Academic FAQs for Faculty

General Questions

Fall 2020 Semester

The semester will begin on Aug. 17, 2020, which is a week earlier than originally scheduled. All classes, including final exams, will end by Thanksgiving. By ending the semester before Thanksgiving, we aim to minimize the spread of the virus, particularly as the flu season commences. To support this schedule, we will not have a fall break in 2020.

Note that all undergraduate programs and some graduate programs will start on Aug. 17. Graduate and professional programs are developing calendars to meet their specific needs, and individual schools will notify students of their schedules and orientation for their programs.

Please understand that our plans remain contingent on several factors, including the continued spread of COVID-19 and the health orders from state and local authorities.

Resources have been deployed in schools and in the Center for Excellence in Teaching (CET) to enable faculty to reimagine and implement their courses in the physically distanced environment and online.

CET launched an accelerated six-week intensive that's designed to help faculty plan for the fall, and CET has made all of the materials from the intensive available to all faculty and teaching assistants to review on their own. CET's website provides numerous resources as well as recorded trainings to help faculty prepare to teach online and via a hybrid model.

Each academic unit determined the method of instruction while adhering to constraints based on the gathering size, physical distancing requirements and other relevant guidelines.

The majority of undergraduate classes will be available solely online. We will also offer courses in a hybrid format (combining in-person and online course sessions).

About 10-20% of our classes will be conducted in person, on campus. These will be primarily face-to-face labs, studios, performance, and other courses involving hands-on work, and independent research studies that require facilities and equipment only available on campus. Even these courses, for the most part, will also be available online this semester.

Hybrid classes can comprise a number of delivery methods, which include in-person and online modalities. The instructor will provide students with specific information about the format of the class via email or the class syllabus.

In-person office hours will not be a requirement. Faculty members can make use of Zoom and other online tools in order to practice physical distancing. Those faculty members who choose to have in-person office hours must ensure that all COVID-19 safety protocols are followed, including practicing physical distancing and wearing a face covering.

Please view the latest updates from USC's Office of Research in addition to the restart research FAQs.

Zoombombing is a form of trolling where a participant uses Zoom’s screensharing feature to interrupt and disrupt meetings and classes. Please view resources to prevent Zoombombing during your classes.

Should Zoombombing occur during your class, please alert your dean of faculty. Students, staff, and faculty who are impacted by protected class (like race, sex, gender, religion or national origin) misconduct during Zoom sessions should be referred to titleix@usc.edu (students) or oed@usc.edu (staff and faculty) for supportive resources and reporting options.

Information Technology Services (ITS) performed an extensive analysis of our remote testing applications. This review process included a comparison of tools used to administer or proctor an exam, as well as solutions that ensure the overall integrity of exams at USC.

Our recommendations are outlined below. Each recommendation meets different needs and requirements.

Open-Book Exams with Blackboard Turnitin

  • This option is best suited for term papers, essay exams, research assignments and/or any other written product.
  • Final work products can be submitted via Blackboard Turnitin, with Dropbox as an option if desired.
  • Turnitin will check for potentially unoriginal content by comparing submitted papers to several databases using a proprietary algorithm.
  • Instructions for creating and grading Turnitin assessments are found here.

Administer or Proctor Exams with Zoom

  • Zoom allows an instructor (or proctor) to monitor students while they are taking an exam.
  • The Zoom session should be recorded in the event that follow-up is required.
  • Here are instructions for administering or proctoring an exam in Zoom.

Administer or Proctor Exams with Blackboard

  • Blackboard used with Respondus Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor locks down a student’s computer and works with a student’s webcam and advanced video analytics to monitor test taking behavior and flag anomalies during an exam.
  • Instructors can view video footage that is flagged (i.e. suspect behavior is detected) after the test, as needed.
  • To enable this tool, an instructor must activate the test in Blackboard and require that Respondus be used for the test.
  • Students need to download and install the Respondus Lockdown Browser to take the test.

Alternative Exam Format

  • An alternative examination format will be provided for students who face obstacles participating in a scheduled exam.
  • Students must notify the instructor in advance if they will require an alternative exam format.

We encourage you to review these options and the training available for each solution above.

Just like we did this past spring, professors will record classes and make them available to students to watch whenever it is convenient for them. Please see the FAQs below regarding asynchronous teaching.

Disability Services and Programs (DSP) is the campus unit that works with students with disabilities. All of DSP’s operations have been modified to appropriately serve students who are enrolled in in-person classes, online classes, and both types of classes.

The USC Libraries offer extensive resources and expertise that support online teaching, research and learning – even if the physical buildings remain closed for now.

Subscription journals and databasesdigital collectionsremote research help, and many other library services and programs remain available. The libraries also make several streaming services available, including music and film collections.

In some cases, the libraries can ship books or other materials from USC's collections. If the item you need appears available in the libraries’ online catalog, request shipment using the “Request via interlibrary loan” link. Please note that “Request via interlibrary loan” is the correct option for requesting books from the USC Libraries' collections that are marked as available. This is necessary to initiate the shipping process. You will receive the book from USC Libraries rather than the interlibrary loan.

Faculty may schedule information literacy and other library instruction for their classes, and subject specialists can help students with research projects and other coursework via Zoom.

The USC Libraries maintain a detailed set of online research guides that include information on subject-specific resources. You can also find more specific information on digital collections of primary sources.

The most current information on USC Libraries’ services, collections, and programs is available at libraries.usc.edu/coronavirus. Students and faculty with questions about library resources can contact the libraries remotely through email and chat services.

You can download a variety of USC-branded Zoom backgrounds via this link.

We are planning to resume classes as scheduled in the spring semester. However, we will ultimately be guided by the realities on the ground and the guidance from local and state authorities.

Asynchronous Teaching

Yes. All class sessions must be recorded, with audio transcripts, whether you use Zoom or another platform. Zoom is already set to transcribe video recordings. If you wish to check your settings, there is a CET Document that shows you how to do this.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and students have been displaced, and some do not have access to the typical support structures they need to teach or take their courses. Many of us are facing new challenges that make it difficult for everyone to be present at the same time for a live (synchronous) class. These challenges include caregiving responsibilities, unstable or inaccessible internet connections, time zone differences and illness. Equally important is our commitment to providing an equitable learning experience for our students who need accommodations.

There are two things we all can and must do to address this:

  1. Record all lectures/class sessions, with audio transcripts, and make the recordings and transcripts available to students asynchronously (at any time outside of class time).
  2. Make all course materials, including those used during lectures and class sessions (such as faculty notes or slides), available to students asynchronously.

Links to all lecture/class session recordings and transcripts should be made available to all students in your course. There will be students who need asynchronous access to your course who are too uncomfortable, or may not be able to tell you that they need access to a recording due to illness or internet access challenges. USC’s priority is to provide high quality and inclusive instruction within a stable and predictable structure. This is especially important during these unpredictable times. Every student should have access to all learning options at all times.

There are students and faculty who have connectivity challenges in their homes, which makes video conferencing, or even watching a video online, a challenge. Providing the course materials in more than one way, accessible at any time, helps alleviate these challenges.

CET provides written resources on effective asynchronous teaching strategies and how to create asynchronous materials. If you would like individual support in creating these materials, please contact CET.

Faculty control access to the links of their class recordings and transcripts in Zoom, which is the platform centrally supported by USC. If your school uses a different platform, please consult your school’s IT department for answers.

Once recordings and transcripts are processed and available in Zoom, faculty must manually make recording and transcript files available to all of their students. Once you have done this, please communicate with your students about where to find and how to view the recordings. There is a CET document that shows you how to do this.

Students will have access to three files for each class: A video recording, an audio recording and a written transcript.

In Zoom, recording and transcript files are automatically removed after one year. Zoom allows you to delete them at any time; however, you should keep them throughout your course so that students can access them at any time.

If you also wish to keep your recorded lectures or class sessions in your personal archive, you can download them to your computer. There is a CET document that shows you how to do this.

Faculty can delete their recording and transcript files after their course is over and final grades have been submitted. There is a CET document that shows you how to do this.

USC will notify students through Blackboard that they may not share class recordings or transcripts outside of their classes. Faculty should remind them of their ethical responsibility as emerging professionals to keep this information private.

However, if you are concerned about protecting any unpublished scholarship, you may decide not to include that information in your recorded classes during the remote teaching period out of an abundance of caution. You may also wish to consult with colleagues who teach online about how they typically manage this concern.

Students are notified in advance that classes are being recorded and are given the option of muting their own audio/video. Students will also be instructed through Blackboard that the recordings may not be shared with anyone outside the class. Faculty should remind students that the class is being recorded and the options available to them, as well as of their ethical responsibility as emerging professionals to keep personal information shared in class private.

There is a Zoom function that allows faculty to trim the beginning and end of the recording in case private conversations with students after class are picked up on video. Please reach out to ITS for more information on this.

The purpose of asking all faculty to record their classes is to ensure that all of our students have access to our lectures and class discussions — not to evaluate our faculty. If you normally teach your course in person and are teaching online due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the university will not be accessing your recordings to evaluate your teaching.

However, if you typically teach online and review of recorded class sessions is part of the normal peer evaluation process in your school, that process is not changed by this policy. Faculty who teach in online programs during normal operations should consult their schools about how video recordings of those classes are used in faculty development or evaluation.

Students: Please view academic FAQs for students.