Teaching and Public Health Guidance Fall 2021

The following resources have been prepared for UBC Okanagan faculty to help guide a safe return to the classroom this Fall. The FAQ section below addresses a number of questions and potential scenarios for in-person learning. Please check back often for revisions; this content will be updated as additional information regarding public health guidelines and measures becomes available.

Safety in the Classroom
This flowchart describes plans for supporting a safe return to the classroom.

Classroom Welcome Slide
A sample PowerPoint slide that faculty can adapt for use in their classes to outline key messages to students.

In-Person Teaching Fall 2021

The following sections provide detailed guidance on a number of questions and potential scenarios for in-person learning in Fall 2021. Updated September 9, 2021.

Section 1: Responding to COVID-19 exposures

Please respond to the student/TA disclosing this information with compassion and empathy, and ensure that you do what is possible to protect the student/TA’s privacy and accommodate their absence from the course/TAship where possible.

The response to affected individuals below would be in line with the public health authorities guidance and arrangements:

  • I have been advised that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 on September 13-17, 2021 between 0900-1030 hrs (for example)
  • This exposure does not mean you are infected with COVID-19.
  • If you do not have symptoms and have not been contacted directly by public health, please continue to perform your daily self-assessments and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms
  • New illness related to this exposure may occur up to 14 days from the last date of exposure.
  • If you are currently symptomatic or develop symptoms, please seek testing right away. The BCCDC has information on when and where to seek testing.
  • If public health determines that you may have had close contact, you will receive a call from public health authorities to provide further instructions.
  • If you are identified as a close contact, you will be given specific directions to monitor or self-isolate.
  • If you develop new symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please seek testing as soon as possible.

RECOMMENDATION: Including a statement in course syllabi relating to the campus rules and a reminder of the requirements to provide proof of vaccination in the Thrive app, to perform their daily health assessments and to wear masks.

 NOTE: Use your usual methods for supporting students who are ill and miss class or activity (see below).

Inform your Head/Assoc Head. TAs will advise HR. For students, You/They will contact ready.ok@ubc.ca for additional guidance and support.

For additional information, UBC Okanagan’s campus rules and guidance documents are available online: https://ok.ubc.ca/COVID19/

Further information about how to respond if someone discloses that they have COVID-19 or have been instructed to self-isolate is available online:  https://ok.ubc.ca/covid19/testing-reporting/

Other students and the instructor(s)/supervisor may be informed by the public health authority if they are close contacts, or if the public health authority determines that a full class or learning group should be informed. Additional information regarding contract tracing is available here: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/self-isolation/contact-tracing.

If a student tells you they have tested positive for COVID-19, please follow the points in Question 1 of this section.

Notifications of close contacts are handled by the public health authority. The outline of this procedure is available online: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/self-isolation/contact-tracing (This document is subject to change).

Contact your local health authority and follow their guidance. You will probably be asked to use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to determine the next steps.

This page is helpful to determine whether isolation or monitoring is the right approach: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/self-isolation

All positive cases and contact tracing are handled by public health authorities.

UBC Okanagan information about how to respond if someone discloses that they have COVID-19 or have been instructed to self-isolate is here (including contact information): https://ok.ubc.ca/covid19/testing-reporting/

All positive cases and contact tracing are handled by public health authorities.  For info from the Return to Campus guidelines, please visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Info-Site/Documents/COVID_public_guidance/Public_Health_Guidance_Campus.pdf (This document will be updated imminently).

The instructor would inform their department head and determine the appropriate next steps through discussion, e.g. the course could move online, or a substitute instructor or senior TA could teach the course.

The modality of a course, as a response to exposure to COVID-19 and a requirement to isolate, will be decided on a course-by-course basis in consultation with the department head.

If these are symptoms that are common to you and you know they will disappear, then no action is required. For instance, some people have a chronic cough/throat clearing caused by postnasal drip. This would be good to disclose to your class.

In the case that you feel sick, it is appropriate to contact your department head and have your backup person teach the class, teach the class synchronously online (using Zoom), or record and post your class for your students to watch asynchronously.

Section 2: Responding to the face covering (mask) order

The Face Covering Order states: an instructor or other person presenting materials is exempt from wearing a face covering:
1) If the person is delivering a presentation or lecture or teaching AND

2) If there is a distance of two metres separating the post-secondary staff person and students.

Though every effort will be made to communicate the processes for face covering (mask) exemptions to students, a student with a legitimate exemption may not be aware of these processes. We ask instructors to allow a reasonable grace period for students who are in the process of seeking, or plan to seek, an exemption through the self-declaration form (https://students.ok.ubc.ca/academic-success/disability-resources/covid-19-face-covering-exemption-for-students/). It is important to recognize that some people may have health or other conditions that inhibit their ability to wear a face covering. Guidance from BC’s Human Rights Commissioner is clear: if a student identifies that they are unable to wear a face covering based on a protected ground under BC’s Human Rights Code (such as a disability or a medical condition) they should be accommodated to the fullest extent possible.

Students can make a self-declaration for a face covering exemption and will be provided with a template exemption letter to provide to the instructor, or they can contact the Disability Resource Centre to determine accommodations to support them. If a student does not provide the instructor with an approved exemption and refuses to wear a face covering that covers both their nose and mouth, it is recommended that the instructor attempt a non-confrontational approach. All instructors have the right to ask a student who is being disruptive to leave the classroom. Incidence of continued non-compliance may be reported to Campus Security for further investigation. Campus Security may refer the incident to the AVPS Office for further investigation under the Student Code of Conduct policy.

As per the Face Covering Order of September 2nd, 2021, food and drink are not permitted in classrooms or other areas that are not designated for this purpose. Signs will be affixed in all classrooms to reflect this requirement.

RECOMMENDATION: Include these expectations in your syllabus – and tell the class – to refrain from eating/drinking in class. Please model this behaviour.

Consider including language such as the following in your course syllabi:

“COVID-19 Safety: You are required to wear a non-medical mask during our class meetings, for your own protection and for the safety and comfort of everyone else in the class. For our in-person meetings in this class, it is important that all of us feel as comfortable as possible engaging in class activities while sharing an indoor space. Non-medical masks that cover our noses and mouths are a primary tool for combating the spread of COVID-19. Further, according to the provincial mandate, masks are required in all indoor public spaces including lobbies, hallways, stairwells, elevators, classrooms and labs. There may be students who have medical accommodations for not wearing a mask. Please maintain a respectful environment. UBC Respectful Environment Statement.” (Example syllabus language provided from the Faculty of Arts, UBC Vancouver).

Section 3: Responding to people showing symptoms or being sick

Start with an educative approach; remind them that every student is required to do a Covid-19 self-assessment before they come to campus each day. Coming in sick is a violation of the student code of conduct and you can ask them to leave. If they feel they are experiencing any Covid-19 symptoms they should leave the class.

In a broader sense, the way we are responding to sick people is no different than our approaches pre-pandemic, however, people certainly have a heightened sensitivity to it. Pre-pandemic, many students would come to class or labs sick. We should do things to discourage this. For instance, in classes set up flexible marking schemes, such as not making all clicker questions worth marks, or some type of scaling such that a student can miss (a reasonable) time and still get full marks, or, record/stream classroom activities for students to watch from home. For other settings, make allowances for absences or remote work possibilities.

Just because someone coughs or sneezes does not automatically mean they are sick. If possible, hold an in-class discussion about chronic coughing not being related to being sick. Encourage students to come forward with these issues so you (i.e., the student and instructor only) can discuss them.

No. This is a breach of privacy. You can ask the student if they feel they meet the standards of the daily personal health assessment and encourage them to complete the health assessment if they have not done so.

A student should hopefully never be put in this position. We should try to make it clear to students that we will make concessions for illness. The current UBC policy is that self-declaration is enough for most cases: https://students.ok.ubc.ca/academic-success/disability-resources/temporary-injuries-and-short-term-illness/

There are two common solutions to accommodate students in these scenarios.  One option is to move the weight of the assessment component to other assessments that evaluate the same learning outcomes. A second option is to schedule a make-up assessment if needed to assess the learning outcomes of that particular assessment component.

You can also let students know that writing a quiz while sick will probably lead to worse performance. This is a good thing to emphasize on the first day (that they’ll likely do worse if they write an exam while sick).

If they do come, ask them to leave. Mention that they are not in any condition to perform their best during the exam.

For other situations (e.g., comprehensive exams, practical evaluations), the evaluation should be rescheduled.

These types of situations are an unfortunate part of teaching every year. You should handle this fairly and consistently with past practices.

Tell the student to stay home. Ask them if they have notified their group members. Provide concessions that allow the student to complete the assignments. An option is to have the group present, knowing that part of the presentation will be missing. Tell these students that their grades will not be affected by the group member’s absence. Have the student who can’t make it send you a video of their part of the presentation to assess. If the student cannot make it, you could also move the weight of the assessment to other parts of the course. When circumstances like this happen, we have to be compassionate and flexible.

Section 4: Supporting students arriving late to in-person courses or who are sick

(The following is language taken from UBC Vancouver’s Faculty of Science – note other Faculties/programs might be taking a different approach regarding timing)

Please reach out to these students and tell them how you will support their learning. Remember, we often have students enter our classes up until the add/drop deadline. However, in this case, we have let students know that we can support them until they get to campus, as long as they will be arriving by [DATE determined by program/Faculty]. These measures are meant to be a stop-gap. Examples include:

  1. Connect students with a buddy who is attending the course in person.
  2. Provide materials online (Canvas).
  3. Record the class and provide access to recordings.
  4. Stream live sessions synchronously in Zoom with A/V support.
  5. Provide online office hours (which is in line with what many faculty are already planning).
  6. Make flexible assessment schemes, e.g. drop x of y; shift % to other assessments; do an online assessment.

Things that may require more resources:

  1. Provide additional TA support.
  2. Provide online exams for those temporarily away (if low stakes and appropriate).
  3. Have TAs running a Zoom session synchronously in the classroom.

If the course has online sections:

  1. Move students temporarily or permanently to an online section.

If students can’t make it to class until late October it might be untenable for them to attend the class if they miss significant amounts of the course.

If students are registered in an in-person course and have completed quarantine (if required), they are expected to attend class by October 12 (the Tuesday after the Thanksgiving holiday).

Students who will not be on campus for the start of term may have received communication from their program or Faculty and should talk to their advising office (or, for graduate students, their supervisor or program director). One solution may be a late withdrawal. These types of cases should be handled one-on-one with the advising office/program. While unfortunate, we can’t necessarily or properly support such students in classes without teaching a whole online version of the class. (See also #5 below).

For research graduate students, there may be a number of other options to enable them to remain in the program while not present in Kelowna.

The supports we are supplying for students who cannot attend in-person and for students who get sick are intended as interim measures for courses designed to be in-person. Courses designed to be online, hybrid, or in a blended format may already incorporate many of these teaching strategies by design. For courses designed to be fully in person, they should not be expected to replace the actual experience of going to class and taking part in the discussion and activities for extended periods of time.

One perspective is that class time should add value for the students that a recording simply cannot reproduce. It’s easier said than done, but it is a standard for which to aim.

It is, however, appropriate for students who come to class to also have access to the resources that are being provided to those who will arrive after the start of term.

Clearly communicate to the student that they should not come to class or any other educational activities and support the student by explaining how they will be able to access material or assessments they have missed; they should feel that they will not be penalized by not coming to class or other learning environments. We strongly advise against students needing to obtain medical documentation and thus recommend a self-declaration approach to report illness. Reach out to your respective unit leads with questions regarding specific forms or processes related to self-declaration.

Students can be referred to the international advisors in the Global Engagement Office for assistance regarding any immigration and study permit related questions. There is now a process to grant formal Leave of Absence for continuing undergraduate international students that is in alignment with the UBC Leave of Absence policy and will not jeopardize certain immigration privileges with IRCC, including eligibility for a post-graduate work permit. All returning international students have been contacted by the Global Engagement Office to inform them of this option, in case some students are making decisions now.

International students are encouraged to consult the Global Engagement Office information available online:https://students.ok.ubc.ca/international-students/international-students-immigration-and-health-insurance-faq-on-covid-19/#travel-to-canada-by-term

Include language on the syllabus outlining how students who are late arriving/miss a portion of the class due to illness will be supported. The following includes examples of language that can be adapted. Any flexibility you wish to incorporate should suit the content and pedagogy of your course. 

If you are sick, it is important that you stay home. Complete a self-assessment for COVID-19 symptoms here: https://bc.thrive.health/covid19/en. In this class, the marking scheme is intended to provide flexibility so that you can prioritize your health and still succeed. (Example language provided from the Faculty of Arts, UBC Vancouver).

If you miss class because of illness:

  • Make a connection early in the term to another student or a group of students in the class. You can help each other by sharing notes. If you don’t yet know anyone in the class, post on the discussion forum to connect with other students.
  • Consult the class resources on Canvas. (Insert your policy for the online availability of class recordings or other materials and/or assessment options for reweighting or dropping, etc.).
  •  Use the discussion forum for help.
  •  Attend office hours (if they are online).
  •  If you are concerned that you will miss a key activity due to illness, contact the instructor (or Teaching Assistant) to discuss.

If you are feeling ill and cannot attend classes for midterm or in-class assessments: Please email the instructor right away. If you arrive for a test and you are clearly ill, we will make alternate arrangements with you. It is better to email ahead of time and not attend.

If you are feeling ill at the time of a final exam: Do not attend the exam. You must apply for deferred standing (an academic concession) through Arts Academic Advising (or the equivalent in your program). Students who are granted deferred standing (SD) will write the final exam/assignment at a later date.

If I (the instructor) am feeling ill: If I am unwell, I will not come to class. I will make every reasonable attempt to communicate plans for the class as soon as possible (by email, on Canvas, etc.). Our classroom will still be available for you to sit in and attend an online session. In this instance:

  • My colleague XXX will substitute.
  • One of the TAs will substitute.
  • I may ask you to do an activity or read something in place of class time.
  • If I am well enough to teach but am taking precautions to avoid infecting others, we may hold the class online. If this happens, you will receive (an email, an announcement in Canvas, etc.) informing you how to join the class.
  • If I am well enough to teach, I may also record the class and ask you to watch the video posted in Canvas on your own time.

Section 5: Classroom management and design

Yes. There are already cases where seats are assigned (e.g. labs). A low-workload approach is to ask students to pick an area of the classroom and sit there each day to minimize their ongoing exposure to other people within the classroom.

Yes. Make sure to clearly communicate your plan so that students will feel comfortable using office hours.

Yes, you can make that choice. Recordings of any kind are not generally required unless this has been pre-determined at a program/Faculty level.

You may choose to record (audio or video) your class to share with students. You are not obligated to do so. Notwithstanding the flexibility and benefits for students noted above, instructors may have many valid reasons for not wanting to record lectures or other classes, including (but not limited to) the nature of the material and discussion topics (and how recording may constrain these), a concern that it would change the classroom environment, concern about its impact on participation, and/or workload considerations. Recording seminars, studio-based, or discussion-based classes may not be pedagogically appropriate. Recording a lecture may be more feasible but again you may choose not to. The choice is with the instructor– whatever you determine, we do ask that you make your position on recording very clear in the syllabus and explain to the students whether the class will or will not be recorded or otherwise “available” if they are unable to be present.

If you do choose to record your class sessions, there is technology and support available to help you do so.  All centrally managed classrooms at UBC Okanagan have been equipped with recording capacity (cameras, microphones, etc). The systems in these classrooms allow you to use Zoom to either stream or record, or Kaltura to record the session. If you need any support with classroom recording, please contact IT A/V or the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

A set of Guiding Principles for Classroom Recordings are forthcoming and will be available on the CTL website soon. They contain details of what you need to do to inform students if you choose to record a class.

This is a scenario that is not specific to COVID-19, but may be related, if it involves, for example, masks, in which case, see the questions in the section above regarding face coverings. In this generalized case, one approach would be to ask the TA to immediately report this behaviour to the instructor in charge or, ask the student(s) to leave the classroom.

Students are required to adhere to the Student Code of Conduct: http://www.calendar.ubc.ca/okanagan/index.cfm?tree=3,54,1030,0) while at UBC. Disrupting class and harassing people is a violation of this code of conduct.

No. This is a breach of privacy. We cannot request or collect personal health data from our classes.

This is a hard balance. Consider whether or not the clicker marks are actually required in your class. There is hope that for well-constructed clicker questions and worksheets, students see the value in them beyond just marks.

Another question to consider is whether it is worth trying to force students to come to class who only do it for marks, but would rather not be there. At some point, students have to take ownership of their own learning.

If your class was planned and scheduled in “hybrid” mode and that’s what students signed up for, the expectation is that it will continue to be offered in “hybrid” mode.

No. If a student is ill, they should not be writing an exam. Follow the same practice you would usually apply when students are ill for a midterm. This may be to hold a make-up midterm at a later date, or you could consider moving the weight to other assessments.

No. If a student is ill for a final exam, they should not attend nor write the exam.

If a student cannot attend a scheduled final exam because of an unforeseen event, such as an illness, they must complete an out-of-time (OOT) exam request. For clarification on the OOT request process, please contact your Dean’s office for the Faculty in which the course is offered.

Additional Resources

For more information about UBC’s response to COVID-19, updates, FAQs and resources, visit ubc.ca. For UBC Okanagan-specific updates and contact information, visit ok.ubc.ca/covid19.

For UBC Okanagan campus rules visit: https://ok.ubc.ca/covid19/health-safety/