UT releases mandatory COVID-19 training course for students, faculty

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Freshman business major Mattie Crosby works on her laptop in the Texas Union on Monday, Aug. 28, 2020. All students received an email about a mandatory online COVID-19 training to be completed by Sept. 30.

Photo Credit: Kirsten Hahn | Daily Texan Staff

The University released a new mandatory COVID-19 training course in August on how students can maintain good physical and mental health as they return to campus. 

The training course, “Staying Healthy in a Changing Environment,” includes eight modules and must be completed by all students, staff and faculty by Sept. 30. Students and staff members are required to complete different versions of the course, said Susan Hochman, University Health Services associate director of assessment. 

The course, along with the Protect Texas Together app and commitment, is aimed to promote safe social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitation, Hochman said.

“(The course) provides a baseline of knowledge around COVID-19, what it is and how it spreads,” Hochman said. “It has information on speaking up if you see others not following protocol … and why and how to take precautions as individuals return to campus.”

 

Hochman said the course also includes a mental health module providing students and faculty with resources, including the Counseling and Mental Health Center and the “Staying Well While Social Distancing” page on Healthyhorns.

“We understand that this is a stressful time,” Hochman said. “We want our community to be mindful of what is causing negative stress, what strategies manage stress, (knowing) how to communicate boundaries and (learning) what boundaries others accept for themselves.”

The COVID-19 basics module of the course tells students to practice personal safety, social distancing, regular handwashing, respiratory hygiene and mask-wearing while understanding the symptoms of COVID-19, Hochman said.

The mental health module of the course states that people may feel stress and anxiety due to the pandemic and encourages a user to contact the CMHC for support if the stress hinders their day-to-day activities.

The course was created by EverFi, an education technology company, but UT added University-specific information, Hochman said. 

Economics graduate student Maximilian Nohr said he thought the course lacked pertinent information, including a review of online and remote learning strategies.

“Stay apart, wear a mask, wash your hands — this is not new information,” Nohr said. “It’s not like they are telling us things that we didn’t already know a couple months into the pandemic.”

The Compliance and Education Taskforce, which was created in the summer to educate students and create COVID-19 guidelines, did a trial run of the course before releasing it to students, Hochman said. 

The task force also released the Protect Texas Together commitment and app over the summer, Hochman said. Along with education, she said the task force wanted to uphold the COVID-19 guidelines set in place over the summer.

“The commitment is strongly encouraged but voluntary for all students, faculty and staff,” said Jay Bernhardt, dean of the Moody College of Communication. “The University is not tracking or counting who completes the commitment. There are no plans to reward or discipline people based on whether or not they made the commitment.”