Coronavirus Update: Preparations | Faculty

Good afternoon. Last week you received a notification regarding potential impacts on ACC of the coronavirus (COVID-19). If you missed that notification, you can find the information on ACC’s coronavirus website at https://www.austincc.edu/coronavirus

As noted on that site, “Currently, there are no known cases or patients among ACC students, faculty, and staff or in the Austin/Travis County area (although testing is occurring). Health officials highly recommend that students, as well as faculty, staff and the general public, continue to practice preventive actions.”

We continue to receive questions about whether ACC plans to close because of the coronavirus. At this time, ACC does not anticipate closing the College, and existing policies regarding attendance and participation remain in effect. Any decisions that may need to be made regarding changes to College operations, including closure of the College or specific campuses, will be done in coordination with appropriate state and local health officials. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently state (as of March 5, 2020) “For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.” However, they also state “This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment will be updated as needed.”

Because this situation continues to evolve, the College's response will also evolve. In the unlikely event that we do need to close the college or any campuses prior to the end of the semester we are asking faculty to begin thinking now about how they can adapt their class to continue teaching in a virtual setting wherever that is possible.

We are asking that you begin planning now for alternatives to the face-to-face instruction that we provide our students. Below is a list of suggestions for you to consider.

1) If you are a department chair and your department doesn't have a Google group for your faculty, consider setting one up to facilitate conversations among your faculty about alternative (web-based) assignments, teaching in a virtual environment, and other relevant topics.

2) If you do not currently use Blackboard, learn the basics of Blackboard so that you can send emails to your class, create or upload assignments, create discussion boards, create a grade book, upload pertinent links, and create assessments that can be completed remotely. Start by signing into Blackboard here. Then click on Faculty Supports in the lower right. A Teach Online - Continuity Guide is available at https://tled.austincc.edu/teaching-online-continuity-guide

Additionally, you may contact Faculty Development at TLED@austincc.edu or Distance Education at de@austincc.edu to get help with teaching online. Your question will be assigned promptly to an employee who will reach out to you directly.

3) If you feel comfortable using Blackboard, but you want to have virtual classrooms, consider learning the basics of WebEx or Blackboard Collaborate. Blackboard Collaborate is a real-time video conferencing tool that lets you add files, share applications, and use a virtual whiteboard to interact with your students. Collaborate opens right in your browser so you don't have to install any software to launch a session.

For an overview of Collaborate, please click on this link for faculty: https://help.blackboard.com/Collaborate/Ultra/Moderator

For an overview for students, send them this link: https://help.blackboard.com/Collaborate/Ultra/Participant

4) If you want to maintain virtual office hours, explore Google Hangouts, Google Meet, or WebEx. 

WebEx requires you to create an account, after which you will be able to schedule meetings and send the link to your students. 

For Google Hangouts, start from your ACCmail account, click on the grid in the upper right-hand corner, click on Hangouts and then on Video Call, then click on Start a New Meeting. When it says Meeting Ready, click Start Meeting - you'll see information on how to join the meeting that you can send to your students. Hangouts can also be started through your Google Calendar. 

To hold virtual meetings through Google Meet, start from your ACCmail account, click on the grid in the upper right-hand corner, and click on Meet. From there, click on Join or start a meeting and follow the prompts as described above.

5) In the unlikely event that the College must close, testing centers will not be available. Consequently, we recommend that you become familiar with Blackboard Respondus or Monitor, as well as Proctor U. You can find information on using these resources at

https://tled.austincc.edu/teaching-online-continuity-guide

Respondus Lockdown Browser is already used by many faculty. Your department chair can connect you with a peer who already uses Respondus to help you get started.

Respondus is also offering DAILY training webinars for Respondus Monitor and LockDown Browser. Webinars are being scheduled at least 7 days in advance and will be available at different times of the day. You can register for the webinars athttp://respondus.com/webinars.

Respondus Monitor is similar to Proctor U, which is also currently used by many faculty. If the College closes, then ACC will pay the normal student Proctor U fee during the time ACC is closed. 

5) We know that not all lab classes can be translated to the virtual classroom. However, for some labs, there are virtual tools that could be used. We encourage faculty to share their tips and tools with their department colleagues, whether it's about virtual labs or something else. And don't forget that you can consult - either as a department or individually - with the Office of Instructional Design for additional ideas about assessments of student learning that work well in a "distance" setting. You can also consult with Distance Education staff.

6) Library Services has provided this LibGuide with more information about various faculty communication and collaboration tools. If you are not familiar with some of these tools, now is the time to learn the basics so that you are prepared to teach your class in a virtual setting. We have also created this web site with a comprehensive list of tools and options for faculty to consider (http://researchguides.austincc.edu/facultytoolbox).

You should also plan for limited or no access to your office, or ACC shared spaces, if the college is closed. We will try to have some access if essential, but cannot guarantee that, so please prepare accordingly. In order to support academic continuity, we ask you to be vigilant about ensuring that you have remote access to all of your course materials. That means saving materials to a thumb drive or external hard drive, and/or using the cloud (Google Docs and Sheets; iCloud; Dropbox; etc.) to access all of your course materials that aren’t accessible in Blackboard.

 Our Office of Communications and Marketing developed a webpage where updates will be provided. You can access this site at https://www.austincc.edu/coronavirus. Updates will also be posted to the ACC website, on Facebook, and Twitter.

Again, we do not expect to close the college, or any campuses. However, as noted earlier, the situation is evolving and things could certainly change, and we would like to be as prepared as possible. We will continue to provide updates as needed, so please watch for those.

Mike.

Mike Midgley

Vice President, Instruction