Faculty Guidance During COVID-19

A student watching an online lecture

Faculty Guidance for Teaching and Advising, Spring 2021

The information below is designed to answer questions regarding teaching and learning for the Spring 2021 semester. Updates and additional topics will be added, so please check back often.

Course Modalities

Faculty and students have now experienced two partial semesters with non-traditional delivery of instruction. While still in the midst of the pandemic, powerful themes have emerged: Our faculty are leading classes, both virtually and in-person, in creative and thoughtful ways; and we need to do all that we can to support their dedicated efforts.  As a result, for Spring 2021, we offer the following guidance: 

Spring 2021 Guiding Principles

  • Faculty, working with their chairs and deans, will determine the most appropriate delivery mode for their courses: in-person, blended, asynchronous remote, or synchronous remote. 
  • For courses planned as in-person or blended, faculty members will determine if it will be possible to accommodate fully remote students. 
  • In determining the course modality, faculty members should be cognizant of technology requirements (of the students) for participation in remote courses (or remote parts of blended courses). 
  • Faculty should provide ample details about the in-person components of blended courses (e.g., nature and frequency of in-person meetings, etc.) in SIS (via course notes).
  • For courses designated as remote, students living on or near campus may be interested in some (optional) in-person activities associated with the course. These may range from mentoring days, to study days with TAs, to special small-group projects with occasional meetings with faculty, etc. Faculty members are encouraged to include such activities, keeping in mind necessary health and safety protocols. 
  • All relevant facets of the course delivery will be included in the notes section of SIS, which will be highlighted in all communications with students. 

As with all things COVID, we ask that faculty keep flexibility in mind as they prepare their courses and related activities, knowing that the progress of the pandemic may require unforeseen changes. 

Information about course modalities and course-related activities should be submitted in advance of the University Registrar’s October 20 deadline.** We expect to have spring course listings become public no later than November 1. 

**Note that the School of Graduate Studies programs as well as the professional and graduate schools have similar deadlines on, or around, October 20.

January Session, 2021

The Spring 2021 semester will include a new "January Session." This remote-only session is part of the Spring Semester and will offer an additional educational opportunity for students in January, one that could help them with their course load upon their return to campus in February. This 15-day session is a test to see if it can become a viable part of our calendar going forward. See details below.

About the January Session

  • The January session will be part of the Spring 2021 semester in terms of tuition, course registrations and recording courses on transcripts.
  • The January session will run from Friday, January 8, 2021 through Friday, January 29, 2021, with Monday, January 18, 2021 celebrated as MLK Day with no class meetings.
  • All courses will be offered remotely.
  • The drop/add deadline for the January session will be Tuesday, January 12, 2021.  Following the practices for the various summer sessions, undergraduate students will be able to withdraw from a January course until the last day of classes, but not after a final grade has been posted.
  • Undergraduate students will be allowed to enroll in no more than 4 credit-hours during the January session.
  • January course enrollments will count toward the usual credit-hour limits for the Spring 2021 semester (19 credit-hours, subject to usual policies and procedures related to course overloads).
  • Courses taught by faculty during the January session should be considered part of their spring semester teaching commitment.
  • No undergraduate student should be required to be enrolled during the January session.  This means that no specifically required course that a student would expect to take during the spring semester may be offered during the January session unless it will also be offered during the regular portion of the spring semester beginning on Monday, February 1, 2021.

Reminder: Definitions of a Credit-Hour

Program Integrity Rules issued by the U.S. Department of Education require institutions to establish a definition of "credit-hour."  CWRU's definition was approved by the Faculty Senate on April 25, 2012 and applies to all degree programs (undergraduate through graduate/professional):

  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.

Faculty Guidance for Teaching and Advising, Fall 2020

The information below is designed to answer questions regarding teaching and learning for the Fall 2020 semester. 

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

The Associate Deans for Academics group provides the following suggestions for Fall 2020 and a recommendation for Spring 2021. We note that there are other strong resources available to faculty, particularly through UCITE and UTech Teaching + Learning Technologies, to think about exams. In general, we recommend that faculty prepare early, consider alternatives to high-stakes proctored exams, develop backup plans in the event of difficulties, and remain flexible and sensitive to student needs.

Suggestions for Fall 2020:

  • Faculty have always been flexible and helpful around final exams; Fall 2020 might entail additional considerations and special preparations.

  • Communication between faculty and students is crucial in relation to end-of-course exams, their rationale, and the arrangements in the individual course.

  • After November 23, students will be in many different time zones; faculty should strongly consider asynchronous options; ideally no students should be expected to take exams outside of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. hours in their own time zones.

  • In general, faculty might consider alternatives to high-stakes synchronous, proctored exams.

  • Faculty should give strong consideration to the formats of exams they have used in Fall 2020 with students and to the extent possible avoid giving final exams in formats and with technologies/software students have not used previously in Fall 2020.

  • If exams must be proctored, be aware that ExamSoft and HonorLock can work together, but it is a fragile articulation (SODM proposal and information); Zoom proctoring can be an effective alternative.

  • Be aware of student technological limitations, as well as students’ diverse living circumstances in relation to proctoring (campus power outages, even!).

  • Faculty should have backup plans for exams in the event of platform unavailability or failure.

  • Students should be apprised of communication plans and alternatives in the event their access is compromised.

  • Faculty might need to be prepared to administer makeup exams in the event a student (or group of students) is unable to take the exam. Ordinarily approval from Undergraduate Studies is required 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 Advancement and deans in Undergraduate Studies will be happy to assist in verifying student circumstances should faculty have questions or concerns.

  • Undergraduate students should work through Navigators in the event they are unable to access regularly scheduled exams, but should also notify faculty as soon as possible (see the makeup exam note above). Graduate and professional students should work through their schools’ normal procedures.

Suggestions for Spring 2021

  • Minimize risk to students and faculty of proctored, synchronous, high-stakes exams by considering alternatives.

Recent National Conversations & Suggestions

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

Teaching Students in Different Time Zones

(Updated October 30) You may be teaching students in a classroom, in their dorms, across the US, and all across the globe— all in the same course! Accommodating the needs of all of these students is difficult, with local students perhaps wanting face-to-face time, students in their dorms and the EST desiring synchronous sessions, and students 12-13 hours ahead having a difficult time participating in synchronous sessions. This guide is designed to help you think specifically about ways to ensure that students across different time zones can be successful in your course.

Rights and Recorded Lectures

(Updated October 13) CWRU recognizes that with the delivery of whole or parts of courses via remote means necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, many faculty members may have questions concerning their intellectual property rights with respect to recorded lectures. Rights to underlying course materials used in the production of the recorded lectures are not affected by the transition to remote delivery, and remain governed by the University’s Intellectual Property Policy, the University's Copyright Policy, and additional provisions in the Faculty Handbook.  The University will not use course recordings for any purpose other than course delivery in the semester in which they were produced without the faculty member's consent.  Additional uses of course recordings also require assessment of other university policies (for example, if identifiable students were in the recordings, the use would need to align with the requirements of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)). Should you have any questions, please contact the Office of General Counsel.   

Extension of Pretenure Period Due to Extraordinary Circumstances

(Updated September 9In March 2020, in consultation with the Faculty Senate, Provost Vinson exercised his authority under the provisions of the Faculty Handbook to offer a one-year extension to the pretenure period to faculty members whose appointment at CWRU began prior to January 1, 2020.  Since the pandemic continues to affect academic life, this offer of a one-year extension of the pretenure period has been extended to faculty members who have started (or will start) their appointment at CWRU in calendar year 2020. Faculty members starting in 2020 who wish to accept this one-year extension of their pretenure period shall provide confirmation of their acceptance via the Google form available at this link by October 9, 2020.  Those eligible faculty members who accept the extension are not precluded from seeking an early tenure review. Any questions should be directed to academicaffairs@case.edu.

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.