Teaching & Research
The fall 2021 semester will resemble pre-pandemic semesters, with a full-slate of in-person classes, activities, and student support services.
The outlook for fall classes:
- Fall: 87 percent of classes will include some form of face-to-face instruction and 13 percent will be completely online. All fall classes that are scheduled to meet in-person will be offered at 100 percent of classroom capacity.
- Beginning August 9, 2021, capacity restrictions for all indoor and outdoor spaces will be lifted.
Important actions for a safe in-person fall semester
- Get vaccinated and wear a face mask: While Texas State cannot currently require you to be vaccinated or to wear a face mask, we strongly urge you get vaccinated and wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status. These prevention measures significantly reduce the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19. Please schedule a vaccine appointment today.
- Get tested. Regardless of vaccination status, get tested before the start of the fall semester and when selected to participate in Texas State’s random COVID-19 testing program. Consider testing every two weeks in addition to testing if you experience any symptoms. Delta presents as a cold or allergies. If you experience any of those symptoms you should test to rule out COVID-19. Testing information can be found on the Texas State’s COVID-19 Testing, Reporting, and Response Steps webpage.
- Stay home and get tested if you develop cold-like or other COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of vaccination status.
- Promptly Report to Bobcat Trace if you test positive for COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone who received a positive test result. Reporting information can be found on the Texas State’s COVID-19 Testing, Reporting, and Response Steps webpage.
- Isolate if you test positive for COVID-19. Stay home and away from others for 10 days from the start of symptoms or the positive test if no symptoms.
- Quarantine if you have been identified as a close contact and stay home for the prescribed time period.
- Fully vaccinated Bobcats who are asymptomatic are not required to quarantine but should get tested for COVID-19 three to five days after last exposure. They should also wear a face mask when indoors in public spaces for 14 days since the exposure or until a negative test result is obtained three to five days after exposure.
- Unvaccinated Bobcats are required to quarantine for 7 days, test five to seven days from the date of exposure, and produce a negative test to leave quarantine and return to work or school. If an unvaccinated Bobcat cannot test, they must quarantine for 10 days and be symptom free before returning to work or school.
Health, Safety and Academic Excellence
Faculty are encouraged to visit the Employees webpage of the Roadmap website for helpful information.
Guidance & Resources for Faculty in Fall 2021
During the ongoing challenges of the current environment, we respect and recognize the critical role of faculty to ensure students are successfully guided through their courses and academic activities. Texas State has a long history of compassion, a student-centered approach, and innovation in teaching and learning. We deeply appreciate your deep commitment to the university’s teaching and instructional mission.
- First and foremost, faculty are asked to consider actions that are in the best interests of course learning processes and outcomes and students’ academic progression. The key is to prioritize learning goals and learning materials, determine the appropriate course design, practice new methods, and communicate expectations to students. The Office of Faculty Development, Office of Distance and Extended Learning, and IT Assistance Center offer workshops and consultations to enhance teaching and learning.
- In all courses, faculty initiate regular, frequent, and substantive interaction with students. Section 05 of AA/PPS 02.01.30, Distance Education Courses and Programs, provides guidance on how to achieve the interaction that is expected by students and required by regulatory and accreditation standards.
- The Division of Information Technology (DOIT) has equipped classrooms with technological tools to support synchronous and/or asynchronous content delivery, and dedicated resources for faculty to deliver high-quality hybrid and online instruction and resources for students to ensure effective learning.
- Online courses are part of a larger instructional delivery strategy. These courses may include online and hybrid courses. All instructors teaching online and hybrid courses must be certified to teach in these modalities. Information on certification is available from the Office of Distance and Extended Learning.
- Open Educational Resources (OER) are available on a wide range of topics and may include lectures, assignments, videos, readings, and other materials. Resources include:
- Guidelines for instruction in off-site learning spaces such as in internships/cooperative education, field trips, student teaching, and clinical practice follow.
- These learning activities must follow on-site rules/procedures.
- The university recommends that all participants engage in best practices as outlined in the August 10, 2021 message from President Trauth.
- In some instances, units may need to consult with the Office of General Counsel through appropriate channels for any acknowledgement and/or participant release documents that may be necessary.
- Before the beginning of the semester, faculty members should review AA/PPS 02.03.02, Conduct of Classes, for guidance on creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment that is conducive to the free exchange of ideas. Students and faculty members have roles and shared responsibility for creating this environment in all classes including laboratories, traditional classrooms, study abroad, independent studies, private lessons, and other settings.
- Classes must be fully implemented in the instruction mode that appears on the Schedule of Classes in Catsweb. Approximately 87 percent of fall 2021 classes will include some form of face-to-face instruction (face-to-face and hybrid instruction modes) and 13 percent will be completely online.
- As in the past, faculty members may consider alternatives to face-to face office hours, such as video conferencing in Teams or Zoom, telephone calls, emails, and other means. Based on Governor Abbott’s executive orders, faculty may not require students to wear masks associated with COVID-19 as a condition for delivering instruction, support, and office hours.
- The Office of Disability Services (ODS) provides reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. Faculty are responsible for implementing accommodations based on the office’s process, assessment, and formal recommendations per UPPS 07.11.01, Disability Services for Students. Please note that although students with ODS accommodations may discuss alternatives with instructors if they are unable to attend a face-to-face class, a faculty member is not required to accommodate a request that represents a fundamental alteration to the delivery methods of a course or program.
- Student requests for modifications outside of the ODS process may be considered by a faculty member, but there is no requirement to make modifications.
- As in the past, faculty have discretion in managing student absences, including those due to illness. Students who must isolate or quarantine should report to Bobcat Trace and contact their professors to make appropriate arrangements for completing assignments. Students can notify instructors directly or utilize the absence notifications form. Faculty members determine appropriate arrangements for students who miss class.
- If there are a large number of absences in a face-to-face class and the instructor finds difficulty in managing make-up assignments and course delivery, remote learning and alternative strategies are at the instructor’s discretion. For example, the instructor may choose to use Zoom so absent students are able to observe lectures and class activities. Or, an instructor may record and distribute lectures, add discussion boards in Canvas, create substitute assignments, or implement some other plan.
- Assigned seats and attendance tracking must be used in all classroom learning spaces to benefit contact tracing should a positive COVID-19 case emerge.
- Syllabus Content Reminders (see Section 13 of AA/PPS 02.03.01 Conduct and Planning of Courses, for all syllabus requirements)
- Required class materials, access to materials, use of Canvas, and/or instructional strategies.
- Technology or software are needed for the class, including getting support from ITAC.
- Exams, assignments, grading rubrics, assessment and testing, and due dates.
- How office hours will be handled (i.e., Zoom, Teams, email, etc.).
- Attendance policy and record-keeping procedures.
- Assigned seating and required seating charts for face-to-face and hybrid class sections.
- Monitor the university’s Roadmap for any updates.
- Instructors may choose to record lectures, discussions, and class activities for students who need later access. The following must be observed regarding recordings:
- Include a statement in the syllabus indicating that lectures, discussions, and class activities may be recorded for facilitating remote instruction.
- Discuss with students that lectures, discussions, and class activities may be recorded and provide the reason for the same.
- Ensure that recordings are only accessible through NetID and password by students enrolled in the current semester. This may be accomplished by Zoom integration through Canvas.
- Ensure that the recording is available only to students enrolled in the current semester and that these recordings not be used in future semesters.
- Recordings should meet the standards of accessibility under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
- Faculty who are absent from class should coordinate with their department chairs/school directors to ensure continuity of instruction. In some cases, a faculty member teaching face-to-face may transition to remote learning for a brief period by using Zoom, Teams, Canvas, or other tools. For extended absences, another faculty member may be asked to assume responsibility for the class. Deans and chairs/directors may contact the Office of the Provost for support or guidance.
- Employees who must isolate or quarantine should report to Bobcat Trace and visit with their supervisor about leave options. Employees in isolation or quarantine may work remotely only if requested and approved through their Department Head. For more information, visit the Employee Time and Leave section on the Roadmap.
- Faculty should ensure that regular and substantive faculty-driven engagement occur in all classes, including in online and hybrid classes. Asynchronous online courses cannot be implemented as correspondence courses. In addition to accreditation standards, faculty-driven activities are important for meeting the university’s core values and responding to student feedback regarding increased workload with less direct access to instructors and academic engagement opportunities. Regular and substantive interaction is covered in university policy: AA/PPS No. 02.01.30 Distance Education Courses and Programs § 05.07
- Faculty have three major roles in contact tracing: 1) keep a current seating chart so that close contacts can be identified, 2) assist contact tracers with identifying close contacts when necessary and, 3) remind students that if they test positive for COVID-19 or are notified that they are a close contact to a positive case, they should immediately report to Bobcat Trace. Staff with Bobcat Trace are responsible for communicating with those affected by contact tracing protocols.
- Faculty own the coursework they create, and the university has a license to use it for education and marketing purposes. More information on copyright and remote teaching is available from the university’s Copyright Office and the library’s remote course support webpage.
- Engagement with your students should begin before the semester begins. Students may have questions or be anxious about the upcoming semester. Updates will help students understand the care and planning you are investing in your course and encourage them to be properly prepared.
- Students may feel vulnerable at this time. The College Transition Collaborative provides advice on communicating with students with clarity and compassion. Texas State’s Counseling Center has a COVID-19 resource page, as well.
- Familiarize yourself with support services available to students so you can refer them to the appropriate resource when necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
In response to inquiries and feedback from Faculty Senate, faculty, department chairs/school directors, and deans, town hall meetings, and other important stakeholders, the following questions and answers are updated as needed by the Office of the Provost.
How do I create a classroom environment that feels safe for all students, especially when classrooms are enrolled at or near capacity?
Role modeling is critical for enhancing awareness and actions on the importance of face coverings and COVID-19 vaccinations. Course syllabi should include the five (5) steps Texas State is asking all community members to take, which appeared in President Trauth’s email dated August 10, 2021.
Faculty members report that taking the time for a class discussion about health and safety creates awareness and understanding of student concerns and perspectives, including sustaining public health measures that are essential precursors for ensuring that the university continues in-person classes, services, and activities. A class discussion may also include reflection on the university’s mission and shared values, including compassion, respect, diversity of people and ideas, and a sense of community.
If an instructor is teaching a course tied to a particular profession or career path, students will appreciate learning more about the health and safety expectations of likely employers, graduate schools, industry leaders, clinical sites, internship providers, and other organizations. This information creates a forum for dialogue around health and safety, prepares students for the realities of workplaces and their diversity, ties to the university’s mission and shared values, and reinforces Texas State’s commitment to marketable skills.
Faculty members may also work with their chairs/directors to find larger classrooms or instructional spaces, use Zoom, Teams, or other means for office hours, and consider seating arrangements, student placement, and instructor placement in instructional spaces to optimize social distancing. Face coverings may be ordered by department heads via the COVID-19 Department Order Form.
If students are anxious, please refer them to the university’s Counseling Center. In addition to direct services and counseling appointments, students may also benefit from the center’s Bobcat Mental Wellness videos and presentations. Wellness and the Counseling Center’s resources may also be part of class discussion and activities.
More information on student concerns is addressed in the FAQ below, “What if my students are anxious about returning to campus? Are there resources available?”
Do students, faculty, and staff have to take a COVID-19 test before the semester starts? What information may I provide to others?
In President Trauth’s email dated August 10, 2021, she urged all members of the university community, regardless of vaccination status, to get tested before the start of the fall 2021 semester and when selected to participate in Texas State’s random COVID-19 testing program. Testing information may be found on Texas State’s COVID-19 Testing, Reporting, and Response Steps webpage.
May I require students to wear face coverings or masks in order to be in my classroom, lab, office, or other university activities?
No. Per standing guidance from Governor Abbott’s Executive Order No. GA-36 issued on May 18, 2021, and confirmed by The Texas State University System Office of General Counsel, Texas State is not able to require face coverings. Two instruction-based exceptions: 1) if face coverings are a routine component of a class or lab due to the use of chemicals, machinery, or other hazardous conditions and 2) if an external organization hosting the student learning experience requires face coverings while students are at the organization’s location; the external organization manages compliance.
No. This question is not appropriate due to medical privacy laws and Governor Abbott’s Executive Order No. GA-35 issued on April 5, 2021 and confirmed by The Texas State University System Office of General Counsel. Texas public institutions may neither compel disclosure of vaccination status nor condition the delivery of services on a person’s vaccination status.
No. This question is not appropriate due to medical privacy laws. At Texas State, there are two exceptions, both of which are managed by staff in Student Affairs and Athletics (i.e., students moving into Texas State residence halls and student-athletes).
Yes. Faculty teaching face-to-face classes (and classes in all instruction modes) may consider alternatives to face-to face office hours, such as video conferencing in Teams or Zoom, telephone calls, emails, meeting in larger spaces, and other means.
Do I have flexibility in delivering fall 2021 classes? If so, how does the instruction mode assigned to my class determine required in-person instruction and activities?
Classes must be fully implemented in the instruction mode that appears on the Schedule of Classes in Catsweb. The class syllabus should reflect the instruction mode and include elements described in section 13 of AA/PPS 02.03.01, Conduct and Planning of Courses.
Before making decisions about syllabi and course delivery, please review AA/PPS 02.03.10, Instructional Contact Time and Academic Credit for information on required contact hours, including a minimum of 45 contact hours per semester for a 3-hour credit course. This policy is useful for calculating class time that should be delivered in-person, online, and/or through alternative means in alignment with the class section’s instruction mode.
Faculty have discretion and flexibility to implement classes according to the definition and parameters of instruction modes, which were set months in advance of fall 2021. For example, the face-to-face course instruction mode means 85 percent or more of the faculty-student interaction occurs in-person. The remaining 15 percent may occur in other formats, including Zoom.
The A/B classroom model for a face-to-face class could work as long as the 85 percent in-person threshold is met across the semester and the course is effective for student learning needs and outcomes. As another example, an instructor could begin a fall 2021 face-to-face class via Zoom for two weeks and then transition to in-person instruction to meet the 85% in-person threshold.
The University Registrar defines instruction modes as follows:
- FTF- At least 85% of the section is taught face-to-face (in-person)
- INT- At least 85% of the section is taught via the internet
- HYB- 50-85% of the section is taught via the internet, the other portion is taught face-to-face (in-person)
- ITV- Section is taught via two-interactive video
- MEM- 50% of the section is taught via electronic instruction other than ITV or online
- VTV- Section is taught by video tape and/or Broadcast TV
What are my obligations to students who request class modifications independent of accommodations approved by the Office of Disability Services (ODS)? Is there a process for asking students about modifications or do students approach instructors first?
Faculty have discretion in working with students and are neither obligated nor required to ask students about modifications or make modifications, including creating individualized instructional modalities. Modifications are not the same as formal accommodations recommended by the Office of Disability Services (ODS).
Students may be advised that ODS manages the process that provides reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. Faculty are responsible for implementing accommodations based on the office’s process, assessment, and formal recommendations per UPPS 07.11.01, Disability Services for Students.
How do I handle student absences from class or campus work, including those due to COVID-19 protocol?
As in the past, faculty have discretion in managing student absences, including those due to illness. Faculty members determine appropriate arrangements for students who miss class, which may be similar to or the same arrangements offered in the past for students absent due to illness or other reasons.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 or are identified as a close contact to someone who tested positive must isolate or quarantine should report to Bobcat Trace. After reporting to Bobcat trace, students will receive an email with instructions to follow. Students should forward this email to their professors and make appropriate arrangements for completing assignments. The email notification to students from Bobcat Trace is an official university communication that serves as documentation for student absences.
To bolster reporting, faculty members are encouraged to require students who test positive for COVID-19, are a close contact, or must isolate or quarantine to 1) report to Bobcat Trace and 2) forward the notification email from Bobcat Trace to receive an excused absence.
Students may also notify instructors directly or utilize the absence notification form via the Dean of Students. Absence notifications from the Dean of Students provide documentation of a student's emergency event without revealing confidential information and are for unplanned events such as hospitalization, death of a loved one, and physician-ordered absences. Notices from Bobcat Trace are the preferred method of documenting absences due to COVID-19 because Bobcat Trace directly informs the university’s plans and statistics on COVID-19.
Student employees who test positive or are identified as a close contact and must isolate or quarantine should promptly report to Bobcat Trace and visit with their supervisor.
If there are a large number of absences in a face-to-face class and the instructor finds difficulty in managing make-up assignments and course delivery, remote learning and alternative strategies are at the instructor’s discretion. For example, the instructor may choose to temporarily use Zoom so absent students are able to observe lectures and class activities. Or, an instructor may record and distribute lectures, add discussion boards in Canvas, create substitute assignments, or implement some other plan.
As in the past, faculty who are absent from class coordinate with their chairs/directors to ensure continuity of instruction. These absences may relate to faculty illness, family illness, faculty attendance at conferences, and other reasons. In some cases, a faculty member teaching face-to-face may briefly transition to remote/online learning by using Zoom, Teams, Canvas, or other tools. These transitions, which may be due to emergency or unforeseeable events, do not count against the in-person contact hours required by instruction modes. The university recognizes the flexibility needed during times of emergencies and unforeseeable events. For example, if a faculty member teaching a face-to-face class has already implemented 15% of class time online and subsequently becomes ill and needs to isolate or is a close contact and needs to quarantine, the faculty member may teach virtually or online during the quarantine or isolation period. This period of online instruction does not count against the required in-person hours per face-to-face and hybrid instruction modes.
For extended absences, another faculty member may be asked to assume responsibility for the class. Deans and chairs/directors may contact the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs for support or guidance. Faculty with extended absences are advised to review UPPS 04.04.30, University Leave Policy, and contact Human Resources for guidance.
Employees who test positive for COVID-19 or are identified as a close contact to someone who tested positive must isolate or quarantine and should promptly report to Bobcat Trace, follow the instructions, and visit with their supervisor about leave options. Supervisors should reinforce the importance of prompt reporting to Bobcat Trace, as these reports directly inform the university’s plans and statistics on COVID-19.
UPPS 04.04.30 University Leave Policy provides details and procedures regarding how faculty earn and can report sick leave. Employees in isolation or quarantine may work remotely only if requested and approved through their Department Head. For more information, visit the Employee Time and Leave section on the Texas State Roadmap.
Faculty earn sick leave and are required to report sick leave taken. The use of sick leave and reporting procedures are prescribed in UPPS 04.04.30, University Leave Policy, Section 03.10, Sick Leave Procedures, and Section 15, Record Keeping Procedures. Questions regarding faculty sick leave should be directed to the appropriate chair/director. Each department/school has a procedure in place for getting time entered into the SAP time management system, either by a faculty member or the departmental time administrator.
If I test positive for COVID-19 but am asymptomatic, what should I do about teaching in-person classes?
Report to Bobcat Trace and follow the instructions provided to you. Faculty who are absent from class should coordinate with their chairs/directors to ensure continuity of instruction. An asymptomatic faculty member teaching face-to-face classes may briefly transition to remote learning for a quarantine or isolation period by using Zoom, Teams, Canvas, or other tools. For more information, visit Texas State’s COVID-19 Testing, Reporting, and Response Steps web page.
Students should be advised to consult the university’s Roadmap for information about steps student can take to keep themselves and others safe. Texas State’s COVID-19 Testing, Reporting, and Response Steps web page provides more information. Information about positive cases or close contacts is confidential and should not be shared.
No. All employees, including faculty, must safeguard the privacy of the infected person. Releasing the names of affected students violates their privacy and confidentiality. When a positive case is reported to Bobcat Trace, a contact tracer will notify those who came in close contact with the patient, and may request assistance from Texas State faculty or supervisors (if the student also works on campus) to obtain contact information for any exposed persons. Case information is shared only with those persons who need to know and who may have action to take. Information about positive cases or close contacts is confidential and should not be shared.
First, isolate yourself and do not come to campus. Notify your department chair/school director to make arrangements for continuity of instruction. Seek medical evaluation and get tested for COVID-19. If you test positive, report to Bobcat Trace and follow the protocol recommended by Bobcat Trace staff. Reporting information can be found on the Texas State’s COVID-19 Testing, Reporting, and Response Steps web page.
Over the last 18 months, researchers have demonstrated the ability to be both safe and productive while engaged in research activities by taking appropriate safety measures against COVID-19, including vaccinations, physical distancing, sanitization, and face coverings. While vaccines and safety protocols have helped to improve the situation considerably, it is still prudent and necessary to maintain Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
During fall 2021, Texas State will continue to operate its research facilities at full capacity (phase 4), including human subjects research. SOPs are required and will need to include elements of self-monitoring, personnel logging, and following CDC guidance where appropriate. Contact staff in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for more information.
Wearing a mask/face covering is strongly recommend when working around others in closed areas. It may be necessary, in some cases, to consider work schedules within shared closed spaces that avoid prolonged close encounters of personnel. Due to orders by Governor Abbott, students, faculty, and staff may not be required to wear a mask/face covering for COVID-19 purposes or asked about COVID-19 vaccination status. Questions about unique situations may be addressed by staff in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
Bobcat Balance, a work life and employee assistance program, provides various free and confidential services and resources to help employees through life’s challenges. In addition, WellCats developed COVID Wellness Resources for employees. The page includes information about exercise and physical activity, being mindful and proactive, emotional and mental wellness, nutrition tips and tricks, and other advice. An additional resource includes “Supporting Your Well-Being during Times of Change and Uncertainty,” available free to faculty, staff and students via LinkedIn Learning.
If students are anxious, please refer them to the university’s Counseling Center. In addition to direct services and counseling appointments, students will benefit from the center’s COVID-19 Resources and Bobcat Mental Wellness videos and presentations. These videos are useful for anyone interested in learning more about managing stress and anxiety, strengthening coping skills, increasing self-motivation, and other topics. An additional resource includes “Supporting Your Well-Being during Times of Change and Uncertainty,” available free to faculty, staff and students via LinkedIn Learning. Students should also be encouraged to review the Counseling Center’s “Tips List for Coping with COVID-19 Uncertainty, Change, and Fear” on the COVID-19 Resources webpage.
If a student tests positive for COVID-19, what should I do if other students find out and do not feel comfortable meeting in person?
Please remind students about their ability to take health and safety precautions, such as wearing a mask/face covering, getting vaccinated, maintaining social distance, handwashing, and so forth. Students may also be referred to the university’s Counseling Center. In addition to direct services and counseling appointments, students will benefit from the center’s COVID-19 Resources and Bobcat Mental Wellness videos and presentations. Students should also be encouraged to review the Counseling Center’s “Tips List for Coping with COVID-19 Uncertainty, Change, and Fear” on the COVID-19 Resources webpage.
NOTE: Stay up-to-date on Texas State’s response to COVID-19 by checking your university email account and visiting the university’s Roadmap on a regular basis.
*Information provided in the Roadmap may change or be updated as needed to respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation.