March 21, 2020
Message from the Association President
I hope you are all keeping well, as you work hard under unfamiliar circumstances to complete the term. I’m writing about a few new developments related to COVID-19. As you know, there is a confirmed case of a UVic student with the virus. As the UVic update noted: an Island Health Medical Health Officer has completed a risk assessment and concluded that the risk of transmission was low and restricted to those who may have had contact with the individual in three specific third-year classes at the university on March 12. They are being advised to monitor themselves closely for symptoms.
Working from Home
The rest of us are encouraged to work from home, and to practice social distancing at all times. While faculty members are still permitted to work in our offices and labs at this time (we were asked to decrease use of laboratory and related facilities in VP Research Dr. Kalynchuk’s update on Thursday), I would encourage you to work from home if possible.
The government may at any point determine, for public health reasons, that the University must require all faculty members to work remotely. I would therefore encourage you to take home all material from your offices that you may need to work remotely. We don’t want to face a situation where we are no longer allowed to access our offices, and we still have vital material there.
Survey on Summer Courses
Based on the information that we currently have, our understanding is that planning is being done in various faculties to determine how many courses for the 2020 Summer Session can be transitioned from face-to-face to “alternate delivery” or remote learning models. The Association’s perspective is that, if faculty members are to be required to teach summer courses online, they should have as much notice and as much support as possible.
We have therefore developed a short survey to determine what might be needed by those scheduled to teach face-to-face summer courses to make the transition to online courses less challenging. If you are scheduled for face-to-face summer courses, please take our brief survey, so that we can best advocate on your behalf.
You should have already received the link to the survey, and we ask that you complete it by Monday March 23 at 3:00 pm. Thank you in advance for your valuable input.
Scheduling Online Tests, Assignments and Exams on CourseSpaces
If you are currently teaching in CourseSpaces, late Friday afternoon you received an email from Laurene Shields of LTSI, asking you if you are planning to use either the assignment or quiz tool in CourseSpaces (e.g. for exams, midterms, or other assessments) between now and Sunday, April 5, 2020. If you are, she asks that you send the relevant information to email@example.com, ideally by Sunday, March 22 at 12:00pm so that she can work with Systems to ensure that scheduled assignments and tests do not overload the system. I would encourage you to do this, as it is in the interests of our students and ourselves that the CourseSpaces system continue to function, given the increased pressure it is currently facing.
The centrally-booked final exam schedule has been cancelled. LTSI is currently working on a new schedule for online final exams using CourseSpaces and plans to have a tentative schedule to distribute by the end of the week. If you want to use CourseSpaces for an online final exam and have not yet submitted your request, you should do so as soon as possible through firstname.lastname@example.org entitled “Exam Request”.
Building Community: Facebook Group
We are facing increasingly difficult times, and the Association would like to do our part to help build community among our members. We are therefore working on creating a moderated Facebook group to provide a space where Members can come together to share the concerns and successes of dealing with the challenges of working from home.
We are also hoping that the Facebook group will provide Members with an opportunity to share with each other the range of resources available for online teaching as well as for online leisure and cultural activities. We are aware that there are political issues with Facebook, but it is very widely used, and we propose to use the best virtual means we have to build community at this difficult time. We hope to have this page up and running by early this week, so stay tuned for an announcement.
I am impressed by the work that you are all doing for our students, and I hope that we can remain positive and keep our community ties strong. I’d like to close with a remark from my History colleague, Dr. Jason Colby:
“These are really scary times. But let’s remember that in events like World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis, we were fighting and threatening each other. Now we’re fighting together against something that threatens us all. Let’s remember that.”
Wishing you all the best,
President, University of Victoria Faculty Association