Effective immediately, Penn State will require all students, faculty, staff, and visitors — regardless of vaccination status — to wear masks indoors at all campuses. Learn more about Penn State's health guidelines.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Browse All FAQs

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

If the student was identified through University testing, there is no other action you need to take. If the student received a positive test result from a third-party vendor not affiliated with the University (for example, urgent care clinic or primary care physician) you should encourage the student to report their result to the University by sharing this link: https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/covidsupport/reporting.

You may also submit information about students who have tested positive (or who have identified themselves as close contacts of students who have tested positive) on the Covid-19 Close Contact or Positive Case Referral Form. Further information can be found on the Contact Tracing and Reporting Test Results page on the Student Affairs website. Please do not report a class roster. Contact tracers will follow up with classmates identified as close contacts.

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.

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

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.

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. University Faculty Senate 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. Providing reasonable opportunities for make-up work also encourages students who may be ill, for any reason, not to attend class, which we want to support.

Keep in mind 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 who was temporarily absent 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.

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 suggestions on dealing with temporary absence see faculty senate guidance on attendance. For detailed resources on how to handle specific situations, please see the fall 2021 suggested teaching strategies for temporary instructor or student absence.

Penn State’s definitions of instructional modes permit up to 24 percent of an in-person class to be offered remotely. Instructors may utilize this flexibility to manage their own absences due to COVID-19, other unavoidable circumstances, or travel, or for pedagogical reasons. Specifically, in case of their own illness, quarantine, or isolation, instructors may temporarily shift to remote synchronous or asynchronous instruction if able to do so.

As always, instructors should inform unit leaders if normal delivery will be interrupted for more than one or two class sessions.

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

For detailed resources on how to handle specific situations, please see the fall 2021 suggested teaching strategies for temporary instructor or student absence.

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

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. Additional questions about disposable mask availability can be directed to your unit’s Pandemic Safety Officer.

If the student was identified through University testing, there is no other action you need to take. If the student received a positive test result from a third-party vendor not affiliated with the University (for example, urgent care clinic or primary care physician) you should encourage the student to report their result to the University by sharing this link: https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/covidsupport/reporting.

You may also submit information about students who have tested positive (or who have identified themselves as close contacts of students who have tested positive) on the Covid-19 Close Contact or Positive Case Referral Form. Further information can be found on the Contact Tracing and Reporting Test Results page on the Student Affairs website. Please do not report a class roster. Contact tracers will follow up with classmates identified as close contacts.

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.

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

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.

With the exception of bottled water, all food and drink consumption is prohibited in classrooms. Straws are recommended to minimize the time masks are moved aside for those drinking water. And you should also be especially conscious of physical distancing when drinking. For more information, refer to policy AD62 – Use of General Purpose Classrooms.

Lab instructors must adhere to specially designed requirements and guidelines provided to academic units. Masking guidelines apply.

Students both on-campus and off-campus who have not shared with the University that they have been vaccinated will be notified when they have to test, and there will be significant consequences for noncompliance. Consequences for noncompliance include a process of warnings and sanctions up to and including suspension.

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. University Faculty Senate 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. Providing reasonable opportunities for make-up work also encourages students who may be ill, for any reason, not to attend class, which we want to support.

Keep in mind 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 who was temporarily absent 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.

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 suggestions on dealing with temporary absence see faculty senate guidance on attendance. For detailed resources on how to handle specific situations, please see the fall 2021 suggested teaching strategies for temporary instructor or student absence.

Penn State’s definitions of instructional modes permit up to 24 percent of an in-person class to be offered remotely. Instructors may utilize this flexibility to manage their own absences due to COVID-19, other unavoidable circumstances, or travel, or for pedagogical reasons. Specifically, in case of their own illness, quarantine, or isolation, instructors may temporarily shift to remote synchronous or asynchronous instruction if able to do so.

As always, instructors should inform unit leaders if normal delivery will be interrupted for more than one or two class sessions.

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

For detailed resources on how to handle specific situations, please see the fall 2021 suggested teaching strategies for temporary instructor or student absence.

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 15 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. 

Close contacts identified through the contact tracing process may be required to quarantine depending upon their vaccination status and symptoms. Unvaccinated individuals are required to quarantine for a minimum of 7-10 days and are encouraged to test on day 5 or later.

Asymptomatic individuals that are fully vaccinated (last dose plus 2 weeks) are not required to quarantine and are encouraged to get tested 2-5 days after exposure. Symptomatic, vaccinated individuals should quarantine until they are tested. Close contacts who test positive will be required to isolate for 10 days from their test or symptom start date.

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. 

 

Everyone must wear a mask while inside buildings on Penn State campuses, effective August 4, 2021. This applies to classrooms, meeting spaces and other shared public indoor areas. If you are alone in a walled office space, you may remove your mask.

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

Everyone must wear masks at all times in all University public indoor spaces. The University encourages everyone who is able to do so to get a COVID-19 vaccination as the vaccines are effective at keeping you from contracting COVID-19, as well as protecting you from severe illness should you contract COVID-19.

Getting vaccinated and encouraging students to get vaccinated is the most important step you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 in instructional spaces. In addition, instructors/advisers/graduate teaching assistants can be clear in syllabi and other documents that Penn State policy requires everyone to wear masks indoors. Those working in student-facing office spaces may wish to post reminders that everyone is required to wear a mask.

Because students may be out of practice with being in spaces such as classrooms and offices, consider helping them reacclimate by encouraging the use of practices that help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other seasonal illness such as flu (e.g., hand hygiene, wearing of masks, not coming to class when ill).

You should not ask someone for test results. You can encourage students to get vaccinated and communicate to students that your expectation is that, if they are unvaccinated, they have completed their required testing and are following isolation requirements if they tested positive.

No one should come to a lab/studio/work/class if they have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19 until the isolation period is completed and symptoms resolve fully. If someone tests negative, they can return to a lab/studio/work/class while continuing to abide by all safety procedures and protocols, including masking and hygiene practices.

There are no additional COVID-19 testing requirements for conducting on-campus research and there are no additional test requirements for entering research facilities. You can learn more by reading about the new COVID-19 testing protocols for the fall 2021 semester.

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 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 (PDF).

No. If an individual is not vaccinated, they are permitted in classrooms and advising spaces as all others are, provided they are masked. Physical distancing is not required for vaccinated or unvaccinated people.

Yes, if you are alone in a walled office, you may remove your mask, regardless of whether or not you are vaccinated.

Students completing hands-on laboratory experiments/projects at home must submit the “Labs at Home” approval request form to Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) for a risk review and approval. Many students’ homes are not set up with adequate ventilation and lack environmentally safe disposal procedures, and students may have insufficient experience to handle the situation if something were to go wrong, along with other concerns about chemical safety and other safety considerations.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Instructor feedback is particularly important for students in your in-person class and for students who may be temporarily absent. 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.

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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