H1N1 (Swine) Flu Emergency Preparedness
A Message from the Provost:
To: RIT faculty
From: Jeremy Haefner, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Subject: Planning for Instructional Continuity
Date: 15 September 2009
Recently there has been much media attention to the H1N1 flu and its potential to cause high rates of absenteeism among faculty, staff and students in the coming months. While this particular situation, and its potential for interrupting instructional activities, is a cause for concern, other circumstances, such as severe weather, could have similar disruptive effects on student learning. Therefore, the Division of Academic Affairs will engage in general contingency conversations that are appropriate to many types of possible disruptions.
Our campus is too large, and its educational activities too diverse, to permit a single approach to planning for instructional continuity. Therefore, I ask that each of you consider how continuity of instruction might best be achieved in the courses that you teach, and make plans accordingly. This contingency planning should include a focus on both higher than normal faculty absenteeism and student absenteeism. Please make this a topic of discussion at your next department meeting.
As you have these discussions and make plans, please keep the following in mind:
Syllabi should include sufficient information about assignments and other learning activities to allow students to engage in a period of self-study, as needed. Let students know in writing that under certain circumstances, you may have to alter course requirements, assignment deadlines, and grading procedures; and the university may have to alter the quarter calendar. Given that the academic year is underway and your fall syllabi are already prepared, you may wish to distribute an addendum to students containing this information.
Review your attendance policy, and consider how you might modify it to help students who are unable to attend class to meet the course requirements without penalty. It is likely that students will not have medical verification.
You will need an alternative means – probably electronic – of communicating with students, and for receiving and returning student assignments. Our course management system, myCourses, is well suited for this communication. There are resources available for assisting you with this technology. The instructional designers from Teaching and Learning Services are constructing an 'online' emergency course for myCourses complete with tutorials that may assist with training if an epidemic breaks out or if there are too many faculty requests for training at any given time. Content will include setting up a syllabus, discussions, news messages, drop-box, etc. It could also serve as a refresher for faculty members, including our part-time faculty. Click on the link http://online.rit.edu/faculty/ to find information on myCourses and other strategies that can assist you in planning alternate methods of course delivery and communication. If you would like assistance with an electronic communication tool, please contact Cheryl Herdklotz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 475-2030 as soon as possible, as the staff will not be able to respond immediately to large numbers of requests at the time of a campus closure or onset of widespread absenteeism.
Have a plan for communicating with other individuals who support student learning, e.g., your department chair, internship supervisors, graduate assistants, laboratory technicians, student advisors, etc.
For current information from RIT on the H1N1, log on to RIT’s website – www.rit.edu - for information and guidance.
You will certainly have other ideas about how we can support instructional continuity. Please feel free to share them with your dean, department chair, and fellow faculty members. As we learn more, we will modify the suggestions listed above. In the meantime, I hope that they will prove useful to you as you plan your responses to higher than normal rates of student or faculty absenteeism and possible campus closure.
In the event of a significant H1N1 outbreak that impacts the academic delivery of courses, the campus will turn to department chairs for their leadership in managing these issues. As a result, I strongly encourage each department chair to discuss this memorandum with faculty members at a department meeting within the very near future, and develop plans that address these issues and insure the continuity of the academic mission. Department chairs should ensure that part-time faculty members have the opportunity to review and ask questions about this memorandum, as well. Of course, the support of the faculty for the efforts of the chairs on this matter is greatly appreciated.
Further information about the H1N1 and seasonal flu can be found at http://www.rit.edu/news/misc/swine_flu//; information on other emergency situations or closures as well as plans for responding to emergencies, can be found at http://emergency.rit.edu/.
Thank you for your cooperation in this important effort.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs