3/2: Academic Planning for COVID-19

Message to USC Faculty and Staff

From: Charles F. Zukowski, Provost and Academic Vice President; and Felicia A. Washington, Senior Vice President of Human Resources

The safety and wellbeing of our faculty, staff, students, and patients are extremely important to us. While there are no cases of COVID-19 at USC, we want to ensure you are updated on our planning and preparation. This is especially important as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared that community spread of COVID-19 has occurred in multiple locations in the United States.

We have an established Emergency Operations Center (EOC) group that is meeting daily to assess the situation as it affects the USC community. The EOC team reviews international and local information and assesses risk and potential solutions. This includes appropriate decisions for screening, isolation of individuals, reconsidering university-related travel, housing of students returning from programs abroad, or in the possible scenario of elevated risk, necessary postponement or cancellation of activities including classes or events. Faculty and staff should discuss decisions related to these categories with their business continuity leaders, chairs, deans, or vice presidents, as appropriate.

Keck Medicine of USC is also convening regularly to monitor and assess decisions for the health care environment, with updated protocols for health care workers and for ongoing patient care.

The CDC has issued guidance advising universities to consider cancelling international study abroad programs for students. Most USC schools have cancelled all spring break international student travel; any remaining international spring break programs will be cancelled.

We know you are committed to the progress of our students and share the belief that they deserve to receive a world-class educational experience. Whether that experience is on campus or using online tools, we should all do everything we can to fulfill our promise to our students. As a result, we anticipate adjustments to the way we conduct our teaching will be necessary in order to ensure our students continue to make academic progress. We need your help in making these adjustments possible.

In the event that it becomes impossible for all students to attend on-campus classes for some period of time this semester, all faculty need to make preparations over the next week to deliver courses using our university-wide online learning tools—Blackboard and Zoom.

Blackboard and Zoom are available to all faculty and students. If your school uses a different online platform, please consult your school’s IT department.

Blackboard is the university’s Learning Management System hosted in the cloud. It can be used by instructors to post and distribute course content such as syllabi and handouts; to communicate with students via discussion boards, announcements, and email messages; to collect student work and assignments; to assess student learning through quizzes and online assignments; and to grade assignments. Blackboard Collaborate also allows for face-to-face interaction, and even breakout rooms for small group discussions. A Blackboard course is automatically created for every course at USC which the instructor will need to make available to students. For a quick start using Blackboard, please reference this site: https://blackboardhelp.usc.edu/files/2020/03/How-to-Set-Up-Blackboard-to-Teach-in-an-Emergency.docx.

For detailed instructions, please reference: https://blackboardhelp.usc.edu/.

Zoom is a videoconference and audioconference software hosted in the cloud that enables communication across many mobile devices, desktop computers and video-enabled classrooms. For example, it is possible for a faculty member to host a class discussion using only a cell phone equipped with a camera. For guidance, please see: https://itservices.usc.edu/zoom/. You should also download Zoom to your cell phone for use, if necessary.

Please become familiar with these online learning tools this week and practice engaging with your classes using one or both methods so that if the need arises, you can adapt quickly with minimum impact to our students. To help with this process, we have taken measures to ensure you have the resources needed to make these preparations as easily as possible.

Central support from the Information Technology Services Division, consult@usc.edu or 213-740-5555, and the Center for Excellence in Teaching usccet@usc.edu or 213-740-3959, will be available in addition to the local resources in your schools or departments.

We also advise you to develop strong back-up plans if you become sick or ill and can’t teach your classes. In addition:

  • Please remember to upload your university-related travel itineraries to Concur,https://businessservices.usc.edu/travel/, and be aware that prior approval is required from your Dean, as well as from Vice President for Strategic and Global Initiatives Anthony Bailey, for any university-related travel to CDC Level 3 countries.
  • Continue to check the website, http://usc.edu/coronavirus/, for current information.
  • For questions, please use the COVID-19 hotline: 213-740-6291 or email: studenthealth@usc.edu.
  • For employees of Keck Medicine of USC, please contact the Employee Health Services Hotline: 323-442-5219.
  • For any university member seeking support, please contact Campus Support & Intervention at 213-740-0411. To express concern about the health or well-being of a member of the USC community, contact Trojans Care for Trojans through the online form or email: uscsupport@usc.edu.
  • Please remember to take care of yourself. This includes staying home if you are sick, washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, covering your cough with your elbow or sleeve, and avoiding touching your nose and mouth.
  • Faculty should not require notes from medical providers for students who may have absences due to respiratory or other illnesses.

Thank you for your partnership, support, and dedication to our students during this rapidly changing time.


Office of the President
Academic Deans
President’s Senior Leadership Team
Provost’s Leadership Team
Academic Senate
Staff Assembly
GSG President
USC President