Guidance on Flexibility in the Classroom for Fall 2021
The StAAR Center, Undergraduate Advising Team, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Engineering's Graduate Programs Team are grateful for your commitment to excellence in teaching over the past eighteen months, your creativity as you plan for the Fall semester, and the compassion you continue to show for our undergraduate and graduate students.
This fall, we hope to return to a more typical classroom experience, but we anticipate that some students will require flexibility in class policies due to illness, quarantine requirements, or mental health issues. A few international students may also arrive late to campus due to visa and travel situations beyond their control. While we expect you to be flexible, you do have discretion in how to accommodate students. Here are some possibilities.
Absence and Notifications:
- If a student in your class has been placed into isolation, is asked to self-isolate, or is asked to quarantine, you will receive an automatic email notification to alert you that your student will not be attending class in person. You will also receive an automatic email notification when your student is able to resume in-person attendance. No other health details will be disclosed due to privacy concerns.
- Students will be responsible for adhering to policies about missed and/or late work and should continue to participate remotely if they are well enough to do so and as your in-person course design and policies allow. Once they are able to return to class, they will be expected to check in with you on missed work to form a plan for academic recovery.
It is likely that, at some point, one or more of your students will be unable to attend class in person but may be healthy enough to participate online (either synchronously or asynchronously).
Options to facilitate participation for these students include:
- Livestream your class
- Record your class using Zoom or Echo360 and upload the recording and slides to Canvas
- Have a volunteer notetaker or a rotation of notetakers upload notes on Canvas within 24 hours
Please be detailed and transparent in your syllabus about your grading policies, and consider flexibility in assessing quarantined students, such as:
- Flexibility in grading for participation
- Allowing quarantined students to take exams or give presentations online
- Offering flexible deadlines or alternatives for course components that are hands-on or require access to public spaces
Please remember that students and professors should not go to class when exhibiting even mild symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, and fever. Students who are ill or symptomatic should alert their professors through the Student Illness Notification system. Please ensure that your classroom policies allow enough flexibility so as not to encourage students to come to class when sick. Accommodating students when they are ill will help keep your class safe.
Students will not be able to provide a doctor’s note for any missed exams or class meetings due to illness. We encourage you to:
- Proactively communicate policies for students who miss exams. For example, you can reweight the point values of missed exams to avoid scheduling numerous make-ups.
- Offer multiple forms of assessment for students to demonstrate their knowledge, such as quizzes, short papers, or video projects.
- More information and guidance about student illness policies will be sent to faculty before classes begin.
Anxiety, Grief, and Trauma:
Many students may feel overwhelmed due to significant traumas. With this in mind, some examples of firm but flexible policies for all students include:
- A late-paper policy with a mild step-down in points or grade for lateness.
- A “one-time, no-questions asked” extension policy.
- A choice among assignments, such as two of four writing assignments with different due dates.
If a student discloses significant mental distress, please notify the undergraduate student advising dean or the graduate student’s Director of Graduate Studies so we can coordinate support and options across the student’s courses.
The Dean of Student Affairs Office offers support and care to undergraduates and graduate students who are experiencing difficulties, and can also aid faculty in their work with students. As a reminder, support through Tufts’ Counseling and Mental Health Services is available to students 24/7, and they can provide information on additional resources.
Tufts has partnered with Kognito to help faculty, staff, and students build skills around mental health and suicide prevention, and to support academic performance and student retention. You can find the online program here. Additional resources on trauma-informed pedagogy can be found here.
Academic Misconduct Reminder:
As a reminder, our policy on academic misconduct has not changed. Per a vote of the faculty, instructors are required to report suspicions of plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty to the Dean of Student Affairs Office.
Exam Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:
- The StAAR Center will be open for limited exam proctoring only, with just 6 individual testing rooms and limited time throughout the day for proctoring.
- Only students with the “Distraction reduced testing” accommodation are permitted to take their exams in Dowling Hall. The availability of those testing rooms will be on a first come, first served basis. Students who receive “Extended Testing Time” as an accommodation should make arrangements with you to utilize their accommodation.
- The StAAR Center strongly encourages faculty to proctor their own exams, whether in-person or remotely. For information on how to provide exam accommodations remotely, please visit the StAAR Center website.
Some Key Contacts:
- If you have concerns about accommodating a student with a disability, contact the StAAR Center.
- If you have a student who may need support in time management, writing, or tutoring for a specific course, please refer them to the StAAR Center.
- If you have concerns about an undergraduate student’s academic performance, please contact the student’s Advising Dean:
- If you have concerns about a graduate student’s academic performance, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies in your department. Sarah Herchel (Associate Dean, GSAS) or Professor Karen Panetta (Dean of Graduate Education, School of Engineering) are also available for consultation.
- For detailed, timely, and abundant ideas for planning your course and teaching during difficult times, see the Teaching@Tufts website.
- For more information on mental health issues, contact the Tufts Wellness Center.
Once again, we would like to thank you for your adaptability and ingenuity as we continue to navigate through this unsettled time. If you have any questions or if you are looking for teaching resources, please visit our AS&E Teaching Resource page.
Carmen Lowe, Dean of Academic Advising and Undergraduate Studies, School of Arts and Sciences
Jennifer Stephan, Dean of Academic Advising and Undergraduate Studies, School of Engineering
Kirsten Behling, Associate Dean, Student Accessibility and Academic Resources
Robert G. Cook, Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Karen A. Panetta, Dean of Graduate Education, School of Engineering