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Assessments and Academic Integrity

To address impacts caused by the novel coronavirus public health crisis, Penn State is implementing optional alternative grading scales for the spring 2020 semester.

There are two sources of information for adapting assessments from in-person courses to a remote teaching environment:

There is no University-wide proctoring service. You might consider implementing many low-stakes assignments as opposed to a few high-stakes assessments, having students generate material such as papers, projects or videos, hand-written assignments, or e-portfolios. You might also use Turnitin, a web-based writing assessment toolkit, which allows instructors to provide feedback to students through markup tools, rubrics, proofing tools, and originality reports to detect plagiarism.

Class Participation and Interacting with Students

You may make video clips of short portions of DVDs and Blu-Rays to provide for in-class or out-of-class viewing. Find more technical help on creating these clips in Kaltura. You are encouraged to rely on licensed video already provided by the Libraries for out-of-class viewing. Libraries also already have subscriptions to a significant set of streaming audio options for Penn State users. Please contact your liaison librarian or the Libraries’ Music & Media Center for help determining if the audio or video content you need for teaching is available through the Libraries. If it is not, the Libraries may be able to purchase streaming access for additional media.

For assistance with copyright-related issues, please fill out the Copyright, Publishing, and Open Access form or book an appointment with a librarian from the Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright.

Check VitalSource Free E-textbook Access and the Libraries Catalog to determine if the materials are available to students. If not, you can provide in Canvas most materials needed for students to successfully complete the course. See more information related to copyright when rapidly shifting your course from in-person to remote teaching.

You can also send your own scans of materials to be posted in e-reserves. To submit materials, please complete the request form and email accompanying scans to

For assistance with copyright-related issues, please fill out the Copyright, Publishing, and Open Access form or book an appointment with a librarian from the Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright.

Tools like Canvas, Zoom, Office 365 (including Teams), and Kaltura allow you to interact with students, present course content, and more.

Students who are disruptive in a remote class should be handled in the same way that they are handled in a face-to-face class. You should set clear standards of behavior and communicate your expectations. If disruptive behavior occurs, you should confront the behavior. If the student continues to be disruptive, you should ask the student to leave the class, notify your unit head, and file a report online with the Office of Student Conduct. Staff in the Office of Student Conduct also are available to discuss your concern at

Some instructors have experienced online classroom disruptions by participants who are not enrolled in the course, or Penn State. More recommendations on preventing and managing disruptions are available in the Canvas Blog article.

Accessibility and Usability at Penn State has a variety of basic course accessibility recommendations. For assistance with accessibility please fill out the Accessibility Consultation Form.

We know this is different than what you had planned for the semester. Success will look like instructors and students meeting at the same time; both instructors and students successfully using our technology tools; and instructors reviewing expected changes in assignments, adjustments to course calendar, etc., and where they will be reflected in the syllabus, if necessary.

When working remotely, ensure you are available to conduct your classes at their regularly scheduled time. Faculty members are expected to meet their faculty obligations during this period, including conducting online instruction for classes.

Supporting Students

Starfish is a critical tool to use during this situation. Instructors can raise flags about any student in their course, and those flags can be viewed by assigned academic advisers, who use those flags to triage outreach.

Starfish is a critical tool to use during this time. If you know students who are not connecting to your online course, please use Starfish flags to alert academic advisers so they can reach out and support these students.

Undergraduate students who are doing research for credit may not continue to work in labs and other areas on campus to complete their work. Faculty are asked to identify alternative ways of achieving the learning outcomes for the experience. If a student is completing a research thesis, faculty will work to navigate best practices for completing the thesis. Undergraduate students who are employees performing essential work should contact their direct supervisors for guidance.

Faculty are strongly discouraged from expecting or allowing undergraduates to conduct research on campus. If there is an ongoing research project that requires undergraduate involvement on campus, approval from the relevant academic dean and the senior vice president for research must be obtained for the student to continue research and ensure safe social distancing in the lab.

Graduation is a significant milestone for our students and while it may not be the same as our traditional ceremony, Penn State is committed to finding the best way possible to recognize the achievements of our graduates. The University is exploring options for an alternative celebration and will share more information as those details come together. As our graduates enter the new careers that they have worked so hard to achieve, we look forward to seeing their impact on and important contributions to society and hope to invite them back to campus as alumni.

Some faculty have been seeking additional guidance on how to work with students who test positive for coronavirus or who find themselves in other special circumstances created by this crisis, which could include:

  • caring for family members and friends who contract the virus;
  • caring for children who are not attending school/daycare;
  • food and housing insecurity caused by loss of employment; etc.

Students who contract this virus will have varying symptoms, from mild cold symptoms to flu-like symptoms to hospitalization (the least likely). Mild to moderate illness can last up to 14 days. Students are being encouraged to communicate with their faculty to describe their level of illness and the work that they can accomplish while they are ill. Other related challenges that might impact attendance should be communicated to faculty in a similar fashion.

Senate Policy 42-27 on Class Attendance emphasizes the importance of regular attendance but also grants faculty a great deal of latitude in providing reasonable opportunities for students to make up work for legitimate and unavoidable reasons including illness, family emergency, etc. Although faculty can use their judgment in assessing a student’s illness claim, students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel and faculty do not need to secure documentation to support their professional judgement.

When undergraduate students are ill:
In situations where undergraduate students become ill near the end of the semester, faculty have the option of assigning deferred grades under Senate Policy 48-40. This policy requires students to complete the work within the prescribed timeline or else the grade is converted to an F. Students and faculty will be notified of the approaching deadline, and faculty have the option of requesting an extension; they can also update the F grade later using the grade-change process. The use of deferred grades is appropriate on a case-by-case basis but not for an entire class.

When graduate students are ill:
When a graduate student becomes ill near the end of the semester or faces other significant life events, policy GSAD-906 Graduate Student Leave of Absence provides three opportunities to meet the needs of the student:

  • Short-Term Absence (< 3 weeks)
    • appropriate when the graduate student is expected to be able to complete the work within the semester
  • Extended Absence (within a semester)
    • appropriate when the graduate student is expected to be able to complete the work within the semester, or when a Deferred Grade will allow the student to finish the work when they have recovered from the illness; Graduate Council’s policy GCAC-401 Grading System has additional information on Deferred Grades for graduate students
  • Leave of Absence
    • appropriate when the graduate student is not expected to complete the work in a timely fashion even with the Deferred Grade extension
    • if necessary, an Extended Leave can be converted to a Leave of Absence as described in the policy

Teaching Synchronous Classes Remotely

Synchronous learning is learning that occurs at a specific time via a specific medium. It can happen via video- or tele-conferencing, live chatting, or live-streaming lectures.

All courses should be taught synchronously at the time that they are scheduled. This is important for three reasons. First, it will avoid time conflicts that will otherwise arise for students if faculty are independently moving the time of their classes. Second, students who receive financial aid through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) state grant program will potentially lose access to this aid if courses are not delivered synchronously. Finally, this will enable our technology to function well and support course delivery.

Faculty are asked to maintain the meeting time for their regularly scheduled, in-person classes because this is a transition period and students need to hear from and have access to their instructors to ease the transition. On-campus courses are designed for the in-person instructional context. With the sudden shift from face-to-face synchronous to remote synchronous learning, the real-time component gives students and faculty a familiar context that maintains the pace of the course and the invaluable opportunity for faculty-student interaction. This also gives faculty time to adapt pedagogies, assignments, and syllabi designed for in-person classes to the new remote-learning context.

You can record a lecture, but there must be a real-time component as well, offered at the scheduled time. For example, you might ask students to watch a recorded lecture ahead of time, and use the scheduled class time to engage in active learning, work through problem sets, engage in two-way audio/video learning, etc.

Consistent with Governor Wolf’s statewide mitigation efforts, the University must continue to provide services essential to our community. One main focus right now is providing the quality of education that Penn State can continue to deliver. Faculty and staff are working remotely to achieve that goal. 


Any occurrences of non-enrolled individuals hijacking your course are to be reported to University Police who will notify the FBI.

There are specific steps you can take to secure your Zoom class from this serious offense. For details, find “How can you protect your remote class from ‘Zoom-bombing’?” in the Remote teaching resources section of the Penn State Coronavirus Information site.

For undergraduate courses, faculty members who previously did not take attendance in their in-person classrooms should continue to not take attendance and respect that their students will attend remotely. Faculty who took attendance previously should explore manual and automatic options for taking attendance through Zoom. For help with these options, please visit our technology training page.

You cannot require students to turn on their webcam, and you should adopt a camera-optional practice for teaching through Zoom. A camera-optional approach respects student issues such as equity (e.g., some students may not have cameras on their devices), safety and security (e.g., some students may be deployed on active military service, or in need of safety or privacy), and religious beliefs.

You can request the support of a Tech TA during your Zoom teaching session. Tech TAs are Penn State students who are available to help facilitate teaching sessions by managing your Zoom technology needs. More details about the Tech TA program are available on Penn State News. Faculty can request the help of a Tech TA by completing this Tech TA faculty request form

Yes, you may do this, but you need to securely store the recordings and destroy them at the end of the semester. If you intend to use the recordings after the end of the semester, any type of identifying information must be removed. In addition, you must inform students that they are being recorded by sharing the following language with them: “Video and audio recordings of class lectures will be part of the classroom activity. The video and audio recording is used for educational use/purposes and may only be made available to students presently enrolled in the class. For purposes where the recordings will be used in future class session/lectures, any type of identifying information will be adequately removed.” It is essential to stop the Zoom recording at the end of your Zoom session.

If you choose to record a Zoom session, student participation during the session should not be required. Students should be provided the choice to opt-out from identification in the recording by muting their audio, disabling video, and not typing into the chat window. In these cases, students should still be considered in attendance and should not be penalized in any way.

All Zoom cloud recordings are automatically uploaded to Kaltura. Faculty can edit, embed, and share Zoom cloud recordings within Kaltura. Detailed instructions for accessing Zoom recordings in Kaltura are available.

Zoom has detailed instructions on how to mute and unmute all participants currently in a meeting, as well as new participants joining a meeting. You can also allow participants to unmute themselves. If students would like to be unmuted to speak in your class, they can request that via a message in the chat or via the “raise hand” feature.

In Zoom, the “Managing participants” feature allows you to disable students’ ability to change their names. This should help you identify individual students as needed.

Penn State IT has provided tips on conserving bandwidth. One quick tip is to ask others who share your internet service to limit their bandwidth consumption, if possible, during your class session.

As non-essential Penn State buildings temporarily close down in response to Governor Wolf’s recommendations, you may not be able to access your usual classrooms or lecture halls. Please contact your campus IT department to confirm availability. We encourage you to practice the CDC’s recommendations on preventing illness and using social distancing.

Items available are limited and may vary from unit to unit. Please contact your local IT office to request these items. Learn more about the ports and peripherals on your computer.

It is strongly recommended that faculty, staff, and students download Zoom to their laptop and/or cell phone for easy conferencing. You can then dial in to a Zoom meeting with one of the provided numbers. Faculty and staff can also request Cisco Jabber for a laptop and/or cell. Visit the Cisco Jabber Learning Path for more information. Both of these methods incur no cost or charges from providers, and for both, it is recommended that your device has a microphone and a camera.

If you have further questions or need assistance, get support by contacting the IT Service Desk.

You can, however, it is highly discouraged. Doing so may result in long-distance costs due to Zoom’s utilization of toll calls.

If you do not have access to a computer and/or the internet from your location, please log in to the IT service portal and fill out the Penn State Mobile Technology Request Form to formalize your computer/access request. University IT is continually working on the availability and distribution of equipment. Information about your request will be relayed via the phone number you provide in the request form. Once you receive your equipment, contact the IT Service Desk for 24/7 support.

In order to use personal hotspots on their devices, individuals may also secure additional data from their wireless carriers. The following providers have information readily available on how to upgrade data: AT&TCharterComcastSprintT-Mobile, and Verizon. Find more providers and information on the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected page.

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