Guidelines and frequently asked questions about course policies for continuity of learning.
Policies, Guidelines, and Recommendations
- Class Recording Guidelines - These University guidelines should be followed when recording class lectures, presentations, and demonstrations.
- Contingency Planning for Academic Unit Heads (DOC) - This document provides assistance to academic unit heads for contingency planning in the event of a faculty member's extended absence, or multiple student absences in a class, related to COVID-19.
- Contingency Planning for Instructors - Use the Contingency Planning resource for guidance on how to handle class meeting disruptions when absences occur or emergencies arise.
- Enforcing Mask Compliance in Instructional Spaces: Guidance for Instructors (DOC) - Based on guidance from the University, this document offers recommendations for instructors to respond to incidences of noncompliance to mask policy.
- Fall 2021 Guidance for Live Streaming vs. Recording Lectures (DOC) - This document gives instructors guidance for when to live stream lectures and when to record lectures, including the value of each and when each are appropriate.
- Fall 2021 Suggested Teaching Strategies in Residential Courses for Temporary Instructor or Student Absence (DOC) - This guide is meant to assist instructors in continuing course delivery in case of necessary student or instructor absence in alignment with Senate policy 42-27, Class Attendance.
- Information for University Park Instructors Regarding Interim Suspensions - This is a letter to University Park instructors detailing the process for student interim suspension due to non-compliance with COVID protocols.
- Procedures for Instruction during Campus Closures (DOC) - Use these procedures when there is a change in normal campus operations due to weather, power outages, or other emergencies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Review the following frequently asked questions about course policies and syllabus. For additional information, read all frequently asked questions.
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.
How do I handle attendance and assignments if one of my students tests positive for or believes they have contracted COVID-19?
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.
What should I do to accommodate a student who needs to be absent due to illness, isolation, or quarantine?
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.
What should I do if I, as the instructor, need to be absent due to illness, isolation, or quarantine?
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.
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. Review the class recording guidelines created for instructors.
Webinars designed to provide critical information to faculty and staff about course policies and syllabus.