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Faculty information for fall 2020 classes

Faculty Information on updates to classroom policies for hybrid and face-to-face courses for fall 2020. -July 23, 2020

First I owe a big thank you to the chairs and deans and the registrar’s office for all the work you have done in adjusting our fall schedule into multiple modalities this summer. Thank you also to Andrea in scheduling, Rico and the seat count crew, and the many faculty and secretaries who have kept up with changes as they happened. This has been a herculean task that has involved much of the campus, directly or indirectly. We have done our best to accommodate faculty requests and account for campus health and safety needs. A small percentage of those of you who requested face-to-face could only be accommodated in hybrid form, but other than that all faculty requests have been honored. For those of you teaching in a hybrid mode, we did our best to provide a room in which you can divide the class into cohorts that can meet weekly. I’d like to remind all faculty of our remote-ready guidelines; necessary because we need to discourage sick students to stay away from face-to-face class, and to be ready for the unpredictability of fall 2020.

This will be a semester unlike any we have experienced; thank you to all faculty for all you are doing to create the best possible learning environment for our students, while protecting the health and safety of you and your family, our students, and the entire community. I have been so impressed with the participation and spirit of everyone participating in PLT workshops that unpacked our spring experience and planned for the continuing challenges of this fall. This page presents alterations to our normal classroom policies due to the COVID-19 health crisis in one place

Health and Safety 

My terrific colleague, Rico Johnson, heads the seat count crew, which has visited every classroom to determine the safe number that can be in any potential classroom under low density conditions. All those of you teaching face-to-face or hybrid, or planning any on campus meetings, can find the designated low density capacity of your rooms. The next phase of their work involves marking ingress and egress doors, seat and/or floor marking for usable seats, adding cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer, determining classroom plexiglass shield needs, and more. We will ask faculty to clean your own teaching space when you enter your room, with supplies provided by the college. 

You are strongly encouraged to visit your new room, compare what you need for technology to the list provided by Laurie Fox and try out any setup that is new to you, walk through how new health and safety protocols will work for your class, consider how the new space and distancing protocols will affect your pedagogy, and reach out if there are needs you can anticipate. 

Governor’s restriction of public gatherings to 50

As of July, the governor is maintaining a cap of 50 on all public gatherings. Faculty who requested to teach face-to-face classes that enroll more than forty-nine students must teach in hybrid format, with cohorts of fifty or fewer, until Governor Cuomo lifts the limit. We have done our best to provide a space large enough to accommodate the full class, in hopes the limit on gatherings will be raised. Should the governor make any other revisions, like lowering the size of public gatherings, we will need to reduce the size of hybrid cohorts or face-to-face class meetings to comply.

Information for hybrid instructors on cohorts and communication

Cohorts and room capacity

It is vitally important that hybrid courses follow low density room capacities.  Before the semester begins, please be sure to:

Cross check your class enrollments and room assignments (in KnightWeb) against the low density capacities of assigned classrooms. Determine how you want to rotate students through your classroom to ensure that the low density capacity is not exceeded. There are several options, including meeting cohorts on alternate days or splitting each instructional session and meeting one cohort in each half.  For example, in a 4-credit course scheduled to meet MW 4:30-6:10, you could either (a) meet half the class on Monday 4:30-6:10 and half on Wednesday 4:30-6:10 or (b) meet one half 4:30-5:15 and the other half 5:25-6:10 every Monday and Wednesday.   Note that in a "hybrid course" students will have fewer weekly contact minutes with the faculty member during in-person instruction, but are engaging through the Canvas course modules with course materials that otherwise might be taught in the classroom. Report the cohorts to your chair, who needs to record them centrally. In case a student tests positive, we need to have immediate access to who was in each class to report to DOH contact tracers. Guidelines

  • To ensure reduced density in room entrances, treat the start time for any instructional session as an arrival time. Begin class instruction slightly later to give students time to enter the room, clean their personal space (if needed), and take their seats while practicing 6-foot physical distancing.
  • If you rotate cohorts on the same day, please leave ample passing time for the rotation to occur (10 minutes for cohorts <25, 20 minutes for cohorts <50).
  • Under no circumstances should you exceed the class meeting times as listed in the master schedule, as this may disrupt students’ other scheduled classes.  Note that the instructional time assigned to your class may limit options for rotations (for example, a class that meets in 50-minute blocs would likely not be conducive to rotating on the same day).
  • Whichever model you select, keep your cohorts and meeting times consistent for the full semester so that they’re predictable and students understand what’s required.
  • The size of the cohort should be governed by the low-density capacity of your classroom.  You should never exceed this capacity.
  • Course-related meetings that fall outside the master schedule listed time (e.g., study sessions, exam sessions, expanded instructional times, etc.) must be scheduled through the EMS and follow room capacity and other health guidelines.

Creating cohorts

The determination of cohorts has been left up to instructors’ discretion.  You are welcome to set the cohorts randomly or organize based on other pedagogically-appropriate criteria.  To minimize student confusion, please do not reorganize cohorts once they have been settled.

The Canvas “Groups” and “Sections” functions provide a tool for organizing and managing cohorts in your classes (including a tool for randomly assigning students to a cohort).  Instructions on Groups and Sections can be found on the college wiki and the Canvas Instructor Guide.


It is vital that faculty take the lead in informing students about when they are expected to be in the classroom.  Students in hybrid courses know that they may be expected to meet during the times listed in the master schedule, but they need detailed information on when specifically they should report to class.  It is especially important that this information be shared with students before the first day of class to ensure that room capacities are not exceeded.

During the week of August 24, please plan to publish basic information about your course in Canvas and communicate with students to let them know your expectations.  At minimum, please share information on

  • What to expect on the first day of class
  • What cohort they are assigned to and when this cohort will meet and
  • Other logistical information regarding classroom density reduction (e.g. arrival time or passing time processes).

We will also be sharing templates for an “introduction to this course” module in Canvas Commons.  This is an informative resource, which can be shared with students before the class begins and includes customizable information on:

  • Classroom health and safety requirements (physical distancing, wearing of face masks, availability of cleaning supplies)
  • What to expect on the first day of class
  • Cohort rotation information and other logistical considerations
  • Information on college supports for online learning and the Knights’ Online Academic Learning Assistance (KOALA).  This information is new for the fall semester and is still being built for student support.
  • You may also wish to include important course information including the syllabus, and introduction to the instructor (and, if relevant, teaching assistants), and required texts Other logistical information regarding classroom density reduction (e.g. arrival time or passing time processes)

Final notes

Banner lists hybrid classes twice, but this does not mean you have two sections. Please do not be concerned by that second line. Please consider using Teaching and Learning Center resources on the variety of ways to design a hybrid class pedagogically, such as a flipped classroom and models of in-person activities made safe for a COVID environment.  

Student absence from face-to-face and hybrid classes; Senate resolution on attendance

Because of the health crisis, all students, faculty, and staff who are feeling ill should stay home. No class should have an attendance requirement or graded work dependent on attendance that might encourage ill students to attend class. On July 30, 2020, the Senate passed the following temporary resolution, applying to AY 2020-21.

Senate Resolution on Class Attendance in Light of the COVID Pandemic

WHEREAS, in 2020-21, in light of the COVID epidemic, students who are feeling unwell physically and/or mentally should not attend in-person learning activities, where they would put their health and/or the health of faculty and fellow students at risk; and

WHEREAS, in any course with an attendance requirement for in-person meetings, it is highly likely that students, seeking to protect their grades, will attend; and

WHEREAS, for the same reason, students are very likely to attend in-person meetings where their participation will be a factor in their grade; and

WHEREAS, it is consequently in everyone’s interest that, for this one academic year, we re-consider our policy and practices with respect to class attendance; and

WHEREAS, most courses this fall, and perhaps next spring, will have an online component, and the pandemic may cause students to experience a variety of circumstances (such as unreliable internet access, malfunctioning hardware, childcare or work responsibilities, family medical emergencies, and personal illness) that impede their ability to participate in these activities; and

WHEREAS, due to the circumstances of the pandemic, students may not wish to disclose personal information pertaining to and/or may not be able to fully document the reasons for absences; and

WHEREAS, considerations of access and equity consequently make it important to clarify expectations regarding attendance in synchronous online activities;

WHEREAS, it is a reasonable instructor expectation that a student attend a synchronous learning activity whenever the student is feeling well and faces no obstacles to attending.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the College Senate endorses the following principles regarding class attendance in 2020-21:

1. In-person courses present the highest risk of contagion and members of the college community who may be impacted if ill students attend these classes.  Therefore, 

  • No in-person class should include an attendance requirement and students who miss class must have options to complete attendance-related work.
  • Every syllabus must contain a statement discouraging students who are feeling unwell physically and/or mentally from attending in-person meetings and emphasizing that students will not be penalized for non-attendance. [Note that the Provost’s Office will develop a template statement that faculty may utilize for this purpose.]
  • Students must be reminded of this statement repeatedly throughout the year.  

2. The ability for students to participate in synchronous online course activities may be affected by fundamental inequities in students’ ability to access materials and participate.  Therefore,

  • Students should not be subject to grading penalties if they are unable to attend scheduled synchronous online meetings due to pandemic-related obstacles

3. Students who are unable to attend in-person or synchronous online activities (including but not limited to in-person discussion, participation, hands-on work, or in-class assessments such as tests or quizzes) must have a way to meet the learning outcomes of these activities through means that do not involve a significantly greater burden of work than that carried by students who do attend.

Non-traditional instructional spaces

Some larger classes have been placed in rooms that are not generally used for instruction, but which have higher capacities under our current low density requirements. These include Wadsworth auditorium, Brodie 248 the Austin Theatre, Doty Recital Hall, and the Knightspot.

Technology needs -- CIT’s instructional technology team is ensuring there is a projector, document camera, and speakers available in all instructional spaces, including the temporary ones we are using this semester.  Please see Laurie Fox’s list of technology she is adding to these rooms; you can contact Laurie if you have other pedagogical technology needs.

Accessibility needs -- All large classes are in wheelchair accessible rooms.  We will have clear masks and/or shields available in case you have students who need to lip read. Students who need to lip read should be provided preferential seating at the front of the room, while maintaining proper social distancing. Videos and other audio media shown in class should include closed captions. 

Additional safety needs -- some but not all classrooms will be equipped with plexiglass shields; we will prioritize rooms in which it is harder for faculty to maintain the minimum six feet of distance from all students. In addition, some departments with special needs for shields, like music, have made requests directly to Rico Johnson.

Changes to pedagogical delivery mode

We strongly discourage changes to pedagogical delivery mode at this time; students are now planning appropriate schedules based on the revised modalities published in Knightweb. However, due to the uncertainty of the current health crisis, you may need to make further change. Please route your requests through your chair or dean, who should use this google form to request another change to room, cap, or modality. If you have a specific request for a room, please check in that the room is available at the time you want, and use link to low density caps to be sure the room you want can accommodate your class. You can also request temporary rooms or outdoor spaces through Andrea Klein and our EMS scheduling system.

Open registration for students begins August 3 and continues through drop/adds, closing at the end of the day on Friday, September 2. Students who need help adjusting their schedules or figuring out appropriate modalities should be encouraged to contact the DAPA office for help.

Adjusted Fall 2020 Calendar

There are a few changes to the fall calendar in response to COVID-19, that are designed to discourage students from leaving campus until Thanksgiving, and to encourage the campus community to take breaks at regular intervals. The revised fall calendar divides the semester into four quarters, with “rejuvenation days” after four and eight weeks and Thanksgiving break after twelve weeks. The two rejuvenation days come from reassigning the two days of fall break, and the final sixteen instructional days after the Thanksgiving break remove our traditional study day and allow the semester to end a day earlier. Please note that on the Monday of Thanksgiving week we will follow a Wednesday schedule.

In addition, I recommend that you consult the calendar of 2020 religious holidays when planning your fall syllabus. Faculty should consider avoiding religious holidays when designing major assignments are expected to make accommodations for students who observe religious holidays; the full policy is on the “classroom policies” page.

Post-Thanksgiving to the end of fall semester

Many schools have planned to move entirely online after Thanksgiving; we have not made that call but will if necessary for public health. Therefore we encourage you to pay particular attention to the “remote-ready” guidelines for the final quarter of the semester, post-Thanksgiving, when you may need to conduct classes and assessments entirely online.  Week 15 may be used by faculty as the final instructional week or to schedule alternative, end-of-semester assignments. Examples include a study session and exam, student presentations, or one-on-one meetings between faculty and students. 

Given reduced room caps and a large number of online classes, the Registrar’s office will not publish the traditional final examination schedule this fall. We recommend following best practices for online assessments in scheduling and defining all final projects, papers, and tests.

Assessment plans for 2020-21

As our fall courses are being designed for remote readiness, it's an excellent time to expand our use of Canvas to include assessment as well. For our limited Canvas assessment pilot in spring 2020, Laurie Fox created a wiki guide on Canvas based assessment that you can consult as you design your courses. August 19 we held a workshop to demonstrate how to design and conduct assessment fully online, the video and chat transcript are archived on the TLC. Since then, we've updated all courses to include the "Learning Mastery Gradebook" for faculty to track assessment and determined assignments can be shared in the canvas commons with outcomes and rubrics attached.

You can find the revised pass/fail policies for AY 2020-21 on the Dean of Academic Planning web site.

Emails with information regarding the COVID crisis are archived here, and are easy to search.

If you have further questions regarding your classroom, classroom policies, or course modality, please contact Melanie Blood at and I will do my best to find you an answer. In these completely new conditions, there are undoubtedly things we have failed to consider.