Archived Messages from the Provost

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) MessagING

The following are updates sent by Provost Joan Lorden during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Emails are listed in the order in which they were sent.

Dear colleagues,

As we resume classes and welcome students back to campus from spring break, we face a new challenge. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that forced the cancellation of spring study abroad programs in several countries has now reached North Carolina. While there is no imminent threat to the University, we need to be prepared for the continued spread of the virus and the potential disruption of classes and other institutional activities.

First, please note that we have students who have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days due to their travel to certain areas affected by COVID-19 and designated as Level 3 or 4 by the CDC, at this time China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran. I ask that you provide maximum flexibility to these students to allow them to complete course requirements (e.g. projects, quizzes and exams). All these students should have documentation from their travel.  Please also provide flexibility to students who are absent due to respiratory virus symptoms (fever, coughing, sneezing, sore throat) whether or not they have a doctor’s note. As a campus community, we must be proactive to minimize the spread of illness.

We should also be aware that many of our international students and scholars from affected countries have the additional stress of concerns about families and friends at home.  We have reached out to these students to make them aware of support services but some may need your assistance or encouragement to take advantage of this support. 

Second, all instructors should begin planning for the possibility of delivering the remainder of their spring courses virtually. All courses at UNC Charlotte have a Canvas shell and we know that over 70% of our classes use Canvas for at least some functions.  For all instructors, but especially those not currently using Canvas, the Center for Teaching and Learning has assembled just-in-time resources for teaching continuity.  

Use this worksheet to guide you in planning for virtual instruction. All instructors should familiarize themselves with these teaching continuity options, including WebEx for videoconferencing. The University is exploring the feasibility of providing an online proctoring tool for all courses. The Center for Teaching and Learning is a resource to you for training, teaching guides, self-paced online workshops, and other support.  

We will continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation and will keep you informed of any additional impact on instruction or programming. Please refer to Emergency Management for FAQs and the most updated information, and keep washing your hands.

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear colleagues,

As the University faces the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to first thank you for your understanding and cooperation during this unprecedented situation. For the health and well-being of our campus community and our greater community, the University is encouraging social distancing and is asking instructors to transition to alternative course delivery methods beginning Monday, March 16.

Our goal is to ensure that students can successfully complete their required coursework and stay on track for graduation. Each instructor should use their judgement to determine the best way to accomplish this. While some in-person instruction may still be necessary in studios, labs, practicums or clinicals, I ask you to be flexible and look for creative ways to accomplish the key objectives for all your courses, including these.

To avoid scheduling conflicts, instructors who choose to hold synchronous sessions should do so only at the day and time of their regularly scheduled class.

All instructors should communicate their course plans to students by 5:00 p.m. Friday, March 13. For the benefit of students who do not have adequate access to the internet or computers, the library and college computer labs will be available.

Please use the resources and workshops at the Center for Teaching and Learning to assist you in transitioning to alternative course delivery methods. They are available for ongoing support. There are also colleagues in your college or department who may have considerable expertise in online delivery. If you are one of those, please try to make yourself available to others.

This is a difficult time for us all. I ask you to especially be mindful of those among our campus community who have family or loved ones in high-risk areas. Please be compassionate in all your communications and don’t share unconfirmed information about COVID-19.

Thank you for your initiative to act quickly to ensure the University can continue to offer instruction during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear colleagues,

Many thanks to all of you who have moved quickly to put your courses into alternative formats.  Our goal is to help our students complete the semester, and you have stepped up. As this unprecedented situation continues to unfold, I am asking for more of your help in some specific ways. 

If you have not already done so, reach out to all the students in your classes to let them know either that your class will continue next week in an online format (and how it will work), or that you will be taking the one-week hiatus.  It is also very important for you to ensure that students know that you want them to be successful in your class, and that you will work with them to make that possible. Students (and their families) are understandably concerned, and only you can provide the reassurance that you will be flexible as we work our way through this new landscape. 

Since we cannot know, at this point, how things will play out in the weeks ahead, I am also asking that you consider the framework you use for assessing students’ mastery of the learning outcomes in your classes.  In particular, please consider putting in place assignments, exams, and other assessments so that you have enough information to assign a grade should it become necessary to end the semester prematurely.

We are amassing resources to support students and faculty and will be providing links and FAQs through the Emergency Management site and teaching.uncc.edu/keepteaching.  The latter has a wealth of information that can help you navigate what I know is unfamiliar terrain for many of you, and more will be added as we learn about your needs.

If you have questions or concerns that cannot be answered through the emergency FAQs or in your college or department, please reach out. 

And THANK YOU! I know that the University is asking a lot, but the role that you, the faculty, play is critical.  What you are doing to make this situation work for our students is essential and very much appreciated.

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear colleagues,

Together, we are charting unknown territory as we continuously pivot in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic affecting our community. I appreciate all you are doing to provide alternative course delivery while guiding and supporting your students.

Beginning March 23, all classes, including lab sections, will be delivered in an alternative remote or online format. We must adhere to social distancing guidance from state and federal authorities. I hope you have already reached out to the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) for support and guidance. If not, please do. They have many resources and workshops to assist you.  

In addition to the resources provided through CTL, faculty may need staff support in order to bring instructional labs online. Supervisors have the authority to designate staff as mandatory employees in order to provide assistance to faculty to conduct and videotape experiments if this is the only way to meet course objectives. 

For individualized study such as dissertation, thesis, honors project or other faculty-directed research or engineering senior design for which the use of university equipment is essential and where numbers are small enough to permit effective social distancing, students may work with their faculty mentors or supervisors to enable the work to continue on campus.  

Please keep in mind that many students have extraordinary family obligations at this time, so ensure that online delivery is not unnecessarily increasing student workload. Be responsive to student feedback and make adjustments if necessary. Especially during these circumstances, we must be supportive so students can progress. We want to emphasize to students that they can complete the semester and we are here to help. Review these additional tips and faculty resources.

Guiding your students who are self-quarantining

If a student informs you they are self-quarantining, you may be wondering what you should do next. It is important to remember that anyone can choose to self-quarantine if they believe there is a need to do so. It does not mean they have COVID-19 or are at risk of developing the illness. 

First, please verify your student has completed the self-quarantine form on the Emergency Management website.  After this, we encourage you to exercise caution to avoid unnecessarily causing alarm among your students. The Office of Emergency Management and the Student Health Center are in close contact with the Mecklenburg County Health Department. Should any of our faculty, staff or students test positive for COVID-19, they will work together to initiate contact tracing quickly in order to notify those who may have been exposed. 

I continue to be extraordinarily grateful for and awed by the work of our Academic Affairs faculty and staff to address the needs of our students under these adverse circumstances that have upended our semester.  You continue to prove that the phrase, “We are All Niners” is not an empty slogan. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear colleagues,

As we adapt to life in a virtual realm, I would like to share some encouragement and early lessons learned. You have been amazing about rapidly moving to remote instruction, but I understand this doesn’t mean your content has been revised pedagogically to be optimized for online learning. Be kind to yourself and your students. We may have to settle for good enough at this time.

We need to remember that the Digital Divide is real and exists for many of our financially stressed students. Many of our students may not have the technology to learn effectively online, and we cannot expect them to bridge this gap by themselves. Just as we are scrambling to figure out the best tools, so are they; and we have the resources of the university at our disposal, they may not. For example, we have learned that Chromebooks, which many students use, are not compatible with WebEx or Respondus.

Atkins Library has distributed laptops to many students, and others are using campus computer labs, at least for now. Most of our residential students have left campus and we are encouraging all students to return home. Further, students may be sharing digital resources with other family members, or they may be working extra hours as a mandatory employee. So synchronous instruction may not work for them.

Please be flexible with your students, and listen to their feedback. Avoid assignments that require our students to come to campus. If you hear they are unable to access software, or use WebEx or Respondus, give them an alternate path to complete assignments. Our students will be served best right now if the focus is on creative ways to fulfill course objectives, so that every student, regardless of circumstance, can successfully complete the course.

Below is further guidance from OneIT and the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). I encourage you to check out the many workshops CTL continues to provide (new topics added) and take advantage of this training as you can.

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear students,

I hope that you all are beginning to adapt as we face changing circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have heard from many of you and understand that many students have additional personal stress at this time.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Faculty Executive Committee has voted to create an exception to the UNC Charlotte grading policy for spring 2020. This change gives students the option to request Pass/No Credit grades to replace standard letter grades for any or all of their Spring 2020 courses at the completion of the semester. Instruction for all courses will continue, and faculty will provide letter grades as usual at the end of the semester. Students who wish to accept their letter grade for a course will still have that option.

For those students who wish to accept their letter grade (A, B, C, D, F), then no further action will be required on their part. At the completion of the semester, those students who wish to replace a letter grade with Pass/No Credit will need to request this accommodation by June 1. The Office of the Registrar is working on a method to collect these requests and will share information as soon as it is developed.

I encourage you to consult with your advisor, program coordinator, department chair, or college dean if there is any concern about how the Pass/No Credit accommodation may impact future study in your major, professional school admission, or licensure.

Please view the details of the Pass/No Credit accommodation in the Exception to the Grading Policy for Spring 2020 here.

While we are not in an ideal situation, our goal is to ensure you can complete the semester and stay on track for graduation. Please connect with academic resources to assist you.

Be safe and stay well.

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear colleagues,

Earlier today, Chancellor Dubois shared that it may become necessary for our South Village residence halls to be used in conjunction with the Mecklenburg County or the state of North Carolina planning and response efforts for COVID-19. 

As a result, I ask for your flexibility and accommodation for students who will be required to move out of South Village quickly to prepare for this possibility.

These students will be asked to return to campus to pack up their remaining belongings which were left behind in March and move out of their room.  Those who can’t return will have their belongings packed and stored. In addition, the students who currently live in those halls due to an on-campus exception will be asked to relocate to a different residence hall on campus. 

This is another unforeseen disruption in these students’ lives when they are trying to complete the semester under challenging conditions. I have already asked you to be flexible with our students and you have done that. I now ask you to be even more empathetic with our South Village residents.

Please excuse any absences and extend assignment deadlines to provide an opportunity for these students to return and collect their things. We are asking these students to inform their instructors, if they are part of this group.

I appreciate all you are doing to support our students as we all work together to complete this semester. 

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear colleagues,

The past four weeks have been incredibly challenging for all of us. The quick shift to online and remote course delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly resulted in less than  ideal situations for faculty and students alike.

As we near the end of this semester, it is important to assess how this shift in instruction has impacted our students. Our goal is to ensure that students can successfully complete the semester and stay on track for graduation.

I ask your help with this endeavor by completing a CONNECT progress survey to assess remote learning challenges. Faculty members will receive an email with a survey that displays student names from your class lists. We ask you to simply click the Yes/No button beside each student’s name to indicate whether or not you have a concern about this student. If there is a concern, you then choose one of three buttons to indicate if the concern is due to lack of activity, reduced performance or a remote learning issue.

As we begin preparing for final exams, I also ask you to continue to be flexible with students as many students are facing difficult situations due to current circumstances. If you plan to use online monitoring for your final exam, please ask your students in advance if they have the appropriate equipment (internet access, computer, webcam). It also is a good idea to create a practice exam to identify any technology issues. For students who are unable to use proctoring software, please create alternative assessments that are not proctored. Refer to these resources from the Center for Teaching and Learning for more guidance.

Thank you for your continued dedication and compassion as we navigate through this semester together.

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear colleagues,

We continue to adapt to changes during this uncertain time, and I appreciate your flexibility and patience. As you are aware, the University is now moving to fully online instruction in September with the intention to resume planned hybrid and face-to-face instruction October 1. This delay means that now students will move into residence halls starting on Saturday, September 26, through Tuesday, September 29.

To accommodate the needs of the estimated 4,700 students who need to move in, undergraduate classes will be paused September 28-29. We have no remaining flexibility in the fall calendar. This time should not be considered a fall break, as you will need to make up the instructional time later in the semester either with asynchronous assignments or by rescheduling to a Saturday. Keep in mind that classes will continue on these dates if the University later decides to move to a fully online semester due to community factors

Some students are now seeking to change a face-to-face or hybrid course to fully online delivery. We want to work with students as much as possible to allow them to progress through their course of study. Students who wish to change their course delivery method have until September 14 to make changes. They should first contact their academic advisor to discuss possible options, such as enrolling in an online section of the same course or choosing another course that will meet the requirement. If this is not possible, then students should work with their course instructor to determine if reasonable adjustments can be made.

When we resume in-person instruction, we recommend assigning seats as a best practice during the pandemic. For additional information and guidance, please access the Fall Reopening site and view our FAQs and Q&A from the General Faculty Meeting.

Sincerely,
 

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear colleagues,

To follow up on the Chancellor's announcement this afternoon, please be aware in-person instruction will resume October 1 for specific areas of study with a priority for classes that have the greatest need for an on-campus presence. These are courses that make use of facilities and equipment (e.g., science and engineering labs, studios, clinicals) and lower division classes (e.g., top 40). All courses will move online after Thanksgiving break, including final exams.

Further details are available on the Office of the Provost website, and academic colleges will provide guidance to their respective faculty. All faculty must affirm to their students the delivery mode of their courses by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, September 25.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear colleagues,

There is an important clarification to my September 22 message regarding instruction beginning Oct.1. The intention is to de-densify our campus as much as possible, while providing limited access to in-person instruction for only select courses. Unless courses fit in these specific categories, then the courses should remain online through the duration of fall semester.

Only courses that fit in these categories may have in-person components beginning October 

  • Engineering
  • Science lab classes
  • Studio and performance art classes
  • Clinical programs in the College of Health and Human Services
  • Architecture
  • Top 40 courses (1000-level and 2000-level)

These are courses where hands-on, experiential learning and access to specialized equipment is required for those disciplines. In addition, we are preserving in-person instruction for select 1000-level and 2000-level courses that are important to the new student experience.

All courses will be online after Thanksgiving through the end of fall semester. All final exams will be administered online.

Faculty members are reminded to affirm their course delivery mode to students by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, September 25, 2020. If you already sent an email to students but clarification is required due to this new information, please communicate this change to your students. Instructors should confirm their course delivery mode with their department chair.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation.

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

To provide accommodations during the fall 2020 semester, UNC Charlotte has expanded its withdrawal practices to allow students to withdraw with extenuating circumstances (WE) if they have  personal issues that have negatively impacted their studies as a result of COVID-19. Course withdrawals for this reason will not count against any institutional limits. Withdrawals prior to the deadline of November 3 are automatically converted to a WE. No additional documentation will be necessary. After November 3, students must submit undergraduate petitions to the college’s Associate Dean instead of the Student Assistance and Support Services office; graduate petitions should be submitted to the Graduate School.

Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisor when considering a course withdrawal. Advisors should communicate with students any consequences that may result from a student taking a WE. While the course withdrawal will not count against university limits, it may count against program limits and negatively impact time to degree. In addition, there may be financial aid implications to some students, including veterans and international students.

Dear colleagues,

Over the past several months, we have made extraordinary changes to keep the campus safe and to continue delivering our instructional programs. With the input of many groups, including Faculty Council, the Faculty Executive Committee, the Future Planning Advisory Group, Deans, Associate Deans and Student Government Association, as well as results from a student survey, I would like to share with you new guidance in three areas.

GRADING POLICY

The Faculty Executive Committee (on behalf of the Faculty Council) has approved an amendment to the current Academic Policy guiding Pass/No Credit (P/N) for undergraduate students for the 2020-2021 academic year (Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Summer 2021) to allow undergraduate students to elect Pass/No Credit (P/N) for up to three undergraduate courses for the entire academic year, and no more than two per term.

The grading policy exception will be implemented as follows:

  • For the Fall 2020 term, up to two courses can be elected by December 14. 
  • For Spring and Summer 2021 terms, students must elect Pass/No Credit (P/N) by the date identified in the Academic Calendar (January 27 for spring term and May 25 for summer full term). 

Students will be allowed to elect P/N for any enrolled course(s); however, if a student elects a grade of Pass (P) they will not be able to progress to any course that requires a C or better without departmental approval. This amends the current Academic Policy guiding Pass/No Credit for the 2020-2021 academic year and applies to undergraduate students only.

COURSE FORMAT CHANGES

To the extent possible, our goal for the spring is to have an experience that is as predictable as possible for both students and faculty. For this reason, we have adjusted the schedule by moving spring break and planning for widespread testing as students return to campus. As part of this effort, I am asking for your help to ensure course format consistency throughout the semester.

Students must be assured when they register for classes that the course delivery format (in-person, hybrid or remote, synchronous or asynchronous) will not change during the semester. Shifts in format create disruption for both students and faculty.

Once the course schedule is made available for registration on November 30, it should be considered final. After that, the University will not ask faculty to make changes except for exceptional circumstances related specifically to COVID-19. Further, no faculty members should alter a course format without explicit permission from their dean.

STUDENT ENGAGEMENT

The FEC has reinforced the importance of student engagement in online courses through their recently released recommendations. Among those, departments are asked to offer an appropriate balance between synchronous and asynchronous course offerings, and instructors of all courses (regardless of delivery method) should provide regular opportunities for substantive interaction, engagement and building community with their students, and should respond promptly to student emails. Faculty are reminded that more information, assistance and training is available to them.

More details and FAQs regarding these measures and guidelines can be found on the Office of the Provost website. Thank you for your continued cooperation as we maintain quality instruction and support our students throughout the pandemic.

Sincerely,

Joan F. Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Dear Colleagues:

After receiving additional feedback from students and faculty, the exception to the Undergraduate Grading Policy for the 2020-21 academic year has been amended with two changes. The amendment recognizes the need to record letter grades in prerequisite courses while allowing students to select P/N grading. 

The first change expands P/N grading to include an H grade. Students will be allowed to have the grade of H recorded on transcripts for prerequisite courses in which they earned a C or better.

Students in a progression (prerequisite) course should be advised to complete the course for a letter grade. They will then have the option of petitioning for a H/P/N grade after grades are posted and until January 8. The H grade will signify that they have satisfied progression (prerequisite) requirements. If your course currently uses P/N grading, you are encouraged to also use the H grade to signify a progression appropriate grade, if applicable. This use of the H grade designation for this purpose is limited to the 2020-2021 academic year. 

The second change is a deadline extension to allow undergraduate students to request Pass/No Credit (P/N) grading without a petition until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, December 16. This also is the deadline for students to change a previous P/N election. This deadline also allows faculty members to know students’ grade elections before final grading, which will now begin December 17. For students who make a P/N election prior to the deadline, faculty will see only H/P/or N options when grading.

Since students may not elect more than two courses for H/P/N grading for the Fall 2020 term, the Office of the Registrar will provide reports to Associate Deans to help monitor this limit. Academic advisors and course instructors should be aware of the details of this grading exception in order to advise students.

Students will be notified of this opportunity later today in Niner Insider. 

My thanks to the faculty, deans and associate deans who reviewed and commented on this and to the Registrar and his staff who have made it possible.

Sincerely,    

Joan Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs

As Chancellor Gaber stated on Monday, the University has made adjustments to the Spring 2021 academic calendar due to the ongoing risks associated with COVID-19. Please make a note of these revised key dates and deadlines. Faculty can import the updated dates in their Canvas courses.

Spring full term changes:

  • Early Alerts due – February 19
  • Mid-term Grades due – March 12
  • Withdrawal Deadline – March 25

Spring 1st half term changes:

  • Mid-term Grades due –  February 17
  • Withdrawal Deadline – February 22
  • Last class day – March 12
  • Reading Day – March 15
  • Exams – March 16-17

Spring 2nd half term changes:

  • First Class Day – March 22

Student Move-In – February 18-21

Also be mindful that some undergraduate students will be moving into residence halls Feb. 18-21. In undergraduate classes, faculty should not make assignments due or schedule tests on Feb. 18-19 to accommodate these students. Students will be asked to schedule move-in around their classes to the extent possible. Affected students will be provided an email from Housing and Residence Life that can be forwarded to their instructor as verification to be excused for their absence during their assigned move-in date, if needed. Please refer to this procedure for further guidance. 

Dear Colleagues:

The Faculty Council has made an amendment to the Undergraduate Pass/No Credit (P/N) grading procedure for the Spring 2021 semester. This amendment will simplify the process for undergraduate students and faculty while still limiting the number of P/N elections and providing a mechanism for identifying sufficient achievement in progression courses. It continues the use of the H/P/NC designations and the limits placed on the total number of H/P/NC grades for the academic year, but allows students to receive their letter grades before deciding to elect H/P/NC.

Students should be advised to complete their courses and review their letter grades before deciding whether to request H/P/NC grades to replace standard grades. Students in full-term and 2nd half-term courses have until June 1, 2021, to make their choice, while those in 1st half-term courses must make an election by April 2. 

The H grade designation will be used to signify that the student has passed with a C or above and will have satisfied any progression (prerequisite) requirements. This grade designation is limited to the 2020-2021 academic year only. P will be used to signify that the student passed with a D. 

The Undergraduate Grading Policy for the 2020-21 academic year allows undergraduate students to elect H/P/N grading in up to three courses for the entire academic year, including summer. No more than two courses can be elected for Pass/No Credit grading per term.

Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their academic advisor and course instructor before making a decision to be aware of any implications on future plans. Please be aware of the details of this grading exception and FAQs.

Please note this grading procedure amendment applies only to the undergraduate grading policy.  Graduate students are to follow the standard graduate grading policy and process outlined in the Graduate Catalog.

Sincerely,

Joan Lorden
Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs

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