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Messages for University Faculty

September 1, 2009

TO: Faculty, Instructors, Graduate Instructors and Teaching Assistants
FROM: E. Thomas Sullivan, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
RE: Plan Ahead for Fall Semester--H1N1 Academic Planning Guide

As you know, public health officials anticipate that many college students could become ill with H1N1 flu virus during the fall semester. If you have not done so already, please take time now as you prepare to consider these issues for the start of classes to

  • Plan Early
  • Be Flexible
  • Stay Informed
  • Use Technology

Please remember that even if many students become ill, those who are well will expect to have class. This is true even if a large majority of students in a particular class are ill. Unless you are ill yourself and no colleague is available to fill in, according to University policy your class must be held. Under University policy, only the provost has the authority to cancel classes. Authority to cancel classes does not reside at the collegiate or departmental level.

Also, until further notice and in line with the Center for Disease Control's recommendation and in consultation with the Faculty Consultative Committee, the University will not require students who have symptoms associated with H1N1 to provide a doctor's note certifying that they are ill.

Plan Early

Review your course syllabus and identify where adjustments could be made if you become ill or a large number of students become ill. Consider crafting the syllabus with enough detail that a teaching assistant or colleague can fill in for you if necessary.

For courses that include labs, schedule additional make-up labs at the end of the semester.

Please make certain that your course materials are available through WebVista/Moodle for students who become ill and miss classes.

Work with your department chair and faculty colleagues to cover for each other's large classes, in case the primary instructor becomes ill.

Identify course content that could be provided in part or in whole through technology options available through the Office of Information Technology. (See "Use Technology" section below.)

Consider using these class participation strategies:

  • Encouraging students to record class discussions and posting the recording on a WebVista site.
  • Allowing students to participate in class discussion via a cell phone's speaker phone.
  • Holding synchronous discussions using WebVista.
    Arranging for students to take proctored online tests at a U of M computer lab.
    • The Office of Information Technology (OIT) and many colleges and departments manage a variety of computer labs across the campus. Faculty should work with the appropriate collegiate or departmental staff to investigate the use of those labs. Availability of OIT-managed labs and complete instructions on scheduling an OIT lab can be found online.

Be Flexible

Pandemics can change quickly and unpredictably. Faculty and staff will need to be flexible in responding to changing conditions as we pursue the educational mission of the University. The planning you complete before classes start may need to be adjusted as new conditions warrant.

Stay Informed

Watch for e-mail updates and other communications from the University. Check the University H1N1 Web site for the most up-to-date information.

Use Technology

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) provides a variety of educational technologies that enable instructors to deliver their classes to students at a distance. These technologies range from simple to complex, and each has different capabilities and limitations. We are not recommending any specific tool, as that decision should be made by the instructor based on his or her needs, skills, and comfort with digital teaching technologies, and the urgency of the need. Also keep in mind that not all class types are suited for digital delivery.

OIT offers various levels of technical support and training for the educational technologies listed below. Many of the technologies have online training available for instructors and students who need a quick orientation. A complete list of training classes can be found online.

Along with training and technical support, OIT's Digital Media Center (DMC) consultants provide instructors with support around educational technology, pedagogy, and instructional design. For more information, please visit their Web site.

Local technology help and support also is available to faculty and students in many colleges and departments at the University. In the event of an H1N1 flu outbreak, it will be more important than ever for OIT and collegiate and departmental IT staff to collaborate to ensure there are enough resources to help those seeking technology assistance. A list of collegiate and departmental technology support is being compiled on the OIT Help and Support Web page. This list can be found online.

One of our greatest resources is the instructors who already work with and excel at using these educational technologies. Many of these instructors have participated in the DMC Faculty Fellowship Program and may be able to assist others who are new to educational technologies. For a list of these resources, contact the DMC at

Educational Technology Solutions: Below is a quick overview of the educational technologies OIT has to offer. For more information, follow the links provided for each tool.

Instructors can easily set up a Listserv for their classes and use it to communicate, share documents, and provide links to lecture podcasts.

UMChat is an instant messaging (IM) service that enables instructors and students to exchange messages on the Internet in real time. Although UMChat does not allow document sharing, it does enable instructors to have discussions with their students and allows students to collaborate with each other.

The NetFiles service is a secure online file storage and collaboration solution available to all faculty and students at the University that is accessible using a Web browser. NetFiles allows instructors to share course materials with their students and allows students to work collaboratively on documents from a distance and get them back to the instructor.

iTunes U
iTunes U enables instructors to share podcasts with students through Apple iTunes. It does not allow for discussions, documents, sharing, or managing class lists, but combined with other tools it is a simple way for instructors to share class lectures, podcasts, and vodcasts.

UMWiki enables users to directly and collaboratively create and edit content quickly and easily using a Web browser. UMWiki enables instructors and students to create Web pages, embed images, documents, and Web links. Built-in revision tracking shows when changes were made, and by whom.

Moodle is course management software designed to support social constructionist pedagogical practices. Instructors can create course Web sites that include text, multimedia learning resources, and activities. A rich set of tools and features are included to enable collaboration and group participation. Nine percent of academic courses at the University are already using Moodle.

WebVista is course management software that enables instructors to create and manage, and enables students to access and participate in, Web-based learning materials and activities using built-in synchronous and asynchronous learning modules, discussion, chat, whiteboard, assessment, grade book, collaboration, and other tools. Thirty-one percent of academic courses at the University are already using WebVista.

UMConnect enables University faculty and eligible graduate students to create on-demand Web presentations and to communicate and collaborate through Web conferences and webcasts. Students can use UMConnect to view content and participate in Web conferences and webcasts.

Camtasia Relay
Camtasia Relay is a software-based class capture solution that can be used anytime/anywhere without any special hardware other than a computer and a microphone. It enables instructors to record their voice and capture anything that is on their computer screen.

Google Apps
When Google launches later this fall, instructors and students will be able to share documents with Google Docs, hold discussions with Google Talk, and communicate with Gmail.

Educational Technology Support: The first point of contact for technology questions should be the Technology Helpline at 612-301-4357 (1-help on campus).

For additional information and resources regarding the use of technology, visit OIT's Web site.

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University of Minnesota Pandemic Influenza Response Plan (332 K pdf)