COVID-19-positive professors manage absences with alternative teaching formats

Instructors should arrange plans, contact department heads in case of emergency, short-term absence



When professors test positive for COVID-19 and have to be absent, department heads may choose to move the class to Zoom temporarily or have a temporary instructor.


COVID-19-positive instructors have adapted their teaching formats using online resources and guest teachers to fill in the gaps caused by their absence.

Any professor that requests time off or is in an emergent situation needs to contact the head of their department to arrange plans, said William B. Davis, associate dean for undergraduate education.

“If it’s longer than a short-term leave, it’s a more formal process that goes through the Office of Human Resources at WSU, and that usually means that they need more documentation and go through a formal review process,” Davis said.

All faculty and instructors are required to contact their department head and plan how to manage classes, he said. WSU and department heads notified professors to prepare lectures in advance in case of emergency or short-term absence.

The university would like to have faculty explore if there are alternative options for class instruction with department chairs, Davis said. This could mean finding a guest teacher or hiring someone to fill in temporarily.

However, some professors have found it challenging to find a replacement with knowledge of the course, he said.

Somava Pande, clinical assistant professor in the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, said she tested positive for COVID-19 the first week of the spring semester.

The head of the department decided it was the best fit for the course to remain on Zoom rather than filling in the class with a temporary instructor, Pande said. It was a fairly easy transition to make.

“I would hold Zoom lectures the first week instead of face-to-face so that way I could see my students and they could see my face, as well,” Pande said. “We survived the first week.”

Chantelle Harms, sophomore chemical engineering major, said her instructors have adapted quickly by changing class meetings to Zoom or using previously recorded lectures.

It was a simple transition because it felt like a habit after previously using Zoom full-time her first year at WSU, Harms said.

Most instructors have found easy ways to hold class online because in-person class is not always promised with things constantly changing with COVID-19, she said.

WSU guidelines can change because of the nature of the pandemic, as Whitman County vaccination rates increase and as the different COVID-19 variants spread, Davis said.