Instructors / Researchers

For the remainder of Spring Semester, all courses are being delivered utilizing remote access and will not meet in-person. 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, be doing so until further notice. This includes student workers.

Academics & Deadlines Remote Teaching Research, Travel & Study Abroad

Academics & Deadlines

May Graduation Celebration will be Online

UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green has announced in an email, "A Message to our Upcoming Graduates," that a spring graduation celebration will take place online. Scheduled for May 9, it will include undergraduate, masters, professional, doctoral and law students. No in-person commencement ceremonies will be held due to COVID-19. All May 2020 graduates have an open invitation to participate in and receive special recognition at any future University of Nebraska–Lincoln commencement ceremony. More information, including an FAQ, can be found on the UNL Commencement website.

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.

Pass/No Pass Extended to April 24

Because of the many implications that Pass/No Pass grading has for students, instructors may not request to move an entire class to a pass/no pass grading scheme. Instead, we have extended the deadline to allow individual undergraduates the opportunity to change their grade in one or more specific courses to pass/no pass. Undergraduates must consult with an advisor who can help them understand the consequences of doing so. The new deadline for students to exercise this option will be April 24, which is the same as the extended deadline for withdrawals.

Provide content asynchronously; offer opportunities to connect synchronously

As students have been encouraged to leave campus and return to their permanent residences, 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.

Suspension of In-Person Instruction

With the university’s move to remote learning, instructors may not meet with individual students or small groups of students for in-person instruction, including assessment activities like exams, labs, and performances. Any type of in-person instruction runs counter to university efforts to maintain social distancing and creates equity issues for students who have returned to their permanent residences as directed by the university.

Guidelines on Revised Syllabi Deadlines and Assignments

Your plans for the remainder of the semester should be clear to all students. The following information should now be provided in Canvas:

  • Revised syllabus – clearly marked and posted on Canvas, including a revision date anytime it is updated
  • Revised grade scale
  • Revised schedule
  • Revised assignments
  • Expectations for exams
  • Expectations for participation
  • Your contact information for students
  • How students can access help for your course

While further revisions to syllabi may be necessary, they should be rare and communicated clearly and immediately to students.

Suspension of Fifteenth Week “Dead Week” Policy

The Fifteenth Week Policy exists to assist students in planning their time as they complete their courses and prepare for finals. The primary tenets of the policy limit instructors’ ability to add assignments or exams during the final week of classes after the eighth week of the term.

Currently, instructors need to be able to make substantial revisions to their syllabi to accommodate the sudden shift to remote instruction and shortened schedule. As a result, and after consultation with the leadership of Association of Students of the University of Nebraska (ASUN), the rules concerning the Fifteenth Week policy are suspended for spring 2020.

However, instructors are expected to uphold the spirit of the policy as they develop creative new assessments to meet the demands of the shifted learning environment. The addition of new high-stakes assignments to the fifteenth week is strongly discouraged unless they replace high-stakes exams.

Final Exam Schedules

No adjustments are being made to the final exam schedule for spring 2020:

  • If you are giving synchronous final exams, use the scheduled time.
  • If you are giving a window during which students must take the final exam, that window should include your scheduled time.


As the university moves to 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. The university has extended the deadline to withdraw from a course to April 24.
  • 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.

Adjustments for ACE Outcomes

Instructors teaching ACE-certified courses may modify how they assess their ACE outcomes, including using a different assignment than originally planned. Instructors are encouraged to flexibly and creatively enable their students to meet learning goals for ACE outcomes.

Timelines for Degree Grades and Final Grades

These timelines remain unchanged for spring 2020.

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 regular communications you can incorporate into the rest of your semester 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 have been encouraged to return to their permanent residences and many will 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.

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

Checklist for Working Remotely

To ensure a successful completion to Spring Semester, 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, 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.

With the Digital Learning Commons unavailable for exams, Information Technology Services has obtained a license to use Respondus LockDown and Monitor for the remainder of the semester.

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 as soon as possible to David Fitzgibbon at and Mary Jane Bruce at

Teaching Buddy

Instructors are encouraged to identify a back-up or “teaching buddy” in case they are unable to complete their remote instruction to students.

CTT Resources

The Center for Transformative Teaching continues to add information to its Keep Teaching resources and has added an Assessment Guide for instructors. It also has a new resource for rethinking the assessment of hands-on learning, like labs, capstone experiences, and studio and performance courses.

The center has also added to its Teaching at UNL course in Canvas to include discussions on how instructors will be teaching their in-person courses remotely.

Services for Students with Disabilities

In the rush to move to remote access instruction, 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

As you work to adjust to remote teaching, 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

As students have been encouraged to leave campus and return to their permanent residences, the Digital Learning Center is closed for the rest of spring semester. Instructors with exam requests on file through May 8 have been contacted directly about the change. Because of this closure, Scanning Services will also be unavailable for the rest of the term. Academic Technologies and the Center for Transformative Teaching have put together resources to help instructors create remote assessments.

Reduced Hours and Closures for Libraries

The University Libraries, with the exception of the Adele Coryell Hall Learning Commons, have closed. The learning commons, located on the first floor of Love Library North, will be accessible to anyone with a valid NCard from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Details are available on the libraries COVID-19 website.

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.


All non-essential university-related international and domestic travel for students, faculty and staff is suspended until the end of the semester.

  • This includes new travel as well as any currently booked trips.
  • If you are currently on travel, we encourage you to return as soon as possible.
  • This does not include travel within the state of Nebraska.
  • Limited exceptions can be provided by an academic dean or vice chancellor. A process and guidelines for requesting these exceptions will be forthcoming.
  • These restrictions are in place regardless of funding source.
  • The  NU  system has outlined procedures for employee travel arrangement cancellations.  Learn more here.

We strongly encourage students, faculty and staff to consider whether personal travel is essential. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly both internationally and domestically; limitations and bans can be put into effect with little or no warning. If you become ill, you run the risk of not being able to return or infecting others upon your return.

Upon completion of any travel – faculty, staff and students may be required to self-quarantine for a period of up to 14 days based on current recommendations from the CDC and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. This includes students, faculty and staff returning from domestic locations with widespread sustained transmission.

Study Abroad

All university-sponsored summer study abroad programs scheduled for departure on or before June 30 are canceled.

  • Those with scheduled departure dates on July 1 or later will be evaluated at a later date, and a decision about whether to proceed will be made as soon as possible.
  • Based on the updated CDC travel guidance placing all of Europe into Level 3 and the State Department’s new worldwide Global Health Advisory at Level 3, all UNL students studying abroad are required to return to the U.S. and we are working with them to do so.

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.