Faculty Guidance During COVID-19

A student watching an online lecture

Faculty Guidance for Teaching and Advising, Fall 2020

This page is designed to answer questions regarding teaching and learning in the current environment. Updates and additional topics will be added, so please check back often. Please note: the guidance found on this page is exclusively for the Fall 2020 semester. Updates for the Spring 2021 semester are coming soon!

With the health and safety of the campus community in mind, Case Western Reserve University has instituted special policies for the Fall 2020 semester.

See the Policies

Preparing for Fall 2020

During the spring and summer of 2019, a robust effort was undertaken 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. This information is available to those with a case.edu email address only.

See How We Prepared for Fall 2020

General Guidance

Student Focused Space Management Initiatives

(Updated August 27) In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all rooms on campus have reduced capacities. The university has developed several new initiatives to ensure students have space available for either academic or social purposes. View the initiatives now.

Childcare Support for Faculty & Staff

(Updated August 18) Select benefits-eligible employees will be eligible for a one-time child care subsidy of up to $600, while all faculty and staff can request to reduce their workloads and/or reserve up to three hours of drop-in care at One to One and Next Level fitness centers. See the initiatives here.

Find Socially Distant Classroom Spaces

(Updated August 18) The Spartan Reservation System can be used by students, faculty and staff to request rooms and services in a vast majority of buildings at CWRU. The system has been updated to reflect adjusted room capacities to allow for social distancing. Users will find several request forms because each building has different booking rules and processes. Download our reference guide for more information and step-by-step instructions on how to process a reservation using the Spartan Reservation System.

Guidance for Local Travel/Transportation During the Pandemic

(Updated August 10) As with every other activity at Case Western Reserve University, those taking transportation must remember the “Rules of the Road." Additionally, specific protocols and guidance for unique transportation modes are provided. View the guidance here.

Protocols for COVID-19 Symptoms and Diagnoses

(Updated July 20) We have received some common inquiries regarding the university’s protocols in those instances when an individual shows COVID-19-like symptoms or tests positive for the illness. View the protocols here.

Remember Digital Accessibility

(Updated July 17) At CWRU, we strive to make our digital content usable by all. Visit this Quick Tip Guide, specifically designed for faculty, as a resource to assist faculty in making courses more accessible to all learners. For additional resources, visit case.edu/accessibility.

Faculty Who Wish to Remain Off-Campus

(Update July 6) As we continue to navigate the pandemic, there has been a request to better understand the options available to faculty who do not wish to return to campus this fall. Please see the guiding principles that were developed with the input of the Faculty Re-Entry Working Group.

Modified Calendar for Fall 2020 Semester

(Updated June 11) The university’s Board of Trustees has approved a modified academic calendar for the Fall 2020 semester. See it here.

HVAC and Air Handling Management

(Updated June 1) Please review the HVAC Management recommendations. Central air and other HVAC filters have been upgraded to MERV-13 (ASHRAE 2017b) or the highest level achievable, particularly for recirculated air filters. If you have additional questions that are not addressed by the management document, please contact Steve Campbell, Vice President for Campus Planning and Facilities Management at stephen.campbell@case.edu or 216.368.5779; or Graham Binnig, Interim Director, Facilities Services at graham.binnig@case.edu or 216.368.5890

Students Who Don’t Comply with the Rules of the Road

(Updated August 11) Faculty should prohibit a student from entering or remaining in class without an appropriate face mask, should prohibit anyone from entering the classroom if their entering would exceed the maximum capacity of the space, and should prohibit students from violating physical distancing requirements by sitting next to one another even if a chair has been blocked off.

At the same time, it is important to remember that wearing face masks and social distancing is a new behavior for all of us, and we will all have momentary lapses in compliance.  In most cases, a simple reminder will suffice in terms of getting a student to comply.  Refusal to comply or other egregious violations of the campus Rules of the Road should be reported to the Office of the Dean of Students; they will follow up with the student as a counseling, disciplinary, or public health matter, as appropriate. Of course, if a student becomes disruptive to the class when asked to comply and refuses to leave, you can seek assistance from campus security.


(Updated August 11) While teaching remotely this semester will be a new experience for most of us, it will also be a new experience for our students when entire courses are offered in this format. You may find it helpful to share with your students these Do’s and Don’t’s, prepared by the Teaching & Learning group at UTech, drawing on many sources, or to adapt the document to the specific format and expectations of your class.  We all want to be sure that we are creating a respectful and productive learning environment for our students.

Early Alerts About First-Year Students 

(Updated August 11) Faculty should expect to hear from Student Success around the 3rd or 4th week of the semester requesting “early alerts” about first-year students enrolled in their courses.  These “early alert” responses from faculty will allow the Navigators to reach out to students in difficulty early in the semester and help them get back on track before it is too late to be successful.  The Navigators have appreciated the thoughtful responses they received in the past.  They will also appreciate information from faculty who choose to write early in the semester about other students who seem to be struggling (see below: Concerns About a Student).

Given the unusual nature of this semester, Navigators will want to hear from you about any concerns as soon as they emerge, so do not feel that you need to wait to be asked.  The Navigators want to be sure that students taking courses remotely are able to engage with and participate in their courses and that students living on campus are able to adjust to the restrictions imposed on campus life during the pandemic.

Concerns About a Student

(Updated August 11) The Navigators will always be interested in hearing any concerns  you have about a student’s general well-being or ability to perform academically.  This will be especially important this semester in light of the changes in instructional modes and campus life for both in-person students and remote students.  As a course instructor, you can identify each student’s Navigator on your course roster in SIS. Of course, in an immediate crisis situation, you should contact the CWRU Police and Security at 368-3333. The Office of Undergraduate Studies will continue to be responsible for issues related to academic standing and degree certification.

Mid-Semester Grades

(Updated August 11) Mid-semester grades must be recorded in SIS by Monday, October 19.  This deadline is critical for providing students sufficient time to review their progress with advisors and Navigators before making appropriate adjustments to their course loads by the deadlines for course withdrawals and choosing the P/NP option.  Even in project-based courses, it is important that advisors and Navigators hear whether students are making satisfactory progress. Please take special note of this date when planning assignments and exams during the semester.

Exams During the Semester  

(Updated August 11) While we have no faculty policies related to the administration of exams during the semester, the fact that all final exams will be administered remotely suggests that it will be good practice to administer exams during the semester remotely, even in courses that are meeting in person or in a blended format.  We do not want final exams to be students’ first experience of a remotely-administered final exam in a given course.  Colleagues in UCITE and the Teaching & Learning portion of UTech will be able to help you think about how to administer exams remotely.

Final Exams

(Updated August 11) The final exam schedule is set by the University Registrar largely based on the class meeting schedule.  The translation of the class meeting schedule into the final exam schedule was established to minimize the number of students who have more than two exams on the same day, two exams at the same time, or an evening exam followed by another exam first thing the next morning.  There are also special times assigned to the basic biology, chemistry, computer science, math, and physics sequences to spread out the courses that tend to enroll in common large numbers of first-year students.  Faculty may not change the date of a final exam without approval of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies.

Given that all final exams will be administered remotely, many of you will choose alternatives to traditional synchronous “in-class” final exams, perhaps substituting a take-home exam for an extended period of time or giving a timed exam spread through a 12- or 24-hour period to address students living in different time zones.  If there is to be alternative, asynchronous final assessment, students must 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 website.  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 the Dean of Undergraduate Studies can recognize students who have three exams on the same calendar day and qualify for having an exam rescheduled.

If you are planning to give a synchronous final exam or one limited to a 12- or 24-hour period, please be sure that this is noted in the Schedule of Classes with the synchronous time based on the class meeting schedule.  Similarly, if there will be no “in-class” final exam or if there will be a take-home exam spread over a period of time longer than a day, please make sure that no final exam is listed.  The final exam listings in SIS are used to monitor student schedules (and, in more ordinary times, to assign exam rooms), not as a record of whether there will be a final assessment. 

Note that our rules prohibit giving a final exam during the last week of classes or on Reading Days; under present circumstances, this should be understood to include the last week on in-person class meetings.  It is also poor practice to give any exam during the last week of the semester when students are often completing final projects and beginning their exam preparation; it is best to give the last exam for a course during the assigned final exam time.

Following the course withdrawal deadline for upperclass students, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies will reach out to students with more than two exams on the same day, two at the same time, or an evening exam followed by another first thing the next morning and work with faculty to set alternative arrangements.  If a student expects to miss an exam due to other special circumstances, please direct the student to the Office of Undergraduate Studies.

We ordinarily require approval from Undergraduate Studies to reschedule an exam for a student due to illness, other immediate personal circumstances, or confusion about the time of an exam.  Given the unusual framework of this semester’s final exam period, individual faculty may make these arrangements for students in their courses.  Navigators in Student Success and deans in Undergraduate Studies will be happy to assist in verifying student circumstances should you have questions or concerns.

Academic Integrity  

(Updated August 11) While students will be taking exams and completing various assessments remotely, our academic integrity standards remain unchanged. Students are expected to complete their own work and cite the work of others, as appropriate, collaborating with others and using resources only as permitted by the course instructor.  Please review the academic integrity policy for undergraduates with your students, highlighting its application to your course.  In particular, students taking exams remotely should be reminded to create an appropriate testing environment, putting away unauthorized materials and phones.

Please contact Jeffrey Wolcowitz, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, if ever you have concerns that an undergraduate may have committed an academic integrity violation; if he is not available, contact Nancy DiIulio, Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies. While our University academic integrity policies allow some latitude for faculty to set an appropriate penalty for a student’s first violation, it is important that all academic integrity violations be reported.  That is the only way we will know if a violation is not a student’s first.  If you include a statement about academic integrity on your syllabus, which is a good practice, please use this link.

Absences from Class or Exams During the Semester  

(Updated August 11) Faculty may establish their own procedures for handling absences from class meetings or exams that occur before the final exam period, being sure to treat all students equitably and to maintain the integrity of the course while responding to legitimate extenuating circumstances that interfere with a student’s ability to attend.  Under the present circumstances, this may include students who feel well but cannot attend in-person class meetings because University Health and Counseling Services has directed them to quarantine for a period of up to 14 days because of COVID-19 potential exposure, or isolate because they have been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive.  Please keep in mind, however, that health information is private, and just because someone is excused via UHS does not mean they have COVID-19.

Even though CWRU expects those students who can attend classes to be present in the classroom, please do not penalize students for not showing up to class or not participating, and be flexible with make-up work.  Otherwise, students will feel pressured to come to class when they perhaps should not attend.

Note also the importance of accommodating students who must miss class because of religious observance.

When requested by a student, a Navigator in Student Success will contact the student’s instructors about legitimate, documented absences from classes.  While our policies allow faculty to receive documentation for absences directly from a student, many faculty choose to direct students to record their special circumstances with Student Success and ask to receive notification from a Navigator. The Navigators are happy to play this role as it streamlines things for the student who otherwise would need to communicate with several courses during what may be a difficult period for them; it will also give the Navigator greater perspective on any challenges the student may be facing during the semester.

Grading and Course Enrollment Deadlines

(Updated August 11) While many courses will be offered remotely and even those that are being offered in person or in a blended format will shift to remote delivery at the end of the semester, we will return to our usual policies with respect to deadlines related to course enrollments and students’ election of the P/NP grading option, including that a course for which a student elects P/NP grading may not count for major, minor, or general education/core requirements.  The adjustments made for Spring 2020 reflected the unanticipated disruption of the semester.  This fall will be different but in anticipated ways              .

  • Drop/add closes at the end of the second week of classes, Friday, September 4.
  • The deadline for upperclass students (second-years, juniors, seniors, and all transfer students) to withdraw from a course or choose the P/NP option is the eleventh Friday of the semester, Friday, November 6.
  • The deadline for first-year students, including those who matriculated as first-year students in Spring 2020, to withdraw from a course or choose the P/NP option is the last day of classes, Friday, December 4.
  • For courses that run for half of the semester, students will be allowed only a one-week drop/add period at the start of the course, and students will not be allowed to withdraw from a course after a grade has been posted.
  • Deadlines for dynamically-dated courses (i.e. those that meet on some alternative schedule) are set in a proportional manner.

Exceptions to these deadlines may be granted only by the Deans Committee in the Office of Undergraduate Studies on behalf of the Academic Standing Board in response to a student request.  Students wishing to make such a request should be in touch with Undergraduate Studies.

Please keep these deadlines in mind when planning assignments and exams during the semester and as you think about the first two weeks of instruction in a new format.

Some faculty may wish to limit the period during which a student may add a course to only the first week of classes.  This can be done by asking the person responsible for listing your courses in the Schedule of Classes to add “Instructor Consent Required” to the course listing at the end of the first week of classes.  However, as a matter of fair notice to students, the fact that this earlier deadline will be imposed should be entered in the Schedule of Classes as a Class Note by the start of the semester.  It will also be important to remember to delete this permission requirement after the second week of classes if you do not want this to be a constraint on student registration that rolls over for the next iteration of the course.

Course Workloads and Credit-Hours

(Updated August 11) In 2012, the Faculty Senate adopted the following definition of the work associated with each credit-hour of a course:

  1. The assignment of credit-hours to a course occurs through a formal review process conducted at the appropriate levels of faculty governance.
  2. For courses in lecture format, one credit-hour represents the subject content that can be delivered in one academic hour of contact time each week for the full duration of one academic semester, typically fourteen weeks along with a final examination period. For undergraduate courses, one credit-hour also includes associated work that can be completed by a typical student in 2-3 hours of effort outside the classroom. For graduate and professional courses taught in lecture format, 3-4 hours of outside work is expected for each academic hour of contact time.
  3. For courses taught in other than lecture format (e.g., seminars, laboratories, independent study, clinical work, research, etc.), one credit-hour represents an amount of content and/or student effort that in aggregate is no less than that described in (2) above.

Please keep this in mind as you set specific requirements in your courses and revise assignments to accommodate remote delivery of courses.  It is easy to forget that any asynchronous presentations that students need to watch increase the time commitment for students unless offset by other adjustments.


(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.

Contacting Grad Studies

Staff in the School of Graduate Studies will be working 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.