continue to provide resources to support faculty.
  • Improved Help Desk support will be available more often and be more responsive to faculty and student needs. Some computer labs will be available for students. FCTL will identify peer mentors to help their colleagues implement online learning resources.
  • The FCTL will provide resources and opportunities for high-risk faculty to proactively develop contingency plans for their courses so that they will be more resilient to changing circumstances.
  • The engaged learning activities that RIC fosters are just as important as content delivery in the online environment. Remote teaching should promote the experiential component that is so critical to student learning. To that end, faculty may choose to utilize online courseware from textbook companies. Extra support may be needed for adjunct professors hired only a few days before the semester started and with little experience with remote teaching. Also, emergency funding may be available to provide special online support materials for courses that normally require on-campus learning (for example, but not limited to, lab sciences and studio and performing arts).
Student Absences

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis may affect student attendance at all transmission levels. To support students who are absent due to isolation, quarantine or other COVID-19-related or personal reason proactive utilization of a RIC-supported LMS (Blackboard or Google Classroom) ensures students who miss classes can remain engaged and access critical information. Faculty and staff should also use the COVID-19 Student Report Form.

  • Faculty are strongly encouraged to make key course materials available to students on Blackboard or Google Classroom. These materials should minimally include the syllabus, course schedule, handouts and other content such as readings or videos.
  • Course syllabi should include clear, flexible attendance and make-up policies. Whenever possible, students should not be penalized for absences. (We do not want sick students to come to campus.) Faculty are encouraged to offer several low-stakes grading opportunities, rather than only a few high-stakes assessments. To mitigate negative impacts from student absences, faculty are encouraged to offer make-up coursework and/or drop missed or low-scoring assignments.
  • Faculty are asked to contact students who are repeatedly absent and/or those who do not communicate about their absence(s). They should remind students that resources are available if they are facing stressors and list those resources on the syllabus and/or on Blackboard or Google Classroom. If a student is chronically absent or unresponsive, faculty should submit a HOPE Form and/or contact the dean of students for guidance and possible follow-up. Do not ask students to supply documentation verifying the reason(s) for their absence(s).
  • In some instances, taking a Withdrawal or Incomplete may be in a student’s best interest. Faculty should include RIC’s Withdrawal and Incomplete policies in their course syllabi (or online link to those). Faculty should advise students who are contemplating a course Withdrawal to review how the W may impact their academic standing, academic progress, financial aid and on-campus housing. Since the RIC W and I policy has changed recently, the Provost's Office will send a reminder email to all faculty just prior to the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester to remind them of the current policy, preferably including a concise statement of that policy, which can be included in the course syllabus.
Academic Calendar

High-risk faculty should include contingency plans for changes to the academic calendar and teaching modalities in their course syllabus. With the delay of classes, adjustments have been made to the fall calendar.

Professional Studies and Continuing Education (PSCE) Fall Programming
  • Most all PSCE programming is non-standard and does not follow the traditional academic calendar and is delivered according to the needs of the employer, community partner or audience. The modified RIC opening did not impact any PSCE programming, except for Intensive ESL evening programming. PSCE offers five sections to accommodate the varying proficiency levels of language ability (three sections in-person and two hybrid). The modality of the courses this semester was designed to accommodate the needs of adult learners.
  • All credit-bearing continuing education courses are offered in collaboration with the corresponding academic unit. All continuing education classes and certificate programs are starting at the originally intended start date and the modified opening has not impacted these start dates or modality. If modality changes are requested, they will follow the same procedure as all other academic programs and go through the same approval process. To date, PSCE has not been notified of any such requests.
  • All adult education and workforce development programs offered at the Workforce Development Hub are starting on-time and in the originally intended modality. All training programs will be in-person and adult education ESL classes will be offered in-person, hybrid and fully online to meet the needs of adult learners. PSCE’s current in-person schedule at the Hub is 8:00 am-4:00 pm. PSCE will be ready to increase these hours if necessary to accommodate programming and events.