COVID-19 FAQs for Instructors

This page provides information about academic issues and resources for instructors related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the Fall 2020 semester. Information will continue to be updated frequently. 

Additional information is available at the University's Fall Semester Planning website.  

Last updated: June 26, 2020

Do I have to come to campus?

Faculty should only return to campus when instructed to do so by School Dean, Vice President or Vice Provost. Visit the Penn Fall Semester Planning website and the COVID-19 Return to Campus Guide for more information.

Faculty should discuss concerns about returning to work with their Dean or Department Chair.

For faculty who wish to return to their research on-campus, Penn is following a phased return to research. As of June 8, 2020, Penn is in Phase I of Research Resumption. Information about resuming research on campus and individual school and center plans are available from the Vice Provost for Research at the Research Resumption: Resource Hub.

Can I come to campus and work in my on-campus office?

Faculty should only return to campus when instructed to do so by School Dean, Vice President or Vice Provost. Visit the Penn Fall Semester Planning website and the COVID-19 Return to Campus Guide for more information.

Faculty should discuss concerns about returning to work with their Dean or Department Chair.

For faculty who wish to return to their research on-campus, Penn is following a phased return to research. As of June 8, 2020, Penn is in Phase I of Research Resumption. Information about resuming research on campus and individual school and center plans are available from the Vice Provost for Research at the Research Resumption: Resource Hub.

Who decides whether a class is taught in-person or online?

All classes with 25 or more students must be taught online.

For classes with 24 or less students, decisions about course delivery will be made by faculty members in consultation with their Deans, based on course content, class size, and preferred pedagogical approaches, scheduling priorities and constraints, as well as their personal health, safety, and other concerns.

For undergraduate students, starting Monday, November 23, the remainder of the semester including all undergraduate classes and exams will be delivered online. Courses that were previously online will continue to be online; courses that were in-person will transition to online starting Monday, November 23.

In-person graduate and professional courses have the option of moving online on November 23; faculty, program directors and Deans should make these determinations.

Have any dates for the Fall semester changed?

Yes. Classes will begin as scheduled on Tuesday, September 1. Fall break has been cancelled. For undergraduate students, starting Monday, November 23, the remainder of the semester, including all classes and final exams, will be delivered online. Final exams will conclude as scheduled on Tuesday, December 22.

The last day of classes remains Thursday, December 10. However, the designation of some class days has changed. View the Academic Calendar for the most up to date details. 

At this time, all registration dates (course selection period, drop period, grade type change deadline, advance registration) remain the same.

Graduate and professional programs may follow a different schedule. Students will be provided with details directly by their programs.

What restrictions will there be on in-person classes?

In-person instruction will only be permitted for classes with 24 or fewer students. All classes with 25 or more students must be taught online.

Any in-person course meetings will be held in rooms sufficiently large to accommodate physical distancing. For any classroom used for instruction, facilities will have marked-off, socially distanced seats and signs that address movement in and out of classrooms.

All students, staff, and faculty will be instructed to wear face coverings in all public and shared spaces, including classrooms.

What if I get sick and cannot teach?

Policies and procedures to support faculty who become ill or unable to teach during the semester remain in effect. Faculty should discuss their individual circumstances with their Dean or Department Chair.

Can I hold office hours, small group discussions, or other meetings in person?

Virtual meetings and phone calls should be used rather than in-person meetings wherever possible. View the COVID-19 Return to Campus Guide for more information.

The Center for Teaching and Learning’s Resources and Strategies for Teaching Remotely has guidance on Live Online Sessions and Virtual Office Hours and other ways to help students stay engaged and build community in an online context.

If I am teaching online, can I hold sessions at any time?

Synchronous online content must be offered on the same day(s) and time(s) as your course is regularly scheduled during the semester (in Eastern Time). If you are offering synchronous content, please keep in mind that students may be participating from different time zones and may need to engage asynchronously.

The Policy on Secular and Religious Holidays is still in effect, which prohibits holding examinations and requiring assigned work on specific holidays.

Are there changes to Final Exams?

For undergraduates, the final exam period remains December 15-22 and final exams will be delivered online. More information about final exams will be provided later in the semester.

Graduate and professional programs may follow a different schedule. Students will be provided with details directly by their programs.

What is Penn’s policy on remote proctoring?

The use of remote proctoring is not permitted for online delivery of courses that are typically in person. This does not apply to programs that were online prior to Fall 2020 that were already using remote proctoring. Individual faculty may request an exception to this policy, based on academics or another rationale, which must be endorsed by the department chair, undergraduate or graduate chair, and the undergraduate or graduate dean, as well as the Dean. Any investment in the software or service would have to be paid for by the school offering the course (permitting the exception).

Where can Teaching Assistants get support?

The Center for Teaching and Learning has a website on remote teaching that TAs may find useful. For TAs who often use chalkboards in teaching, we have created a page with suggestions for teaching recitations or office hours online using virtual whiteboards, as well as information for those running asynchronous discussion boards.

In addition, Penn Libraries' Virtual Support page provides a range of guides, tutorials, and support services to help with virtual classes.

Schools are responsible for ensuring that TAs have the technology necessary to engage in their instructional responsibilities remotely.

Instructors are responsible for ensuring they have adequate TA support to meet student needs.

How will advising work?

School advising offices are planning to offer academic advising online during the Fall, with the possibility of in person meetings if necessary.

For individual advising, virtual meetings and phone calls should be used rather than in-person meetings wherever possible. View the COVID-19 Return to Campus Guide for more information. The Center for Teaching and Learning has guidance on tools to hold Live Online Sessions and Virtual Office Hours.

Can I have students engage in research?

Undergraduate students who are registered for credit-bearing research (independent study, senior thesis seminar, research seminar) will be allowed to perform such research in person as long as they are following all campus regulations related to in-person research.

Graduate students are covered under the Research Resumption Plan. As of June 8, 2020, Penn is in Phase I of Research Resumption and during this phase, graduate student participation in research is completely voluntary. Information about resuming research on campus and individual school and center plans are available from the Vice Provost for Research at the Research Resumption: Resource Hub.

How do I access materials in the library?

Penn libraries' digital resources and services as well as librarians are still available. Visit the Libraries’ Virtual Support and Phased Re-Start FAQ pages for a full summary of current services and additional information about forthcoming services.

Do I have to record my class?

For all undergraduate Fall 2020 courses, any in-person instruction must be recorded so it will be available for students who need to engage asynchronously. Penn is strongly encouraging instructors to record all online content, including synchronous sessions, so it will be available to review at any time.

Faculty who have concerns about recording their class should contact their department chair or Dean.

Where can I get help with teaching online?

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the Online Learning Initiative (OLI) have a guide on Resources and Strategies for Teaching Remotely including information on Canvas, recording lectures, online tools for discussion, exams and assignments, teaching lab and SAIL classes remotely, and whiteboarding tools. CTL also offers workshops on teaching remotely

CTL also provides a list of instructional technology support by school.

How is Penn accommodating students who need academic accommodations?

Student Disability Services is still operating and assisting students with new accommodation requests and ongoing accommodations in the remote classroom environment.

Information about adding captions to recorded lectures in Panopto is available here

Will Fall 2020 courses be pass/fail?

The expanded Pass/Fail option offered in Spring 2020 does not apply to Fall. Fall 2020 courses will be graded according to Penn’s regular grading policies. Individual school and program policies regarding pass/fail will apply