Frequently asked questions about maintaining continuity of learning throughout the semester.
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Academic Integrity and Assessments
If you feel that your exams require proctoring, read more about your options.
If my exams will be delivered remotely and won’t require classrooms, do the policies on evening exams apply, requiring dean approval and coordination with the Registrar’s Office? (Senate Policy 44-30 and AAPPM F-5)
Yes, these policies exist to reduce conflicts between exams, as well as manage physical facilities. If your exams will be scheduled during a fixed timeframe in the evening, whether offered remotely or in-person, schedule in advance following the normal process. Exams that will be offered over extended and flexible times, similar to take-home exams, do not need to be scheduled centrally. Make expectations clear in your syllabus.
Learn more about your options to assess students and verify they are not using external resources.
There is no University-wide proctoring service. You might consider implementing many low-stakes assignments as opposed to a few high-stakes assessments, having students generate material such as papers, projects or videos, hand-written assignments, or e-portfolios. You might also use Turnitin, a web-based writing assessment toolkit, which allows instructors to provide feedback to students through markup tools, rubrics, proofing tools, and originality reports to detect plagiarism.
For information on writing quality exams, choosing among different types of exams, and administering exams in a remote environment, you can read the following resources:
- Assessment options
- Remote assessment strategies
- How to adapt your course assessments
- Recommendations and considerations for remote exams
- Senate policy on exams (see #4)
If you offer the exam in a synchronous, remote environment for all students, consider creating a break-out room in Zoom for each student to take the exam. The instructor and any grading assistants can monitor by circulating from room to room.
Course Policies and Syllabus
Undergraduate students can appeal for a retroactive late drop through the Faculty Senate. Students should consult with their academic adviser, and petitions must be submitted through the student’s college or campus; students do not appeal directly to the Faculty Senate Office. Learn more about the process.
Graduate students’ requests for retroactive late drops are made by the student’s graduate program through Graduate Enrollment Services. Contact the student’s Records Coordinator in Graduate Enrollment Services for more information.
Be sure to check with your college or campus regarding locally mandated syllabus policies.
See syllabus recommendations specific to each instructional mode:
Are there privacy concerns if students who attend class in-person are included in my class session recordings, which may be watched by other students?
If the recordings are only accessible to students in the class, there are no privacy concerns. If you intend to use or share the recording outside of students in that class, all student images, names, chat, and other data must be deleted. If all student data is not deleted, you must get the students’ written consent to use or share the recording outside of students in that class.
If I require attendance as part of participation in the course, can I subtract points if students don’t attend class?
Instructors should follow Faculty Senate policy 42-27, Class Attendance, which identifies examples of legitimate, unavoidable reasons such as illness, injury, military service, family emergency, or religious observance. Instructors are encouraged to accommodate student absences with flexibility during this pandemic period, recognizing that many circumstances are beyond the control of individual students. Additionally, instructors should encourage students who are feeling ill not to attend class in order to protect the well-being of others.
Other general resources about attendance requirements as a part of participation in the course:
- View current information related to COVID-19 and classroom attendance policy on the Penn State Coronavirus Information website.
- Read Class Attendance procedures (undergraduate).
See syllabus recommendations specific to each instructional mode:
What do I do if a student who will be unable to participate for a period of time requests make-up work?
You may provide traditional sorts of make-up assignments (e.g., provide slides, offer office hour appointments, extend due dates, etc.) appropriate for the course and its designated delivery mode. Policy 42-27 on Class Attendance states, “Instructors also should provide, within reason, the opportunity to make up work for students who miss classes for other legitimate but unavoidable reasons. …it should be recognized that not all work can be ‘made-up’ and that absences can affect student performance in a class.”
Consider asking if the student is unable to participate in the whole course or unable to participate in certain elements (e.g., cannot attend any in-person sessions but can complete assignments on time). Current policy applies, in that you can’t adjust the grading scheme for a student who needs make-up work since all students have to have the same opportunity to earn grades that you outlined in your syllabus. For example, if a student has missed a quiz but all students have the opportunity to drop their lowest quiz grade, you can’t have the student be forced to drop the quiz that they missed as their lowest grade. Determine whether there are simple ways to provide access to the elements that the student will miss, so that there would be no need for make-up work.
For example, in the case of a student who cannot attend class in person, it may be easy to record a live lecture and post it in Canvas; but it may not be easy to simulate a physical lab experience for the student to complete outside of class. Instructors are not asked to create alternate ways to deliver course material; rather, they are asked to provide flexibility, within reason, on how students might achieve learning outcomes to students who unexpectedly cannot participate in part or all of a course for a period of time.
Health and Safety
What steps are the Office of Physical Plant taking to reduce the potential for spread of COVID-19 in classrooms, offices, restrooms, and other indoor areas?
Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant (OPP) worked through the summer to carefully evaluate all building mechanical and life safety systems to determine that they were fully functional and ready for occupancy and that they met or exceeded all of the building systems requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). OPP then implemented intensive corrective and preventive maintenance for every building at every campus. Learn more about OPP’s procedures and plans (PDF).
Are extra disposable masks stocked at the podium each day for me to give students who forget their masks?
Extra masks are not stocked at the podium. Instructors are issued an initial box of 50 procedure masks. It is recommended that the instructor bring 2–3 additional procedure masks to issue to students who forget their masks. Instructors also may ask the student(s) to leave the classroom and retrieve their cloth mask before returning to class. Instructors will be able to obtain additional procedure masks through their Department or College.
How do I find information on the best type of mask for my teaching situation, given my students and I are required to wear masks?
The task group on Instruction, Universal Masking and PPE Recommendations has produced a report that provides guidance on different types of masks and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the classroom to ensure the safety of our faculty, staff, and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The task group sought to balance the need for an instructor to be heard intelligibly for in-person instruction while also being mindful that students may be participating through the remote environment. The group also made recommendations regarding the accommodation of disabilities and examined different instructional settings ranging from traditional classrooms to laboratories and performance spaces. Read the report to learn more about this guidance.
Who is considered to be a ‘close contact’ in the contact-tracing process? Do close contacts have to quarantine or isolate? Will I be identified as a close contact if a student in my class tests positive?
Consistent with Centers for Disease Control/Pennsylvania Department of Health guidance, Penn State defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 10 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic people, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.
Traditional classroom settings have been re-configured with an “instructor zone” to create at least 6 feet or more of physical separation between the instructor and the nearest student. In addition, classroom occupancies have been greatly reduced to maintain at least 6 feet clearance between student seating. This is illustrated in pages 8 and 9 of Penn State’s Instruction, Universal Masking and PPE Recommendations (DOC). As long as 6 feet of physical distancing is maintained, then the students and instructors would not be deemed close contacts if someone in the class were to test positive for COVID-19.
In instructional settings where contact is closer than 6 feet for more than 10 minutes, those individuals should be identified by the positive individual through the contact tracing process and would be required to quarantine. Although some faculty and students have been issued face shields as an added layer of protection in these settings, this does not necessarily exclude these individuals as close contacts.
Those identified as close contacts are quarantined for 14 days from the date of the last contact and tested. If they test positive, they are isolated. If not, they remain in quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of the last contact.
Starting August 6, 2020, all faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to complete a daily symptom checker to self-screen for potential COVID-19 symptoms before returning to campus. You can access the COVID-19 Symptom Checker in the Penn State Go mobile app. Download Penn State Go from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
Once the app is installed, you can select the Faculty and Staff Experience when prompted to select your Penn State Go Experience. If you already downloaded the app and selected a different Penn State Go Experience, you can change to the Faculty and Staff Experience using the “Change App Experience” icon.
The daily COVID-19 symptom checker is located under the Coronavirus Resources section.
For more information, visit the Penn State Go website and learn about its features.
If students have visible flu-like symptoms in a face-to-face class setting, are instructors able to ask them to leave?
If a student is exhibiting symptoms in a classroom, the instructor is empowered to ask the student to leave the class and to see a health care provider. The student should not return to class until they are no longer exhibiting symptoms or have been cleared by a health care provider and can provide proof of clearance to the instructor. If the student refuses to leave, the instructor should follow the guidance in the classroom guidance document (PDF).
If a student with a hearing disability attends class for a course with an in-person element, should instructors wear face shields instead of cloth masks, so that student can see the instructor’s lips?
There are four common types of face coverings: procedure masks, cloth masks, clear face masks, and clear face shields (the latter of which may be used in addition to one of the other three in laboratory-type settings, where substances may splatter). The University requires that all instructors wear procedure masks or cloth masks while instructing students. Clear face masks may be required if students need to be able to see the instructor’s lips (e.g. in a language course). If a student has a disability-related reason to need to view the instructor’s facial expressions or read lips for best comprehension, Student Disability Resources will have clear masks to support student access and will contact faculty as needed regarding these accommodations. For more information, see the Universal Masking and PPE Recommendations.
Lab instructors must adhere to specially designed requirements and guidelines provided to academic units. Masking and social distancing guidelines apply. For specific precautions to take, see the Universal Masking and PPE Recommendations.
What masks are recommended to ensure that voices can be heard in-person in a larger room and on a recording?
The Penn State Graduate Program in Acoustics collaborated with the Dept. of Environmental Health and Safety to test sound levels and audio signals to determine how instructors with face masks will be perceived by students. Results showed that procedure masks “facilitate clear communication in an instructional setting, as they do not muffle speech as much as cloth masks.” Procedure masks are disposable, single-use masks that will be provided, with care instructions, to instructors no later than the week before classes begin.
Results were consistent across room types and Zoom meetings, and amplification (microphones) were helpful in producing intelligible sound. For more information, see the Acoustics Testing results document.
Will instructors and students be provided with the resources to disinfect frequently touched surfaces in classrooms?
The Office of Physical Plant will supply and maintain a canister of disinfectant wipes in each General Purpose Classroom, Departmental Classroom, and “Open” Computer Lab. The wipes can be used by instructors and students to disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as desktops, podiums, door handles, light switches, etc. Use of the wipes is not a requirement in between classes, but is an option made available if disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces is desired. OPP Custodial will be disinfecting these rooms once daily, Monday through Friday, so the use of the wipes can be a supplement in between these cleanings. Frequently touched surfaces in these rooms include, but are not limited to, chairs, light switches, door handles, computers, keyboards and mice, touch screens, tables, trash receptacles, recycling receptacles, printers, desktops, podiums, and chalk tray rails.
Where can I find information on clear standards of behavior for wearing face masks in the classroom, as well as details on holding students accountable?
Refusal to wear a mask will be considered a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. You can also read about how the University will support professors when students do not adhere to mask-wearing guidelines.
For in-person courses or mixed-mode courses that have face-to-face components, is the instructor required to wear a face mask?
Yes, instructors are required to wear face masks covering their nose and mouth. Each employee will receive two cloth face masks. In accordance with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, all University employees will be required to wear masks — ideally cloth — while on campus, including outdoors and in hallways, classrooms, shared work areas, and other public spaces. Face shields are not considered an adequate substitute for masks, but should be worn in combination with a cloth or procedure mask in certain circumstances outlined in the “PPE and Instruction Recommendations per Learning Environment” section of the Universal Masking and PPE Recommendations document. Read more about mask wearing on the Penn State Coronavirus Information site.
At least 50 faculty and staff members from many Penn State campuses and disciplines contributed to the initial phase of researching and testing various masks and other PPE in classroom, laboratory, and other campus settings.
The 500,000 cloth masks referenced by Dr. Barron, as well as the PPE procedure masks needed to support teaching and instruction, are scheduled to arrive on or around August 7. PPE will be distributed to individual campuses, colleges, and administrative units the week of August 10. There are no costs associated with these masks.
However, if you require PPE or supplies before the University supplied masks arrive, you can order supplies through General Stores. Find ordering information on the Environmental Health and Safety Pandemic Supply List.
Testing is ongoing and the recommendations will continue to be updated. Multiple sub-groups are evaluating additional pedagogical learning environments before the fall semester, including instructional laboratories, performance settings (music/vocal/theater), close contact settings (nursing/physical therapy/allied health), and others.
The University recommended that I utilize participation grades to encourage social distancing and mask wearing. Given that the University also prohibits grading based on non-academic elements, how can I make use of participation grades for mask wearing?
When students don’t wear masks, they will be asked to leave the classroom. Students who are not present cannot participate. It is on this basis that instructors may reduce participation points — and encourage wearing a mask.
Paper poses low risk for virus transmission. Classroom requirements related to mask wearing as well as encouragement of hand sanitizing should reduce the risk of transmission via paper syllabi, handouts, or exams. Instructors should use their own judgement and deliver documents via Canvas or other digital tools and administer exams electronically to diminish concerns about the use of paper. Such tools also support Penn State’s broader commitment to sustainability.
What should I do if one of my students tests positive for or believes they have contracted COVID-19?
Some faculty have been seeking additional guidance on how to work with students who test positive for coronavirus or who find themselves in other special circumstances created by this crisis, which could include:
- caring for family members and friends who contract the virus;
- caring for children who are not attending school/daycare;
- food and housing insecurity caused by loss of employment; etc.
Students who contract this virus will have varying symptoms, from mild cold symptoms to flu-like symptoms to hospitalization (the least likely). Mild to moderate illness can last up to 14 days. Students are being encouraged to communicate with their faculty to describe their level of illness and the work that they can accomplish while they are ill. Other related challenges that might impact attendance should be communicated to faculty in a similar fashion.
Senate Policy 42-27 on Class Attendance emphasizes the importance of regular attendance but also grants faculty a great deal of latitude in providing reasonable opportunities for students to make up work for legitimate and unavoidable reasons including illness, family emergency, etc. Although faculty can use their judgment in assessing a student’s illness claim, students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel and faculty do not need to secure documentation to support their professional judgement.
When undergraduate students are ill:
In situations where undergraduate students become ill near the end of the semester, faculty have the option of assigning deferred grades under Senate Policy 48-40. This policy requires students to complete the work within the prescribed timeline or else the grade is converted to an F. Students and faculty will be notified of the approaching deadline, and faculty have the option of requesting an extension; they can also update the F grade later using the grade-change process. The use of deferred grades is appropriate on a case-by-case basis but not for an entire class.
When graduate students are ill:
When a graduate student becomes ill near the end of the semester or faces other significant life events, policy GSAD-906 Graduate Student Leave of Absence provides three opportunities to meet the needs of the student:
- Short-Term Absence (< 3 weeks)
- appropriate when the graduate student is expected to be able to complete the work within the semester
- Extended Absence (within a semester)
- appropriate when the graduate student is expected to be able to complete the work within the semester or when a Deferred Grade will allow the student to finish the work when they have recovered from the illness; Graduate Council’s policy GCAC-401 Grading System has additional information on Deferred Grades for graduate students
- Leave of Absence
- appropriate when the graduate student is not expected to complete the work in a timely fashion even with the Deferred Grade extension
- if necessary, an Extended Leave can be converted to a Leave of Absence as described in the policy
Students can also refer to the Penn State Coronavirus Information site for guidance on what happens if they test positive.
Inclusion and Student Well-being
Starfish is a critical tool to use during this situation. Instructors can raise flags about any student in their course, and those flags can be viewed by assigned academic advisers, who use those flags to triage outreach.
The Starfish “How-To Guides” have in-depth information about how to use this tool.
Instructors teaching during a world-wide pandemic and within a country experiencing anti-racism activism will undoubtedly have students in their class who are experiencing distress. Teaching students while being aware of their traumatic experiences is referred to as trauma-informed pedagogy. Consider the using some of the following strategies to help:
- appropriately validate their experience
- acknowledge the difficult time they are having
- offer an alternate time to discuss their distress
- be willing to end the class and consult with campus resources for next steps (i.e., Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Student Disability Resources (SDR), Student Care & Advocacy)
- email to express support and how you are also adjusting to the new reality (i.e., humanize yourself)
- make yourself available to engage with them; hold multiple office hours throughout the week to accommodate varying schedules
- let them know that you are empathetic and understanding of the current situations
- briefly summarize some concepts taught in previous classes to help refresh students
- openly discuss concerns and fears regarding COVID-19 if students want to engage
- try to introduce positivity and use encouraging language with students, while still acknowledging the difficulties of current events
- help students connect with mental health counselors or other University support as appropriate
What equity issues are students facing that I should be aware of in order to be sensitive and inclusive in my class?
Do your best to consider the possible circumstances that students and their families may be experiencing right now. Approach students with care and concern. Build flexibility into your course to assist students who are facing any of these situations or others:
- housing and food insecurities
- inadequate access to healthcare while facing health issues
- attempting to learn in an environment non-supportive of LGBTQ+ students
- prevalence of COVID-19 in their racial/ethnic communities
- the need to quarantine or isolate for an extended period during the semester
- the need to leave campus to care for an ill family member during the semester
- grief from the loss of loved ones to COVID-19 and fear for their own health
- grief from the loss of loved ones to police or other violence and fear for their own safety
- involvement in Black Lives Matter and anti-racism activism, and added health risks of participation
- the need to care for younger siblings or to work while completing their studies
- difficulty concentrating in their home living environment
- technology and connectivity challenges that make participation difficult
- limited access to the kinds of disability accommodations that were available on campus
- anxiety from constantly changing U.S. government regulations restricting international travel and study
- concerns about anti-immigrant sentiments, and fear of backlash and violence toward International students
For support addressing accessibility concerns that students with disabilities may encounter in the remote learning environment, faculty can schedule one-on-one consultations by filling out the Accessibility Consultation Form. The Accessibility Team can offer assistance with accessible digital course materials, lecture technology, Canvas, captioning, or any other accessibility questions.
Accessibility Training for Instructors webinar sessions are also available via Zoom for faculty to learn how to develop and transition summer courses to a remote environment. Log in with your Penn State Access Account on the Learning Resource Network website to register for these sessions.
What are the “Start from Home” and “Continue from Home” flexible options that have been announced for students?
Students will be enrolled but will not be required to be on campus. Start from Home is for first-year students. Continue from Home is for upperclass students. Learn more about Start from Home and Continue from Home.
One of my students is experiencing extenuating circumstances, such as financial insecurity, academic concerns, etc., due to COVID-19. How can the University support them?
Support resources differ based on your campus:
- University Park students who are experiencing unforeseen circumstances because of COVID-19 can be referred to the Student Care and Advocacy office.
- World Campus students can view Care and Concern information to access resources.
- Students at other Penn State campuses should check their campus Student Affairs website for Care and Advocacy contact information.
For many campuses, you will find a report form that the student can complete, or that can be completed by you on behalf of the student. Additionally, students facing financial insecurity may complete the Student Emergency Fund application form.
The Sponsored Relations Office in the Office of Global Programs has been working with all of Penn State’s partner sponsoring organizations. They have been instrumental in informing sponsors about the University’s response to the global crisis. They are also keeping an inventory of specific program requirements set by sponsors. Students should be encouraged to contact the office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During this time, you may be working with students that are experiencing distress for a variety of reasons. Although you are not meeting with students in person, you may notice changes in behaviors (such as failing to complete class assignments) or receive direct communications from students that indicate their distress. Use the Red Folder for your campus to identify and respond to the behaviors appropriately. This tool can help you determine an appropriate level of concern, ways to respond, and referral resources at your campus. If you are interested in learning more about ways to recognize and respond to students who may be experiencing distress, a brief on-demand faculty development course is available called OL 1200: Responding to World Campus Students in Distress. While it was developed to respond to World Campus students, the principles may be generalized to apply to all students.
How can I help students promote their overall health and wellness to assist with coping during this time?
Many aspects of students’ lives are in flux right now. Encourage them to practice self-care and positive coping strategies. They can utilize resources provided by Penn State Health Promotion and Wellness to learn strategies and discover engagement events they can participate in to connect with other students.
What Penn State University Libraries resources are available to my students (and me) during this period?
The Penn State Libraries is committed to supporting teaching, learning, and research during this time of remote and online instruction. Explore the Remote Resources for Penn State Library Users to see what is available to you and your students.
How can I as an instructor help ensure students are connected to the online courses and have the resources needed to finish classes?
Starfish is a critical tool to use during this time. If you know students who are not connecting to your online course, please use Starfish flags to alert academic advisers so they can reach out and support these students.
Instruction and Pedagogy
Undergraduate and graduate students are permitted to continue working in labs if they are in town. Students may not request to remain in an on-campus residence hall solely for the purpose of working in a lab. Undergraduate students, graduate students, external visitors, and visiting scholars must receive prior approval from the relevant academic dean for them to continue on-campus research. Those who are already approved to work on campus do not need to be re-approved. All students and visitors must adhere to the standard operating procedures of the lab and be part of the person-count for square footage, scheduling, and any other relevant considerations. Instructors cannot and should not require undergraduate or graduate students to come to campus, and undergraduate and graduate students who conduct on-campus research must be included in the research reductions and approaches to de-densification.
All courses, including graduate courses, will move to an online instructional format after November 20, 2020.
Graduate and undergraduate students currently undertaking research in person are permitted to continue doing research in labs after the Thanksgiving holiday in accordance with the guidance from the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research. Learn more about the requirements for continuing to conduct research as an graduate or undergraduate student.
Graduate students at Penn State Law, Dickinson Law, or the College of Medicine have additional guidance. Penn State Law classes at University Park will continue in their hybrid format through Tuesday, November 24, 2020, the last day of Penn State Law classes. Dickinson Law classes will continue in their hybrid format through November 24, 2020, and classes will be held in a fully remote format from Monday, November 30, through Friday, December 4, 2020. At the College of Medicine, all pre-clinical courses for MD and PA students, and all graduate studies courses, will move to an online instructional format after Friday, November 20, 2020. Medical and physician assistant students in clinical rotations and clerkships will continue their patient-care activities in hospital and office settings following the Thanksgiving holiday. They must adhere to all hospital policies for the use of PPE, hand hygiene, and physical distancing in patient-care settings.
Will Student Ratings of Teaching Effectiveness (SRTE) be administered and peer reviews of teaching be conducted in fall 2020 and included as part of instructor evaluation of teaching?
At this point, yes, the SRTEs will be administered and instructor peer reviews of teaching are expected to resume in fall 2020. If this changes, instructors will be notified by the Provost or Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs.
Students can use Zoom to meet with their group to discuss, collaborate on, and rehearse group presentations. One team member can submit the group’s recording link or file to the corresponding Canvas assignment dropbox. If the course is being delivered synchronously, groups can present “live” during the class session using Zoom. Consider using VoiceThread for asynchronous presentations that allow students to comment/question on the presentation.
What tools are available for Peer evaluations of teams, where some students are in residence and others are remote?
Whether teams are all in residence, all remote, or in a mixed setting, CATME is an option for peer evaluations. This tool requires some initial setup. CATME is a paid service. You will have to discuss this with your academic unit regarding fees.
Remote students can collaborate in Zoom or using digital tools such as Canvas groups or Microsoft Teams that provide workspace, communication, and file sharing. Students have many other online applications to collaborate remotely (i.e., Zoom, Google, etc.).
What can I do to make attendance periods effective for students in mixed-mode courses with rotating groups that can only attend once every 2 weeks?
Think about what learning objectives for your course could be most effectively met in person and plan time for that during in-class periods. For example, perhaps some lectures could be pre-recorded so that a portion of each class could be dedicated to hands-on activities. Read guiding questions about mixed-mode course design.
In addition, consider flipping your class, such that all lectures appear in pre-recorded video format, and use class time for students (both in-residence and remote) to actively engage with material.
The online tool LionSpace FIS (Facilities Information System) has a new feature that provides detailed information and photographs of many Penn State classrooms. All General Purpose Classrooms (GPCs) at University Park, as well as many other rooms at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses, are included. You can access LionSpace FIS with your Penn State credentials. The link “How to Find Room Photos” provides instructions on how to use the tool and you log in by clicking the blue “LionSpace FIS” button.
Can I record my lectures, presentations, and demonstrations so non-present students (those who might be ill or those who are learning remotely) can learn the content?
You can see guidance on recording your class via Zoom on the Penn State Coronavirus Information site. Additionally, you can read information about preparing recorded lectures for remote asynchronous courses. You may also be concerned about sharing others’ work. You may make video clips of short portions of DVDs and Blu-Rays to provide for in-class or out-of-class viewing. Find more technical help on creating these clips in Kaltura. You are encouraged to rely on licensed video already provided by the Penn State University Libraries for out-of-class viewing. Libraries also already have subscriptions to a significant set of streaming audio options for Penn State users. Please contact your liaison librarian or the Libraries’ Music & Media Center for help determining if the audio or video content you need for teaching is available through the Libraries. If it is not, the Libraries may be able to purchase streaming access for additional media.
For assistance with copyright-related issues, please fill out the Copyright, Publishing, and Open Access form or book an appointment with a librarian from the Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright.
Motivation for remote synchronous and asynchronous courses may be different for traditional residential students than their motivation for in-person courses. Consider adding a statement to your syllabus saying that remote courses require a certain level of self-direction. For many students, this may be the first time that they have taken a course in this mode. In addition, consider adding an (recorded or live) orientation meeting to go over expectations for the remote course. Share with students how their participation will be similar or different from participation in in-person courses. Especially in remote asynchronous courses, it is a good idea to review the syllabus, materials in Canvas (calendar, assignments, common due dates), and expectations for engaging in the course throughout the week.
How do I get to know my students and continue creating a sense of community if some or all of them will not be meeting with me face-to-face?
Assign students to participate in an introduction discussion forum in Canvas to introduce themselves to you and their classmates. Hold open office hours via Zoom to meet your students. We encourage all instructors to engage with their students and create a learning community in the course, no matter the mode of instruction. For more ideas related to getting to know your students, view resources from the College of Information Sciences and Technology and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (see “Creating Community”).
Where can I find a comprehensive listing of teaching workshops and/or resources for fall 2020 in my college or on my campus?
Consult your local college or campus for offerings via your local instructional-support contact person.
Are there places on campus where students can access their synchronous remote classes without having to return to their rooms or leave campus?
Yes, there are places on campus for this purpose. In addition to the normal student spaces that have had seating adjusted to account for social distancing, approximately 45 rooms have been identified on the University Park campus as Remote Learning Rooms. These rooms are open for use during normal building hours and have clear signage indicating that they are intended for accessing remote classes. The rooms do not have computers available for student use, so students will need to bring their own technology. Students should wear headphones so they do not distract others. If they are talking as part of class participation, they should be aware of their speaking volume and consider using headphones with a microphone. Details can be found selecting the Remote Learning Rooms layer on the campus map or on the Penn State Go app. Clicking on the Remote Learning icon (headphones) will provide detailed information for each building.
What is the standard set of instructional tools for teaching and learning, and which of these tools are useful in a remote learning environment?
Canvas is Penn State’s online system for teaching and learning. You can use the following technology tools in both a remote learning environment and a learning environment with in-person elements:
- Office 365
- GSuite for Education
- LinkedIn Learning
- Nearpod (paid service for asynchronous)
- Nearpod Student-paced Sessions
- Reviewed Courseware List
For more guidance determining which set of tools will help meet your student learning outcomes, reach out to your TLT Course Liaison to book a consultation.
Because the purpose of having a mixed-mode varies, the portion of the course that must be in-person varies. For a laboratory, studio, design, or performance-based course, the minimum number of sessions for students to be in-person is determined by the activities that must be taught with the faculty and students together. For example, for courses that are lecture/recitation style with the recitation session being in-person, then it is based on the pedagogical design of the course and how much time is dedicated to the recitation portion. If the course is mixed-mode because it is rotating students through the opportunities offered in a classroom setting with the instructor and peers, then it is largely driven by the capacity of the room in relation to the size of the class. If in the rotational model, the in-person time is less than 33%, every effort will be made to find a larger room although distancing requirements present challenges in doing so.
Am I required to provide my course in an alternative delivery mode for students who cannot participate in the particular delivery mode designated for my course?
No, instructors are not required to provide courses in delivery modes other than the delivery mode designated for their course. Instructors should consider how students may make up missed work if students are out for short or lengthy periods of time.
For student expectations for in-person courses, review the in-person details page. Students are expected to attend all classes in-person. Instructors should follow Faculty Senate policy 42-27—Class Attendance, with some flexibility. If a window of absence is lengthy, instructors may need to consider additional flexibility.
Although instructors are not required to provide courses in delivery modes other than the one designated or prepare their courses in multiple delivery modes, they may be asked to consider alternative ways for students to participate, especially if students who have chosen Learn from Home options have no other course sections to choose from. Not all courses can be offered in a different mode than that originally scheduled.
Can I adjust my mode of instruction for the fall semester if I have a concern about teaching in person?
There are many reasons why a faculty member might not teach in person, such as pedagogical considerations, classroom availability, and scheduling. As outlined in “Instructional Issues for Return to Resident Instruction,” the University will provide guidance for decision-making about the teaching assignments for instructors and the pedagogical considerations that would indicate that certain types of courses should be offered in-residence. In addition, some faculty members who are part of vulnerable populations may have concerns about returning to the workplace. Faculty who feel that they are part of a vulnerable population or who have family members who are part of a vulnerable population and have concerns about teaching in person should first work with their unit executive (dean/chancellor or a designee) to determine whether adjustments can be made to their teaching duties and/or other duties. Faculty are urged to consider a variety of available instructional modalities. In addition, a faculty member who initially decides to teach one or more classes in person may request to alter the instructional modality if they believe circumstances warrant it.
Faculty members who believe they have a disability that necessitates a reasonable accommodation or leave should contact the Affirmative Action Office or Absence Management, as appropriate.
How do I invite and encourage students who join remotely to interact with the activities and materials that I have designed for them to engage with course content, peers, and me?
Engaging students with course content through reflective activities, peer discussions, and instructor feedback increases the likelihood of achieving learning outcomes. Consider the following resources for engaging your remote students:
- Strategies for Creating Engaging Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning Environments
- Engaging Students from Day One, and Participating in Student Discussions
- Engaging Students Series
- Zoom Questioning Strategies to Increase Engagement
- Encouraging Communication and Interaction on Video
- Schreyer Institute’s General Instructional Recommendations for Remote Teaching
- Increasing Learner Engagement in Remote Settings
In my mixed-mode course with rotating groups, should the names of my students within their assigned groups be published on my syllabus or elsewhere?
There is no need to publish a list of student names on your syllabus. Schedule students into groups in Canvas, and list on the syllabus which groups (rotation group A, rotation group B, rotation group C, etc.) should attend on different days.
In my mixed-mode course with rotating groups, how do I keep track of which students are attending in-person on which days?
Penn State’s Canvas team is building a tool within Canvas to assign students to class meeting days and to let them know on which days they are expected to attend class.
Check the University Libraries’ Ebooks and Other Course Materials to determine if the materials are available to students. If not, you can provide in Canvas most materials needed for students to successfully complete the course. See more information related to copyright when rapidly shifting your course from in-person to remote teaching.
For assistance with copyright-related issues, please fill out the Copyright, Publishing, and Open Access form or book an appointment with a librarian from the Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright.
Students who are disruptive in a remote class should be handled in the same way that they are handled in a face-to-face class. You should set clear standards of behavior and communicate your expectations. If disruptive behavior occurs, you should confront the behavior. If the student continues to be disruptive, you should ask the student to leave the class, notify your unit head, and file a report online with the Office of Student Conduct. Staff in the Office of Student Conduct also are available to discuss your concern at email@example.com.
Some instructors have experienced online classroom disruptions by participants who are not enrolled in the course, or Penn State. More recommendations on preventing and managing disruptions are available in the Canvas Blog article.
Instructor feedback will be particularly important for students who are new to a remote setting and don’t have regular face-to-face interactions, as well as for students who may be absent for an extended period from an in-person course. You are encouraged to provide feedback during office hours or via tools such as Canvas. If you wish to provide feedback via Canvas, see Canvas feedback guidance.
Contact the local IT unit at your college, campus, or department to learn about these technologies.
Instructors can locate information about which software students can access from international locations in the International Restrictions of Penn State Software and Technology Services (PDF).
Currently, the software the University makes available to students is accessible either directly or through the use of a Penn State VPN. However, international governments can change access to the software at any time.
What do I need to do to ensure I am using the right technology to project audio and a visual display (i.e., PPT slides) to students both in the classroom and learning at a distance?
Instructors must use the classroom podium computer to present their lessons, ensuring participation for remote students and in-person students. If you choose to use your laptop or another device, the in-room audio will not work. Ensure that your files are accessible online or via USB drive.
It is recommended that instructors arrive 15 minutes before class to set up the necessary technology. For step-by-step instructions for setting up the podium computer, see the recommendations for Teaching with Zoom in a General Purpose Classroom (GPC) at University Park (PDF).
You can also see the Zoom at Penn State resources for more information.
What is the best method for making embedded videos in Canvas available to students who cannot access them, due to restrictions in the country they are located in?
Kaltura is the best tool for sharing pre-recorded videos with students in countries with restrictions that impact Canvas access. You can refer to the Penn State Kaltura website and Penn State ITLD Kaltura training for more information. No country officially blocks Kaltura, but access is dependent on country, location within certain countries, and the enforcement of local restrictions.
Your assigned classroom will determine the group that will help test technology — three different IT groups service classrooms at Penn State:
- Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT): General Purpose Classrooms (GPCs) at University Park
Instructors at University Park can email TLT personnel at TechClass@psu.edu to set up a quick orientation or practice session in a GPC classroom. In the email, instructors should include their name, contact information, availability, building name, and GPC room number. If instructors are scheduled to teach, they should have card-swipe access into any building with GPCs. TLT personnel have access to individual classrooms.
For General Purpose Classroom (GPC) layouts and spacing to manage COVID-19 concerns, visit the LionSpaceFIS (Facility Information System) website. After launching the LionSpaceFIS program, click on the “Campus Viewer” button and search for the desired building and floor. Select a room on the map and click the photo or “View Gallery for all photos.”
- IT units at University Park colleges: College classrooms
For college classrooms, contact the IT college unit at the appropriate University Park college for assistance.
- IT units at Commonwealth campuses: Campus classrooms
For campuses other than University Park, it is recommended that you contact the local campus IT unit for assistance.
Tech Tutors can also help if instructors are in the physical classroom between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and would like a participant to log in to test Zoom. Instructors can visit the Tech Tutors website and click the yellow “Connect Online” button for help.
Penn State IT open computer labs will be available for use and will have some computers disabled to comply with physical distancing guidelines. These computers will also be available remotely via WebLabs for general use. WebLabs provides students and instructors remote access to Penn State Cooperative Lab Management (CLM) lab computers to connect to the technology resources they need to complete course work. Open computer labs are not able to be scheduled or reserved.
I am an instructor or staff member and do not have access to reliable broadband; a laptop; iPad; or items such as headphones, monitors, and keyboards. What should I do?
Instructors and staff should work with their local IT units to formalize computer/technology requests. University IT is continually working on the availability and distribution of equipment.
What should I do if I encounter students who are struggling with access to reliable broadband or a laptop?
Students who lack reliable broadband have several solutions they can utilize.
If they have sufficient cell coverage in their area, they can use their phone as a hotspot. Penn State IT has provided instructions on how to set up hotspots on Samsung, Pixel, and iPhones. In order to use a personal hotspot on their device, students may also secure additional data from their wireless carrier.
The following providers have information readily available on how to upgrade data: AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Find more providers and information on the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected page.
If they do not have access to a computer and/or reliable broadband from their location and have exhausted all other resources, they can log in to the IT service portal and fill out the Penn State Mobile Technology Request Form to formalize their computer/access request.
Information about their request will be relayed via the phone number they provide in the request form.
Due to the prohibitive costs, international customs regulations, export controls, security concerns, and the potential that these factors may impact both the delivery and the return of equipment, we are unable to ship internationally.
The Zoom at Penn State website offers students, faculty, and staff detailed information about Zoom, including training resources, frequently asked questions, and support.
Guidance has been developed to help you set expectations to students about webcam usage. There are three main factors that this guidance considers and balances: academic integrity/integrity of assessment, student privacy, and student access to technology/resources. Read this guidance to determine how your class should proceed.
Recently Updated FAQs
- Will in-person student research continue after November 20, 2020? November 19, 3:28 pm EST
- Will graduate courses continue to be taught in person after November 20? November 16, 2:34 pm EST
- Will Student Ratings of Teaching Effectiveness (SRTE) be administered and peer reviews of teaching be conducted in fall 2020 and included as part of instructor evaluation of teaching? October 30, 2:49 pm EDT