Faculty Frequently Asked Questions
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Coping With Coronavirus: How faculty members can support students in traumatic times (PDF)
Last updated April 16, 2020
Academics and Instruction
CETL and TLOS are providing guidance related to online examinations and alternate assessments to reduce the stress both faculty and students are feeling. We strongly encourage assessment measures other than synchronous exams. Please refer to the guidance for remote examinations and assessment strategies.
See additional information in the Final Examinations section below.
Faculty will turn in grades between April 23 and May 15 as usual in the A/F mode, except for courses taught only as P/F. Conversion to the credit/no-credit option will be done through BANNER after final grades are entered. Additional information can be found on the Registrar website.
The grade option selection for students will open on April 20 and close at midnight on May 6, 2020. Students will use the standard drop/add registration platform they use each semester. Academic advisors are working to inform students about their choices and answering questions. For more information visit the Registrar website.
Read Executive Vice President and Provost message on additional options for course grading and assessment of the academic performance.
Yes. There will be no exceptions and no on-campus instruction. If possible, laboratory activities and instruction will be presented via Zoom or another suitable remote delivery medium. Instructional spaces such as classrooms, studios and laboratories will be physically closed, including both departmental as well as university, but these will remain accessible to instructors who need to use online equipment.
All University Library facilities are closed including those in Roanoke and the greater Washington DC area. Access to select resources and materials for research, teaching, and learning, and digital databases, ebooks, and ejournals will be provided online.
Whenever possible, services and clinical work should be conducted via telephone or online. For more urgent cases, arrangements should be made with faculty/clinicians with use of appropriate public health and social distancing measures.
All undergraduate for-credit courses must be converted to online, including those involving laboratory experiences. If necessary, course assignments should be revised to make remote study possible. For example, expectations could focus on tasks that can be done remotely, such as study design, literature searches, data collation and analysis, with mentorship by Zoom.
Grading options available to graduate students already offer considerable flexibility. These options include the ability to drop the course completely (by the extended deadline noted above) or withdraw from a class up until the last day of classes (denoted as “WG”) without penalty. Also available are switching to Incomplete or Audit options without impacting one’s GPA. Graduate students can also utilize Repeat Grade (“RG”). Please refer to the Graduate Catalog for particulars. We will be happy to work with each case individually.
Graduate students will be allowed to change the grading option from A/F to P/F for graduate courses taken in Spring 2020. A maximum of 6 graduate credits converted A/F to P/F in this manner will be allowed to count toward their program’s graded course credit total on the Plan of Study (research credits are graded as Equivalent Credit [EQ] and do not count as P/F). The decision to change the grading option should be considered in consultation with the faculty advisor and the Graduate Program Director. These decisions should be made not later than May 1, 2020.
Due to the need to transition to remote teaching in the spring 2020 semester, several decisions have been made regarding the university’s yearly institutional effectiveness processes. These decisions were made in consultation with the Faculty Senate and take into account the university’s commitment to continuous improvement in addition to supporting the faculty during this difficult time. To facilitate this support, Virginia Tech’s accreditor, SACSCOC, and the commonwealth's coordinating body for higher education, SCHEV, are allowing some flexibility in documenting institutional effectiveness outcomes.
- See 2019-20 Assessment Plan (PDF)
- SPOT scores for spring semester should not be included in performance evaluations, decisions about future online course offerings, or other administrative decisions.
The Division of Information Technology and TLOS have developed resources to help faculty and students navigate the process of improving connectivity and finding alternative means to connect while still maintaining social distancing. These resources can be found on the TLOS website. TLOS is also available to assist faculty and teaching assistants to help build skills, troubleshoot, and support remote teaching needs during this time.
Faculty may feel they have sufficient information to assess learning from assignments and tests throughout the term. In those instances, a faculty member may make the final examination optional for those students who would like the opportunity to demonstrate their learning further.
The Faculty Handbook provides guidance related to final exams. Faculty may determine the “appropriate means for evaluating and measuring student performance relative to the course objectives.” In addition, the Faculty Handbook indicates “The method of evaluation must be made known to students in the course syllabus at the beginning of the term.” (Section 9.6.3).
Under the unusual circumstances of this semester, a faculty member may change the nature and delivery mode of a final examination, including adopting an alternative assessment. However, simple cancellation of a final exam and redistribution of the course grade could disadvantage students and would not be in the spirit of the Faculty Handbook policy.
Faculty should determine the appropriate date for students to complete the exam. Ideally, the exam would be due on the same day as the exam was originally scheduled. This creates the best chance of distributing final examinations across the full exam period for students.
To minimize the potential conflicts among exams for students, build the window for the exam around the scheduled final exam period. It preserves the assigned time as an option for students while also providing flexibility to determine when they will begin the exam. For example, if a final is scheduled May 12, 2-4 PM, consider allowing students to access and take the exam anytime between May 11, 2 PM and May 13, 2 PM. The exam can still be timed, and that time can be extended to allow students to access technology, internet, and a quiet time and place.
Yes. Many faculty are increasing the amount of time students have to complete the exam to allow for internet glitches and reduce test anxiety.
Yes, if all students are given an extended amount of time, students with this testing accommodation must be given double that amount of time.
No. The final examination schedule is designed to minimize conflicts for students. When faculty schedule examinations early, we receive complaints from students who end up with three exams or more in just a couple of days. It is especially important to maximize the time students have available to prepare for exams as they navigate challenging personal circumstances.
Campus Work and Operations
Only those undergraduate students who are identified by their supervisors as “essential personnel” will be permitted to continue working on campus. Students who are able to telework should do so at the discretion of their department and supervisor.
Graduate assistants who are deemed “essential” or whose work supports essential instructional or research activities may work on campus, but should not be required to do so. Telework is encouraged for graduate students who can perform work virtually, and this should be discussed and arranged with the immediate supervisor. Our goal is to retain all graduate assistants, but departments may need to provide bridge support using state or VT Foundation funding for those graduate students who can no longer be supported on extramural grants and contracts.
While there are no restrictions on GA, GTA, and GRA hiring, a summary of hiring plans for these positions should be submitted to the Graduate School for review and documentation. OVPRI will work in conjunction with the Graduate School in reviewing GRA requests. Send the hiring summary to Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen DePauw.
Read the Provost and SVP/CBO memo. While we will not know the precise impact to the state’s budget and our anticipated financial situation for the next fiscal year for several weeks, it is not recommended to “spend down” budgets at the end of this year’s budget cycle, preserving as much carry-over as possible for the university going into next year.
Faculty Travel and Recruitment
Faculty searches that were in process prior to the Provost’s memo about Financial Planning in Response to COVID-19 may not proceed without approval from the provost. Requests for approval, for only positions that are considered absolutely essential, are to be submitted by senior leaders for approval. For positions that are not absolutely essential, searches may be closed, canceled, or suspended. A search that is suspended may keep the pool that has developed to date, and be resumed at a later date. Search chairs or department heads should communicate an update as to the status of the search with applicants currently in the pool.
We will reimburse faculty for non-refunded expenses resulting from conference cancellation or a decision not attend because of concerns about coronavirus. In most cases, these reimbursements will be charged to the department or college accounts originally designated for reimbursement. Travel funded by external sponsors will be more complicated to address, in terms of who pays for the reimbursement, but the faculty will be held harmless.
Career Progress and Evaluation
Virginia Tech recognizes the disruption caused by COVID-19 and will advise supervisors to consider how the disruption has impacted performance and productivity, and to record their assessments of impacts in annual evaluations. We ask that the instructional mission be everyone’s priority.
We are using our existing policy for extensions of the probationary period for tenure-track and continued appointment-track faculty (see Faculty Handbook sections 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168). Faculty are encouraged to talk to their Department Heads about the possibility of this need now and have it documented in records for this year. Updated information about COVID-19 related requests is available under “Tenure Clock Extension."
Yes. Research leave requests that have been forwarded to the provost’s office for approval by the Board of Visitors at their next meeting will be reviewed and approved by the board as submitted. However, following this approval faculty will have the opportunity to make certain adjustments to their plans, as indicated on the Research Leave Requests page.
The Office of Research and Innovation is actively developing plans and strategies to address a variety of outcomes that will impact the research community that includes faculty, staff, students and our overall research operations. Information on the impacts on research services and units, and a set of FAQs can be found on the OVPRI website.
The Provost’s Office generally transfers the central university portion of the funds to the college over two years if the faculty member remains employed. We are recommending that deans, department heads, and institute directors work with faculty members on plans for extending their start-up funds into the next academic year.
The Dean of Students office is uniquely situated and equipped to get students connected to resources they need, including potential financial support. Please refer any students experiencing distress to email@example.com.
Hokie Wellness continues to share a wealth of opportunities and resources to support overall well-being, manage stress, and address work/life balance needs during this challenging time.
For critical purchases, ship-to addresses optimally should remain addressed to an official Virginia Tech departmental address. Home addresses of employees will not be added to HokieMart. Guidelines for Virginia Tech procurement procedures for purchases that need to be sent to an alternative address can be found on the Procurement Department website.
We expect that our SACSCOC accreditation review will proceed as planned. If any changes to the review timeline or visit schedules are made, we will pass that info along to the colleges/units.
Updates, Notices, and Statements
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