Course Policies and Syllabus

Guidelines and frequently asked questions about course policies for continuity of learning.


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Policies, Guidelines, and Recommendations

  • Class Recording Guidelines - These University guidelines should be followed when recording class lectures, presentations, and demonstrations.

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

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. 

For more information, read the Class Attendance procedures (undergraduate) in the Academic Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual.

See University guidance on what to include in course syllabi about the mask requirement (PDF).

In addition, see Penn State syllabus requirements outlined in Faculty Senate Policy 43-00, including a number of example syllabus statements

Be sure to check with your college or campus regarding locally mandated syllabus policies. 

Instructors can work with students in other time zones to identify an alternate time in addition to the time scheduled by the registrar. You may choose to assist students in other time zones, but you are not required to do so. Instructors who choose to provide time zone assistance are not expected to schedule a different time for each individual student.


  • Avoid all time periods that overlap with posted final exam time periods so that additional conflicts do not arise.
  • Determine whether you want to offer the alternative time(s) to all students or only those who are in another time zone; if the latter, identify those students before the final exam schedule is announced.
  • To avoid confusion, select alternate exam time(s) on the same day as the published final exam.
  • Instructors may select an alternate exam time(s) or ask students in other time zones to identify their preferred times, then select a number of times and ask students to choose one.

In Canvas, you can either assign an alternate time for these students or manually unlock the exam via the Moderate Quiz page for the students just before their scheduled alternative time.

Be sure to let students know that they will only be able to access the exam at their scheduled time.

This answer focuses on whether and how instructors may choose to assist students in other time zones during finals week. Instructors should review faculty senate policies 44-20 and 44-25 and contact college or campus administrators for general guidance.

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.

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.

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.

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