More Information from the Provost about Flex@Pitt and the Classroom Experience

Flex@Pitt is a reinvention of the instructional model during the pandemic, offering in-person learning for our students when conditions allow for it, and providing faculty with tools and support to deliver robust teaching remotely when necessary. Flex@Pitt—and all of our academic and operations planning—is underpinned by the operational postures and health rules developed by Pitt’s Healthcare Advisory Group (HCAG), and is designed to adapt to changing conditions of the virus and our campuses.

Flex@Pitt also accommodates community members—faculty and students alike—whose personal health risk or circumstances prevent them from coming to the classroom, even with very rigorous health and safety measures in place.

To help guide us in the time ahead, the Chancellor shared details last week about the Resilience Framework. As you may have read, the way it works is that the posture as determined by the Health Care Advisory Group dictates whether we can even be in the classroom or lab.

If we were in High Risk Posture, for certain there would be no in-person classes and likely no research lab work by anyone except those working with full Personal Protective Equipment on COVID-related research. The Flex@Pitt teaching model allows us to quickly flip to (or begin the semester in, if that is necessary) synchronous Zoom classes or a hybrid between asynchronous pre-prepared lectures and synchronous online sessions—depending on how the instructor designed the course.

In the Elevated Risk Posture most classes would take place fully online as above. Some classes will take place in person when there is a definable benefit, and permission will be required from the dean of the school or their designee.

However, when campuses are in the Guarded Risk Posture, gatherings of 250 are permitted and in-person classes will be allowed. We are working to ensure that in this posture, students can have at least one in-person class each week for each course they take, with the exception of large lectures without discussion sections. We continue to work to fit the course schedule into available rooms. To be clear, rigorous measures will be in place to ensure these classrooms will be safe spaces for faculty and students. They will be cleaned according to a HCAG-provided protocol; the HVAC systems will have been checked and optimized; the student seating will allow at least a 6-foot radius around each student and the faculty member (who is likely to be farther away than that, of course); and everyone will be required to wear a face covering.

Faculty who are unable to teach in person can choose to be present on screen in the classroom, aided by technical support from Pitt IT to safely initiate the class and monitor it remotely. Faculty also have  options to enhance the in-person classroom setting for students, including:

  • Team teaching with other faculty who do not have a personal circumstance that puts them at high risk; or
  • Working with a teaching assistant, undergraduate teaching assistant or staff member who does not have a personal circumstance that puts them at high risk to help mediate or facilitate the interactions in the classroom.

These challenging days continue to require our ongoing commitment to working together. By necessity, the University has embarked on many new ways of doing things. That said, what will not change is our first priority: the health and safety of every member of the Pitt family.