Dear VCU Faculty,

Welcome to the spring 2024 semester!

We are writing to share and reiterate information as you start a new semester. Below are the top 10 points that faculty need to know before classes begin. 

1. Faculty are expected to teach their course(s) in the modality originally scheduled. Details on this policy can be found here.

2. The course syllabus should be posted in advance.

  • Contact your department chair/director for a sample syllabus, or refer to the guide to creating a syllabus.
  • Incorporate and/or link to student-relevant information from the details here.
  • Consider including this helpful video for students about the syllabus statements.
  • Announce and keep regular office hours (in-person and/or online).
  • Include a Canvas tutorial for students during your first class meeting.
  • Upload your syllabus to Banner (even if you have already uploaded your syllabus into Canvas) and provide any expectations for the first class meeting prior to the start of class. It is highly recommended that you welcome students to your course by emailing them the same information. You can find your class roster here.
  • Use this Best Practices Resource Tool to construct syllabi that are in compliance and inclusive of all students.

3. Course semester life cycle overview.

  • A new workshop titled, Key Dimensions of Teaching: Life Cycle of Your Semester, was offered on January 11, 2024,  for new faculty. This workshop provided resources, links, and details about what faculty members should be mindful of throughout a semester (pre-semester beginning/early semester, mid-semester, and end of the semester). This will be a recurring workshop, and will be offered again at the end of spring (for summer semesters), and shortly before the beginning of fall semester.
  • Links to the various resources discussed in the session can be found here.

4. Academic policies, guidelines, and regulations.

  • Registration is required for student attendance: After the add/drop period (Jan. 16-22, 2024), students may not attend classes in which they are not registered. All faculty are strongly encouraged to take attendance immediately after Jan. 22, to ensure that only enrolled students are attending class. Please note that VCU does not have a first day attendance policy.
  • Absence policy: VCU’s regular attendance policy, as listed in the VCU Bulletin, applies for all students. The temporary academic regulation pertaining to student absences due to COVID put in place last academic year is no longer in effect.
  • Pass/fail grade option: VCU has a published pass/fail grade option for undergraduate students. Students must familiarize themselves with the current grade option, including limits and deadlines.
    • For the spring 2024 semester, students will have until March 29 to request the pass/fail option for eligible courses. Please note: Spring miniterm, February miniterm, and March miniterm classes all have different deadlines for choosing the pass/fail option.
  • Additional information to help with supporting students and maintaining a classroom culture of well-being can be found here.

 5. New interim policy on grades for non-engaged students.

  • Beginning spring 2024, if a student does not demonstrate academic engagement within class activities, they must be assigned a newly created ‘UF’ grade notation during the midterm grading process.
  • This policy will help ensure that students who receive federal financial aid, and who are actively engaged in course activities, remain eligible to receive the aid.
  • Additional information on this policy can be found in the Office of the Provost blog.

6. Academic calendar and windows for scheduled student feedback.

  • Academic calendar: Consult the spring academic calendar for important deadlines, events and planned closings.
  • Timely feedback & Student Success: VCU provides two methods to help faculty set and reinforce high academic expectations in their undergraduate classes by providing timely feedback to students regarding their academic performance: progress reports (from Jan. 23-Feb. 12) and midterm grades (from Feb. 20-March 22).
  • Final exams: All final exams for the semester will be scheduled according to the university’s final exam schedule. Students enrolled in courses with an in-person component (i.e., not fully online) will be expected to be on campus for final exams if required by their instructor. For off-campus classes and classes that are not listed on the above final exam schedule, students should contact their instructor.

7. VCU’s health and safety protocols.

  • COVID-19: Masking is optional on both Monroe Park and MCV campuses. 
  • COVID Vaccinations: are no longer a requirement for students at VCU.  Student Health strongly recommends that students and faculty are vaccinated and boosted.  Free vaccinations are available to students through the Student Health Web Portal.  Faculty cannot ask students about their vaccination status.
  • Read the current Health Advisories for information related to the university’s ongoing response and recommendations to Influenza, Mpox, and COVID-19.

8. Stay informed.

9. Gen AI and Teaching & Learning.

  • A draft tool focused on Gen AI and Teaching & Learning is available here.
  • During the spring semester, the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Faculty Affairs will continue to hold sessions that address various Gen AI topics.
  • Considering that the AI world is constantly changing, we have created an advisory council of faculty who are familiar with AI and who stay abreast of new developments, so that we can update this tool with addendums (addendums are forthcoming). 
  • Additionally, sharing ideas is critical to supporting faculty. In order to enable sharing, we will create a repository, so that faculty can upload details of successful strategies using Gen AI in the classroom. Instructions for uploading information and document submission guidelines will also be included. Further details will be provided, when the repository becomes available.

10. A variety of professional development initiatives are available for faculty during the spring 2024   semester. A listing of the initiatives is forthcoming, and will be made available towards the beginning of the semester. 

As always, we encourage you to remain empathetic and flexible with your students. Best wishes for a vibrant and engaging spring semester.

Mangala Subramaniam
Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

Susan Coombes
Interim Director, CTLE

Categories Faculty Affairs, Uncategorized