How UC Berkeley instructors are preparing for the spread of coronavirus

A. Paul Alivisatos, UC Berkeley’s executive vice chancellor and provost, and Oliver M. O’Reilly, chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, sent the following message to all all faculty, instructors and graduate student instructors on Monday, March 2:

We write to let you know that as of today, Monday March 2, there is no reported case of COVID-19 on the Berkeley campus and a single reported case in Alameda County. In the interests of health and safety, this is an appropriate time for all instructors (e.g., faculty, graduate student instructors, lecturers, etc.) to be prepared in the event that some students, staff, or instructors become ill or under quarantine in the coming weeks and months, or in the event that the campus needs to temporarily suspend in-person instruction.

An update on how UC Berkeley instructors are preparing for coronavirus

As a community we must do our utmost in these challenging times to ensure that our students receive the quality of education they deserve and continue progress towards their academic goals. We also wish to remind instructors that they should accommodate and not penalize students who become ill or are quarantined. We are also committed to protecting the health and safety of our students and our teaching community.

In responses to the disruptions caused by PG&E outages and air quality issues in the recent past, a Task Force for Instructional Resilience was charged in the late Fall to address continuity during times when courses cannot be held on campus as planned. The following recommendations, which we strongly encourage you to consider applying to your courses, have been generated through listening sessions with the campus community, a campus wide survey with 290 responses and hours of task force discussions and working group meetings:

  1. The Center for Teaching & Learning and Digital Learning Services has excellent resources for booking consultations and accessing training materials – including specific training and support on Zoom and bCourses. Here you will also learn how to access a free ZoomPro account which allows instructors to offer courses for up to 24 hours and 300 participants. Staff are currently on standby anticipating requests from instructors for these accounts. If your class has over 300 students email digitallearning@berkeley.edu and staff will assist you. Terry Johnson will hold a workshop at AIS on Thursday March 5 from 4:45pm-6:00pm on Instructional Resilience. The workshop can also be access ed remotely using Zoom. Staff are eager to assist faculty who may not yet be familiar with this technology.
  2. Best practices and preparation checklists for both instructors and students to help prepare for disruptions have been posted on the Instructional Resilience Resources page at teaching.berkeley.edu. We strongly encourage instructors to also review the guidelines for students, so they can anticipate students’ questions and concerns.
  3. Instructors should ensure that they have access to the gradebooks for all of the sections of the classes for which they are instructors of record. For ease of access, instructors are strongly encouraged to use the gradebook facility in bCourses. This will provide back up should an instructor/GSI fall ill. We also advise that the instructor of record consider delegating access to the bCourses gradebook to their department chair.
  4. Provisions should also be made with an instructor’s department so that an alternate instructor or graduate student instructor is on standby should the instructor or graduate student instructor become ill or quarantined and unable to teach.
  5. Instructors are encouraged to consider assessments and exams that accommodate student illness and possible lack of access to campus. Provisions should also be put in place so that the final exam can be administered and graded should the instructor become ill or placed under quarantine.
  6. The Academic Senate’s Committee on Courses and Instruction (COCI) has issued guidelines for single-incident disruption of classes to assist in managing reduced days of instruction.

Should local public health officials advise that we limit time spent in close physical proximity to each other, we believe the preliminary recommendations and information provided above will help you plan ahead. The task force will continue to develop recommendations and work with the campus to develop resources that will support instructional resilience into the future.

We realize these are times of uncertainty and concern and we thank you for your patience and wisdom in navigating these challenges. For the sake of our students and staff, it is important that we are as prepared as possible all the while hoping that our precautions will prove to be unnecessary. Should you have any ideas or concerns please feel free to share them with the Instructional Resilience Task Force by emailing vcue@berkeley.edu We will do our utmost to respond in a timely manner and adopt your ideas if we believe they will be effective. Thanking you for your efforts in support of the educational mission of our campus.