FAQ: Faculty Academics

Below are the answers to frequently asked questions related to academics. Faculty researchers should see the Research FAQs. For health-related information, view the Health and Safety FAQs

If you have questions that are not answered in our FAQs, please email covid19@usc.edu. Our response team will help find an answer.

General Questions

The semester began on Aug. 17, 2020, and 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.

The Spring 2021 semester will begin on January 15, with classes ending on April 30, and exams concluding on May 12 for undergraduate students.

Graduate programs may elect to follow the revised calendar as detailed above or adhere to their original calendars. Please consult with your individual programs if you are unsure.

To minimize the risk of the virus spreading due to travel, there will be no spring break. In its place, the university has created a personal wellness day program that puts mental health and wellness front and center. More details about this initiative will be released soon.

In July, we announced we would deliver the vast majority of our fall classes online, with only 10-20% of instruction held in-person or in a hybrid modality, due to the progression of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County, and we encouraged students to study from home in the fall semester. When we made that announcement, we expected that we would receive permission from state and county health officials to open in that manner.

Unfortunately, we do not yet have clearance from the state or county to move forward with classroom instruction. Given the delay in receiving the required permission, we made the difficult decision to begin the fall semester with fully remote instruction with limited exceptions for clinical education.

Over the past few months, we have retrofitted our campus and put numerous safety protocols in place for the return of our students. As soon as public health regulations allow, we will be ready to pivot quickly to select in-person and hybrid instruction and other on-campus activities.

USC ITS is continuing to identify ways to support you and your students in strengthening the online and virtual experience. We launched technological upgrades and are introducing new tools that provide faculty and students with an enhanced, engaging and experiential way to teach, learn, and create a Trojan community at any time and from any place. This experience is known as the 'digital campus,' and it starts with the following immediate offerings:

  • A faculty quick start guide supports key teaching activities and includes training materials, videos, step-by-step procedures, and FAQs on Blackboard basics, Zoom basics, Zoom rooms, Trojan Check and security.
  • Training webinars showcase all of the tools available to support remote teaching. See the quick start guide to access the webinars.

In addition, the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching website provides numerous resources as well as recorded trainings to help faculty successfully teach online.

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

Just like we did last 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 while 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 most 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 can schedule information literacy and other library instruction for their classes, and subject specialists can help students with research projects and other coursework via Zoom. Although physical course reserves remain suspended, electronic reserves are available.

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.

For students outside of the Los Angeles area, please continue to ship whatever equipment is necessary. We recommend that your teams insure all equipment being distributed for its full replacement value.

Students who live in the Los Angeles area may come to campus to pick up the equipment they require to complete their course work. Prior to commencing pickup, please ask your respective teams to submit a plan via this brief form for EH&S approval. Your plan should prioritize contactless pickup where possible. Where not possible, pickup can be conducted by appointment, in order to ensure physical distancing and adequate spacing is observed.

Please be sure to remind any students coming to campus to complete their daily symptom check via TrojanCheck prior to arriving on campus. As we remain in Phase 2 of our reopening plan, students are advised to refrain from visiting campus outside of sanctioned activities such as the one detailed above.

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.