Faculty Guidance During COVID-19

A student watching an online lecture

Preparing for Fall 2020

As the Case Western Reserve University community prepares to return to campus for the fall 2020 semester, a robust effort is underway to determine how best to bring people back to campus in ways that maintain their health and well-being while advancing the university’s academic mission. The specifics of the return-to-campus process will evolve over time, but will be guided by the following committees and working groups who represent a broad swath of the campus including faculty, staff, and students. As President Snyder noted in her May 22 email, multiple campus committees are actively preparing for fall. Learn more about all of these groups at the link below.

Preparing for Fall 2020

Dual-Delivery of Courses

In early April, Case Western Reserve University announced a dual-delivery approach to instruction for fall courses. We want to ensure that all of our students can continue their learning, whether or not they are able to return to campus. Read on to learn about the five principles that will guide our approach to fall instruction. We know that many of you are concerned about what dual-delivery may mean for you and your students. Please use the form below to submit your questions about dual-delivery. Staff in the Office of the Provost will work to address them and share the answers here.

See the Guidance

Submit Your Questions

Faculty Guidance for Teaching and Advising

As the Case Western Reserve University community continues to deliver a high-quality education, albeit from a distance, faculty of the university have raised several questions regarding teaching and learning in the current environment. This page is designed to answer those questions. Updates and additional topics will be added, so please check back often.

Faculty Feedback Regarding Spring Courses

(Updated May 23) Various feedback mechanisms have been deployed about the experience of teaching remotely this spring, from surveys to focus groups. See the results in the communication dated May 23.

Remote Summer Courses

(Updated May 23) All summer courses will be delivered remotely. Please note that we will operate under our regular summer policies/procedures as well as cost structures. Additional classes have also been added; and (as of May 23) enrollment was more than 75 percent higher than last year.

Commencement Details

(Updated May 14) After extensive discussion and a survey of graduating seniors, the university has decided to hold virtual ceremonies on Sunday, May 17, the original scheduled date for commencement. Learn about the detail in this message to students.

Additionally, this year’s Homecoming and Parents’ Weekend will include events for our 2020 graduates. That Sunday, Oct. 11, is reserved for in-person commencement-related activities; for example, undergraduates choosing to attend would receive their diplomas, and hooding ceremonies for those earning advanced degrees also would take place. Again, we will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Summer Study Abroad

(Updated April 9) We waited to make this decision in hopes the pandemic would abate, but the ongoing uncertainty appears likely to continue—especially with regard to international travel. Given the health risks involved, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all summer study abroad programs.

Summer Housing

(Updated April 9) Given that many of our international students now living on campus may not be able to return to their countries this summer, we are planning to be able to provide them housing. We will provide updates as soon as more information is available.

If You Do Not Feel Well

(Updated April 9) Please do not come to campus. Instead, self-isolate, call University Health Services (UHS) at 216.368.2450 and then notify Human Resources at askHR@case.edu or 216.368.6964.

If You Are Being Tested for COVID-19 

(Updated April 9) Please contact University Health Services at healthservices@case.edu if you have been or are being tested for COVID-19. Within the message, please note the last day you had been on campus. As of this writing, we continue to have fewer than five positive tests reported among members of the campus community (faculty, staff and students).

Accommodating Faculty Office Hours

(Updated March 31) We recommend maintaining consistent virtual office hours so that students will know when they can reach you. It’s recommended that you Create Virtual Office Hours in Zoom using a different link than your classroom Zoom link. Additionally, let students know when to expect a response from you regarding their messages. For example, let them know you’ll respond within 24 or 48 hours and if they don’t hear from you by then, they should reach out again. 

May Term Courses 

(Updated March 31) As we shared previously, all May term courses will be delivered remotely. 

Additional Support for Employees Required to Work on Campus 

(Updated March 31) We will provide additional pay and health insurance premium credits to portions of our workforce earning less than $50,000 a year for the next two months. These measures are in addition to guidance provided March 16; you can find more details about the new temporary policy in the March 30 message.

Pretenure Extensions 

(Updated March 31) In light of the disruption this pandemic creates, we announced previously that most untenured faculty have the option to accept a one-year extension of the pretenure period. Please note: Faculty who wish to exercise this option must email academicaffairs@case.edu no later than May 8 of this year to confirm their acceptance.

Research Continuity 

(Updated March 31) As you recall, we have asked principal investigators involved in critical research to limit individuals on campus only to those whose duties demand their presence and, even then, to stagger their shifts and observe federal guidelines regarding social distancing. We have also asked them to submit ramp-down plans should public health developments require such action. You can find additional guidance on the Office of Research and Technology Management website.

Tips Regarding Remote Testing 

(Updated March 31) Remote education is clearly well underway: The campus is averaging about 1,700 Zoom sessions per day, with total sessions’ daily attendance above 13,000. More recently, faculty have inquired about remote administration of quizzes and tests. Given that students are now living in multiple time zones around the world, faculty first may want to consider alternatives to tests and/or the traditional in-class final exam (e.g. papers, presentations, take-home exercises such as problem sets, etc.). That said, UTech and UCITE have collaborated to provide guidance on conducting tests to meet the unique needs of the remote instructional environment; in addition, UTech has provided information regarding remote proctoring software.

Remote Teaching Resources

(Updated March 31) In the event anyone wants a refresher and/or has discovered a new need for a particular class, UTech has a resource page for online instruction.

“Zoombombing” Prevention 

(Updated March 31) The news has been full of stories about malicious individuals entering Zoom sessions to spread racist and misogynistic speech and, in some instances, pornographic content. While university classes have been a frequent target, businesses and influencers also have been victims. To prevent such intrusions in classes or other Zoom-based gatherings, follow the prevention information UTech offers.

Reducing Unnecessary Zoom Costs 

(Updated March 31) Because of the expenses to the university for using toll-free numbers or call-back features to participate in Zoom when (a) most cell plans do not involve additional charges for toll numbers and (b) alternative free options exist, UTech has taken steps to limit its use. For more information, visit UTech's Zoom information page.

Reducing Unnecessary Duo Costs

(Updated March 31) Similarly, Duo’s call-back feature also incurs charges to the university. Those who install the free DuoMobile application (available on Apple App or GooglePlay stores) eliminate those charges and gain a more secure experience. Go to UTech's Duo page for more information.

No Make-Up Days for March 16-17

(Updated March 27) Because the cancellation of classes Monday and Tuesday (March 16-17) was part of the university’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, they are being treated as the equivalent of cancellations required by inclement weather. The last day of classes remains Monday, April 27.

Reading Days Remain April 28-29 

(Updated March 27) The reading days scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, April 28-29, are unchanged.

Limit Individual Interaction

(Updated March 15) We are at the point in this health crisis where hard decisions must be made to keep people at home and, as much as possible, away from one another. For additional guidance, please see the university’s COVID-19 updates page.

Get Creative!

(Updated March 15) Our delivery will not always be perfect, but we have already seen incredible solutions and ideas coming forward. For additional ideas, please see UTech's Technology for Remote Teaching and Working section. It links to the Prepare to Teach Anywhere page, which contains resources provided by UTech and UCITE. Please check back as these sites are developing in real-time and will include additional resources throughout the week and beyond.

Flexible Policies and Procedures

(Updated March 15) This includes everything from changing the way we grade to altering attendance policies to adjusting project deadlines as well as how we should consider requirements for student honors and awards. It is also important to recognize that the approaches for undergraduate, graduate and professional students will differ based on unique needs, versus a blanket approach. Additional details about undergraduate and graduate students are below. Policies and procedures for professional students will be addressed at the dean level.  

Remote Learning is Both Low and High Tech

(Updated March 15) We know you wish to strive for the highest levels of technology access and use, but we all know that we may encounter many unknown circumstances, including failure of the technology as the entire country moves to this medium. While we are very fortunate to have excellent technology and support, we know this is uneven elsewhere within the homes of both our students and faculty. Please have a low-tech solution at hand.

Keep Helping Each Other 

(Updated March 15) We know this cannot possibly answer all of your questions or issues, so please keep working with your deans and department chairs to determine the best approach to your remote learning issues. We are setting up a virtual faculty and instructor lounge that will be monitored by both UTech’s Teaching and Learning Technologies’ and UCITE staff. This self-enroll Canvas site will allow you to continue helping one another and share best practices, solutions and ideas.

Course Withdrawal and Pass/No Pass

(Updated May 5) The Faculty Senate extended the period of time for undergraduates to decide whether to choose letter grades or P/NP grading for this semester until 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, May 11. This applies to all courses that had an end date of March 16 or later. In light of this change, designed to allow students to see final grades before making a decision, we have canceled all earlier P/NP elections made by the previous April 27 deadline. Students must make a new election of P/NP grading in any course for which you wish to exercise that option. To learn more, visit this communication to all undergraduate students.  For more information, visit the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

Concerns Regarding Final Exam Proctoring

(Updated April 30) To help ensure academic integrity, one option Case Western Reserve uses is Honorlock, an on-demand proctoring tool that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to ensure that students follow guidelines for taking exams remotely. Faculty may use Honorlock in their classes to ensure the academic integrity of assessments and to comply with federal regulations that require universities offering online and distance education to verify student identity. Find additional information in this letter from Provost Vinson.

Final Exams

(Updated April 20) As previously communicated, faculty should consider alternatives to tests and/or the traditional in-class final exams. Please be sure to alert students to the alternative arrangements. Many faculty have chosen to substitute take-home exams for an extended period of time or will give timed exams spread through a 12-hour period to address students being spread across time zones. If there is to be an alternative, asynchronous final assessment, students should be given sufficient flexibility in terms of time to complete the work so that it does not create conflicts with other exams being given at scheduled times. 

In those cases in which there will be a synchronous final exam, it should occur during the standard time based on the meeting schedule of the course, as posted in SIS and on the University Registrar’s web site.  If you are giving a 12- or 24-hour take-home exam, it should similarly be on the day of the posted final exam so that I can recognize students who have three exams on the same calendar day and qualify for having an exam rescheduled. Approval is ordinarily required from the Office of Undergraduate Studies to reschedule an exam for a student due to illness, other personal circumstances, or confusion about the time of an exam.  Given the unusual framework of this final exam period, individual faculty will be able to make these arrangements for students in their courses.  Navigators in Student Success and deans in the Office of Undergraduate Studies will be happy to assist in verifying student circumstances should you have questions or concerns.

Academic Integrity

(Updated April 20) While students will be taking exams and completing other final assessments remotely, our academic integrity standards remain unchanged.  Students are expected to complete their own work and cite the work of others, as appropriate.  Please review the academic integrity policy with your students, highlighting its application to your course.  Research shows that reminding students of such policies at the time of an exam reduces instances of cheating. If you have concerns that an undergraduate may have committed an academic integrity violation, please contact Jeffrey Wolcowitz or Nancy DiIulio.

Final Grades  

(Updated April 20) Final grades should be posted in SIS within 48 hours of the end of the final exam and no later than 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 9.


(Updated April 20) Please review the policies related to assigning a temporary grade of Incomplete. The assignment of an Incomplete is up to the individual faculty member, but should follow the overall guidelines and only be awarded when a student is in good standing in a course and is missing only a small amount of work. Under current circumstances, “a small amount of work” should be interpreted a bit more generously than in other semesters, but an Incomplete is not appropriate for a student who has not completed the bulk of the work in a course.

While the deadline imposed by a faculty member for completing the missing work can be no later than Friday, November 6, the appropriate deadline should replace the time lost due to the student’s individual circumstances. For graduating seniors, work will need to be completed by the degree day, May 17, or the student’s degree will need to be postponed to a later degree date. Other students may need to complete some or all of their work before the start of their summer courses or the fall semester to meet academic standing requirements.

Concerns About a Student 

Navigators are always interested in hearing any concerns about a student’s general well-being or ability to perform well academically. Each student’s Navigator may be identified on your course roster in SIS. The Office of Undergraduate Studies will continue to be responsible for issues related to academic standing at the end of the semester and degree certification.

Academic Advisor Check-Ins 

(Updated March 27) We encourage undergraduates to review their plans with their academic advisors, and contact their navigators regarding other matters.  

May Term Courses Go Remote

(Updated March 27) In light of uncertainty regarding when the COVID-19 public health crisis will ease, the university has chosen to have May Term courses delivered remotely.

Summer Term Registration Dates Delayed

(Updated March 27) Given that summer courses have start dates ranging from June 1 to July 6, the university continues to assess options regarding the delivery of these courses. As that consideration continues, the university has delayed the opening of summer registration.  Please consult SIS for the date on which you can begin registering for respective summer courses.  

The Syllabus

(Updated March 20) It is permissible to deviate from the original course syllabus. For example, you may want to omit some less important topics in order to prioritize learning to prepare students for the next course in a sequence. Soliciting student input on changes to the syllabus is encouraged.

Grading and Exams  

(Updated March 20) It is acceptable to deviate from the original grading rubric and plans for a final exam.  For example, perhaps you may want to substitute a take-home exercise in place of a timed “in class” exam.  The ideal would be to offer the students alternatives to what is on the syllabus and then let them choose; this ensures that no one feels that they are being hurt by the change.  

Exams and Proctoring 

(Updated March 20) Managing exams and proctoring will vary by class and faculty member, but the UTech team has developed a wide range of resources available to help you at various levels of testing. Please also consider that students may be taking their final exams from different time zones.  UTech is integrating two remote secure testing platforms into its teaching and learning technology solutions. These platforms will be available for tests in Canvas and some of the other testing platforms used on campus. Both UTech’s Teaching and Learning Technology group and UCITE are available to discuss your individual testing needs.

Independent Studies and Capstone Projects

(Updated March 20) When considering independent studies and capstone projects (which may not be completed in a physical laboratory), please exercise as much creativity as possible to help students complete work that meets the requirements and is worthy of the appropriate amount of degree credit.

Time Zones and Attendance 

(Updated March 20) Faculty should reach out to their students and find out which time zone they are in.  If there are wide discrepancies, they should consider doing all work asynchronously.  This means that students should not be penalized for missing class.  Consider implementing some other way for students to check in.  We suggest creativity in this area as well.

Transacting Business that Requires Forms and Signatures

(Updated March 20) All forms and documents that students will need are available as fillable pdfs. This includes the forms to declare a major or minor, to withdraw from a course when that cannot be done through SIS, to get approval for off-campus study, and the special request form. Undergraduate Studies and Student Success (Navigators) are prepared to receive these forms by email. Emails sent from student or faculty CWRU email accounts will be viewed as the equivalent of a signature.

Mid-semester Advising to Prepare for Course Registration

(Updated March 20) It will be important for advisors to have these conversations with students, even though they will need to take place by phone, Zoom or email. Students will need guidance more than ever about how to complete the semester successfully under these unusual conditions and will want to know that their faculty and advisors care about their academic progress and well-being. Advisors will receive the usual reminder about the recommended content of these conversations, noting the revised deadlines and procedures.

Students Who Need to Complete Work Because of Incomplete Grades

(Updated March 20) Student who have yet to remedy incomplete grades are expected to do so by the established deadline of March 27. If that proves to be impossible because of the transition to remote education, Undergraduate Studies is prepared to review special requests from students, supported by their faculty, to extend the date by which the work must be completed.

Questions or Comments? 

The first stop should be your dean’s office. If answers to questions are not known, please contact the Office of Undergraduate Studies for those policy and procedure questions and the Office of Student Advancement for student/navigator questions. Both offices will be available remotely during this time.

Pass/No Pass (P/NP) and Withdrawal

(Updated April 22) The last day to apply for the P/NP option is Monday, April 27 at 5 p.m. If you are planning to use the P/NP option, we strongly encourage you to speak to your advisor/department to make sure you do not run into licensing or accreditation issues after graduation. The last day to withdraw from an individual course was extended until April 27.  If you wish to withdraw from a course, please complete the add/drop form and return it to gradstudies@case.edu by 5 p.m. on Monday, April 27.  

Waiver of Registration

(Updated April 22) Students planning on using the waiver of registration for the summer 2020 term, will now have until June 19 to submit all final certification materials including final format checks, uploads to OhioLink, etc. 

Summer Completion, August Graduation

(Updated April 22) Students not able to meet the waiver of registration deadline must register for the summer term and will now have until July 24 to submit final certification materials for August graduation. 


(Updated April 22) Graduate Studies will entertain petitions for extensions on degree completion and other milestones, with the support of advisors/departments.  You can find the petition form on the Graduate Studies website. If a student's petition for extension is approved, they will only need to register for one (1) hour each semester through the spring 2021 term. If you have any questions, please contact gradstudies@case.edu

“Zoombombing” Prevention during your defense

(Updated April 7) The news has been full of stories about malicious individuals entering Zoom sessions to spread racist and misogynistic speech and, in some instances, pornographic content. While university classes have been a frequent target, businesses and influencers also have been victims. To prevent such intrusions in your thesis and dissertation defenses, you should follow the prevention information UTech offers.

Post-Grad Planning and Experiential Education (Career Center) 

(Updated April 7) As to be expected, there may be anxiety about post graduation employment, internships and other work related experiences.   The staff in the Post-Grad Planning and Experiential Education office are conducting advising  appointments and virtual events such as workshops, information sessions and career fairs.  Individual appointments via Zoom or telephone may be requested via Journey.  A list of workshops and events can be found on the events tab in Handshake.

Graduate Students/Post Docs Physically in the Research Lab

(Updated March 20) We recognize that many of our interactions in the research laboratory cannot halt, as it not only alters the future of the research, but also the education of our graduate students. To allow this to continue, we ask that you take all CDC COVID-19 safety precautions and limit the number of individuals in the laboratory. If your graduate student is uncomfortable with coming into the laboratory, we ask that you also determine a reasonable remote activity to help with their education as well as the work of the lab. If the student experiences a problem with the interaction, we encourage them to reach out to the School of Graduate Studies, who will then be in contact with the respective dean.

Payment of Graduate Students/Post Docs

(Updated March 20) Our philosophy is to continue paying our students in this uncertain time, as they rely on this income. For those in Teaching Assistant roles, please continue their support by including them in the remote learning activities you are offering to your undergraduate students. For those in the research laboratory on grant funding, we need to await direction from federal agencies. Once that arrives, please review with your deans how best to approach with the understanding that we want to continue paying our students.

Dissertation and Thesis Defenses

(Updated March 20) School of Graduate Studies’ policy is that notification of a thesis/dissertation defense must be made public. It is assumed there will be a public presentation of the dissertation, which is followed by a private meeting of the thesis committee. Others can be invited to the private defense, which is at the discretion of the thesis committee chair. At this time, we encourage committees to offer both the public and private defenses virtually.

Graduation Deadlines

(Updated March 20) There is a deadline of April 1 to register for May graduation. This can be extended as appropriate. If the Graduation Ceremony is held, we can just about accommodate anyone up to the final days to participate by marching in the ceremony. The time limit is controlled by having enough time to certify completion of the degree, provide information to the folks that manage printing of the diplomas and inclusion of student information in the graduation booklet. The deadline to submit all final graduation materials has been extended until April 10. If you are unable to meet this deadline, please contact gradstudies@case.edu.

Degree Confirmation 

(Updated March 20) We are also capable, in the event that students do not make deadlines to provide written confirmation of student completion of all requirements for graduation if they need this information for enrollment in another degree program or for employment.

Submit Graduation Materials for a PhD

(Updated March 20) If you have already submitted hard copy forms or have obtained signatures on some of them (electronic signatures are ok) you can submit them to gradstudies@case.edu.  If you have not started the forms yet, please follow the instructions for Google Forms submission below.

  • Notification for Scheduling the Final Oral Exam for the PhD
    Complete the Oral Notification Form.  Upload an email from your advisor and Department Chair/Program Director certifying that the defense is ready to be scheduled.
  • The Final Certification for the PhD
    Complete the Final Certification Form.  Upload an email from your Committee Chair which contains the names of the committee members who participated in your defense and that you successfully passed your oral exam, that written approval has been obtained for any proprietary material contained therein and that all corrections to your manuscript have been approved.  Upload an email from your Department Chair/Program Director certifying all requirements for the PhD have been met.
  • ETD Document Approval
    Complete the ETD form.  Upload an email from your advisor certifying they have reviewed the ETD and advised you on issues concerning the use of copyrighted and/or unpublished data therein, as well as publication plans.  
  • Uploading Dissertation to OhioLink
    OhioLink is working remotely.  You can still upload your dissertation as normal.  You can continue to contact them with any questions or concerns

Submit Graduation Materials for a Thesis Based Master's

(Updated March 20) If you have already submitted hard copy forms or have obtained signatures on some of them (electronic signatures are ok), you can submit them to gradstudies@case.edu.  If you have not started the forms yet, please follow the instructions for Google Forms submission below.

  • The Final Certification for Master's Degree: Thesis
    Complete the Final Certification Form.  Upload an email from your Committee Chair which contains the names of the committee members who participated in your defense and that you successfully passed your oral exam, that written approval has been obtained for any proprietary material contained therein and that all corrections to your manuscript have been approved.  Upload an email from your Department Chair/Program Director certifying all requirements for your degree.
  • Uploading Thesis to OhioLink
    OhioLink is working remotely.  You can still upload your thesis as normal.  You can connect them with any questions or concerns
  • Student Program Status if you will be continuing on the for a PhD
    Complete the Student Program Status Form.  Upload an email from your advisor certifying you will be continuing on for the PhD.

Final Certification for Non Thesis Master's (Project or Course Focused)

(Updated March 20) If you have already submitted hard copy forms or have obtained signatures on some of them (electronic signatures are okay), you can submit them to gradstudies@case.edu.  If you have not started the forms yet, please follow the instructions for Google Forms submission below. Submit a Final Certification Form.  Upload an email from your advisor with the date of your comprehensive exam or project approval and that you have met all degree requirements.  Upload an email from your Department Chair/Program Director certifying you have met all degree requirements. 

Waiver of Registration

(Updated March 20) Submit a Waiver of Registration. Upload an email from ISS approving your request.

Certifying International Student English Skills

(Updated March 20) Because of standardized testing issues and delays for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and International English Language Testing System (IELTS), CWRU will offer an in-house testing alternative. For more information, please contact Elise Geither, PhD.

Contacting Grad Studies

Staff in the School of Graduate Studies will be working remotely so that questions can be answered and petitions approved. Electronic signatures of students and faculty will be accepted as well as email confirmations of approvals. We will be responding to voicemails (216.368.4390) and emails gradstudies@case.edu.