Undergraduate Instruction: Pandemic Related Policies Spring 2021

The information below is for undergraduate instructors in CLAS and pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic. If a policy or procedure is not found below, please follow the "regular and usual" policies and procedures on this page.

Absences: COVID-19 Related
Absences: Handling Shorter Absences
Absences: Handling Longer Absences
Academic Calendar for Spring 2021
Classroom Health and Safety: Quick Guide for Instructors
Classroom Health and Safety: Quick Guide for Students
Course Modalities: CLAS Definitions
Changing Modalities: Requests During the Semester (with link to form)
Drop Deadline for Undergraduates Spring 2021
Experiential Learning: Guidelines for Faculty (such as internships/externships, field experiences, research activities, clinical programs, practicums, co-ops, student teaching programs, service-learning, etc) 
Experiential Learning: Guidelines for Students (such as internships/externships, field experiences, research activities, clinical programs, practicums, co-ops, student teaching programs, service-learning, etc)
Final Assessments and Exams: New and Continuing Policies
Grading Strategies including Incompletes
Handling Student Disruptions Related to UI Health Directives 
How to Support Students Living in a Different Time Zone
International Students: Special Directives
Lessons from Student Surveys
Management of Physical Classroom: Who Does What?
P/N Grades: Not an Option
Syllabus Insert: Required Additions 
Syllabus: Required Additions
TALA: Temporary Alternative Learning Arrangements
Undergraduate Research

Absences: Handling Shorter Absences

In cases involving COVID-19 with the related form submitted, it is acceptable to tell students they do not need complete smaller assignments. That is, if some missed assignments are very minor, instructors may request that they be completed or may ensure these do not impact the student's final grade, particularly near the end of the semester. If this is done, it is best that the student can see this in the ICON grade book and is reassured their absences were excused.

In other situations, all or most work related to mastering course content must be completed and should be handled following normal absence policies due to a verified illness. Students must be allowed to make up missed exams and important assignments such as major papers, for example. Instructors may assign alternative activities if needed to help the student finish the course with the appropriate learning goals mastered. 

If a student is only self-isolating and or not feeling ill and can still do class work, a student may be moved from an in-person section of a course to an online one if at all feasible; in other cases, students can be given permission to participate in the class via Zoom. (Note that at the beginning fo the semester, a student should find an in-person class to take and should not expect to be offered an online alternative so these situations are handled differently depending on the point in the semester and whether or not COVID-19 is growing or diminishing etc.).

  • Moving the student to online section will depend on an overlap in content of the two sections and when the student's move occurs in the semester.
  • The overall goal is to disrupt the learning as little is possible and to minimize the effect of the move on others in the class.
  • For some students, a move to a new section, though online, is not appropriate; it would be less disruptive for the student to Zoom into the current F2F course. 

Consult with your department or other unit before making a decision, as needed. Also consult with the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Cornelia Lang, and with members of her office at clasps@uiowa.edu or (319) 335-2633.

FERPA Reminder

Please keep in mind that instructors may not discuss an individual student's health with the class nor should the instructor question a student about personal health issues beyond reminding the student to submit the self-reporting form required to complete missed course work.

Of course, an instructor may discuss COVID-19 health directives and the importance of students self reporting to protect their peers and the UI community. Privacy concerns about the individual student in an academic institution are guided by FERPA and not by HIPAA.

Students are welcome to share private information with you, if they choose to do so; however, it is best to listen carefully to the student but not to ask questions  Additional information on FERPA for faculty is here:

It is not feasible to grant make up work and exams for students if the student never attended or did so infrequently and submitted little work work since the beginning of the semester even if the student does submit the COVID-19 reporting form. In other words, it is best if the student considers dropping the course.  Please refer students to appropriate academic advisor as well as to the CLAS Office of Academic Programs and Student Development for help: https://clas.uiowa.edu/students or at (319) 335-2633 or clasps@uiowa.edu

Course Modalities: CLAS Definitions

Once a course modality appears in its final version on the MyUI schedule, the offering must follow this published modality.

In order to protect both instructors and students, any course modality change requires approval from either the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Cornelia Lang (courses 4999) and below or from the CLAS Associate Dean for Graduate Education (course 5000 and above), Christine Getz. The DEO of a unit must contact the associate dean; individual instructors should work through their DEO.

Synchronous, Asynchronous, Blended

Synchronous: An online course or a course component held at the day and time as indicated on the course schedule. Students attend the online sessions as scheduled on MyUI.

Asynchronous: An online course or a course component that does not require students to attend class at a particular day or time but deadlines still exist that students must meet, including due dates to view a lecture; to complete homework; or to take an exam etc.

Blended: A course that uses both of the above online strategies. Students will learn about blended modalities from the syllabus and the instructor.

F2F and Hybrid

Face to Face (F2F): A course, a section, or lab held in a physical space at the day/times indicated on the MyUI schedule; requires social distancing, w/face masks and/or face shields as appropriate. A classroom/space is included on the MyUI schedule.

Hybrid:  A course, section, or lab held in a physical space at the days/times indicated on the MyUI schedule while also using virtual components. These components are synchronous, asynchronous, or both (i.e. blended).  A classroom/space is included on the MyUI schedule.

Hybrid courses, with approval by CLAS and the Associate Provost, can rotate students through F2F sessions that alternate with virtual components. Students will learn about these rotations in class from the instructor and from the syllabus and not from the MyUI schedule unless added by the department using the Offerings Planner.

Handling Student Disruptions Related to UI Health Directives

Students are expected to

  • Wear a face mask (disposable or cloth mask with or without a face shield) in all University buildings at all times.
  • To the extent possible, maintain an appropriate social distance (6 ft. if possible).
  • Stay home if exposed to, are diagnosed with, or experience symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Students who fit in one of these categories related to exposure and possible illness of COVID-19 are expected to complete the UI student self-reporting form.

Faculty are expected to

  • Model appropriate behavior as noted above for students.
  • Orally review classroom requirements at the beginning of the semester and spend a few minutes on these requirements for the first several class periods.
  • Stay home if exposed to, are diagnosed with, or experience symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and complete the related HR self-reporting form for instructors.

If a student fails to adhere to the requirements during a particular class, instructors should take the following steps, in quick succession:

  • Ask the student to comply with University expectations (and, for example, offer a face covering from the supply in the classroom).
  • If they fail to comply, ask the student to leave the classroom immediately.

If a student has failed to comply, the instructor should do the following after class is over:

  • Immediately file a report with the Office of Student Accountability (OSA) using this reporting form. Please copy the CLAS Office of Academic Programs and Student Development, using this address: clasps@uiowa.edu
  • OSA will alert the student that they will not be allowed to return to class until the matter is addressed following the University of Iowa’s conduct process.

If the student has complied but needed a reminder, the instructor should consider emailing the student a reminder about the requirement for future classes. The email should be framed to allow and encourage the student to explain the past action in a way that might help mitigate it in the future.

Lessons from Student Surveys

Focus the Course and the Student Learning Objectives

  • Use modules (course materials, assignments and assessments organized by unit, topic or theme) throughout the semester to facilitate the transition to online learning since this might occur at some point in the semester.
  • Assess student knowledge and adjust learning outcomes as needed. Returning students will be “behind” in some areas because of the upheaval during spring 2020; likewise, entering students may have had high school courses suspended or canceled. Consider incorporating review topics into the syllabus.

Let Students Know You Care

Create Efficient Communication Structures

International Student Directives

All continuing and new international students living in the US must be registered full-time (12 s.h. for undergraduates ) or must submit a part-time authorization request to be enrolled below full-time (see related requirements for approval). This policy has not changed.

Note these updates from July 27, 2020, about course modality and international students (https://international.uiowa.edu/covid-19-frequently-asked-questions-isss):

  • Continuing undergraduate international students living outside or within the US may take online and in-person courses in Fall 2020 as long as the student is fulltime. In other words, students’ immigration status is not affected by course delivery mode, even when all UI courses move to an online modality after Thanksgiving Recess. 

  • New (i.e. not continuing) undergraduate international students coming to the US must enroll in at least one course during Spring 2021 which “requires the student’s physical presence as part of their full-time registration. Any course which is coded as having an in-person component satisfies this requirement, including research credits.” 
  • Please watch for new directives.

Undergraduate Research

Guidance from OVPR states that undergraduates will be able to continue in-person research projects (either paid research positions or for credit) after the Thanksgiving Recess. The dorms will be open for students who are living on campus.  Please watch for updates as the situation could change.

TALA: Temporary Alternative Learning Arrangements

TALA stands for Temporary Alternative Learning Arrangements and is designed for students who have a higher risk of COVID-19 as defined by CDC. Information on TALA is here: coronavirus.uiowa.edu/temporary-alternative-learning-arrangements-tala. Visit that page for updated information for Summer or Fall 2021.

Applications for TALA status have closed for Spring 2021. Please note these important points:

  1. TALA status does not guarantee online seats for a student. That is, TALA status is not considered an accommodation mandated by ADA legislation.  
  2. TALA students are approved for an early registration date.

  3. Students should not be asked about their health since this is protected information.

  4. If the course is only offered in-person but is not required for the major or for graduation, the student should be asked to look for another course.

  5. If the course is only offered in-person but is required for the major and is needed immediately for the student to graduate, the department and instructor should decide on the next best steps. In some cases, a different course for the major may be acceptable.  

  6. All students are encouraged to discuss possible backup courses with an advisor and are advised to actively look for seats and to join wait-lists as needed.

General Grading Strategies

  • Grades must be entered in the ICON Grade book so that students understand their standing in the course. Students need to see their grades throughout the semester to avoid confusion about their progress and if needed to change their study habits or to improve their time management skills. Help on using the ICON grade book is here: https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Instructor-Guide/How-do-I-use-the-Gradebook/ta-p/701

  • CLAS does not require either one or the other of these grading schemes to be used: https://clas.uiowa.edu/faculty/grades-undergraduate-policies-and-guidelines. Some instructors use elements from both. For example, those using a criterion-referenced grading scheme may also apply a curve at the end of the course to adjust grades upward if very few students earn the higher grades normally expected in the course. Generally a curve should not be used to lower grades if one is using a criterion-based grading scheme.
  • CLAS has always recommended the use of +/- grading since it helps to distinguish student performance.

P/N Grades: Not an Option

The P/N choice will NOT be offered for undergraduate courses during Spring 2021.*  Please be sure to spell out your grading scheme carefully on your syllabus, as always.  If students ask about the P/N choice, please remind them that it is not available* and that this was a decision made by UI as a whole and not by individual colleges nor by instructors.

*NOTE: CLAS does allow the use of P/N grades in limited coursework if the student submits the required form for the particular course with the instructor and advisor’s signature by the deadline during the first two weeks of the semester. See https://clas.uiowa.edu/students/handbook/grading-system#pn These P/N grades may not be applied to GE requirements; requirements for majors, minors, certificates; English proficiency requirements; or to high school unit requirements. A limit of 15 s.h. of P grades are allowed excluding those earned in Spring 2020.

Final Assessments and Exams: New and Continuing Policies

  • Instructors may choose NOT to give a final assessment in course during the pandemic as long as the course regularly uses various assessment strategies throughout the semester, with students thus well aware of their standing in the course.

  • This is a change to current CLAS policy that normally requires all courses to give a final assessment of some kind.

  • If an instructor decides to use a final assessment, only one final activity should be chosen, such as an exam OR a paper, but not both. 

  • For those wanting to use proctored exams, two online tools are available, Proctorio and the Respondus LockDown Browser used with the Respondus Monitor, with either having pros and cons. Regardless, it important to let students take “practice” exams with these tools and to understand the related rules and required computer technology for each format. For example, the Respondus LockDown Browser is not supported by Chrome Books and for the use of the Respondus Monitor and Proctorio, the student’s computer must have a web cam. Zoom can also be used to proctor exams.

  • Respondus: https://teach.uiowa.edu/respondus-lockdown-browser-getting-started or https://web.respondus.com/he/lockdownbrowser/resources/#student

  • Proctorio: https://distance.uiowa.edu/courses/exams/proctorio-demand-proctoring
  • If students don’t have access to the technology (such as needing to use a laptop or webcam for the purposes of completing an online exam), they should contact the UI Help Desk or the Office of the Dean of Students for help.

  • Please add a statement on the syllabus if you plan to use one of these proctoring systems; give the computer type and additional technology (i.e., webcam) needed.

  • Please set aside class time for practice using these tools since students need time to test their technology and to make corrections. For more detailed information, visit these sites.

Below, as a reminder, are some of the longstanding CLAS undergraduate policies and procedures about final exams in semester-length courses; these apply to regular semester-length CLAS courses regardless of modality.

  • No exams or quizzes may be given the week before the final examination week without permission from CLAS.*  
  • Final examinations must be given during the one-week period set aside by the University for this purpose and at the date and time fixed by the Registrar so that exam conflicts do not occur.
  • Take-home final exams may use the scheduled final exam period as the last possible time that the take-home exam may be submitted; the class may receive the take-home questions whenever the instructor chooses.
  • In courses where papers or projects rather than a final examination constitute the last evaluation activity, instructors may use the scheduled final exam period as the due date for the project/paper and may use this time as well for any related presentations.  
  • A final assessment that is a paper or project rather than an exam may also be due earlier in the semester, including during the week before final exams.
  • Please review this website for additional policies and procedures: https://clas.uiowa.edu/faculty/examination-policies-and-best-practices

* Note these exception: In off-cycle courses that also end by the fall or spring "close of classes" date, final exams must be given during the last week of classes. (For more information, see this page). Likewise, this exam policy does not extend to lab quizzes or to ESL and world languages quizzes.

Additions to Syllabus Insert

Information on protocols related to wearing a face mask or a face shield in the classroom have been included on the syllabi insert as has language related to recording class lectures and discussions.

All UI colleges have been asked to use the same language as below.

Class Behavioral Expectations
Students are expected to comply with University policies regarding appropriate classroom behavior as outlined in the Code of Student Life. This includes the policies and procedures that all students have agreed to regarding the Steps Forward in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly, all students are required to wear a face mask when in a UI building, including a classroom. In addition, the density of seats in classrooms has been reduced. In some instances, this will allow 6 feet or more of distance while in other cases, it may be less. Regardless, wearing a face mask and maintaining as much distance as possible are vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19. In the event that a student disrupts the classroom environment through the failure to comply with the reasonable directive of an instructor or the University, the instructor has the authority to ask that the student immediately leave the space for the remainder of the class period. Additionally, the instructor is asked to report serious or repeated incidents to the Office of Student Accountability for the possibility of additional follow-up.

Class Recordings: Privacy and Sharing
Some of the sessions of a course could be recorded or live-streamed. Such recordings/streaming will only be available to students registered for this class. These recordings are the intellectual property of the faculty, and they may not be shared or reproduced without the explicit, written consent of the faculty member. Further, students may not share these sessions with those not in the class or upload them to any other online environment. Doing so would be a breach of the Code of Student Conduct, and, in some cases, a violation of the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Additional Syllabus Components Required for Courses

Course Delivery
The syllabus for each course must be updated to reflect the course delivery modality. Please use direct and simple language rather than jargon while discussing the modality as approved and appearing on the MyUI schedule.

Sample Syllabus Statement
Our course will meet both virtually and in person. On Mondays: Live lectures via Zoom at 1:30-2:20, with short quizzes given during the lecture. On Wednesday and Fridays: In-person discussions and activities in your assigned classroom at 1:30-2:20. Your classroom appears on the course schedule and on your personal schedule in MyUI.

Best Practice: Include this “modality” information on related assignments and on the syllabus calendar of due dates/readings. Students will forget; problems will be avoided by reminders.

Drop-in Hours [i.e. Office Hours—please use the name your unit prefers]

Drop-in hours generally should held virtually to reduce exposure to the virus; however, instructors may meet in an office with students if necessary and if students and the instructor are able to follow health directives on social distancing and on wearing a face covering. Also keep in mind that Facilities is not cleaning private offices in order to spend more time cleaning building “high touch surfaces” and classrooms.

Drop-in hours may be held on Zoom, with individual appointments made available to students needing to discuss private issues, such as SDS accommodations. In many cases, it is also appropriate to hold group drop-in hours on topics related to course content. Some instructors additionally use discussion boards to answer routine questions in order to save drop-in hours for more sustained conversations.

Please let students know how your hours will function while keeping in mind that three hours a week (3 x 60) are still required by CLAS as well as some time set aside as “by appointment.”  “By appointment” hours are generally for students with conflicts arising from other UI courses. It can be difficult for instructors to accommodate all student conflicts arising from work, private appointments, and activities. Instructors and students must work together to find a reasonable solution, with the student rescheduling some activities in order to attend drop-in hours. The instructor, in turn, must help students who are unable to rearrange their schedules.

Recording Lectures and Discussions for Student Use

Instructors may also record lectures and small group discussions but should be cautious while doing so, reminding students that these materials are the intellectual property of the instructor and may not be shared without the instructor’s written consent. Instructors may want to edit the footage of a discussion before making it available to the group or may decide not to record or release an especially sensitive discussion to protect students’ privacy. Be transparent with students and make sure they understand their obligation to protect the privacy of their peers for the good of all students in the course and in order to allow the group to speak more freely.  Instructors, of course, may choose not to record these discussions. This UI policy statement also appears on the syllabus insert:

Class Recordings: Privacy and Sharing
Some of the sessions of a course could be recorded or live-streamed. Such recordings/streaming will only be available to students registered for this class. These recordings are the intellectual property of the faculty, and they may not be shared or reproduced without the explicit, written consent of the faculty member. Further, students may not share these sessions with those not in the class or upload them to any other online environment. Doing so would be a breach of the Code of Student Conduct, and, in some cases, a violation of the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Additional Expectations for Student Behavior Related to COVID-19

If the syllabus currently has expectations for student behavior, consider expanding the section to align with the syllabi insert information regarding COVID-19 health directives and/or strategies for listening and participating in difficult conversations.

Other expectations might include those about appropriate behavior on Zoom; many of these are best handled by using appropriate Zoom security and other settings.

Below is the official University statement on this matter, which also appears on the CLAS syllabus insert; please also see the procedures above for responding to students who do not respond appropriately to the UI health directives.

Students are expected to comply with University policies regarding appropriate classroom behavior as outlined in the Code of Student Life. This includes the policies and procedures that all students have agreed to regarding the Steps Forward in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly, all students are required to wear a face covering when in a UI building, including a classroom. In addition, the density of seats in classrooms has been reduced; in some instances, this will allow 6 feet or more between students while other cases, it may be less. Regardless, wearing a face covering and maintaining as much distance as possible are vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19. In the event that a student disrupts the classroom environment through their failure to comply with the reasonable directive of an instructor or the University, the instructor has the authority to ask that the student immediately leave the space for the remainder of the class period. Additionally, the instructor is asked to report the incident to the Office of Student Accountability for the possibility of additional follow-up.