COVID TEACHING FAQ
UMFA’s Organizing and Communications Committee, with input from the UMFA Executive, has developed this FAQ as a resource for UMFA members with teaching responsibilities. Some questions address matters of policy (e.g., the UM’s policy on not requiring doctors’ notes for short-term illnesses), while other questions address suggestions that members may choose to take up or not as they see fit. We acknowledge and appreciate the wealth of expertise and experience among the UMFA membership and the academic freedom that is central to your teaching.
SYMPTOMS AND ATTENDANCE
Q: If a student is ill, may I require them not to attend?
You can encourage but not require that they not attend, and you can remind them of both the Self Declaration of Student Absence Policy, and the Health and Safety: Students Procedure which makes it the responsibility of students to “use reasonable care so as to protect their own safety and health and the safety and health of others affected by their actions.”
Q: If a student misses a class due to being ill, what accommodations am I required to make?
The new UM policy no longer requires students to provide a doctor’s note for illnesses that result in absences of 72 hours or less.
If students have an illness or disability that will affect their course participation in a substantive and ongoing manner, they can be encouraged to meet with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to develop an individualized accommodation plan that can be shared with all their instructors. Instructors are required to accommodate students on the basis of their SAS letters, but will be able to provide input as to how best to accommodate students in their course.
In the shorter term, you can follow the same approach you use for any student absence. This approach should be communicated in your course outline according to ROASS policy. It is also important to consider any unique attendance policies and requirements your unit/program may have.
Note that you are NOT required to record and post your classes nor are you required to deliver your courses in a hybrid format (i.e., with some students attending virtually and some attending in person).
Q: How can I make sure that students who are ill do not feel obligated to attend class?
The way you plan and implement your course can support students staying home when sick. For example, reconsider whether in-class participation grades are appropriate to include in your course during a timeframe when unprecedented levels of absences can be expected. Also, instead of having a certain number of graded activities such as in-class quizzes that are all mandatory, consider making provisions so that if students complete a certain amount, they will still receive full grades (e.g., 4/5 quizzes will count towards the final grade). You could also consider offering an opportunity to defer an exam if they are ill just prior to the initial sitting of the exam (rather than just reweighting the grade to the final exam) These strategies can alleviate pressure on students to attend class while ill, and reduce the number of make-up activities you need to schedule and oversee.
Q: Should I be scheduling extra meetings/office hours to deal with student absences?
Whether you should schedule extra meetings/office hours with students to deal with their absences is up to you to decide, balancing the need to be supportive to students and to guard against overwork.
Q: If I am ill, can I teach my class via Zoom, or must I cancel and reschedule my class?
Policies about this are determined by deans and directors. Ask your Department Head or equivalent what the policies are in your unit so you know what to expect: If my program has an attendance policy, what are some strategies that I can employ to add flexibility to my class in case of student illness?
Instructors can, if appropriate:
- Reconsider whether in-class participation grades are appropriate during a timeframe when numbers of absences are likely to be higher.
- Reduce the number of mandatory graded in-class activities, and/or implement an approach where if students complete a certain minimum number of mandatory activities (e.g., 4/5), they get full marks.
- Invite students to buddy up with one another to provide each other with notes and materials from any missed classes.
Q: Can I demand classroom changes from the university to have a classroom large enough to ensure social distancing measures (even if the university has dropped social distancing requirements)?
Unfortunately you cannot demand classroom changes unless you have a medical accommodation that has been granted by the employer. However, you should document your concerns about any space/distancing issues with your Department Head or equivalent and request their input/ideas on any available options.
Q: If a student requires clear, plastic masks as an accommodation (i.e. for lip reading), can I decline that accommodation and wear a mask that I feel more comfortable/safer in (i.e. KN95) and request/suggest alternative accommodations for the student?
Q: Can I host office hours on Zoom even if classes are in-person?
ROASS requires that instructors “be available for a reasonable amount of time, on a known and posted basis, for individual consultation with Students registered in their courses or laboratories” 2.9 (d). However, ROASS does not specify the format (e.g., virtual or in-person) by which instructors must be available, so you can choose your preferred format.
Q: With masks no longer required on campus, can I still I wear a mask in my class?
Yes, if you want to wear a mask for safety, you can do so regardless of a mask mandate (or lack thereof).
STUDENT EVALUATION POLICIES
Q: May I request a special classroom for students to complete tests or other course activities to ensure social distancing?
UM administration has made clear that social distancing is no longer required on campus. You can ask your Department Head or equivalent for extra room for particular activities and see what options, if any, might be available to you. In general, it’s a good practice to make these requests by e-mail to have a record.
Q: Can I put a “no rescheduled tests unless there is a doctor’s note” policy on my syllabus?
The UM has implemented a new policy indicating that doctors’ notes are not required for short-term absences. . Your syllabus and approach to addressing student absences should reflect this institutional policy.
Q: What supports are available to accommodate deferred assessments so I am not required to increase my workload to accommodate deferrals or sacrifice vacation/after-hours time?
Section 16.2 of the Collective Agreement requires that “administrative support shall, as far as practicable, be made available to Members for University business, such as teaching, research and professional activities.” Priorities for the allocation of administrative support are determined by the Dean, so administrative support may look different from unit to unit. You are encouraged to ask your Department Head or equivalent about available supports, and, if none are available, to request some. Also, you can talk to other colleagues about the need for administrative support, and to raise the issue in faculty and department meetings where a unified request can be directed toward administration from numerous colleagues at once.
WORKPLACE HEALTH AND SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS
Q: What can I do about other university employees not wearing masks at work?
Q: Can I refuse to teach in a space that is not adequately ventilated?
Q: How can I request air quality data for my assigned classroom or laboratory?
In April 2023, the University announced that they would conduct assessments over the next year of the air flow and ventilation rates of 341 learning spaces at the University to find ways to improve, including “rebalancing, upgraded thermostats for demand control ventilation, fan power terminal units and installation of CO2 sensors to return ducts for system level demand-controlled ventilation”. Ventilation Improvement Feasibility Studies conducted by Epp Siepman Engineering and MEER Engineering can be found at these links:
An Indoor Air Quality Test was also conducted by Pinchin Ltd. In April 2022, and its report can be found at this link: https://umanitoba.ca/sites/default/files/2022-05/university-of-manitoba-indoor-air-quality-report.pdf
Q: Can I request that my classroom or teaching space have a portable HEPA filtration unit or Corsi-Rosenthal air filter box?
You can ask your Department Head or equivalent for a portable HEPA filter. UM administration does not currently support the use of Corsi-Rosenthal boxes on campus.
If the air quality of the room in which you intend to use the portable HEPA filter has not been tested for a significant period of time, please contact the UMFA Office to discuss whether there are grounds for such a filter to be paid for through your professional development assistance funds.
Q: How do I request a personal microphone for teaching in large spaces?
Contact your Department Head or equivalent to purchase headset microphones for teaching.
Most large lecture rooms have wired/wireless lapel microphones for teaching that are shared amongst users. If you require a personal microphone for teaching, contact your Department Head or equivalent to purchase lapel/headset microphones to support your teaching.