Guide To Teaching and Learning

Guidance and Policies

General Guidance

Intentional Course Design

With university guidance that those who feel sick should stay home, plan your syllabus and course meetings and activities intentionally and consider how the use of intentional strategies, including online supplementation for in-person courses, such as discussion groups and video, can provide support for and be inclusive of all students. Faculty may design their course to have occasional individual class sessions meet online where appropriate to the learning outcomes and pedagogy (e.g., synchronously via Zoom or asynchronously via Canvas) but faculty do not have permission to switch their in-person courses to fully online for a portion of the semester. In some colleges, the use of online (Zoom, Canvas) teaching as a substitute for an in-person class may require approval from your dean’s office or academic program. More suggestions and recommendations are available here.

Supporting Absent Students

While the risk of Covid transmission is small, students (and faculty) who are not feeling well are encouraged to stay home. Here is additional guidance about ways to support all students, not just absent students, through the use of technology/online teaching strategies.  

When universities returned to in-person instruction, some students came to expect that they could join in-person classes via Zoom, which was often inappropriate for pedagogical and technological reasons. Further, while this option may be appropriate for select content and pedagogical approaches, the majority of New School courses are not appropriate for a ‘Zoom-in’ option. Providing alternative means of participation for absent students is encouraged. Faculty are not expected to ‘zoom in’ absent students to in-person classes.

Above all, faculty should clearly communicate their plan for supporting absent students and make clear their rationale for their decisions; it’s important that students know from the start what is and is not possible and why, especially as regards recording or ‘zooming in’ to in-person classes. 

Set Up Your Class for the Unexpected 

Faculty can be prepared for the unexpected by:

  • activating their courses in Canvas; 
  • putting as much course content into Canvas as possible; 
  • creating an announcement to let students know how you will communicate with them if you’re unable to attend class and the contingency plan for the class.
  • create a communication plan before the start of the semester.

Grading and Participation

Faculty are encouraged to communicate that their approach to assessment is to help students learn the materials, even if it means students need to slow down and/or make multiple attempts. During the height of the pandemic, student participation benefited in online instruction from the ability to use Zoom chat and/or the Canvas discussion board, especially for English language learners and those who are reticent to speak in class. Faculty are encouraged to consider how Zoom chat, the Canvas discussion board and similar tools such as Mural and Google docs can be adapted for in-person learning to provide a more equitable environment for all students and to promote ease of participation. The Guide to Teaching and Learning contains further guidance. 

Attendance Issues and Guidance for Faculty

Sample language for syllabi, regarding attendance: Attendance matters. Students who are present and engaged with their fellow students and the material learn better and more deeply. But ill students affect us all, not least by affecting our ability to pay attention in class. Students are encouraged to stay home if they feel unwell. [Indicate how students may make up missed in-person work.]

Some programs have strict limits on absences; faculty should consult with their program director/chair about individual student concerns.

Student attendance due to illness: Faculty are encouraged to reassure their students that if they miss class due to illness, they will not be penalized but are expected to make up missed work. Proof of illness should not be required. Faculty who post course content or use discussion forums in Canvas could expect students to participate online. 

Guidance for faculty who must miss class due to illness: As with students, faculty should stay home if they feel unwell. Faculty should notify their chair or director and follow their department/college protocols if they need to miss a class due to illness. If there is a prolonged period in which faculty are unable to meet their classes, they should contact their program director/chair. 

Part-time faculty are entitled to one paid sick day that must be reported to their dean’s office. Part-time faculty who need to take additional days must make up the missed class(es) through re-scheduling, offering it online or opting for a substitute, in consultation with their program/dean’s office per their protocols.

Here are other ways of thinking about attendance and participation.

Masks: Encouraged but optional

Faculty are also encouraged to address the question of differential attitudes toward mask-wearing at the start of the semester since mask wearing is encouraged but optional in classrooms. 

Communicating (while masked, or not)

The Faculty Center has prepared a short video on communicating while masked for use by faculty and students, but in truth, the video provides a great demonstration on how to project, whether or not you’re wearing a mask.

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