Weekly coronavirus update, October 8
This week’s update addresses concerns about Spring Break, temporary work from home agreements, Winter Commencement, proctoring software clarifications, and testing locations. Visit the University’s Coronavirus website for the most up-to-date information and guidance. Questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring break will remain as scheduled. Findings of the spring break survey sent to students, faculty, and staff last week have resulted in no changes to the Spring Academic Calendar. The start of the spring term will remain January 11 with course formats as indicated in Course Finder.
An overwhelming number of survey respondents expressed that spring break is crucial to maintaining mental health, especially in challenging times. While acknowledging mental health as a significant concern, the University also recognizes apprehension within the campus and larger community associated with spring break travel. Increased testing will be implemented after spring break for students who are on-campus for face-to-face and hybrid courses, working on campus, and living in on-campus housing.
During the spring term, the majority of faculty and staff will continue to work and teach remotely, on-campus housing will remain at nearly 60 percent capacity, and the majority of courses will be taught in virtual environments. In addition, the University is working toward implementation of the University of Illinois Shield Illinois saliva-based COVID-19 test, which is currently pending FDA approval. This testing protocol will provide the ability to conduct high numbers of tests with quick results.
As the University implements plans for the spring term, we also continue to monitor the impacts and risks of COVID-19. Changes to the spring academic calendar may be unavoidable at a later date if there are significant changes to public health guidance, spikes in COVID-19 cases on campus or the local community, or changes to the status of Region 2 as indicated in Restore Illinois that result in additional restrictions.
Whether on-campus or off, we must all do our part to keep our community safe by following all COVID-19 health and safety precautions.
Work from Home
The University will continue its commitment to employee flexibility throughout the spring term. “As I have said previously, I continue to support as many faculty and staff as possible to teach and work remotely if their position allows,” said President Larry Dietz. “As we continue to face the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff remain our top priority.”
Temporary work from home agreements should be submitted to Human Resources and can be extended through June 30, 2021. Detailed information will be provided to departments by Human Resources in the next week.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our nation, state, and campus community, it has also altered plans for one of Illinois State University’s most cherished traditions: Winter Commencement. These ceremonies mark the culmination of a student’s time on campus and honor an important milestone.
The University will honor and recognize the accomplishments of winter graduates with an online ceremony featuring graduate slide shows and remarks by President Larry Dietz and other Illinois State officials. These recorded ceremonies will be available for viewing on the commencement website beginning on December 12. Students who applied to graduate in December 2020 were emailed detailed information on Wednesday, October 7.
The University is continuing to explore ways to host an in-person celebratory experience for all spring, summer, and winter 2020 graduates in spring 2021. Plans will be communicated with 2020 graduates via email and posted online as soon as they are finalized. Students graduating in December should complete the 2020 Graduate Communication Form to receive further information.
For those students who have purchased regalia (cap and gown) that they do not intend to use, unopened regalia may be returned for reimbursement by visiting the Graduation Services website to complete a Regalia Return Form.
Proctoring Software Update
Last week, it was announced that the University was moving forward with Proctortrack, an automated exam proctoring tool. This software is a resource for instructors, but its use across campus is not mandatory for faculty. Proctoring software is just one way to maintain the academic integrity of the examination process.
“After three months of consultations with faculty and students, Proctortrack was chosen as the least intrusive approach to online proctoring,” said Associate Vice President for Technology Solutions and Chief Information Officer Charles Edamala. “While proctoring software has been used at ISU for many years, this is the first time that it has been standardized and made more easily available to those instructors who need to use it.”
More information can be learned about Proctortrack by visiting the Frequently Asked Questions. Some important points regarding this software are as follows:
- Most students will not be affected since very few faculty currently plan to use this software.
- Many faculty that are currently using proctoring software are doing so for accreditation reasons.
- Instructors will inform affected students if they plan to use Proctortrack in their course.
- Proctortrack is software that has to be downloaded and installed and is different from ReggieNet; ReggieNet does not have the ability to monitor students.
- Students do not have to pay for use of this software.
- Humans (faculty or otherwise) do not monitor video in real time. There is no live streaming.
- The software does not make decisions on academic integrity, it only flags unusual behavior during exams. It is the expectation that behaviors online during an exam should be comparable to behaviors when taking an exam in a face-to-face course.
- The University’s Information Security Office has reviewed the Proctortrack practices around data privacy and legality.
- Students seeking an accommodation should contact Student Access and Accommodation Services.
Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for students will continue at the temporary building in the parking lot between Watterson Towers and Stevenson Hall and the fire station at 602 N. Adelaide St., Normal. Both locations are open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Students experiencing symptoms should call Student Health Services at (309) 438-7676 for an initial screening and to make an appointment to be tested.
Required testing for students living in on-campus housing is on-going. Student employees and students enrolled in a face-to-face or hybrid course are strongly encouraged to test at one of the two on-campus COVID-19 testing sites. Students from these populations are randomly selected for this screening and more information is provided via email to selected students.
Testing is available for students, faculty, and staff at the Interstate Center testing site. Students testing at this site should share positive test results with Student Health Services by uploading them to the Secure Patient Health Portal. Sharing test results will ensure students have proper documentation for classes, housing, and/or employment.