Ohio University

Phase 2 information for faculty and instructors on all OHIO campuses

Published: September 8, 2020 Author: Staff reports

Dear Colleagues: 

Just a few minutes ago, President Nellis notified all students, faculty, and staff of decisions regarding Phase 2 on the Athens campus, which will begin September 28. As noted in his letter, students will start receiving email notifications from the Registrar indicating whether they will be invited back to campus. In short, in Phase 2 we will bring a reduced number of undergraduate students back to campus who have been identified by the colleges as having academic priority for in-person instruction or other academic experiences. Some graduate programs will have in-person courses or activities in Phase 2, and all graduate students will be able to access appropriate campus resources as determined by their program, even if their courses are online. Any Athens campus course that is not included in Phase 1 or 2 as face-to-face will continue online for the rest of the semester.   

While we all fervently wish we could resume a more typical fall semester, we must continue to prioritize the health of our students, faculty, staff, and communities while continuing to meet the mission of our University. Over the last several weeks, I know many of you have watched closely as well-prepared universities across the country have scaled back their original plans, run out of quarantine beds within days of bringing students back to campus, and in some cases, been forced to send students home. In some parts of the country including Ohio, cases at some universities are driving community spikes. Because of our lower density on the Athens campus during Phase 1, we have not seen a large spike in cases at this time as have some of our peer institutions that returned at full density, although Athens County has moved recently from a yellow to an orange alert level per the state’s public health advisory system.

We hope that students, faculty, staff, and community members continue to follow public health guidelines to contain the virus, but the reality is that bringing all students back to campus and into congregate housing right now risks the same negative outcomes as at other institutions. We believe it is most responsible to proceed with a reduced number of students on campus and in residence halls in Phase 2, along with the increased precautions outlined in the President’s message, including asymptomatic screening.

Representatives from each college on the Fall Curriculum Scenario Planning Group, deans, department chairs and school directors, many faculty members, and staff from the Registrar’s office have been working for weeks on multiple scenarios for bringing students back to campus for Phase 2, and I thank all of you for the careful consideration of accreditation requirements, specialized equipment and spaces, learning outcomes, and possible modalities for each and every of the thousands of courses offered this fall.  

This message contains additional, more detailed academic information about Phase 2, including the following:

  1. Phase 2 content and decision-making process 
  2. A request to contact students with a Phase 2 update
  3. Academic policies and student support for Phase 2

Phase 2 content and decision-making process

The college representatives on the Fall Curriculum Scenario Planning Group consulted with department chairs, school directors, and many individual faculty members through an iterative process over several weeks to determine priorities for face-to-face instruction and academic activities during Phase 2. Prioritized programs, courses, and cohorts were placed into three ranked groups in case we needed to further decrease density on the Athens campus. In addition to developing and validating the final list of prioritized programs, cohorts, and courses, the modality of all courses offered for fall semester was updated by every department. A short-lived Lab Working Group, consisting of faculty from multiple colleges and campuses with significant needs for lab or workshop activities, worked to quickly identify additional solutions for remote instruction for some lab or studio-based courses, such as providing at-home kits for engineering design and production courses, online simulation programs, and specialized software for audio recording courses.

Criteria for prioritization included the following (examples are not exhaustive):

  • Programs and cohorts where in-person experiences are required for at least part of the semester due to accreditation, licensure, or other external requirements, such as some cohorts of nursing or music education.
  • Programs, courses, and cohorts that require access to specific equipment or spaces for at least part of the semester for required activities that cannot be replicated remotely, such as selected upper-level labs in biology, chemistry, geology, physics, engineering, exercise physiology, and plant biology, or some courses in photojournalism, commercial photography, media arts production, studio art, or stage production.
  • Programs, courses, and cohorts that require integrated experiential learning for at least part of the semester, such as courses in the College of Business cluster, dance, theater, environmental studies, and social work. 

Courses that are not explicitly included in Phase 1 or 2 will continue online for the rest of fall semester, regardless of their originally planned modality. The listing of course offerings will be updated to reflect this. If you are unsure which students or courses are included in Phase 2 for your program (if applicable), please consult your chair or director. Assistant deans also have access to a complete list of students included in Phase 2.

As a reminder, Phase 1 already included programs, courses, or cohorts that required in-person instruction for the entire semester due to accreditation requirements, and Phase 1 students will continue in Phase 2. Students who are not part of Phase 1 or 2 but need on-campus housing will continue to be eligible to apply for a housing exception to stay in the residence halls. As previously announced, regional campuses and the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine will continue in their hybrid model for the duration of the semester.  


Request to contact students for Phase 2

If one of your classes or other academic activities is included as part of Phase 2, please work with your department to contact students who are affected to let them know how the class or other activity will be conducted and to clarify any additional changes to the class or expectations for students. If your classes will remain online, it may be helpful to contact students to let them know about any necessary changes or expectations for the remainder of the semester. 

Academic policies and student support for Phase 2

Before classes started, we shared updated academic policies for fall 2020 from the Academic Policy and Process Planning Group related to incomplete grade extensions, final exams, and attendance policies. Below are additional updated policies for fall 2020.

  • Extended drop deadline with fee adjustment: The original deadline to drop a class with a possible fee adjustment was September 4; given the announcement of Phase 2 on September 8, the university has extended that deadline to Friday, September 11. This has already been updated on the academic calendar on the Registrar’s website.
  • Since the plans for fall semester have changed from what was originally announced in June—with approximately 31% of undergraduate students with combined in-person experiences and online courses, reduced numbers in the residence halls, and most undergraduate students remaining online—I have accepted the recommendation of the Academic Policy and Process Planning Group to institute the undergraduate alternative grading options that were used last spring, which allow students to opt into a Satisfactory/No Credit (S/NC) option for most undergraduate courses. This will apply to undergraduate coursework on the Athens and regional campuses. Some minor improvements have been made to the policy, including not allowing students to opt into the S/NC option until after grades are posted; last spring, some students chose the S/NC option early and later asked to undo that option. Additional information will be posted on the Registrar’s website soon. As in the spring, there will be an exemption process for courses that require a grade for accreditation purposes. Alternative grading options for graduate coursework are being evaluated.

We know that the change from planning to be in-person to starting the semester online and then to continuing primarily remotely has had an impact on all students, and that adapting to new technology or identifying reliable connectivity during their first two weeks of online learning has been challenging for some students. We want to make sure students are getting the support they need. While all first-year full-time students received an “OHIO Get Connected” grant, please continue to refer students to https://www.ohio.edu/coronavirus/technology-resources for information about technology support, such as the Laptop Loaner program.

Over the past several weeks, you have worked extraordinarily hard to launch a successful online experience for the majority of our undergraduate and graduate students, even as some of you also are supporting on-campus Phase 1 students. If you are continuing to teach online in Phase 2 this fall, I ask you to pay special attention to providing additional opportunities for students to interact with you and with their peers where appropriate. Even if you are teaching online asynchronously, opportunities like virtual office hours, small group discussions, and peer group assignments are critical to student learning. I encourage you to consider the workshops available through the Office of Instructional Innovation, to make an appointment for a consultation, and to use the resources provided by the Inclusive Pedagogy Academy and the Keep Including website. We know the high level of engagement that faculty have with students is one of the defining characteristics of an Ohio University education—we hear this from our current students, and we see it reflected in our national survey data and embodied in what our students accomplish after they leave Ohio University—and I am confident we can continue this critical component of an Ohio University education regardless of our modality. 


Elizabeth Sayrs
Executive Vice President and Provost