Faculty Guidance for Academic Continuity, Spring 2021

This “living document” was written by the Office of the Provost and will be kept updated during the 2020-21 academic year. Last update: February 8, 2021

University Safety Policies

Everyone must practice the 3 Ws:

  • Wear a facial covering on campus
  • Watch distance — be 6 feet apart
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer frequently

Everybody is required to wear a facial covering and maintain six feet of distance anywhere on campus, even outdoors. Exceptions are when eating, and when instructors are alone in their personal office. (Eating should be done in an approved indoor Dining Services location, or outside and with ten feet of distance, or alone in a personal office.)

  • If students cannot wear a facial covering, then they will need to request all online courses. Such students must contact their relevant school before classes start to organize their schedules accordingly.

When teaching, instructors must follow the two-factor PPE protocol. Consensus guidance from CDC and Emory EHSO is to have two layers of protection. In most situations this can be accomplished by a cloth face cover and distance (i.e., face mask + 6 feet of distance). Exception: Instructors can use a face shield without a face covering when teaching behind an acrylic barrier or when there is at least 8 feet of distance between themselves and their students (see below).

No eating or drinking are permitted in the classroom.

Principles which instructors are expected to follow, irrespective of school

Instructors are the leaders in the classroom.

  • They must create a climate in which everyone realizes that they need to look after one another by abiding by Emory’s COVID public health standards.
  • They have the authority to ask someone to leave the classroom should they refuse to wear a facial covering and practice physical distancing.

Syllabi must contain

  • Explicit statement about flexibility regarding attendance
  • Clear language about how to receive regular accommodations; see detailed advice below.

Recording of classes is mandatory. See below for more details.

Office hours

Should be on Zoom unless an office is clearly big enough to ensure faculty and student compliance with Covid protocols (six feet or more of physical distance with mask) can be practiced, or accommodations can be made to meet outside in the open air practicing all regular preventive behaviors.

Teaching Safety Protocols (PPE will be provided by Emory)

  • 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

Best practices for providing academic support for a student in isolation or quarantine

Last revised September 18, 2020

If a student tells you that they have been diagnosed with Covid19 or has been asked to go into quarantine:

  1. Tell them that if they haven’t done so already, they must notify Emory Student Health through the Student Health Portal.

  2. Please also fill in the Student of Concern Form and check Yes to the option that says
  • Students in Isolation/Quarantine

    Selecting this option confirms that a student is in isolation or quarantine. The appropriate school liaisons will be contacted and will follow up with the student directly.

    This will send information directly to the relevant academic support office.

Remind students that their health should be a priority and/or feel free to share the CDC Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education.

Instructor’s Authority and Leadership

Faculty will be expected to demonstrate leadership in the classroom. They will always wear facial coverings on campus and practice physical distancing. The only time they may take off their facial covering is when alone in their offices; to teach behind a face shield and either an acrylic screen or at least 8 feet of distance (where feasible); or when eating (in accordance with guidelines given elsewhere in this document).

Faculty have the authority to ask a student to leave the classroom if the student is not practicing physical distancing or wearing a facial covering. See the Campus Compact for reference. Instructors should refer to their school guidelines for detailed information as to how the school is handling PPE-related conduct problems.

If a student in your in-person class is diagnosed with COVID-19

Modeling appropriate, evidence-based behaviors will help relieve student anxiety. Instructors should include a syllabus statement about what a student should do if they suspect they are sick; see the specific suggestion below. While this information is available if a student searches for it, it is helpful to include this reminder anywhere and everywhere we can.

Suggestions related to pandemic flaring up

It is more important than ever that instructors be responsive to students’ emails (or some well-defined method of contacting them), and, if the pandemic flares up mid-semester, it is critical the instructor remains accessible. Instructors should aim to respond to emails within at least 48 hours, and ideally at least acknowledge receipt of the email within 24 hours during the weekdays. This point is specifically related to student concerns from Spring 2020 about lack of response from faculty.

Instructors should design their course to be flexible should the students be required to leave campus mid-semester. Nonetheless, if the syllabus needs to be modified mid-semester due to severely changing circumstances, instructors should aim to make those modifications quickly, maintain approximately the same amount of work, and then keep the syllabus stable for the remainder of the semester.


Students in general are feeling stressed. Instructors should start by lending a sympathetic ear, to the extent that students reach out to them. Faculty and teaching assistants listening and being empathetic is quite often an important first step for students who are in challenging situations. Some students are dealing with mental health issues, and these issues may be exacerbated by the pandemic situation -- but this is confidential information, you cannot ask about these conditions.

If you have a concern about a student, you can refer them to:

Graduate student instructors who are feeling stressed should reach out to the Counseling Center also.

Faculty are also strained by the pandemic. The Faculty Staff Assistance Program provides free counselling for faculty and their families.


In the context of a pandemic, students do not have equal opportunity to do their coursework due to circumstances beyond their control. Emory is working to provide as much equity in the student experience as possible but nonetheless, whether living on or off campus, students will face a variety of situations.

  • Some students can form socially distanced study groups on campus, and some are prevented by their circumstances from studying with their peers.
  • Some students may be in different time zones, due to visa restrictions or pandemic conditions in their home country.
  • Some students will be safe and comfortable.
  • Some will have to work essential jobs even if the pandemic worsens. Some will be taking care of family members.
  • Some have unreliable or no internet connection.

We want these students to feel seen, even if they cannot be present in the classroom. We suggest a statement on your syllabus such as “Some students in this class may need to be off-campus for some or all of the semester. My goal is for all students to receive a high-quality experience to the extent possible.”

While faculty need to be mindful of the variety of student situations, they must avoid asking students specifically to disclose these details. You can find ways to support students without needing to know private details, as discussed in the next sections.

Attendance policies

In the context of COVID, it is important that we take attendance so that we can have a record of whether a student is attending class. This will help us support students across the different systems of the university.

It is also important that we provide flexible attendance policies since if a student gets sick or is asked to quarantine, we do not want the student to be even more stressed about having to miss class. Faculty with attendance policies on their syllabus as part of the grade should include an explicit statement about how they will relax this policy for students who are required to isolate or to quarantine.

It is good practice is to spell out this out on the syllabus, so that all students know where the instructor stands and have an equal ability to take advantage of the flexibility as needed. Do not assume students know that they can ask for your flexibility; rather indicate in a transparent fashion that you will be flexible and how students can approach you to discuss their individual circumstances. See sample language below.

Suggestions for instructor flexibility

With most students being off campus, it is important for instructors to be flexible with students. Be mindful to ensure consistency across different classes and with all students. Instructors also may wish to keep a running list of the requests that they have received and how they have handled each of these. This record-keeping may be helpful in maintaining consistency, particularly for large classes where there could be several similar requests across the semester.

A good practice is to consult with another faculty member to cross-check your decisions. For schools in which there is a department chair or Director of Undergraduate/Graduate Studies, these would be excellent people to help ensure consistency of decisions across classes.

We cannot anticipate every situation that might arise, nor do we want to be too prescriptive in how instructors should respond to situations. Nonetheless, here are representative situations and suggestions for how instructors might respond.

  • Student claims internet instability while taking an online exam. Advice: Try to avoid synchronous online exams, especially if some students are off campus. Instead, could instruct students to take no more than 60 minutes for the exam, at some point within a specific 24-hour period, allowing the student to find the best time. In general, for students logging in from off campus, we believe it is likelier than not that a claim of internet instability is true.
  • Students do not have a webcam which makes proctoring a remote exam difficult. Advice: Spell this out in the syllabus if you expect remote exams with proctoring are a possibility. Help connect students with campus resources to get them webcams early in the semester.
  • In general, for students working remotely, the more asynchronous activities can be, the more flexibly the students can interact with the course. That being said, students appreciate some synchronous connection to instructors, for example at minimum having some office hours via Zoom. (This also somewhat alleviates the email response time problem.) We note that some Emory schools may be recommending at least one synchronous session each week for online courses; this is reasonable.

Counterexamples: In some cases, student requests should probably not be granted.

  • Student requests rescheduling their class participation (exam or attendance) so they can participate in an extracurricular activity. This is at the discretion of the instructor, but we believe students should schedule their other activities around their course schedule. While student athletes normally request and receive exceptions, due to the pandemic this is a moot point for Fall 2020.
  • Student requests a flexible deadline for a final exam or final project, so that they would turn it in after the grades are due. This requires that the student take an incomplete for the class, and instructors should follow their normal school policy in this situation.
  • Student falls extremely ill for a major portion of the semester. In such cases, normally they take a medical withdrawal or incompletes in all of their classes. These serious situations are handled by the deans in consultation with the instructors.



If a student has a diagnosed condition of any sort that requires accommodations, they should always be registered with the Department of Accessibility Services (DAS), who will make recommendations directly to you. You should encourage students to register as accommodations cannot be done retroactively.


It is mandatory that instructors provide a seamless way in obtaining notes for students with registered accommodations. If notetaking is arranged with DAS, they are only responsible for providing notes to registered students. Each academic program will need to determine how notetaking would be best administered within their unit — this could be arranged either by the program or by the instructor. If academic programs or faculty manage notetaking for their classrooms, they can disseminate any classroom materials in any way they prefer — we suggest through posting on Canvas. Incorporating these practices will be beneficial for all students.


Faculty should only post media (both internal and external) that is captioned or transcribed.

Class Recordings

While we have considered faculty perspectives that favor alternate approaches, all class sessions must be recorded. Recording via Zoom saved to the cloud is recommended, as this automatically generates a transcript, but Echo 360 and Panopto are also options if your classroom is equipped. Recordings should be made available to the class via Canvas, and must not be publicly available due to legal issues related to student privacy. Exceptions to this recording policy should be discussed with your dean (for example, if class discussions cover particularly sensitive topics).

Suggested Syllabus Language

Teaching and Learning during the Pandemic

I want our classroom community to thrive no matter the classroom delivery method or your individual methods of participating in class. I cannot guarantee an identical experience for students who cannot be physically in the classroom or an experience that is identical to pre-pandemic semesters, but my goal is to treat all students equitably and to ensure grading is clear, consistent, and fair for all of you.

[Instructor to edit this paragraph to be relevant for the desired instructional method.] This semester is unusual in that there is a pandemic. This class is being remotely taught / This class has remotely taught components / This class may have to shift from in-person to remotely taught at some point this semester [edit as relevant]. Additionally, some students in this class may need to be off campus for some portion of the semester. My goal is for all students to receive a high-quality experience to the extent possible. To that end, during the summer I participated in Emory University’s workshops on online teaching methods, and I am prepared to teach this class remotely as needed.

Due to the unusual nature of the semester, communication is important. I commit to responding to emails within 48 hours of receipt, and my intention to respond faster than that most of the time. I will likely be slower on weekends. Likewise, if your situation changes regarding health, housing, or in any other regard with respect to your ability to participate in the class, please contact the appropriate Emory student support organization first and then me as soon as feasible. It is easier for me to address your needs if I know about them as soon as they arise. This does not mean I can successfully respond to every request for consideration, but I emphasize that my goal is to treat you all equitably and do what I can to help you succeed in this course.

Attendance Policies

This semester due to the pandemic, some students might be sick or will need to go into isolation or quarantine. If you are sick, understand that I will be flexible about attendance. Please make sure to email me so that we can discuss your individual circumstances. For students in quarantine who are well, we have provided ways that you can keep up with your schoolwork, whether our class is delivered online or in person. Please also contact me via email if you are in quarantine.

Accessibility and Accommodations

As the instructor of this course I endeavor to provide an inclusive learning environment. I want every student to succeed. The Department of Accessibility Services (DAS) works with students who have disabilities to provide reasonable accommodations. It is your responsibility to request accommodations. In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must register with the DAS. Accommodations cannot be retroactively applied so you need to contact DAS as early as possible and contact me as early as possible in the semester to discuss the plan for implementation of your accommodations.

For additional information about accessibility and accommodations, please contact the Department of Accessibility Services at (404) 727-9877 or accessibility@emory.edu.

Health Considerations

At the very first sign of not feeling well, stay at home and reach out for a health consultation. Please consult the campus FAQ for how to get the health consultation. As you know, Emory does contact tracing if someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19. A close contact is defined as someone you spend more than 15 minutes with, at a distance less than 6 feet, not wearing facial coverings. This typically means your roommates, for example. However, your classmates are not close contacts as long as we are following the personal protective equipment protocols in the classroom: wearing facial coverings, staying six feet apart. (As your instructor, I may be following different PPE guidelines which have been judged to be equally safe by Emory’s Environmental Health and Safety Office [describe according to your classroom: for example, face shield + acrylic barrier]. Due to the necessity of keeping your PPE on, eating and drinking is strictly forbidden in the classroom.

Class session recording

Our class sessions on Zoom / our in-person class sessions will all be audio visually recorded for students in the class to refer back to the information, and for enrolled students who are unable to attend live.

Lectures and other classroom presentations presented through video conferencing and other materials posted on Canvas are for the sole purpose of educating the students enrolled in the course. The release of such information (including but not limited to directly sharing, screen capturing, or recording content) is strictly prohibited, unless the instructor states otherwise. Doing so without the permission of the instructor will be considered an Honor Code violation and may also be a violation of other state and federal laws, such as the Copyright Act.

Students who participate with their camera engaged or utilize a profile image are agreeing to have their video or image recorded. If you are unwilling to consent to have your profile or video image recorded, be sure to keep your camera off and do not use a profile image.

Likewise, students who un-mute during class and participate orally are agreeing to have their voices recorded. If you are not willing to consent to have your voice recorded during class, you will need to keep your mute button activated and communicate exclusively using the "chat" feature, which allows students to type questions and comments live.

Please read the Rules of Zoom Engagement for further advice on participating in our Zoom class sessions.

Stress Management and Mental Health

As a student, you may find that personal and academic stressors in your life, including those related to remote study, COVID-19, economic instability, and/or racial injustice, are creating barriers to learning this semester. If you are struggling with concentration, motivation, or emotional concerns that feel overwhelming and are impacting your daily functioning, please know that there are university resources available to support you. More information on these resources is available here:

Resources to support teaching

Class health and safety procedures

Please see the Health and Safety Plan for details.

Classroom logistics

Conventional classroom teaching protocol

  • Instructor enters classroom wearing a cloth face covering and goes to the “teaching zone.
  • The “teaching zone” will be clearly marked with colored tape and may vary based on whether the room is arranged in a discussion or grid configuration.
Classroom set up in a grid configuration

Figure 1: Grid Configuration

Classroom set up in a discussion configuration

Figure 2: Discussion Configuration

  • The instructor then puts on their personal face shield and removes their cloth face covering for teaching.
  • After class, the instructor puts their cloth face covering back on, removes their face shield, and can then talk briefly with students one-on-one, as needed.

Students must wear facial coverings at all times when in the classroom as per Emory policy.

Important note about face shields and two-factor protection: We realize our advice on face shields appears to contrast with the CDC guidance. The CDC recommends that everybody use face coverings rather than a face shield. To be clear, Emory’s Environmental Health and Safety Office recommends two factors of protection: both a face covering and six feet of distance, which is more conservative than the CDC guidelines. A face shield alone does not provide adequate protection. When only a face shield is in use it is recommended that the instructor remain at least 8 feet away from the audience. If it is not possible to maintain at least 8 feet of distance, the classroom has been equipped with a tall acrylic barrier to serve as a second layer of protection. The goal is to prevent aerosol droplet transmission, which the acrylic barrier does even more effectively than a cloth face mask. And in all of these situations, the face shield is one factor of protection, used along with a second factor of protection.

The benefit of a face shield, as compared to a cloth face covering, is that the students can see the instructor’s face. This is good for speech comprehension, especially for students who are hard of hearing or who are non-native English speakers. This also adds a human touch to the classroom. That being said, if you are uncomfortable wearing a face shield and prefer to stick with a cloth face covering, we recommend you do what feels safe for you – as long as it at least meets the Emory minimum requirements of two factors of protection. We’re aware of the existence of transparent face coverings, and while Emory has not yet been able to procure these, you are welcome to use one if you have it and if it is otherwise blocking aerosol transmission similar to a standard cloth face covering.

Laboratory / performance classroom teaching protocol

This varies from class to class. If you need a specific PPE/safety solution for your classroom, please consult with Emory’s Environmental Health & Safety Office (EHSO).

Outdoor Campus Experience

Extensive work has been done by Campus Services regarding possible on-campus tent locations and the deployment of existing or additional outdoor furniture. Information will be forthcoming on how to use these spaces. The intention is to use these outdoor spaces for small meetings and small events; these are not for classroom instruction. Note that being outdoors is helpful for safety purposes but does not remove the requirements for facial covering and at least six feet of distance.

Space for small meetings, student groups, etc

Recent discussions have raised awareness of potential needs for reservable classroom space for student groups and faculty needs. For example, an in-person class may wish to split into two nearby classrooms for some small group activities; or an online course may wish to have an optional on-campus gathering. Emory is working on options for identifying and administering possible additional space, likely reservable through the usual 25Live room reservation system.