Instructors / Researchers

Forward to Fall Information for Instructors and Researchers

We’re working hard this summer to enhance health and safety so that all students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus can get the most out of this fall's Nebraska experience.

Learn more about fall on campus for instructors & researchers

This page contains information related to your role as an instructor and/or researcher at the university. For additional information pertaining to all who are employed at the university, please see the Information for Employees page.

For the summer of 2020, all courses are being delivered utilizing remote access and will not meet in-person for summer session undergraduate, graduate, and professional courses. Previously scheduled online courses will continue as planned. Below are some changes, reminders and guidelines to help maintain a confident, supportive academic experience for UNL students.

Supervisors are expected to ensure that all employees who are able to work from home, are doing so until further notice. This includes student workers.

Academics & Deadlines Remote Working Research, Travel & Study Abroad

Academics & Deadlines

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.

Guidance Regarding Course Attendance and Engagement Expectations for Fall 2020

Read the Faculty Senate endorsed guidance for course attendance and engagement expectations.

Self-Guided SIOT

This year's Summer Institute for Online Teaching has been reconfigured into a self-guided curriculum for instructors who could not attend in real time. The Institute guides instructors through course planning and developing pedagogically sound online courses and is useful for experienced online instructors, as well as those who will be teaching remotely for the first time. The self-guided edition is available in Canvas. The course requires participants to be self-reliant but instructors can contact their instructional designers if they encounter a problem they can’t resolve.

Planning for the First Week of Remote Classes

Members of the academic planning task force, along with the CTT instructional design team, have compiled recommendations and resources for beginning the fall 2020 semester with a remote first week. Topics include pre-course announcements, syllabus introduction, student connections, and tips for using VidGrid, Canvas, and Yellowdig. Student Involvement has shared tips for teambuilding activities and icebreakers for the virtual environment.

Face Covering Policy and Syllabus Statement

The university has implemented a Face Covering Policy to protect the health and well-being of the campus, which includes classrooms. Faculty Senate has approved a Face Covering Syllabus Statement for use by instructors. Employees who have health or medical reasons for not wearing face coverings should work with Faculty/Staff Disability Services to establish accommodations.

Proctoring Resources

As a result of the Digital Learning Commons operating at a reduced capacity this fall, instructors may want to make use of online proctoring tools in addition to other types of alternative assessments. A proctoring decision tree has been created to help with these decisions. Additional resources will be listed as they become available. Contact an instructional designer in your college to discuss the different options.

Approaches to Teaching in Fall 2020

As we learned this spring, circumstances can change quickly, and our ability to adapt will be key to a successful fall semester. The Center for Transformative Teaching has created a flexible hybrid model as an approach that enables instructors to make adjustments to their course design to meet a range of circumstances. This is a modification of the HyFlex course model, which was recently published in Inside Higher Ed. Both of these are good resources for thinking about using instruction methods and creating course materials that will maximize student learning next fall.

NCFDD COVID-19 Resources

The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity has curated a list of support resources in response to COVID-19, including information about pivoting to online instruction, teaching in a time of crisis, and maintaining self-care through challenging times. It has also set up a COVID-19 discussion forum for members. Our institutional membership means that NCFDD resources are available for free to all faculty, staff, post-docs and graduate students with an or email account. Learn more and activate your account.

Grade Submission Extension

Grading deadlines for the fall 2020 semester have been extended by one week, making Friday, December 11 the last day to turn in grades for any course. Grades for the Fall Mini Session will be due on January 4.

Grade Appeals

The university is anticipating a potential rise in grade appeals in response to remote instruction. To meet our goal of keeping students on track for degree completion , we are asking instructors, departments and colleges to make grade appeals processes available promptly at the conclusion of each term, although historically grade appeal processes tend not to be active during summer.

Grade appeals committees are expected be available in Summer 2020 to enable departments and colleges to quickly respond to student appeals with faculty oversight and leadership. UNL's administration and Faculty Senate together support a flexible approach in which academic leaders establish, in conjunction with their existing grade appeal committees, an expedited process to hear and respond to grade appeals during Summer 2020.

Note that this is a stopgap response to a unique situation to support student needs in this moment, not a new policy.

Academic Support

It’s especially important in these unusual times to make sure students have the resources they need to succeed. If you have concerns about a student's academic performance, you can raise a red flag or make a referral to the Center for Academic Success and Transition through MyPLAN. CAST has created an easy-to-use resource to help you decide how and when you should use these tools. There's also an option to give kudos to students who are excelling academically. If you have concerns about a student's mental health and well-being, the Behavioral Intervention Team and Counseling and Psychological Services have separate resources that can help.

Academic Integrity

Please remind students about the university's expectation that they complete their assignments and exams with academic integrity: to do their own work with honesty, to attribute correctly sources of information on which they rely, and to refrain from using any resources that you have not authorized.

Student Concerns and Feedback

Remote learning can make it difficult for students to know how they can ask questions, raise concerns and share positive feedback about their learning experiences. Since they can no longer connect in-person, it's important for them to have a clear path of communication. Instructors are encouraged to use standard text to post contact information as an announcement in each of their Canvas courses.

Recording of Class-Related Activity

Instructors have shared concerns about students recording class-related activity, particularly in how that relates to their intellectual property. Text has been approved by university general counsel for addition to the syllabus section of Canvas courses. The decision of whether to include the text can be made at the instructor level, but the protections described in the text will only apply to the course if the text is included in the course information.

FERPA Considerations

Now that many students have returned home, instructors need to be mindful of FERPA compliance. Insist that students use their email addresses; that way you know you are communicating directly with students themselves. When having online meetings, have a "Before we begin" conversation to make sure students remain protected by FERPA. If you are unsure about the written consent status of a student, the assigned academic advisor in your department can check for you.

Intellectual Property and Copyright

Many instructors have expressed concern about putting their intellectual property online. Under the terms of the university’s existing Board of Regents Policies (see RP-4.4, “Ownership of Intellectual Property” and sections 5.b.2 and 5.c in particular), instructors retain copyright in the instructional materials they create, including those developed for the purposes of online instruction. Please see the policy for definitions and information about exceptions, particularly relating to substantial use of university resources, which would relate only to additional resources significantly in excess of the norm for educational and research purposes. Additional guidance may be found in the Memorandum on Copyright and Law and Compliance. Specialists in the Libraries can assist with general questions, but cannot give legal advice. Legal questions will be coordinated by Libraries with the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel.

Provide Content Asynchronously; Offer Opportunities to Connect Synchronously

It's important to consider the challenges of synchronous remote learning for students who are in different time zones, have difficulties accessing the Internet, have to share a family computer, and need to address emerging family situations. At the same time, the familiar cadence and structure of regularly-scheduled meetings can provide a framework that is comforting and encourages progress through the material.

Instructors are strongly encouraged to make all of their course content available asynchronously. Post materials, including perhaps brief pre-recorded lectures, for students to access as they are able to do so.

One opportunity for connecting synchronously with students would be to hold office hours at set times, perhaps during the original class time, to maintain regular contact with students. Zoom and Canvas discussion boards work well for office hours. Yellowdig Discussions is another option that has recently been made available to instructors. Offer asynchronous ways for students to contact you if regular office hours are not possible for them.


As the university continues with remote access learning, instructors may receive student requests for incompletes. The policy on incompletes, as approved by the Faculty Senate and posted on the University Registrar website, states: [a]n instructor uses the grade of an ‘I’ (Incomplete) at the end of a term to designate incomplete work in a course. It should be used only when the student was/is unable to complete the requirements of the course because of illness, military service, hardship, or death in the immediate family. A grade of ‘I’ should be given only if the student has substantially completed the major requirements of the course.

Instructors should use incompletes sparingly and only in the most extraordinary circumstances (e.g. a student is self-isolated or self-quarantined and does not have access to the Internet). Incompletes can create an undue burden on students and instructors in subsequent semesters and can delay students’ academic progress. This is particularly true when the incomplete continues for more than one semester after the semester in which the course was taken.

In addition, instructors should not use incompletes for all students in an entire course. Each incomplete should be considered on an individual student basis and only used in extreme circumstances where the student is not able to adequately complete the course requirements. It is not a grade that an instructor should assign simply due to the university’s move to a remote format for the semester. Requirements related to certification and accreditation are being managed at the department and college level, and instructors concerned about such requirements should consult with their unit leadership.

If an incomplete must be assigned, please ensure the following:

  • The majority of the course work is completed (please consult with your unit as to what is customary for your unit; for example, some units use a threshold of 80% or more completed with a passing grade). If that’s not the case, a late withdrawal is a better alternative.
  • You have worked with the student to develop a written communication plan with a timeline for work that still needs to be turned in, the date by which it must be completed, and the grade that will be assigned if this work is not completed.

Graduate Studies Guidelines and Updates

Masters and Doctoral student guidelines, exam information, and event cancellations and postponements are being updated on the Graduate Studies COVID-19 page.

Student Communications

Let your students know you are there for them and committed to their learning. Here are some ideas for regular communications that you can incorporate into your plans:

  • Develop a schedule for consistent updates or emails to students. Make them regular enough to assure and guide students, but not so often as to overwhelm them.
  • Communicate the window of time during which you and teaching assistants will be responding to student emails or having Zoom office hours. Students will be reassured knowing when to expect a response. Have a regular schedule for due dates.
  • Create a clear learning path of expectations for students on the Canvas home page, like organized modules with sequential ordered requirements. Remain cognizant of accessibility issues and challenges for students with disabilities and incorporate appropriate accommodations.

Library Materials

Access to the university's physical library materials is not possible while the Libraries are closed and public and academic libraries around the country have also closed. When the Libraries reopen, instructors should be mindful of the fact that students may not be able to come to campus Libraries to retrieve physical materials. Electronic materials remain accessible with access expanding daily. Libraries faculty are available to help redesign research assignments, provide one-on-one research consultations with students and faculty, and handle new electronic purchase requests. Quick help is available through ASKus chat on the Libraries website; details on current operations are available through the libraries COVID-19 website.

Technology and Support

NU Information Technology Services (ITS) is available to help you create a functional and efficient work environment in your remote location.  NU ITS has published a page, Remote Work FAQ, with information on computer equipment, VPN networking, phones and voicemail, digital tools, and IT support.

A note about VPN (virtual private networking): VPN resources are limited, so you should only use a VPN when accessing restricted internal resources. If you have not previously used a VPN to access University services, you probably don't need it to work remotely. A VPN is not required to access many common services such as email, Canvas, Firefly, Box, Zoom, and general campus web sites. A VPN is used to access restricted internal resources on the University network, such as research workstations, file shares, or web applications. When you are finished working with a restricted resource, disconnect from the VPN to make sure that others who need it can use the service.

Quick Start Guide for Remote Teaching

The Center for Transformative Teaching (CTT) is taking the lead on supporting faculty members as they teach using remote access.

CTT has published an extensive Quick Start Guide for Remote Teaching, which includes extensive information on all aspects of remote teaching, including:

  • Finding and publishing your Canvas course
  • Hosting a live session on Zoom
  • Asynchronous delivery via Canvas
  • Recording a lecture
  • Testing and Grading
  • Support services

Remote Working

Information for faculty wishing to arrange for remote working for fall semester is available through the links below.

Principles and Guidelines for Alternative Work Arrangements Due to COVID-19

The document linked above sets forth detailed guidelines for employees who need to request alternative work arrangements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Types of Alternative Work Arrangements

Additional resources are available on the Human Resources website.

Checklist for Working Remotely

During this period, every faculty member and instructor should be able to check every item on the following list.

  • Do you have sufficient computer hardware to complete your normal and necessary work tasks? If not, check with your department or college to see if equipment might be available for checkout.
  • Can you access the Internet and (optionally) the VPN? Do you have sufficient bandwidth off campus? If not, several commercial providers are offering limited free internet services; NU ITS is maintaining a Remote Work FAQ; see the heading "What if I don't have Internet at home?" for more info. Or consider alternative locations for working remotely.
  • Can you access essential programs, including your email, work calendar, Canvas, Firefly, word processing (like Microsoft Word), presentation software (like PowerPoint), spreadsheet software (like Excel), and any servers that you need? If not, check with your departmental or college IT support to see if this software can be installed on your machine.
  • Do you have a webcam and access to Zoom? If you don’t have a webcam, consider purchasing one or commit to audio-only communications and recording. Make sure to protect your Zoom sessions from “gatecrashing;” see the article “Keep Zoom meetings secure with these tips” on Nebraska Today.
  • Can you access any other program(s) that you use regularly?
  • Can you access your voicemail and receive messages? If your voicemail is not set up to forward to your email, consider changing your outgoing message to indicate that you may not be able to check your voicemail regularly and that email is a better way to reach you.
  • Do you have contact information for your department chair, technical assistance in your college, colleagues with similar teaching duties, and anyone that you supervise?

In addition, if you do not regularly teach in a remote format, you may need additional assistance. The Center for Transformative Teaching has put together together a list of resources. You can also reach out to the Instructional Design Specialist in your college.

Adjustments for Testing

Different strategies can be used to adjust exams to ensure students demonstrate learning. Some options include:

  • Replace final exams with projects or assignments.
  • Rework exams as take-home exams.
  • Reduce the point value of tests and exams and increase the value of assignments.
  • Randomize the order of exam questions and use question banks to make it more difficult for students to collaborate on individual-based assessments. The order of choices for answers and the order of questions can be randomized in Canvas. Also, question banks can be used to give a random subset of questions to each student.
  • Use algorithmic questions to test quantitative concepts. This approach changes the numbers to generate unique questions for each student. This feature is available in Canvas as formula quiz questions.
  • If you have students with SSD accommodations that allow for extra test time, make sure you ‘moderate’ the test in Canvas to provide this extra time.

Instructions on how to set up and manage tests in Canvas are available on the Center for Transformative Teaching website. The CTT is developing additional resources on this and other topics. Continue checking its Keep Teaching guide for updates. Also, contact your college's instructional designers for more specific support.

Video Services

University Communication is available to provide guidance on video recording of lectures in unique situations (e.g., if instructors need to show something more carefully than just starting a camera and talking, such as lab demonstrations). Instructors who are interested in learning more about this resource should reach out to David Fitzgibbon at and Mary Jane Bruce at

CTT Resources

The Center for Transformative Teaching has published a new Online Teaching Guide and continues to add information to its Keep Learning, Keep Teaching, Assessment Guide, and Rethinking Assessment of Hands-On Learning resources. Its instructional designers are available for individual consultations.

Services for Students with Disabilities

It’s important that instructors remember to be aware of and sensitive to the needs of students with disabilities. There will be an additional demand for some services, like closed captioning, and we need to make sure they are available for instructors with students who have a need for these accommodations. The Center for Transformative Teaching has accessibility resources and an accessibility checklist available on its website.

FERPA Compliance, Tools Supported by the University

It may be tempting to take advantage of offers from software vendors for free access to their tools. Please do not do this. Not only could you run into FERPA, ADA, and HIPAA compliance problems, but some of these seemingly generous offers are in fact phishing attempts. Use FERPA, ADA, and HIPAA compliant products that are officially supported by Information Technology Services. Individual colleges may also already be using additional products that are not on this list. Instructors should check with their college technology support staff for confirmation before downloading any software.

Digital Learning Center Closed, Scanning Services Unavailable

The Digital Learning Center is closed. Because of this closure, Scanning Services is unavailable. Academic Technologies and the Center for Transformative Teaching have put together resources to help instructors create remote assessments.

Respondus LockDown Browser provides a secure method to proctor online exams. See the UNL Canvas page on Respondus for more information.

Research, Travel, & Study Abroad

Research Planning and Continuity for Researchers and Research Groups

The needs of research groups for continuity of operations are many and varied. The Office of Research and Economic Development has created a COVID-19 Research Planning resource to assist researchers in operations and planning through this period.


  • Starting August 1, university-sponsored international travel will continue to be prohibited through the fall semester. Domestic travel is highly discouraged. However, for exceptional cases where university-sponsored domestic travel is absolutely necessary, two levels of authorization approval will be required prior to travel.
  • The university is following a one-person-per-vehicle rule for all university-sponsored travel (this includes all students, faculty and staff). Drivers of university vehicles are also required to disinfect vehicles before and after each use. Supplies are provided. Review the shared vehicle disinfectant procedure.
  • Anyone coming to campus from international locations should self-quarantine for 14 days per current CDC guidelines.
  • An International Travel Risk Committee will be developed and led by UNL’s director of global safety and security to review waiver requests when international travel begins to reopen. This review process will ensure appropriate, comprehensive vigilance while addressing the specific needs and risks of each educational, research or creative activity proposed.

CDC Travel Guidelines

Study Abroad

  • All Education Abroad programming through December 31, 2020 is cancelled. Decisions about Spring 2021 semester programming will be shared as soon as decisions are made.

Emails to Instructors / Researchers

This is a list of all messages sent specifically to instructors and researchers. Please see the homepage of this site for university-wide messages.

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Since the beginning of this public health crisis, we’ve been answering your questions about how UNL is responding and planning. We’ve compiled a list of answers to frequently asked questions on the FAQ / Contact Us page.