FAQ Fall 2020 Instruction

Online Course Practices

Please refer to this guide on how to protect student privacy and personally identifiable information in UMD audiovisual recording systems . Note that pursuant to Maryland law, you must provide verbal and/or visual notification of recording at the beginning of any meeting or class to alert the participants that "this activity is being recorded." If a participant continues to participate after being notified that the activity is being recorded, their consent to recording is implied.

Instructors may request that students leave their video cameras on only when class activities or small group interactions require visual engagement. However, there are valid reasons students may decline to have their cameras on. Some students may not have the technology that would enable them to share live video (strong wifi or webcam), which could put them at a disadvantage if there is a requirement to engage video while participating in a Zoom session. We encourage instructors to be flexible and empathetic to students who express reasonable concerns for why they cannot or do not wish to use the video feature.


University policy states that student grades must be related to student performance, so instructors may grade students on participation in the course. However, this may be more logistically challenging for instructors this Fall. In the event a student has an excused absence, instructors will need to provide reasonable opportunities for students to make-up for participation grades.

Can instructors grade students based on participation in live, online (synchronous) sessions?

Will there be a pass-fail grading system this fall, as there was last spring?

University policy states that student grades must be related to student performance, so instructors may grade students on participation in the course. However, this may be more logistically challenging for instructors this Fall. In the event a student has an excused absence, instructors will need to provide reasonable opportunities for students to make-up for participation grades.

Excused Absences

During the Spring 2021 semester, exceptions will be made for a student’s inability to perform course activities as per expectations due to medically necessitated or other COVID-19 related reasons. Please read the excused absence exception.

Please refer to the self certified note template. Faculty should indicate to their students how students should send self-certified note to the course instructor (e.g. email, ELMS communication, etc.)
The Excused Absence Policy applies when a student misses a course assessment, including being absent for an in-class exam or missing a due date for a graded out-of-class assignment. In cases where a student misses or will miss a due date for an assessment, an appropriate academic accommodation would be to ask the student to complete the assessment, or a revised version of the assessment, and provide a new due date. Faculty are encouraged to consider the course expectations, the pace of the course, and the student’s particular circumstances in providing a new due date, or another form of accommodation, with the ultimate goals of allowing the student to make progress and keep pace with the course expectations to complete the course by the end of the semester.

“Open book” assessments: TLTC suggests for this fall that instructors consider alternative modes of assessment. If possible, structure your assessments so that peer-to-peer collaboration and access to resources (e.g., the internet, books, notes) are acceptable. For these types of assessments, an extended deadline may serve for students who have an excused absence.

Create alternative versions of assessments: Consider the learning outcomes to be assessed and create alternative assessments using different scenarios, examples, or numbers.

Quizzes and exams: Consider establishing a question bank in ELMS. Create a series of alternative questions that could be used to create a quiz or exam that serves as a make-up.

If you have designed course assessments to be objective (e.g., multiple choice, matching, etc.), create open-ended versions of questions for make-up exams that assess the same learning as objective assessments.

If it appears that a student will miss a series of course assessments or opportunities for feedback, it may be necessary to consider a combination of make-up work, re-weighting and other types of exceptions to create a path for the student to complete the course by the end of the semester. In the conversation with the student regarding such a path, it may become evident that the student has missed too much of the course to continue. The student should be referred to their academic advisor to consider dropping or withdrawing from the course. Incomplete grades are another option that may be explored if appropriate--see below.

Re-weighting of assignments is not normally advisable, but under the current circumstances it might be a better approach than encouraging the student to drop the course. The points for the missed assessment are applied to other assessments so that the assessments that make up the final grade have been re-weighted.

Here are two scenarios: Imagine the course grade is composed of 10 assessments each contributing 10 points to the course grade (100 points total). If a student misses one assessment, all other assessments could be re-weighted such that the total still equals 100%. OR the 10 points of the missed assessment could be applied equally to the as yet uncompleted assessments.

The Excused Absence policy states that “An excused absence is an absence for which the student has the right to receive, and the instructor has the responsibility to provide, academic accommodation.” Providing an academic accommodation in the form of a make-up or alternative assignment is recommended to allow students to receive timely feedback on their learning. As we may expect more than usual disruptions in the fall and absences of greater length, providing other paths for students to complete the coursework is the next best approach. In the absence of other solutions, re-weighting assessments may allow students to keep up with the pace of the course. Students who miss receiving feedback on some aspect of the course should be encouraged to review the missed assessment and ensure that their learning is keeping pace.
One model of fairness is to treat all students identically and require them to complete the exact same assignments within the same time periods. This approach is truly “fair,” however, only if all students have equal access to the same resources and constraints. If some students, through no fault of their own, have limited or unreliable internet access, no time or place to study, or face personal or family health changes due to COVID-19, then requiring them to complete the same assignments under the same conditions may prove to be unfair. Ultimately, being fair means taking a full account of a student’s needs and experiences this semester and providing them with comparable opportunities to demonstrate their learning.

The incomplete contract states: “The mark of “I” is an exceptional mark that is an instructor option. It is given only to a student whose work in a course has been qualitatively satisfactory, when, because of illness or other circumstances beyond the student’s control, he or she has been unable to complete some small portion of the work of the course. In no case will the mark of “I” be recorded for a student who has not completed the major portion of the work of the course.”

Depending on how the course is structured, the percentage of the course assessments that will be considered a “small portion of the course” will vary. Instructors should consult with their department or college about when incomplete grades are appropriate, and based on the structure of the course. When students miss too much of the course to qualify for an incomplete, they should be referred to their advisor to consider options for withdrawal.

Before sending the student to an advisor, consider whether there is a path forward for the student, using the suggestions provided above. When a student misses a substantial portion of the course learning experiences and/or assessments and the instructor determines that the student’s success in the course, or the ability of the student to meet the expected learning outcomes, are in jeopardy, the faculty member should have a conversation with the student. Then,when finding no options for students to complete the course - refer the student to their academic advisor to discuss administrative options: dropping the course, withdrawing from the course, and resulting changes in the student’s path to a degree. If the student has already registered for the next semester courses, they may need to reconsider this plan with the help of their advisor.
If an online version of the course is available, the student may be referred to the online version. If no such online version is available, the student should meet with their academic advisor to consider other course options or other options such as withdrawal.
As indicated in the Undergraduate Catalog: “In-class participation may be an ongoing requirement and an integral part of the work of some courses. In-class assessments may occur, sometimes without advance notice. The syllabus will specify expectations about in-class participation and its relationship to the final course grade. Except in cases where in-class participation forms a significant part of the work of the course, attendance should not be used in the computation of grades; assignment of a course grade on some basis other than performance in the course is prohibited by University policy. Recording student attendance is not required of the faculty.” If students miss a substantial portion of a course deemed as having a significant participation component, the syllabus should indicate how absences will impact students’ ability to continue in the course.

Final Exams

The expectation that every undergraduate course will have a final exam is waived for Spring 2021 as it was for Fall 2020. Faculty are encouraged to use graded "lower stakes" assessments throughout the course, in order that students can build their course grade cumulatively over the course of the semester.

Instructors teaching asynchronous courses who choose to have synchronous final exams may refer to the schedule on the Spring 2021 Final Examination Tables. These tables (the Standard Final Exam Schedule and the Common Finals Exam Schedule) were built based on the day/time courses were originally scheduled to be offered. Accordingly, if an instructor does not remember the original schedule of the course (e.g. prior to deciding on teaching the course asynchronously), they should check with their respective department schedulers for the originally scheduled days and times of the course. Instructors who teach courses that normally meet at non-standard times, or whose starting times do not correspond with any of the standard class times, will not currently see their exam period as the official final exam for non-standard class times schedule is not yet published. These exam times will be published shortly after the semester's schedule adjustment period, and the comprehensive final exam schedule (including all non-standard courses) is published mid-semester.

Health and Safety

Classrooms and high-touch areas in buildings approved for occupancy are cleaned and disinfected nightly.

Yes, students are required to wear face coverings and observe the 6-foot physical distancing guidelines when inside buildings and classrooms.

Accessibility and Disability Service (ADS) provides accommodations to students to ensure equal access to services, programs and activities sponsored by the University of Maryland. Through the variety of services offered, ADS works to ensure that students’ accommodations and accessibility needs are met in any learning environment. You will be shown an Accommodations Letter and an acknowledgment signature is required. The Accommodations Letter will describe the particular accommodation for the student.

Seats are marked in classrooms. In fixed seating classrooms, seats are designated by a sign. In classrooms with flexible seating, the number of seats is reduced and the floor is marked so students know where seats should be located. Custodial staff will arrange chairs in their proper location each evening.

Restrooms are scheduled to be extensively cleaned twice per day.

All classroom buildings have been evaluated for their ventilation to make sure they meet COVID-19 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards. If a classroom did not meet these standards, it was removed from scheduling.

Classrooms are provided with disinfectant wipe dispensers. Students are expected to take a wipe as they enter the room and wipe down their work surface at the beginning of class. Faculty are encouraged to be flexible and provide students with time to accomplish this task. Students can dispose of the wipe as they leave the classroom.

Instructors currently have access to lapel microphones in large classrooms and will be able to use them. The Classroom Support Team (DIT) is currently testing different devices, including wireless (Bluetooth) and assessing the viability to provide them to instructors in the Spring.

Instructors should carry their own chalk, whiteboard markers, erasers, and other teaching aids to class. These items will not be provided in the classrooms.

Many of the buildings on campus have had occupants using the facility for the entire lockdown period. Those that were not occupied have received regular maintenance.

FM Operations and Maintenance are aware of potential water quality issues that can occur from low occupancy buildings and have implemented a plan to verify that the potable water quality in campus buildings is acceptable. The implemented plan involves monthly testing and flushing of the system if warranted for active academic and administration buildings and we will expand this testing regime to include the remaining buildings prior to increased activity on campus.

FM has hired an independent potable water consultant to verify procedures.

Please see the University’s policy and procedures on non-creditable sick leave. (https://policies.umd.edu/assets/section-ii/II-230A.pdf). Departments are encouraged to develop a strategy for continuity of instruction.

Course Schedule

Each college was asked to provide a list of those courses for which there is a high priority to deliver the course in-person AND the instructor is willing to teach in-person. This is the first level of courses being placed in general purpose classrooms. The next level, in progress now, is to identify those courses for which the instructor preferred an in-person session or could go either way. These will be placed, with help from department schedulers, according to room availability. If you are uncertain or concerned about the delivery method of your course, contact your department chair.

We recommend that such changes in format be requested/implemented prior to July 15. As long as there is clear guidance to students, changes after to that time may be possible, although this is discouraged. Students may have selected your course over another course specifically for the face-to-face experience. Changing the delivery method will need to be reviewed and approved by the Registrar’s Office.

All instructors need to be prepared for a resurgence of the pandemic sometime in the fall, sufficiently severe that it may require a return to fully remote instruction, so it is wise to plan your course from the start around that possibility. We anticipate that this would trigger new emergency guidance for international students as well.

Once the updated Schedule of Classes is published, any further movement from online to face-to-face delivery becomes challenging for students who may have made housing decisions based on their schedules and is thus strongly discouraged. One alternative may be to hold optional supplemental in-person activities for students who are on campus. However, if you wish to have an in-person portion to your class, you should contact your department scheduler as soon as possible. An attempt will be made to find a suitable classroom through the central scheduling office. If you are aware of a known departmentally- controlled space that is suitable for your course, its capacity and physically appropriate conditions (air-flow, seating, entry/exit) still need to be validated. Contact Kris Phillips (kphilli5@umd.edu) and David Cronrath (cronrath@umd.edu) for information about conducting such validation.

This model (teaching all content online, with face-to-face exams) would be considered a blended class, and should be listed as such on Testudo. If a course is listed as “online” on Testudo, students cannot be required to come to campus for an in-person exam. Students may have selected your online course specifically because of its format. Not every student will be on campus this fall, due to health concerns and/or limited availability of student housing both on campus and in the College Park area. Consider options available in ELMS for online quizzing and other methods of assessing student performance and knowledge. Consult with TLTC for suggestions.

If instructors have concerns about academic integrity for online exams see KeepTeaching Assessment Strategy and/or request a consultation. Instructors should consider designing their courses without a final exam this fall and are encouraged to build their course using a series of low-stakes assessments throughout the semester. Doing so ensures that student performance is assessed throughout the semester and that points contributing to the final course grade accumulate over the course of the semester, rather than heavily weighting the course grade on end-of-the semester performance.

You should indicate clearly to students through a course note in Testudo as well as in your syllabus (which should also be posted in Testudo) if there are expectations for synchronous meetings. In order to minimize disruption to student schedules, the start time for those online meetings should match the original start time in Testudo. Live, synchronous sessions, should be a reasonable length of time. If you have informed your department scheduler, then meeting times will be shown in Testudo.

Even if you plan to deliver your course asynchronously, it is helpful for students to have clear and reasonable expectations, with consistent due dates for any class preparation or assignments. Undergraduates who were enrolled in multiple asynchronous classes last spring expressed concerns about their ability to stay on a schedule, as well as what felt like a significantly increased workload. Consider designing a standard weekly rhythm for the work in your course and share it with your students so that they can establish their schedule to accommodate the expectations across all of their courses. Consult with TLTC for effective ways to establish a weekly rhythm for your online course.

Yes, as long as the scheduled times are consistent with what is listed in Testudo.

No. Any requirement for scheduled live sessions outside of class meeting times is discouraged, since it may cause a conflict with another class for some students.

UMD has students living in all US time zones and around the world. As you review your course roster, ask students about their time zone. If you are teaching a synchronous course and you have students who are in different time zones, consider how they might meet the synchronous expectations for the course. If your course includes teamwork, ensure that the team members recognize that a member is in a different time zone. Be flexible with students’ circumstances by providing options for participation and any synchronous expectations. Depending on the nature of the course, consider recording synchronous sessions or offering alternative assignments for students who are unable to meet in real time. If your class has team projects, find out if there are groups of students in closer time zones for collaboration. Contact your department’s undergraduate program director for suggestions.

Lab and Performance Classes

Each space was evaluated for capacity, ventilation, circulation within and in/out of the room, in collaboration with college and department contacts. Generally, laboratory spaces can accommodate a 50% capacity using CDC physical distancing requirements. In some instances, plexiglass barriers may be installed to improve separation between students and alter spacing.

Support for Course Redesign

Contact keepteaching@umd.edu and a staff member from TLTC or from the Academic Technology team will reach out to you.

Resources are listed on the keepteaching.umd.edu website. KeepTeaching is a collaborative effort among the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center, the Academic Technology team from the Division of IT, and the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. All are available to support you. 

Want to brainstorm ways to make your online/blended class more interactive and experiential (e.g., creative ways to use breakouts; virtual collaborative brainstorm and reflection tools, asynchronous audio learning sessions, etc.). Use this link to schedule a 30 min consultation with the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Also, there is a breakthrough incubator run by the Academy for Innovation & Entrepreneurship to help teams with radical new ideas for re-imagining some aspect of UMD (e.g. virtual study abroad or virtual service learning). Open to all faculty and staff, participants will get dedicated support and coaching and the opportunity to iteratively test concept mockups with actual students.

Review the list of upcoming webinars on the Keep Teaching Support page.

The keepteaching website has a specific session on assessment strategies. Take some time to review it and contact us at keepteaching@umd.edu if you have questions or need additional assistance redesigning your course assessments.

Regulatory Guidelines for Health and Safety

We strongly recommend that you have a contingency plan to move your course entirely online if you have planned any face-to-face instruction. An important consideration is to have regular assessments planned throughout the semester should there need to be an abrupt change due to another outbreak.

Students who must be absent from class because of illness or quarantine should be accommodated under the university's Excused Absence policy. Given the likelihood that some students are likely to be impacted by the pandemic, instructors are asked to be flexible and understanding if students fall ill, must be quarantined, or need to care for family members. Instructors should be prepared to provide alternative assignments, frequent assessments, and be aware of options for the grade of incomplete or retroactive withdrawal, where appropriate, to students who must miss class. For guidance relevant to your discipline or program, as well as guidelines for granting an incomplete, consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in your department.

In an online course, it is reasonable to assume students have some access to the internet. It is recommended that instructors ask if students have any additional tools needed to participate in the course. If not, they should visit this website, which provides information for those who need to explore technology-related alternatives that enable teaching and learning online or working remotely.

Many laptops come with a microphone and camera. Mobile Devices also have camera and microphone capabilities so individuals can lead and participate in course activity. The Division of IT will continue to loan a limited number of laptops and hotspots during the Spring 2021 through the Terrapin Tech Loaner program.

Instructors will be provided with microphones to teach in person in large classrooms.

There is a growing understanding that internet access is a social issue that has to be addressed. The campus will be opened and people will have access to the UMD network. If you have traveled back home, there are institutions around the U.S. and the rest of the world where eduroam is available.

If you are teaching online, please contact keepteaching@umd.edu or itsupport@umd.edu for assistance.

For any issues while teaching inside the classroom, please contact classrooms@umd.edu.

For general IT support, please visit our support website.

Want to brainstorm ways to make your online/blended class more interactive and experiential (e.g., creative ways to use breakouts; virtual collaborative brainstorm and reflection tools, asynchronous audio learning sessions, etc.)? Use this link to schedule a 30 min consultation with the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.