Academic Update for Instructors - 8/5

July 30, 2020

The fall 2020 semester begins in less than two weeks! Are you ready? Remember to check the Fall 2020 Experience for Instructors/Researchers webpage for the latest updates as we return to campus. Also, an archive of these emails can be found on the COVID-19 website in the blue box on the right.

Included in this email:

  • Important Training for Instructors – reminder
  • Course Delivery Student Communications – reminder
  • Mandatory Zoom Waiting Rooms and Passcodes – new
  • Classroom Preparations – new
  • Guidance on Student Travel – new
  • Pass/No Pass and Incomplete Policies – reminder
  • Testing and Contact Tracing – reminder
  • Guidance Regarding Course Attendance and Engagement Expectations for Fall 2020 – new

Important Training for Instructors

2020 UNL Instructor Training has been created with a specific focus on in-person classroom instruction and is strongly recommended for instructors who will be teaching in-person courses this year. It covers topics that include face coverings, physical distancing, classroom disinfection, instructor-student connection, attendance, and assessment and was designed to supplement the university's COVID-19 Awareness – Campus Procedures & Self-Care training.

Course Delivery Student Communications

One of the most common questions students and families have asked this summer is, "What will classes look like in the fall?" Instructors are encouraged to reach out to students as soon as they have determined delivery formats for their courses. For example: "Class will be a combination of in-person and remote, with half the class meeting on Tuesdays and the other half on Thursdays. Additional details will be posted in Canvas during our first week of remote instruction."

Mandatory Zoom Waiting Rooms and Passcodes

In order to increase security and help prevent unintended activity, Zoom is implementing required Waiting Rooms or Passcodes for all meetings. Beginning August 10, all new meetings will have the Waiting Room option pre-selected. Later this fall, a Waiting Room or a Passcode will be required for all new meetings. Existing meetings will automatically have a Waiting Room applied to them if a Waiting Room or Passcode is not already in place. Passcodes will likely be required for webinars starting in September. More information will be shared when those plans are finalized. Read more about how to navigate these changes on the ITS website.

Classroom Preparations

University staff are finalizing general purpose classroom preparations this week. Instructors should expect to see furniture marked with decals (and zip ties in auditoriums) to indicate where students should sit and how desks and tables should be arranged to maintain physical distancing. A sign with classroom requirements and best practices will be posted, which will include photos of each room indicating furniture arrangement. Also posted will be a copy of the Face Coverings Syllabus Statement and the Cornhusker Commitment. A bottle of special disinfectant for technology equipment will be provided along with instructions for use.

Remember, face shields and personal windscreens for microphones are available for anyone teaching in person. Contact your department chair or dean's office for these items.

Guidance on Student Travel

Student travel for academic and co-curricular experiences is discouraged until further notice. This guidance applies to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Departments and programs must apply for advance approval for such travel and should do so only if the experience’s outcomes are critical to the students’ academic program and cannot be achieved virtually or through an alternative on-campus experience. Read the complete statement for additional information.

Pass/No Pass and Incomplete Policies

The university's established Pass/No Pass and Incomplete policies are in effect for the fall 2020 semester and going forward. Additional grade information can be found on the Registrar's website.

Testing and Contract Tracing

In Chancellor Green's July 13 Campus COVID-19 Update , protocols to help ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the in-person experience were shared with the campus community. These protocols are based on science and guidance from the CDC and the local health department. Within these protocols is the latest information on testing and contact tracing, including the process for when students, faculty, or staff test positive. Note that as long as face masks are worn and the six-foot physical distancing is maintained, being in the same classroom as someone who tests positive does not constitute close contact.

Guidance Regarding Course Attendance and Engagement Expectations for Fall 2020

The Faculty Senate has endorsed the following guidance for course attendance and engagement expectations:

The Faculty Senate Policy on Class Attendance, updated in April 2018, can be found at While that policy remains fully in effect, the Faculty Senate endorses the following interpretation and guidance for it for the Fall 2020 semester.

We know that, especially in the face of a pandemic, it is crucial that individuals who are sick stay home. At the same time, we know that regular engagement with a course is key to students’ abilities to be successful in that course. Therefore, for the Fall 2020 semester, “attendance” should be interpreted to mean “physical attendance in the classroom, remote synchronous attendance, or engagement with the course in ways specified by the instructor in the course syllabus.” Moreover, instructors are encouraged to use the phrase “attendance and engagement” in lieu of “attendance” when setting policies and expectations in their syllabi on this topic.

Faculty are encouraged to specify in their syllabi what assessments and activities, some of which may be in person or synchronous when essential and safe, must be met throughout the term. There are many ways that students can meaningfully engage with course material that can be used towards student assessment, and instructors may include this engagement in the determination of a student’s final course grade as appropriate. Attendance and engagement expectations should recognize the need for flexibility and empathy to allow for following community health-related policies.

Students who are sick or who are engaging in self-quarantine in accordance with guidance from the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department or their health care professional should not physically attend in-person classes. They must notify the instructor of their absence and must still meet the stated engagement expectations of the course, and they must adhere to the usual codes of conduct and rules of academic integrity that remain in place. For students who are absent for these reasons, we ask instructors to be flexible with any attendance policies they may have for their courses. Again, students in this situation must still fulfill the engagement expectations of their classes and should follow the stated guidelines for their courses in communicating with their instructors and staying current in the coursework. If the majority of the course work is completed but the absence makes it impossible for the student to adequately complete all course requirements, a grade of incomplete may be an appropriate option. Note, however, that if the student has not already completed most of the graded work for the course, then a late withdrawal would be more appropriate than an incomplete.