As of March 23, Penn State masking guidelines have been updated. Please check the University Health Guidelines for testing and masking options and other details.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about maintaining continuity of learning throughout the semester.

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Academic Integrity and Assessments

For information on planning for, communicating about, and responding to academic integrity, read about guidelines and practical advice. In addition, the Schreyer Institute has provided strategies to discourage academic integrity violations.

If you feel that your exams require proctoring, read more about your options.

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.

Course Policies and Syllabus

The Penn State Student Quarantine and Isolation document describes how you will be notified if a student in your class is in quarantine or isolation and the role faculty can play in contact tracing efforts.

For guidance on working with students who test positive for coronavirus or who find themselves in special circumstances created by this crisis, please see this FAQ.

Refer to University Faculty Senate Policy 42-27 on Class Attendance. Keep in mind that you can’t adjust the grading scheme for a student who misses assignments. All students must have the same opportunity to earn grades that you outlined in your syllabus.

Instructors are encouraged to communicate their contingency plans in advance so that students are aware of expectations in case of a temporary instructor or student absence.

For undergraduate students who become ill near the end of the semester, faculty have the option of assigning deferred grades under Senate Policy 48-40.

For graduate students who become ill near the end of a semester, refer to policy GSAD-906 Graduate Student Leave of Absence.

Resources have been created to help guide instructors in cases where students and/or faculty test positive for COVID-19 and need to be absent.

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. Review the class recording guidelines created for instructors.

Health and Safety

The Penn State Student Quarantine and Isolation document describes how you will be notified if a student in your class is in quarantine or isolation and the role faculty can play in contact tracing efforts.

For guidance on working with students who test positive for coronavirus or who find themselves in special circumstances created by this crisis, please see this FAQ.

Refer to University Faculty Senate Policy 42-27 on Class Attendance. Keep in mind that you can’t adjust the grading scheme for a student who misses assignments. All students must have the same opportunity to earn grades that you outlined in your syllabus.

Instructors are encouraged to communicate their contingency plans in advance so that students are aware of expectations in case of a temporary instructor or student absence.

For undergraduate students who become ill near the end of the semester, faculty have the option of assigning deferred grades under Senate Policy 48-40.

For graduate students who become ill near the end of a semester, refer to policy GSAD-906 Graduate Student Leave of Absence.

Resources have been created to help guide instructors in cases where students and/or faculty test positive for COVID-19 and need to be absent.

For detailed information about contact tracing, the definition of close contact, and the contact tracing process, review the Contact Tracing page on the Virus Info website.

For the most up-to-date masking guidance, refer to the Health Guidelines page on the Virus Info website.

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. For classroom and syllabus guidelines, including information about what to do if a student fails to adhere to masking requirements, refer to the COVID-19 Classroom Guidance page on the Student Affairs website.

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.

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

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 sponsor@psu.edu

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.

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.

Instruction and Pedagogy

Instructors should set clear standards of behavior and communicate expectations early in the semester. 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. Additionally, staff in the Office of Student Conduct are available to discuss your concern at studentconduct@psu.edu.

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.

You can also send your own scans of materials to be posted in e-reserves. To submit materials, please complete the request form and email accompanying scans to ul-reserveshelp@lists.psu.edu

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.

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 periods of time.  

Students are expected to attend all classes in-person. Instructors should follow Faculty Senate policy 42-27—Class Attendance.

Students can collaborate in Zoom or using digital tools such as Canvas groups. GSuite for Education, or Microsoft Teams that provide workspace, communication, and file sharing. Students have many other online applications to collaborate remotely (i.e., Zoom, Hangouts, etc.).

Whether teams are all in residence, or all online, 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.

Review the class recording guidelines created for instructors.

Technology

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.

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