Editor’s Note: Originally published on September 27, 2023, this guidance has been updated on October 24, 2023 to reflect changes, clarifications, and feedback from conversations with stakeholders across VCU’s campuses.

Dear VCU faculty and staff:

I hope your fall semester is off to a great start.

The purpose of this message is to address the question of course modalities. Multiple stakeholders, including VCU Faculty Senate leadership, have asked academic affairs to issue clear and specific guidance on this topic.

Here are the primary points you should know.

  1. Faculty will teach their course(s) in the modality originally scheduled. Please see the 2023 welcome message from senior vice provost for faculty affairs, Dr. Mangala Subramaniam.
  1. Beginning spring 2024, new course modality definitions will take effect. If there is a need to change the course modality, this is done prior to the beginning of the semester following protocols within the school. A course modality change during the semester requires an exception request made by a school/college dean to the Office of the Provost via the interim senior vice provost for academic affairs.
  1. Face-to-face means everyone is in the same physical location at the same time. Faculty who find it necessary to miss class for any reason, including illness or travel, will follow their school/college procedures for ensuring the course content is delivered. The procedures may include as options: rescheduling the class, providing a recorded lecture or other asynchronous content, teaching synchronously via Zoom or securing a substitute. Moving a one-off class period to Zoom is not an option unless it is part of an academic affairs-approved school/college procedure. Please consult your dean’s office for more information.
  • Students who sign up for face-to-face classes are expected to attend in-person. Please see VCU’s attendance policy. Faculty are not expected to provide students with live Zoom links or record their lectures for later viewing in Canvas by students who did not attend. Students who miss class may be directed to follow up with classmates and/or the instructor to obtain the material. 
  • For pedagogical reasons, faculty may wish to incorporate supplementary content to be posted in Canvas online and made available consistently to all students. 
  1. Hybrid means a class is offered some of the time face-to-face and some of the time fully online on a predetermined schedule that is posted before the start of the semester and clearly indicated with dates in the syllabus. The rules for a face-to-face class govern the hybrid class on the dates when everyone is scheduled to be together in person. The course will be delivered based on the predetermined schedule or modality and cannot change after the semester is underway except in extenuating circumstances. Such a change will be managed by the school/college dean or dean designee.
  1. Hyflex means the faculty are always face-to-face in a physical classroom, but students may choose their modality. Faculty teaching in the hyflex modality are in-person for every class. The face-to-face rules for faculty absences apply to faculty teaching in the hyflex modality.
    • Technology must be appropriately robust in hyflex classrooms. Before classes are scheduled in the hyflex modality, the dean’s office must verify that the learning experience will be adequately immersive for students who attend online.
  1. Fully online means everyone is 100% online in the university’s LMS, Canvas.
    • Traditional face-to-face programs may offer some course sections fully online.
    • However, face-to-face programs must be available primarily in-person. Students enrolled in face-to-face programs should not be able to complete their program fully online. Programs where students can earn 50% or more of the credential online require SACSCOC notification as a substantive change. School/college deans should consult with the Office of the Provost via the interim senior vice provost for academic affairs if there are any questions.
    • VCU-approved fully online programs have Z-codes in Banner and are located on the admissions application.
    • Faculty teaching fully online sections must be aware that their student roster may include a combination of students who are enrolled in traditional face-to-face programs and students who are enrolled in fully online programs.
    • VCU Online has talented instructional designers who can assist with developing engaging fully online courses and programs.
  1. VCU is committed to providing equal access to its academic programs, including information, digital technologies, and resources, to students with disabilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This includes developing accessible courses and providing reasonable accommodation as described in an Accommodation Letter from – for the Monroe Park campus –  Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (SAEO) or – for the MCV campus – the Division of Academic Success (DAS). Students with disabilities are held to the same academic standards as other students with or without accommodation. VCU implements accessibility standards for university Electronic and Information Technology (“EIT”) and user support services for individuals with disabilities. All university EIT is expected to comply with the VCU Web Standards & Guidelines. Captioning of videos and other media is required as set forth in the Captioning standard, and any media that is shared as part of a course must be available in a captioned format, whether it is created by faculty or publicly available (e.g., YouTube). Before scheduling a modality other than face-to-face, faculty must consider accessibility requirements for online instruction. For more information, see Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation policy.
  1. We are aware that some students have started live streaming face-to-face classes from their own devices to classmates who are not in attendance. Faculty may prohibit this practice, and they may restrict students from recording their lectures without prior permission, provided the policy is clearly indicated in the syllabus. If prohibited by faculty, these practices may be considered a violation of the Student Conduct and Academic Integrity policy. 
  1. In the event of inclement weather or emergency, the university will issue guidance regarding class cancellations and the possibility of temporarily switching modalities. Faculty will follow university guidance.

While VCU is in the process of defining what it means to be a “hybrid university,” and while we are expanding high-quality fully online academic programming, the reality is that the in-person place-based experience has been and will continue to be central to VCU.

In fact, a mission critical part of what makes VCU special and what attracts students to us is our urban location in the heart of Richmond.

Thank you for all you do to promote academic and student success. I hope this course modality guidance will provide you with what you need to ensure both consistency and guidance across the instructional experience.

Best regards,

Andrew T. Arroyo, Ed.D.

Categories Academic Affairs