Workload and Remote Teaching: COVID-19 Update

As we plan for the 2020-2021 academic year, and as many of our faculty members embark on summer teaching, UWOFA recognizes that there are valid concerns about the workload involved in preparing and delivering remote courses, and conversely about the risks and complexities of teaching in person. We continue to work with the Employer to ensure basic protections outlined in the Collective Agreement are maintained. UWOFA is committed to working on your behalf to ensure safe and fair working conditions and to communicating to the members the status of any agreements with the Employer.

Workload & Remote-Delivered Courses

Many faculty members have raised concerns about the workload associated with transitioning to remote teaching, either as it is evolving this summer or as projected for the fall. The Employer insists that situations need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, and we see some merit in that position. While some courses can be transitioned to remote delivery with some additional work, others will require very substantial increases in preparation time. Clause 5 in the Implications of Technology Article of the Collective Agreement regarding the use of Alternative Learning Technologies (ALTs) states that “Courses using ALTs may be part of the assigned teaching load of a Member, and any alteration in load arising from the creation or presentation of such courses shall be recognized as part of the Member’s Workload. In determining Workload, consideration shall be given to any additional demands placed on Members who teach courses primarily by ALTs”.

Accordingly we recommend that faculty members with concerns about workload take three steps:

  1. Record your time spent each day on the various parts of your work, especially teaching. Evidence will support claims of having done significant extra work.
  2. Contact UWOFA’s Member Services Officer or Professional Officer to discuss and assess your workload situation. 
  3. Request a meeting with your Dean to discuss your concerns. You are entitled to such a meeting, as outlined in clause 9 of the Workload Article of the Collective Agreement. UWOFA can assist in finding an academic colleague or Association representative to accompany you to that meeting. 

If reasonable concerns about workload cannot be resolved, UWOFA will support individual grievances of particular workload allocations.

Intellectual Property & Remote-Delivered Courses

As with in-person courses, the intellectual property of courses that transition to remote delivery remains with the faculty member. This applies regardless of the involvement of others in any instructional design support, unless the faculty member enters into a Commissioned Works Agreement or a Course Authoring Agreement. This position is also supported by the Employer: https://www.uwo.ca/facultyrelations/pdf/covid/Memo_re_Protecting_Online_Content-April_1_2020.pdf

Academic Freedom & Remote-Delivered Courses

As with traditional in-person courses, faculty members continue to have academic freedom to design their remote-delivered courses as they choose. This is true even when a course is assisted by eLearning Specialists or other personnel from Western Technology Services or the Centre for Teaching and Learning. The role of eLearning professionals and other support staff is to suggest best practices for remote delivery and facilitate and enact the faculty member’s vision for the course, not to dictate. 

Mode of Course Delivery

Can I be required to teach remotely even if I prefer to teach in person?

You cannot unilaterally insist on teaching in person if you are asked to teach remotely. Due to the need to maintain physical distancing standards, classrooms will only operate at 20% capacity. Given the limited supply of large classrooms on campus, most classes will be required to be conducted through remote delivery. However, you have the right to be consulted as a part of the decision. Normally, these decisions are made collegially, with the input of faculty members and consideration of their preferences and needs. If this is not the case, and especially if the the learning objectives of your course cannot reasonably be met through remote instruction, discuss your concerns with your department chair or Dean.

Can I be required to teach in person even if I prefer to teach remotely?

If you have medical or compassionate grounds for not teaching in person (e.g., you yourself are at elevated health risk due to your age or underlying health conditions, or you live with or care for someone with underlying health concerns) you must be accommodated. UWOFA’s Member Services Officer and Professional Officer can advise on this process which will include input from your health care professional and advice from Rehabilitation Services at Western.

Even if you do not have medical or compassionate grounds for accommodation, decisions to offer courses through alternative modes of delivery are normally at the discretion of the faculty member. Clause 5.1 of the Implications of Technology Article regarding the use of Alternative Learning Technologies (ALTs) provides that “The introduction of a credit course using ALTs in a Unit shall be subject to the Unit’s normal collegial decision making. This requirement shall not preclude the introduction of ALTs into courses by individual Members”. If you are asked to teach in person and feel that doing so puts you or others at an unacceptable level of risk, discuss your concerns, and whether the course can be viably offered remotely, with your department chair or Dean. UWOFA’s Member Services Officer and Professional Officer can work with you to assess your situation and offer advice and assistance with such meetings.

Safety in the Workplace

You can invoke your right to refuse unsafe work: https://www.ontario.ca/document/guide-occupational-health-and-safety-act/part-v-right-refuse-or-stop-work-where-health-and-safety-danger. UWOFA’s Member Services Officer and Professional Officer can advise as to how to request a workplace review by the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demanded extraordinary changes and affected all aspects of our everyday lives, not just our working lives. We’re all wondering when things will be back to normal, or what that normal will even look like. At UWOFA, we continue to maintain our absolute commitment to the health and safety of our colleagues while working with the university to ensure Western students can continue their education during this crisis.