Update from leadership - Jan. 12, 2021

Spring semester changes

Dear VCU faculty and staff,

Welcome to the spring 2021 semester!

As you learned from President Rao’s message, all classes will begin virtually, except in instances where a student is involved in clinical and field placements, practica, co-ops, internships and other work-related experiential learning activities. This means that previously planned in-person classes and the in-person component of hybrid (blended) courses also will take place virtually. The semester start dates remain unchanged and can be found on the academic calendar.

We will continue to monitor the status of the pandemic and, if circumstances allow, we hope to start on-campus instruction on or before March 8.

This message provides an overview of academic-related information for spring 2021 and resources available to support faculty, staff and students. Additional information will be provided to you as it becomes available.

Virtual start to the spring 2021 semester and modality changes

All classes currently listed in the spring 2021 Schedule of Classes for in-person, hybrid or blended (synchronous and asynchronous) will be taught in a fully virtual environment until we return to on-campus instruction. At that time, the courses will return to the originally scheduled modality. See below for exceptions regarding labs and clinical settings.

Since we are starting the semester virtually, some faculty may find it disruptive to transition from virtual to face-to-face, if we are able to return to on campus instruction. Faculty who are concerned about disruptions related to transitioning a course from virtual to face-to-face may request a course modality change in the spring 2021 Schedule of Classes through the appropriate dean's office. Deans will share the process and deadline with their faculty this week and will submit all requests to the Office of Records and Registration.

Upon our return to on-campus learning, faculty are expected to follow the course modalities as listed in the revised and official spring 2021 Schedule of Classes, which will be finalized on January 22.

Experiential learning, studios and laboratories

Studios and laboratories will be open. However, reduced occupancy is vital. Deans will work with VCU Office of Safety and Risk Management for specific spaces and occupancy.

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation will notify faculty of changes due to COVID-19 through email and through the OVPRI website, research.vcu.edu. Additional information is on the Phased Return to Research page.

Off-campus academic activities may continue. The Health and Safety Acknowledgement form, which has been updated for spring 2021, is required for students participating in off-campus, non-clinical academic activities.

Student residential housing

The adjustments to the spring 2021 semester does not affect residential move-in. We understand that the instructional format may have diminished interest in remaining in on-campus housing for some students. Information for student cancelation of their housing contract is on the Closing and Returning Information page.

Buildings on campus

In addition to laboratories, studios and student housing listed above, additional spaces will be open with safety protocols in place. Most campus buildings will require card access. Check appropriate websites for hours of operation for community spaces such as campus dining centers, VCU Libraries, and the University Student Commons, Larrick Center and Hunton Student Center.

You will receive additional information on the new Entry Pass next week.

Resources for faculty development and support

Faculty have done a tremendous job in navigating the changes in teaching methods over this past year. If you will be teaching virtually for the first time, need a refresher, or would like to try something new, we have a variety of resources to guide you.

Center for Teaching and Learning Workshops (also available as a printable flier)

Academic Technologies Training (Canvas, Kaltura, etc.)

Keep on Teaching at VCU

Online@VCU and VCU AltLab

Office of the Provost - spring 2021 planning

Important dates

Jan. 25 - Classes begin on the MPC. MCV Campus students follow departmental schedule

Feb. 1 - Last day to add a course

Feb. 8 - Last day to drop a course

Feb. 8-28 - Progress reports due for undergraduate students in need of academic support

Feb.8 - New spring minimesters begin (more information below)

March 19 - Midterm grades are due

Reading days - Monroe Park Campus

VCU has two reading days on the spring academic calendar: Feb. 23 and March 24. Students are encouraged to use these days for relaxation, study and/or review of class materials.

No classes or exams are held on these days except in instances where a student is involved in clinical and field placements, practica, co-ops, internships and other work-related experiential learning activities. Faculty may not give an examination or an assignment on those days.

Minimesters are coming

In order to provide students with a variety of course formats and modalities, VCU has introduced three mini-terms in addition to the regular 16-week spring semester. This information is available on the academic calendar:

  • February Term: 5-week term (February 15- March 19)
  • Spring Minimester: 8-week term (March 8 - May 5)
  • March Term: 5-week (March 29 - May 4)

We anticipate limited course offerings in each of the minimesters. Departments continue to evaluate course offerings to determine if additional courses may be added to the Spring Minimester and March Term.

Required training and continued safety protocols for faculty and staff

Important information for faculty and staff was provided in the Together Weekly Update for Faculty and Staff on January 8.

Staying informed

A complete summary of spring 2021 information is on the Together website at together.vcu.edu/spring-2021-info/. Additionally, the One VCU: Responsible Together website is an excellent resource for up-to-date information on university operations and health and safety information.

In addition, please be sure to read Together Update for Faculty and Staff, which is delivered to your VCU email account from together@vcu.edu, for a summary of information related to the university’s response to COVID-19. The daily VCU TelegRam remains the best resource for general university announcements and opportunities.

We recognize that this is a difficult time and process for every member of our community. The talent and fortitude of our VCU faculty and staff has been proven over and over. We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic. We are proud of and thankful for each of you.

Go Rams! We’ve got this!

Regards,

Gail Hackett, Ph.D.
Provost and senior vice president for academic affairs

Art Kellermann, M.D., M.P.H.
Senior vice president for health sciences
CEO, VCU Health System

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