COVID-19 information for faculty

Updated March 18, 2020, at 2 p.m.

NEW: Mandatory telework policy

NEW: All School of Pharmacy employees are classified as “non-designated” employees. Therefore, effective March 23, 2020, all SoP employees are not to work in campus facilities unless specific arrangements are made. Details are below.

Only staff or faculty specifically designated as needing to be on site will be permitted to work in campus offices. A process for this is detailed below.

Staff must coordinate with supervisors to determine work assignments and ensure that essential on-site functions are continued. Be aware that some tasks in each unit require an on-site presence; you may be designated as needed for these functions. 

NEW: Mandatory telework form

NEW: In compliance with guidance shared March 17 by the Office of the President, all SoP staff and faculty must complete a Telework Agreement Form in coordination with their managers or supervisors.

Step 1 – Complete the Telework Agreement form

This form is located at:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfYDt027mgU0n0y-CeAVaCUIbmDWyw3U9P2K0OIrqbLcwuoew/viewform

The system only allows you to submit the form once, so be sure you and your supervisor agree on the details before you complete the form!  

It is important that you and your supervisor can agree on the duties to be completed remotely, and how often you will check in with your manager.

Once you have completed and submitted the form, you will receive an email with a copy of your responses.

Step 2 – Forward the response e-mail to your supervisor to document completion of the Telework Agreement. Your supervisor does not automatically receive a copy of your responses. 

Please note:  This is a new university requirement, and supersedes prior guidance that no teleworking agreement is needed for this current situation.

Mandatory telework policy, continued

Non-designated employees (see above) who feel they have a compelling reason to work on-campus should discuss their designation with their managers. A procedure for approving/disapproving and documenting such work is below.

Personnel with clinical responsibilities should fulfill those responsibilities as needed by their clinical locations.

All staff are expected to work normal work hours.

Faculty also should work remotely. Dr. Kirkwood has sent faculty members guidance regarding remote delivery of lectures.

If you need leave time because of COVID-19 related illness or to care for a family member you may use up to 10 consecutive days of Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL).  Please see the VCU “Leave” web site for more information (https://hr.vcu.edu/covid-19/). 

Contact your supervisor or Avian Goldsmith with our HR department with questions.

Additional information is available from VCU Human Resources on this dedicated page for questions related to COVID-19.

NEW: Procedure to be allowed to work on campus

Some personnel may be required to fulfill essential research functions. The office of the Vice President for Research describes essential research functions as:

Ongoing research that would suffer a major impact if temporarily discontinued, such as loss of years of effort, data, or a major investment. Maintenance of essential equipment, safe standby mode in labs, essential samples, and animal populations also meets the criteria for essential operations. Examples of essential operations for projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Maintaining: liquid nitrogen levels in storage tanks; ongoing animal experiments where stopping the experiment would compromise the project; critical cell cultures
  • Feeding and caring for animals
  • Processing specimens for those clinical trials that will remain open during this period

If you feel that you must be in one of our buildings next week or beyond please follow the procedure below:

REQUEST: Each person who requests to work on site must submit an email request to their supervisor that includes the items below (blanket requests for more than one person will not be approved):

  1. Name, position (faculty staff, post-doc, student), and room numbers to be occupied
  2. Expected times work will be conducted and duration 
  3. Nature of the on-site essential work
  4. Reason that the work must be continued on site and negative consequences of stopping the activity 
  5. Describe measures that will be taken to minimize risk of COVID_19 transmission (distancing, hand washing, surface cleaning, etc)

APPROVAL/DISAPPROVAL: Your supervisor should either approve or disapprove the request by email and send the request to the Dean and Assistant Dean Savoy. The Dean will then approve or disapprove the request and notify the requestor and supervisor by email. This procedure also applies to students who request to work on site. 

DOCUMENTATION: For approved requests a list of the approved essential personnel must be posted on the hallway side of the outer room door. 

Note that beginning Monday, March 23, SoP personnel and students who do not have approval to be on site will be required to leave.  

NEW: Expanded Zoom accounts and access

NEW: Expanded Zoom accounts have been arranged for all VCU students, faculty and staff. The expanded accounts do not have time restrictions for meetings and can be used for meetings of up to 300 participants.

To provision your account, log out of Zoom (browser and/or app) and log in again at vcu.zoom.us using your VCU credentials.

It is not necessary to submit a ticket to Phartech or Technology Services for an account as all users are automatically being enrolled using these steps.

UPDATED information about using Zoom for class lecture — and how to request recordings of lectures — can be found below under the heading Quick Steps for Using Zoom for Classes.

Students will be required to connect remotely. 

This includes all Pharm.D. and graduate courses and examinations during the semester. Final examinations will be conducted; details to follow. We expect that this situation will be in effect for the remainder of the semester.

See below for information about how to implement your preferred plan, including next steps for you to take. More details will be forthcoming.

Foundations Labs

NEW: All foundations labs will be conducted remotely, if possible, and paused if not. Specifics will be forthcoming.

Remote Class Options

In consultation with the vice chairs, director of education and assessment, and PharTech, the following options are available depending on faculty preference:

  • NEW: (Updated) Live synchronous class using Zoom: Lectures can be delivered from any location to students who connect via Zoom. It is no longer necessary for lectures to take place in the assigned classroom. Note that connectivity should be tested ahead of class.
    NOTE: Echo recordings are not possible when lectures are conducted from sites other than the classes’ official classrooms. Instead, Zoom will be used to create recordings; these will be available for download for approximately two weeks. (Details below, under Quick Steps for Using Zoom.)
  • Prerecorded, asynchronous video lectures – use of Kaltura to create new content; upload your own recordings or recorded voiceover on PowerPoint slides
  • Reuse previously recorded Echo recordings (P2 Clinical Therapeutics and P3 courses) – submit a KBOX request to allow central tracking

Next Steps for Course Coordinators:

  • Review information from PharTech on how to connect to Zoom during class time (detailed calendars have been sent via email with Zoom links for each class time). Each session will be recorded.
  • Consult with your vice chair, graduate program director or Laura Frankart on how to handle quizzes, assignments and discussions using Blackboard or Poll Everywhere remotely, or for other course-specific questions.

Next Steps for All Faculty and Staff:

  • Attend a Zoom/Kaltura training session Thursday (3/19) at noon, either in person in Smith 646 or remotely https://zoom.us/my/kshedden. Details will be covered on how to create a meeting and how to use Zoom in the classroom (chat features, recordings, guest lecturers, etc.).
  • VCU Technology Services will be distributing Zoom Pro accounts to faculty who do not already have such accounts by March 18, 2020; in the meantime, keep in mind that anyone can join a Zoom meeting without an account.
  • If you need a microphone for class or for meetings, please submit a KBOX request.
  • Course coordinators will let the students know when the exam is ready to download.
  • Sarah will send the students an email 5 minutes before the exam with the password.
  • Any formulas, cases, articles, etc. you would like to be included for the exam will be attached to the Exam in Examplify.
  • Students will call Sarah’s cell with any technical difficulties during the exam. 
  • Student’s downloaded exam file will be remotely deleted from their computer if they have not opened the exam by 8:30am on exam day. In the event a student cannot take the exam due to illness, a make up exam will be scheduled.
  • Students will be instructed to communicate any errors found on the exam through the Notes/Feedback feature which coordinators should review after exam administration. Students should not email/text/message faculty during the exam with questions about the exam.

Other Information:

A few supplementary links to areas mentioned above:

Virtual Classroom Schedules: Attached to an email sent to you, find the schedules for the P1, P2, P3 and graduate courses prepared by Katie Shedden from PharTech with the links to the Zoom account in the scheduled classrooms (both in Smith and other buildings). 
It is paramount that these schedules are followed strictly to keep classes running on time. The schedules have also been distributed to students.

Quick Steps for Using Zoom for Classes

NEW: PharTech has devised a process to allow faculty to teach from their office or home. There is no need to lecture from the classroom.

Updated steps to follow for using Zoom:

  • Set expectations for students before class meetings via Blackboard or email. Some questions to consider: What is the join code? Are participants expected to turn on video? Should they respond in chat or by unmuting mics?
  • If you have dual monitors at home, sign into the Zoom application with your credentials & enable dual monitors under your general settings (so you can see content on one screen, participants on the other).
  • Connect to the virtual classroom as assigned by physical Richmond location of class (e.g. Smith 103). This can be joined by clicking on the class schedule link or Google calendar invite that was sent to the course coordinator(s).
  • Be mindful of your video/audio setup: what can participants see and hear in the background?
  • Share your screen content (and share computer audio if you are sharing a video).
  • Open the Zoom chat to monitor participant comments/responses by clicking on the “chat” icon on your toolbar (consider assigning a co-facilitator/TA/student as “chat monitor” to facilitate questions).
  • Conduct an audio, video and content check (“Can you hear me and see my PowerPoint? If so, please respond in chat/with a thumbs up!”).
  • Begin your presentation.
  • When finished, simply leave the meeting. Do not hit “End the Meeting.”

NEW: Recordings (new procedure)

  • All recordings will be started and stopped either automatically or by PharTech. 
  • P2 ID module and P3 courses that are currently recorded will be recorded using Zoom Cloud recording. 
  • PharTech will put the link for the recording via Google Calendar on the original class time invitation for P2 CTMs and P3 courses that you received earlier this week. 
  • All courses are being automatically recorded as a backup. Recordings can be requested individually through the KBOX ticketing system.

detailed guide has been created with links to resources for the SoP to aid with this transition.

During this time, the submission of tickets to the KBOX ticketing system is paramount to ensure timely support. PharTech staff will be teleworking from now on.

FAQs about Zoom

  1. Will classrooms outside of the SoP have Zoom? Yes, PharTech has set up generic Zoom accounts for the scheduled classes in Smith, Sanger, Baruch and Kontos.
  2. In the event where Laura/Sarah prepares an e-exam, will they tell students how they take the exam or is that a course coordinator’s job?  There will be a communication from Laura and Sarah to the students on how to access the exam. Sarah will be emailing students the password 5 minutes before the exam starts on exam days. Laura will send out an email on remote exams today.
  3. If students show up the classroom, should we let them receive the lectures in person?  Yes, there may be students who show up for class, as long as it does not go over 100 (and you do not need to count) it is fine to have them in class.

Other questions

  1. Will TAs still be available? Yes, the course coordinators need to reach out directly to their TAs to communicate any modifications in the courses. 
  2. NEW: What are recommendations for students in clinic that are not on IPPE or APPE rotations? Hours accruals associated with IPPE-533 Patient Care/Service Learning are paused effective immediately. For PHAR 691 Special Topics, because this is a for-credit course student can attend. Shadowing students would be prohibited though.

Graduate faculty

NEW: All graduate faculty are advised that research activities such as literature reviews, composing manuscripts and research proposals, data analyses, etc., be conducted from home.

Research meetings should be conducted through video or teleconference. 

For students conducting laboratory-based research, we are providing the following guidance:

  • Laboratory research that can be postponed should be paused until further notice.
  • Essential laboratory research may be continued if safe distancing between lab occupants (2 meters or more) can be maintained and surfaces and instruments can be properly sanitized. 
  • In these cases, the student may decide if they wish to continue the work or postpone it.  

NEW: Research Activity

No new lines of research or experiments should be initiated at this time. 

Investigators should assess the status of current experiments and determine stopping points while ramping down in-laboratory activities to essential functions, performing as much work as possible by teleworking, limiting the number of essential employees onsite, and considering allowing lab staff to work in shifts. 

The only expansions of research allowed are:

  • Research related to the COVID-19 virus
  • Enrollment of new patients who may directly benefit from clinical research

For full updates on policies for research activities visit the OVPRI COVID-19 website.

Remote Exams

General Exam Process for administering exams remotely (Details on Google Doc)

  • Course coordinators will let the students know when the exam is ready to download.
  • Sarah will send the students an email 5 minutes before the exam with the password.
  • Any formulas, cases, articles, etc. you would like to be included for the exam will be attached to the Exam in Examplify.
  • Students will call Sarah’s cell with any technical difficulties during the exam. 
  • Students’ downloaded exam file will be remotely deleted from their computers if they have not opened the exam by 8:30 a.m. on exam day. In the event a student cannot take the exam due to illness, a makeup exam will be scheduled.
  • Students will be instructed to communicate any errors found on the exam through the Notes/Feedback feature which coordinators should review after exam administration. Students should not email/text/message faculty during the exam with questions about the exam.

NEW: Mail procedures

  • Mail Service: Twice a week (Wednesdays and Fridays) mail will be delivered and retrieved from MCV mail services. Mail will still be sorted and distributed to the appropriate department mail boxes in the Dean’s Suite. If department admins are working remotely, they will need to ensure mail is distributed within their department upon return to the office.
  • Package Delivery: Due to differing needs and hours of operation across research labs, the first floor loading dock cage will remain open. This will enable lab personnel to access packages for their lab each day. 

Best practices for COVID-19

  • If you think you have signs of illness such as a fever or other flu-like symptoms, stay home and contact your primary care provider. 
  • If you have questions about excused absences, contact your supervisor or department chair; students should contact Dean Ogbonna (kcunegbuogbo@vcu.edu) and Ms. Keel (vakeel@vcu.edu)
  • Remember to practice good hygiene, as this remains the simplest and most effective way to slow or stop transmission of the virus.
  • Wash hands thoroughly, using soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom.
  • Use hand sanitizer often.
  • Dispose of used tissues immediately.
  • Sneeze or cough into tissues when possible. If necessary, cough into the crook of your elbow. Do not cough into your hands.

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