FAQ: In-person classroom teaching for Spring 2021

PPE Questions

Your school will provide your PPE. There should be plenty available, as PPE supplies were ordered earlier in the summer when Emory had anticipated more in-person classes.

We believe so, although again this is handled at the school level. As per the last question, there should be enough available, as PPE supplies were ordered earlier in the summer when Emory had anticipated more in-person classes.

Yes, if the room is large enough for you to maintain physical distance for the extra person from both you and the students. They should follow the appropriate PPE two-factor protection:

  • Face covering + six feet of distance
  • Face shield + eight feet or more of distance, if students need to be able to see their face
  • Face shield + face covering, if they need to approach the students

In many classrooms, you (the primary instructor) may be wearing a face shield and teaching from behind an acrylic barrier. In general, there is not enough space behind the acrylic barrier for two instructors.

True, face shields are not a one-to-one replacement for face coverings. Emory’s Environmental Health and Safety Office recommends that face coverings + six feet of distance is the safest solution. If you are using a face shield, then you should increase physical distance to at least eight feet or use the face shield behind an acrylic barrier. In other words, we are not recommending a one-to-one replacement for face covering, but rather a modified solution that uses the face shield in a safer manner consistent with Emory’s two factors of protection model. That being said, if you are concerned that face shields are unsafe, you are welcome to use a face covering as long as you are consistent with Emory’s minimal standard of two factors of protection:

  • Face shield + acrylic barrier or
  • Face shield + at least 8 feet or
  • Face covering + 6 feet or
  • Face covering + face shield: can be used to approach students for short one-on-one conversations

All of these are acceptable according to Emory’s Environmental Health and Safety Office. This has been the guidance as of August 2020 and has not changed as of February 2021. The Environmental Health and Safety Office provides more detailed guidelines for safety in classrooms and lecture halls on their website (requires Emory login).

This is for accessibility reasons. Students who are hard of hearing or students who are non-native English speakers will benefit by seeing your face. An article from 1954 has some simple and clear research: seeing someone’s mouth as they are speaking is the equivalent of 6 dB extra audio volume, a perceptible difference. (It’s roughly the difference in volume between the sound level of light rainfall and a normal conversation.)

These are an interesting solution; unfortunately Emory has not been able to procure these, but you may have been able to acquire these on your own. One concern is that these masks sometimes fog up easily and/or start collecting condensation, which can be unpleasant. That said, if you have a transparent face covering and wish to use it, and if it’s as safe as a conventional cloth face covering, then you are welcome to use the transparent face covering.

Student Logistics Questions

You should encourage students to try to maintain physical distance (6 feet or more) as they enter the classroom, and to fill in farthest from the door so that students entering later don’t have to go past the students who arrived earlier.

View Video Illustration of Ideas

However, note that it’s OK for people to be closer than six feet for a short moment if they are all wearing facial coverings, so you don’t need to carefully monitor students as they enter the classroom. Rather, the point is to encourage the students to use common sense.

The above video is for you, the instructor. You can send this video to your students.


You should dismiss the students one row at a time, so that they can maintain six feet of distance as they leave the room. Again, it’s OK if this is a bit imperfect, the main point is for students to keep their masks on and use common sense. There is a longer period of time between classes precisely so that students don’t need to rush out the door and create a traffic jam.

Please gently urge the students to maintain more distance. Reminding others of the Community Compact is part of all of our responsibility. Our experience from the fall semester is that generally students are willing to comply with the Community Compact but can use these reminders at times.

As is true pre-pandemic, you have a responsibility to protect the health of all students and maintain decorum in the classroom. Accordingly, you have and should exercise authority to ask someone to leave the classroom should they refuse to wear a facial covering or practice physical distancing, or if they engage in conduct that is inappropriate for the class. These would be considered violations of the student conduct code, and as such will be handled by your school. You should consult with your school for more specific guidance.

Any student, faculty, or staff member who witnesses a student violating the Compact can submit a referral form anytime ​to the Emory Compact Response Team (ECRT). However, as our goal is to achieve compliance, we are utilizing a Public Health framework to educate our community and change norms. Our goal is for every member of our community to be “responsible” for the Compact and Public Health research demonstrates the best way to achieve compliance is for all community members to see following Compact as their responsibility.  

The first step is for community members (students, faculty, staff) who “see” behaviors to address them in a kind and compassionate way. If behavior continues, for example in a class environment, lab, or residence hall, community members should feel comfortable submitting a report. Referrals to ECRT are most helpful when they include student’s name and specific concern. Once a report is received it is reviewed by ​the Office of Student Conduct and the student receives an email requesting a meeting with an ECRT member. As ​the goal is to achieve compliance the first meetings are approached from an educational perspective ​by review​ing Compact expectations and ​determining outcomes including a warning ​and/or educational module. If ECRT receives additional reports about a student after the initial meeting occurs, or the behavior is egregious, then the Conduct process within the student’s school may be initiated.

Sanctions for non-adherence to the Emory Compact include an educational module, housing or disciplinary probation, removal from in person courses and experiences, housing privilege revocation, and suspension. Decisions on sanctions are made based on the severity of the incident and prior Compact and Student Conduct history.

Further discussion of the instructor role in the Campus Compact can be found at this link.

It is perfectly fine for you to have a policy of no visitors allowed, especially because of seating restrictions in many rooms. You will need to check to see if you have any extra seats (physically distanced) beyond your enrollment capacity. If you do have extra seats, you may allow this if you wish, but remember it may be difficult to manage safe entrance and exit with extra students. You may tell all students that you are not allowing visitors because of safety protocols. The bottom line is to be mindful of your room capacity and the need for students to wear masks and be at least six feet apart during the class period.

Cautiously, being mindful of the safety considerations: in other words, the need to stay six feet apart. Yes, if a student needs to go to the bathroom, then it’s OK if they need to quickly pass by other students closer than six feet to get out of the classroom. Apart from bathroom needs, though, it is safest if everybody stays put to the extent possible.

In general, no, they need to keep their face coverings on and that precludes eating and drinking. It’s also not great if they’re fiddling with their coverings to try to get a straw into their mouth. However, some students need to eat or drink for medical reasons (for example, diabetes) so you should be prepared to discuss exceptions to this rule with students, without necessarily requiring them to disclose personal details.

No, they need to keep their face covering on at all times. Yes, there are concerns that it will be hard to understand the students when they are wearing masks; fortunately this did not seem to be a big problem for instructors teaching in-person in Fall 2020.

Yes, the airflow has been increased to the maximum level in buildings. Also, the ventilation system has been adjusted to minimize the amount of recirculated air and maximize the fresh air intake. Additionally, UV lighting has been installed to help further diminish the virus levels in the air. The in-person classes are being held in more modern buildings for this very reason, that they have the best ventilation systems. Finally, recall also that the classrooms will be at about 25% to 35% of their normal occupancy. The ventilation systems are all designed to handle the buildings at full occupancy, so this is yet an extra factor improving the air flow situation.

The high-touch surfaces will be cleaned. Also, each room will have hand sanitizer and paper towels available so that instructors and students can do any additional cleaning they may wish to do – although this is more to reassure everybody; instructors and students are not responsible for classroom cleaning. (They are responsible for their PPE and physical distancing.)

Based on our classroom testing this summer, even with PPE and social distancing, being physically present with others in these classroom spaces is much more effective than a Zoom meeting.

Yes, the safety/PPE requirements have not changed from the fall. Emory’s Environmental Health and Safety Office confirms that no changes are needed. In particular, we are encouraged that no cases of COVID-19 transmission were seen in Emory’s classrooms during Fall 2020. Keep following the PPE guidelines!

Classroom Recording Questions

This is for inclusivity: we want to make sure that students who are alone in quarantine/isolation aren’t left out. We want to help them keep up with their education as best as possible, understanding that a recording is not an ideal substitute. We recommend every class be recorded for several reasons. First, if a student isn’t there at the start of the class, will you know if the student is just running late, or if they have been asked to quarantine and you haven’t been informed yet of that decision? Second, if you only record a class if a student is absent for reasons related to the pandemic, this puts the student in a position where they might feel that they have to disclose more information about their personal circumstances than they might be comfortable sharing. Third, recording all sessions gets you in the habit, and makes it less likely you’d forget to record than if you are only recording occasionally. Fourth, students can benefit from that class recording even if they are present in the classroom; that’s been true pre-pandemic and is still true now.

Keep in mind the recording does not have to be perfect; the goal is just to be adequate, so that a student who misses class for a pandemic-related reason has some ability to keep up. Or if a student is sitting at home and wondering if their symptoms are serious enough to skip class, we want them to err on the side of caution; knowing that the class is recorded will help them with that decision.

Yes, for the reasons given in the previous answer.

No. In this situation, we recommend you get a student note-taker and have the notes available to students who need them.

This is at your discretion: absent students may still find it valuable to hear your voice, even if not able to hear the other students. That being said, this is a situation where you’d want a student note-taker.

This is a constructive suggestion and you are welcome to make your notes available. You may still want to consider whether students would like a recording as well – if, for example, you make thoughtful off-the-cuff remarks that aren’t in your notes.

The CFDE recommends that all recordings be made available to your full class via Canvas, which ensures that they all have access but that nobody outside the class gets that access. Your specific school may have a policy about whether this is required or whether you can just give the recording to students upon their request. If you decide the recordings are available upon request only, please be thoughtful and respect the requests without demanding students explain their particular need.

Maybe, with caution. If the recording is only of yourself, then you can use the recording for whatever purpose you like. For example, many instructors may be recording asynchronous lectures this semester, and you can use those recordings for future semesters. However, if any students appear in your recording (audio or video) then you cannot reuse the recording for privacy reasons. This is related to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) law.

Yes, that would be a FERPA violation! We recommend using this syllabus language, which has been approved by Emory’s Office of General Counsel. This language makes it clear to students that they cannot share recordings with anybody else.

We recommend that you record both audio and video: for the video, what we’re recommending is typically that you record what you are writing. In some classrooms, you can use a document camera to project what you’re writing on a screen, and simultaneously record that using Zoom.

See a Video Description of this Procedure

In other cases, you may wish to use an iPad to project what you’re writing; you can have your iPad join a Zoom session, and screen-share the iPad to use Zoom to do the recording in a similar way as the document camera method. In yet other cases, your classroom may be outfitted with Echo360 or Panopto which can record what you write on the board. If your classroom style does not involve writing on the board, then you would be welcome to aim a video camera at yourself if that is straightforward to do. This could involve using your iPad or rotating the document camera to point at your face.

You should contact your local school IT support, who are prepared to help you. Some of this technology is a bit new – but has been purchased precisely because it is easy to use and does not require extensive training. In the end, you should be able to be focused on your teaching and not have to be focused on recording. This is one reason we recommend using Zoom to do the recording, because it’s a tool we all understand fairly well. The classrooms already have the microphones, and those should work without you needing to adjust them.

Probably not, but in the end, it’s up to you. We are not recommending that you try to manage in-person and remote students simultaneously. The focus is on generating a recording that is provided later, asynchronously, to students who need it. But it is up to you. We know that in the Goizueta Business School some instructors will be teaching both in-person and remote students, but in general they have received special training for this situation.

In-person teaching methods

We tested this in the summer. If students form pairs to talk, the classroom gets quite loud, as everybody must speak louder to talk to someone who is six feet away. This made it hard to hear for some of our testers; the conclusion was that this only worked when the two people in the pair had loud voices, which of course was part of the problem for the others in the room! We came up with several possible solutions:

  • Split the class into half. Half the class does an activity involving talking to each other, the other half does something that can be done quietly. Then swap for the next activity.
  • In some buildings, there may be empty classrooms nearby. A class could conceivably divide in half and make use of a nearby classroom, so that everybody could be talking without having the volume be overwhelming. Consult with your school to see if this option is a possibility for you.
  • Have students bring laptops. They can then edit a Google document simultaneously in small groups, and those groups don’t even have to be physically next to each other in the classroom. This would allow them to work together without needing to talk. This obviously requires that students own and remember to bring laptops. Emory has worked out a program by which students can lease laptops if they don’t own one, with a goal toward accessibility and inclusion. However, your mileage may vary as far as students remembering to bring laptops.
  • Another laptop-based idea is to set up a Zoom session in the classroom with breakout groups and have all the students wearing headsets for their communication. While this raises the question, “why not just have my whole class online?” our group of testers felt that there was still a value of being physically present, and also we assume that the Zoom-based activity would not occupy the full class time. For example, students might discuss in small groups via Zoom but then report out to the whole class one at a time after the Zoom discussion is concluded.
    • Alternately, students could use the chat function of Zoom, which still requires laptops but doesn’t require headsets.
  • Students could be provided with small whiteboards, to share their work visually in pairs. If you’re interested in this, please contact your school to see if they can help you purchase the necessary whiteboards.
  • Small group activities could be done via Canvas before class, and then build on those via a whole-class discussion when everybody is in the classroom.

Generally, no. First, this frustrates the ability to record (although, of course, if you’re in a classroom where the recording technology is precisely meant to record the board work, then you should use the board!). Second, this may require you to be closer to the students than is safe; this depends on the PPE you use, as per advice in the first section of this FAQ. In general, we can’t give a universal answer on whiteboard / blackboard usage, so use your common sense and keep in mind these two considerations (recording and safety).

Yes, a microphone should be provided for your use, but the details may vary depending on which school you are in and your specific classroom, so we can’t provide any specific details in this FAQ.

This requires a bit more work than usual, as Emory’s Department of Accessibility Services does not have their in-person testing space during the pandemic for safety reasons.

One option is to use take-home exams that students can do on their own time; this should work for most students.

Otherwise, you may need to arrange your own testing space for students who need to take the exam separately. There should be spaces available (after all, the campus is at low density!) and it is best to contact the administration in your particular school to find a room you can use.

As always, the best and most up-to-date advice will be at Emory’s Department of Accessibility Services website.

You should contact your school to find out how to do this.

We recommend as much as possible having students hand in assignments electronically this semester, via Canvas. If you need an in-person quiz or test that needs to be on paper, consider having students deposit that paper in a box and then letting those papers sit for a few hours before you handle them. That is, the box could be near the exit of the room, and students put their paper in the box when they leave the class. If you need to do that quiz at the start of class when students aren’t exiting, you could put on your face shield and face covering and walk around the room with the box, letting students deposit their exam in the box. While these answers don’t cover every situation, hopefully this gives you ideas how to make paper work in a classroom. All this being said, the research on transmission presently appears to suggest that fomites (surfaces) are less of a concern than time spent in a shared air space with a person who is ill.

They can take a turn behind the acrylic barrier and use the podium computer or their laptop. In that case, the instructor would follow the PPE guidelines for students (face covering, six feet of distance) or using a face covering + face shield. There may be enough face shields for students to follow the instructor protocol of using a face shield; you’d need to check with your school as to whether face shields are available for this purpose.

Other questions

We strongly recommend doing these via Zoom, just to make it easy. You can meet with students one-on-one in your office, assuming that the student can stay at least six feet away from you – which should be possible in most faculty offices, but which may be difficult for some graduate student teaching assistants, depending on their personal office space. There may also be some unused classroom spaces and/or outdoor spaces that can be reserved for office hours. Consult with your school to learn more about reserving those spaces.

Share This Story