Academic Guidance in Relation to H1N1

Dear Colleagues:

The federal Centers for Disease Control and the Indiana State Department of Health expect the H1N1 flu to be widespread this fall and have a significant effect on normal activities during the upcoming regular flu season (and possibly earlier).

A severe outbreak of any communicable disease, such as the H1N1 influenza virus, could seriously interfere with the academic mission of Indiana State University by making education, research, and creative activity impossible or inadvisable because people are too ill to attend or because gatherings such as classes, labs, and studios could hasten the spread of disease.

University leaders and health staff are closely monitoring the situation. A University working team, health services personnel, and others are developing preventive and mitigation measures, acquiring supplies, assuring continuity of physical and IT infrastructure, developing appropriate communications, and addressing a host of other preparatory activities.

Because ISU’s education activities are many and varied, much of the planning for academic continuity must be the province of individual faculty members. While there is no reason for faculty members to make dramatic changes in the way classes or other activities are conducted at this time, the situation may well change as we move further into the semester, with class, lab, studio, and other academic activities interrupted for some period of time by absent faculty, students, or staff. In a worst case, educational activities could be suspended for one or more weeks, upon the advice of the relevant public health officials and ISU administration.

The following are ways that you can prepare now for the academic continuity of your courses:

  1. Instructional methods. The most important way that you as individual faculty members can prepare for such eventualities is to make plans now for handling significant absenteeism due to illness or a significant interruption during which the class, lab, or studio cannot meet. I suggest that you become familiar with the automated on-line teaching tool, Blackboard. Our goal is to minimize, by advance planning, the impact of absenteeism or interruption on our educational activities.

    Blackboard has the capability of recording both audio and screen information (Tegrity), and allowing the instructor to “push” this information to those students with H1N1. Thus, it would allow you to provide instruction to your class and simultaneously provide instruction to those students infected with the H1N1 virus.

    All courses have a Blackboard site already created for them. Blackboard sites can be accessed two ways:

    1. go through the ISU portals, click on the faculty tab, then look to the right portion of the screen for Blackboard Login or,
    2. go to http://blackboard.indstate.edu. To login to Blackboard, use Sycamore login and password. For more information regarding Blackboard use go to http://www.indstate.edu/cirt/facdev/blackboard/. Also, for face to face Blackboard training go to http://www.indstate.edu/cirt/id/oneonone.html.

  2. Grading. You will also want to consider a range of alternatives (depending on the circumstances) for evaluating student’s performance in the event of widespread absenteeism or a significant interruption. We need to uphold our academic standards but allow for maximum student flexibility.
  3. Absences and extensions. Related to grading, you should consider alternatives to your ordinary rules for attendance and extensions, like requiring proof of illness or imposing penalties. Entirely appropriate under ordinary circumstances, such rules could be extremely harmful in an outbreak of the flu, and we must be flexible on this matter. To limit the spread of any highly communicable disease, it is very important that individuals (students, faculty, staff) with the flu stay away from classes, labs, and other gatherings, and that they do not go to crowded locations like health services or physicians’ offices solely to obtain documentation of illness. Moreover, public and university health officials will likely be urging people with flu-like symptoms to stay away from school and work until they have been completely asymptomatic for a full day, and we should not undermine this important message.
  4. Creative activity. Faculty and students engaged in creative activity, including performances, should develop contingency plans for significant absenteeism or cancellations. Here again, the types of creative activity at Indiana State University are varied and uniform recommendations are impossible. Thus it is all the more important that individual faculty members develop plans in advance.
  5. Work with your department chairs and deans. As you make your plans, please also keep in touch with your department chair to ensure that your plan can be supported, meets applicable educational standards, and does not conflict with others’ plans. Where feasible, faculty member should try to cover a class for a faculty member who is absent.

The health and safety of all of our community members is our paramount concern and will remain so as events unfold. Advance planning will help minimize the impact on our academic programs. I thank you in advance for your careful attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

C. Jack Maynard
Provost and Vice President for
Academic Affairs