We hope you are all doing well, staying safe, and finding ways to rest and rejuvenate in this very unusual time. Below is the next batch of questions and answers. It’s a long one! As always, we’ll post these answers to the SSA Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates site. The university will also be continuously updating the Spring 2020 site with information and resources.
As you’ve seen from the earlier message, Field Placements will be remote at least through the end of spring quarter. You’ll find that most recent message from the Field Education Team here.
How can students learn more about how to use Zoom and better prepare themselves in general for success in online courses?
The University has launched the Learning Remotely site, which we highly suggest that you take some time to review this week before classes begin. In particular, the Getting Started page is very useful and contains information like what internet connection speed you’ll need to be able to participate in online classes and how to improve your internet connection.
Most importantly, if you haven’t already, please set up your Zoom account by going to: uchicagostudents.zoom.us. Click on the “sign in with SSO” button in the main window. SSO is “single sign on” - it means you’ll use your UChicago CnetID and password. Note: If you are already signed in with SSO, you will not see this option. We recommend you download the Zoom app and add it to all your devices – computer, smartphone, tablet…whatever you’ve got, get it “zoomin.” You can also access Zoom meetings without an app via the link, but the experience is better in the app.
How can we give instructors input and feedback to help make online courses maximally effective?
Great question! Making spring quarter successful will truly be a collaborative effort between students, instructors, and staff.
We have started the process by talking extensively with instructors about possible student needs and barriers during the spring quarter, including differing time zones, child care responsibilities, and lack of access to high speed internet. We shared the information students submitted in the online learning survey with the instructors whose courses those students are currently registered for.
At the end of Week 1, we will administer a mid-quarter survey for all SSA courses, we want to get feedback early to make necessary adjustments quickly. In addition to this, instructors will be encouraged to do their usual mid-quarter check in as usual around week 3-4.
Throughout the spring quarter, we encourage students to send instructors constructive feedback about things that are and are not working well. As always, if a student doesn’t feel comfortable communicating directly with the instructor they should speak with their academic advisor or the Dean of Students.
Will courses be offered this summer (online and/or in-person)?
SSA has been offering summer courses for the past 2 years and recently published the summer course schedule for Summer 2020. The University has not made a decision about whether in-person classes will take place over the summer. The University is monitoring the ongoing COVID-19 situation. When a decision is made in this regard we will make sure that our students know about it.
Can I take online courses through another college or university and count the credits toward my degree?
Per already existing SSA policy, we do not accept transfer credits from other universities.
How will instructor and TA office hours work during the spring quarter?
Most instructors and TAs will use a standing Zoom link for weekly office hours and will enable the “waiting room” function. This will allow students to “pop in” to the Zoom meeting at any point during the scheduled office hours. If another student is already meeting with the instructor, they will be placed in the “waiting room” and will be connected with the instructor after the other student logs out.
Students can also email instructors to set up an appointment for a virtual meeting. However, instructors have the option to proceed differently if they prefer an alternative approach for conducting their course’s office hours and meeting with students. Regardless, instructors will post information about how to access office hours and meet with them in their syllabus and/or on their course site.
Will tuition change for Spring Quarter?
Regular tuition rates will apply in Spring Quarter 2020 per the Bursar. While all Spring Quarter courses will be taught remotely, courses will continue to fully satisfy degree requirements, regardless of their format and length. The Spring Quarter will count toward completion of all degree programs.
We understand that remote instruction will not be the same as the on-campus experience. SSA staff and instructors remain committed to your educational experience and have worked hard to adapt their courses for the remote learning quarter. Faculty, academic administration, and IT are redesigning courses in light of the remote learning environment and implementing technology to ensure that students continue to receive a rigorous, transformative education. We are rapidly developing alternate plans for workshops, office hours, and the additional interactions that will sustain our community of scholars in new ways during this unprecedented time. Students also have the option to take a leave of absence.
We also understand that some students need extra financial support with travel, housing, and more. The University has taken a number of steps to support students’ financial needs at this time:
- Emergency funding options are available through the emergency assistance programs for students. https://bursar.uchicago.edu/emergency-assistance-programs/
- All students will have an extended payment deadline of April 29, 2020, for Spring Quarter 2020. Official billing dates have been altered and are available for viewing by academic program.
- Student life fees have been reduced, and waivers may be granted in certain circumstances. https://spring2020.uchicago.edu/student-resources/
- SSA is pulling together emergency funding options for students as well. More information will be sent out soon.
- If you have needs related to learning online, please reach out to the Dean of Students Office immediately.
I'm on the University health insurance (USHIP). How can I find out more about what the policy covers in different locations or specifically related to COVID-19 treatment?
The University’s Student Insurance website has recently added some helpful information about changes made to the USHIP plan to accommodate students at this time. These include:
- Students on USHIP will not be charged for COVID-19 testing: “If you are required to be tested for Covid-19, cost sharing will be waived, including copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for diagnostic testing provided at approved locations in accordance with CDC guidelines.
- “Effective immediately, the $50 non-referral deductible will be waived through Spring Quarter. This means a referral is not required before seeking care or treatment from a provider outside of Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS).”
- Optional 6-month Dental and Vision Coverage is available to all registered students (regardless of U-SHIP status). The open enrollment period runs from February 1st – April 17th. Coverage is effective for the period 3/1/20 - 8/31/20.
In addition to these COVID-specific resources, the website has information about policy coverage and a page with FAQs and video tutorials.
If you’ve reviewed the resources on the website and still have a question you can reach out to one of the University’s On-Campus Insurance Coordinators, James Abernathy or Janice Thomas, both available at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can SSA provide documentation for students to provide to scholarship funders, landlords, employers, or others who need to be notified about the virtual spring quarter?
We’re happy to help! It is important to note that we do not have any official authority over landlords, government sponsors, or external organizations. However, there are many times when a letter from a University staff person can be helpful. Please reach out to the Dean of Students Office if you need a letter.
If I leave the Chicago area and don't return for graduation how will I receive my diploma?
Your diploma will be mailed to the address provided when you applied to graduate through My.UChicago. If the address to which you need the diploma mailed changes, you will be able to make these changes yourself via your My.UChicago profile, up until June 5th. Please see the University Registrar’s website for more details.
Will my degree be any different than it would have been since I am taking online courses? Will there be any indication on my transcripts or other official documentation that these courses were virtual rather than in person?
Absolutely not. Your courses for the spring quarter carry the exact same amount of academic credit as courses you took on campus. There will be nothing on your transcript to indicate that the courses were taken online.
What support is being provided to hourly workers at SSA and the University at large?
The University confirmed in a March 20 email that -- through its contracts with the relevant vendors -- the food service workers at the University, both full- and part-time will continue to receive their regular pay for the duration of Spring Quarter. Many of our other contractors’ employees, such as security and janitorial, are essential to our continuing operations and will continue to perform their job duties and receive their regular pay through their direct employers throughout the Spring Quarter.
Like you, we know how disruptive the current situation is for our contract workers, many of whom live on Chicago’s south side. We truly appreciate the hard work and dedication of all our employees and vendors during this challenging time, and we are proud that the University has made these commitments.
What supports are available to students who are facing food insecurity or who anticipate issues with being able to afford food?
The University is committed to supporting students in accessing healthy food in socially acceptable ways that do not interfere with their academic and social lives. A great resource on campus is the Student Support Services (SSS) office. Student Support Services assists students with food security. They have altered their delivery methods to be in line with social distancing guidelines. As such, they are now focusing on grocery vouchers and delivery services, and have suspended the dining hall meal swipes program. SSS can also help students with the process of applying for federal programs like SNAP.
We encourage you to contact SSS if you or a student you know is experiencing hunger or skipping meals. Graduate and Professional students can contact:
Student Support Services
We know that food security issues and financial issues are often closely intertwined, so we also want to remind students of the emergency funding options available through the Bursar’s Office.
I wish I could do more to help with the current pandemic. Are there volunteer opportunities available?
Yes there are! I know many of you are becoming social workers to agents of change on the world. Our friends at Pritzker have created a list of volunteer opportunities for those that might be interested. This is only for those interested and able; there are no requirements to participate. We will also include any additional opportunities received in the DOS Digest.
How can I get academic advising?
In addition to your assigned faculty advisor, DOS staff is available to meet with all students in SSA via phone or Zoom. We recognize this is a big change for us, a change we are making to help us to maintain the national guidelines for social distancing.
Please continue to schedule appointments by emailing the email@example.com and be sure to indicate whether you’d like an appointment via phone or Zoom.
I miss my peers! What will the Dean of Students Office do to maintain our strong community while we are away from campus (and, for the time being, all humans outside of our homes.)
The SSA Dean of Students Team is creating an engagement plan to ensure our community stays connected to and supports each other throughout spring quarter. We are fully committed to continuing to offer community building and professional development opportunities, albeit virtual ones, to all SSA students.
We are also working alongside Student Government Association to think creatively about how to best meet the needs of the SSA community virtually. We’ll be meeting with student organization leaders to help them strategize about how to fulfill their missions and serve the student body.
We are excited to share more details about these initiatives in the coming few weeks.
Lastly, please know that we are committed to serving students the best way we can during this time, and appreciate your understanding as we try to navigate territory that is new to all of us. Please take care of yourselves and continue to reach out to us as needed. We remain committed to your success and well-being. We are all hoping for a swift resolve, and look forward to the time we can meet with you again in person.
Please take care! We look forward to “seeing” you soon!