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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – support and guidance

This page details examples of practice and approaches that have been taken by institutions in the USA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in areas such as learning and teaching, assessment and feedback, and student support.


Assessment and Grading
  • US colleges adopt pass-fail rules, stirring wider reform
    More than 150 universities have adopted a pass/fail grading system for the Spring semester. The overwhelming majority of the institutions have made pass/fail an option, reflecting student concerns that work worthy of a top grade should not be lost in a bid to protect them from the challenges of finishing online. A smaller share of institutions - including some of the nation's most elite - have made pass/fail mandatory, aiming to protect less-resourced students suddenly thrust into off-campus situations and traumas that compromise their ability to fully address their studies. The number of participating institutions seems sure to grow, reflecting wide concern about the quality of online instruction that is being thrown together for the remainder of the Spring semester, with no advance warning. Harvard University implemented a mandatory pass/fail system, although a survey of students by their Undergraduate Council favoured a variant called Double A, in which all grades would be either A or A-minus.

Emergency Funding
  • How three colleges are helping vulnerable students during the COVID-19 crisis
    The Community College of Rhode Island texted all students and to ask who lacked a laptop or adequate internet connection. Nearly 1,000 students replied to say that they lacked the tools to complete work online. The College has since given away 100 iPads and laptops, and approximately 100 grants of between $100-400 so that students can buy or fix devices. The state of Rhode Island has also worked with telecommunications companies to help provide free WiFi to those who need it, and the College helped connect students with those deals.
Support for Remote Teaching
  • Moving to remote teaching
    The College has developed resources to support the move from in-person to remote teaching, including information on alternative assessments, remote teaching strategies, and matching course needs to student device availability
Emergency Funding
  • How 3 colleges are helping vulnerable students during the coronavirus crisis
    CCRI texted all of its students and asked who lacked a laptop or adequate internet connection. Nearly 1,000 students replied to say that they lacked the tools to complete work online. The college has since given away 100 iPads and laptops, and have given out approximately 100 grants of between $100-400USD so students can buy or fix devices. The state of Rhode Island has also worked with telecommunications companies to help provide free WiFi to those who need it, and CCRI helped connect students with those deals.
Preparations for Autumn Semester

Emergency Funding
  • How 3 colleges are helping vulnerable students during the coronavirus crisis
    CCRI texted all of its students and asked who lacked a laptop or adequate internet connection. Nearly 1,000 students replied to say that they lacked the tools to complete work online. The college has since given away 100 iPads and laptops and have given out approximately 100 grants of between $100-400USD so students can buy or fix devices. The state of Rhode Island has also worked with telecommunications companies to help provide free Wi-Fi to those who need it, and CCRI helped connect students with those deals.
Support for Remote Teaching
  • Moving to Remote Teaching
    CCRI has developed resources to support the move from in-person to remote teaching, including information on alternative assessments, remote teaching strategies, and matching course needs to student device availability
Support for Remote Teaching; Support for Remote Learning; Transition Back to On-Campus Activity
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19)
    CCRI has provided students with some information relating to in-person teaching. The Community College intends to deliver in-person learning and teaching in some capacity but plans to maintain is online offering of courses. The institution is working with the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) to develop a plan for safely re-opening their campus. 

Student Support
  • Information for students
    The University has developed a resource to support students during this period of crisis and change. The resource includes a series of FAQs relating to COVID-19 and its impact on the academic calendar and scheduling, grading, academic progress, moving to online courses, tools for remote learning, admissions, financial matters, study abroad and graduation. Given students' concerns in these uncertain times, having a single source of information, as it relates to the student experience, which notes the date of updates should be considered good practice among institutions.
Support for Remote Teaching
  • Quick Start Guide to Remote Teaching
    The University has developed downloadable guides to support their staff in transitioning rapidly to remote teaching. The guides are focused on the learning technology tools used by the University, but are also relevant for many universities as these include Zoom, Kaltura, Canvas and Panopto. The Quick Start Guide is one section of a suite of resources developed by the University to support remote teaching due to COVID-19.
Preparations for Autumn Semester

Transition Back to On-Campus Learning
  • COVID-19 Reactivation Planning
    Cornell University intends to resume a 'hybrid approach to a residential semester' with classes beginning on 2 September 2020. The planned 'hybrid approach' will include in-person, online and hybrid teaching modalities. Students will complete the Autumn 2020 semester remotely, following the Thanksgiving break in November. Remote learning options will be made available to students who are not able to return to campus. The University is currently finalising a re-opening plan that will be submitted to New York state for each of its campuses.
Transition Back to On-Campus Learning
  • Cornell's Guiding Principles
    Cornell has set out a series of four guiding principles to shape the decision-making processes of re-opening on-campus learning spaces and activities. These guiding principles include: caring for our students; safeguarding our future as a world-class academic institution; maintaining our staffing; and, seeking new knowledge.
Transition Back to On-Campus Learning; Research
  • Reactivating research and supporting operations
    Cornell's Research and Operations Reactivation Committee has developed a set of recommendations to guide the safe, staged return to on-campus research activities. The published report sets out the process for returning to on-campus research, a control checklist, cleaning practices, and a planning and review process flowchart.

Emergency Funding
  • How three institutions are helping vulnerable students during the COVID-19 crisis
    Fresno Pacific University turned to its front-line staff (coaches, academic advisers and student affairs professionals), who interact with students daily, to help identify some of its learners in most need. Once these students were identified, officials loaned them devices to help them continue learning online. They also connected them with the campus food pantry.
Preparations for Autumn Semester

Emergency Funding
  • How 3 colleges are helping vulnerable students during the coronavirus crisis
    Fresno Pacific turned to its front-line staff (Coaches, academic advisers and student affairs professionals), who interact with students daily, to help identify some of its neediest learners. Once these students were identified, officials loaned them devices to help them continue learning online. They also connected them with the campus food pantry.
Support for Remote Teaching; Support for Remote Learning; Transition Back to On-Campus Activity
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) News and Information
    FPU has developed a dedicated webpage to share information relating to COVID-19 and the re-opening of campus. The University plans to provide primarily face-to-face instruction in Autumn 2020. FPU has said that they are measuring classrooms, and ordering masks, sanitizer and cleaning items to be used for in-person teaching.

Emergency Funding
  • Learn remotely
    Harvard University has outlined its approach to refunds, pro-rated costs, emergency financial assistance, and support for undergraduate and postgraduate student workers.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
  • Socialize remotely
    The University has also developed an online website created to support student and staff mental health and wellbeing during this crisis. It offers them the opportunity to connect via virtual events, offering mindfulness and spirituality classes, guides to exercising, and links to free TV, movies, art and culture.
Support for Remote Learning
  • Teach Remotely
    In response to the current crisis, the University has developed a resource for academic staff who have to transition their teaching from in-person to remote delivery quickly, which includes resources on the best practice for online pedagogy, technology and tools, library resources, and reflections from the Harvard teaching community on their use of learning technology.
  • Learn Remotely - where to go, what to do, and how to get help as you learn online
    In response to the current crisis, the University has created a resource to support students transitioning from in-person learning to online learning. The guide explains the similarities and differences between in-person and online learning.
  • Learn Remotely
    The University's Academic Resource Centre has also published guidance on learning, participating and getting the most of learning remotely. There is also a dedicated section on learning remotely and wellbeing.
Preparations for Autumn Semester

Transition Back to On-Campus Learning
  • Planning for Campus Reopening
    Harvard University has developed a four stage plan to returning to in-person, on-campus learning and teaching. The institution does note that individual Schools and Units, are developing their own plans to support a return to campus teaching. The first two phases have been communicated via the institution's Coronavirus-specific webpage. Phase 1 marks the beginning of preparation for the resumption of laboratory research. Harvard will notify a limited number of faculty and staff who are eligible to return to on-campus labs. All academic staff will continue to work remotely. Phase 2 sees additional research-focused staff returning to scientific labs on campus. Academic staff have been directed to continue with working from home through the end of the summer.
Transition Back to On-Campus Learning; Research
  • Steps for Lab Re-entry
    The University's plan for safely re-opening laboratory spaces on-campus is a five-step plan that includes a requirement for workplace training, daily attestation to being symptom-free, receiving a baseline viral test and review of their specific laboratory's reopening plan.
  • Steps for Office Re-entry
    The University's plan for safely re-opening office spaces on-campus is a five-step plan that includes a requirement for workplace training, daily attestation to being symptom-free, receiving a baseline viral test and adherence to the institution's safety protocols.
Transition Back to On-Campus Learning; Research
  • Harvard Library's Smart Restart for Research
    Harvard's Library has developed a robust phased plan for the re-opening of their facilities. The development of the plan was led by the Harvard Library Local Emergency Management Team in collaboration with senior School management representatives and the Library Leadership Team.

Assessment and Grading
  • Spring 2020 Grading Policy (Temporary)
    For the 2020 spring semester, The New School has taken the decision to assign, where letter grades are usually assigned, grades of A, or A-. Students who had elected a Pass/Unsatisfactory grading option in a course, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, for courses in which letter grades are normally assigned will have their grade mode converted to A/A-. The University notes that students will have the option to change their grading election to P/U until 13 May 2020. All students will be permitted to withdraw from their online classes until the final day of term, 13 May 2020. The W grade will appear on the students' transcript. Courses that ended and were graded prior to 15 April 2020 (the effective date of the policy) will not be eligible for withdrawal.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
  • Spring 2020 Student Resource Hub
    The New School has developed a dedicated webpage to support the mental health and wellbeing of its student community. This webpage includes resources on academic support, entertainment and social activities available to students, home fitness, mental health and food assistance. The webpage also includes resources for international students and undocumented students. The New School has also transitioned its Student Services to online delivery.
Support for Remote Learning
  • Study Abroad COVID-19 Response FAQs
    The New School has created a series of responses to frequently asked questions that they have published via Google Drive. This notes that all students who were studying abroad were advised to return to the their home country. Where students chose to remain in their study abroad countries, the University asked them to sign Assumption of Risk Release forms acknowledging the increased risk associated with remaining abroad against the advice of the New School and their personal liability for their own safety during the pandemic. Where a students' study abroad programme will continue to operate online, the New School has stated that they will continue to accept those academic credits. The University has also recognised that some study abroad programmes may not offer an online delivery of their curriculum. Where this is the case, academic Schools have been asked to develop alternative academic plans for students to ensure that each student earns the anticipated number of credits for the semester.
Support for Remote Learning; Support for Remote Teaching
Support for Remote Learning; Support for Remote Teaching; Emergency Funding
  • 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
    The New School has developed a dedicated webpage to provide information to their staff and students on the impact of COVID-19 on the university. The institution has taken the decision to deliver all classes for the remainder of the spring semester online and to suspend all planned on-campus classes and activities in June. All students are expected to have left halls except those with special exceptions, who will receive support from the institution while they remain in student accommodation. Staff have been asked to work from home. The New School has increased the Student Emergency Assistance fund to help students with specific urgent needs. The decision has also been taken that there will not be a tuition increase for the 2020/21 academic year. Where students do not have access to appropriate technology, The New School has been coordinating the provision of loaned laptops to students. The University has also stated that students will not be prevented from registering for the next academic year because of an outstanding balance of tuition. There will also be no late fees or holds applied to students who missed or miss tuition payment plan installations from March to May. The University has requested that students pay what they can, when they can and to liaise with Student Accounts to discuss alterations to payment plans.
Preparations for Autumn Semester

Transition Back to On-Campus Learning
  • 2020-2021 Academic Plans
    The New School plans to deliver all teaching for the Autumn 2020 semester online. Select portions of The New School campus will be made available for in-person learning, creative making, research and artistic studies. These spaces will be allocated to students at all stages of their academic studies with priority being given to final year students who require access to specialised equipment. Utilising its relationships with international partner institutions, The New School has introduced an innovative first-year offering for new international students to begin their studies within their home country.

Course Development
  • Online course development
    University of California LA (UCLA) is encouraging its staff to develop online delivery of its programmes prior to the current crisis. To aid staff, the CAT created a resource/guide on online course development.
Emergency Funding
  • Bruin Tech Fund
    The University has created a $1000 grant to support students without the technology to study remotely. 40 of these grants were allocated in the first day that they were made available.
Student Engagement
Support for Remote Learning
  • Student resources for remote learning
    UCLA's Centre for the Advancement of Teaching has developed a resource to support students in transitioning to remote/online learning.
  • Quickly moving to remote teaching checklist
    Similar to Heriot-Watt University's Rapid Response Toolkit, UCLA's Centre for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) has developed a resource to support the necessary swift pivot to online teaching.
Preparations for Autumn Semester

Support for Remote Teaching; Support for Remote Learning; Transition Back to On-Campus Activity
  • Information for the campus community
    UCLA has created a dedicated set of webpages to share information relating to the transition to on-campus, in-person learning for students, teaching staff and researchers. The University plans to deliver 15% to 20% of its courses in-person or in a mixed format, combining remote and in-person teaching. All large courses will be taught remotely, as will some smaller courses.&
Study abroad
  • Study abroad and COVID-19: FAQS
    All study abroad programmes planned for the Autumn 2020 semester have been suspended, as have the Autumn portion of all planned year-long study abroad programmes. UCLA has shared with students that any decision on the Winter and Spring 2021 study abroad programmes will most likely be taken in September/October 2020.

Support for Remote Teaching
  • Teaching online resources
    The University of Central Florida's (UCF) Centre for Distributed Learning has compiled a set of resources that they believe will help instructors to plan their online and mixed mode courses. This resource includes their signposting to The Teaching Online Podcast (TOPcast), UCF's online learning podcast, and resources related to supporting accessibility in online delivery, assessment and course design.
  • Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository
    A public resource for faculty and academic developers interested in online and blended teaching strategies. Entries describe individuals' experiences of utilising a strategy drawn from pedagogical practice and has undergone a peer-review process.
  • UCF Keep Learning
    Online resource to aid students in transitioning from in-person to remote learning as a result of the current crisis.
  • UCF Keep Teaching
    While the University delivers a large number of remote programmes, they do offer in-person study. This resource has been developed to support academic staff who primarily teach in person to transition into online teaching.
Preparations for Autumn Semester

Transition Back to On-Campus Activity
  • UCF Return to Campus Plan
    UCF's plan reflects the belief that no single plan will work best for the entirety of their academic community. They have planned a phased approach to returning to on-campus learning and teaching. This plan includes the preparation of physical learning spaces for physical distances learning, e.g. the installation of hand sanitizer stations and touchless devices, including faucets and doors, the installation of public facing areas and the creation of additional barriers in physical spaces. The University has also made improvements to their buildings' ventilation systems and enhanced cleaning protocols. Academic staff have been encouraged to provide flexibility to any students requesting the ability to learn remotely. UCF's plan in based on an intended institutional culture for safeguarding their community's safety and well-being.
Transition Back to On-Campus Activity
  • Guide for Returning to Campus
    UCF has published guidance on health and safety measures that need to be taken by their student and staff community. In addition, UCF has developed specific guidance on specific campus scenarios, including public transportation, working on-campus, using research labs, and using public restrooms or elevators.
Transition Back to On-Campus Activity

Emergency Funding
  • Provision of emergency funding to students
    The University of Michigan has extended its existing emergency funding pools to be accessible to students in need during the pandemic. Information on the different pots of money, whether short-term loans or grants, can be found on its website.
Student Engagement
Support for Remote Teaching
  • Keep Teaching Resource
    A resource of guides to support remote teaching in different circumstances, which is being regularly updated in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Adjusting Your Study Habits During COVID-19
    A resource developed by Michigan's Centre for Academic Innovation to support students in changing the ways in which they study to serve in a remote learning environment.
  • Teaching and Learning Remotely
    Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts has also developed a resource to support academic staff and students within their subjects to engage effectively with remote learning.
Preparations for Autumn Semester

Support for Remote Teaching; Support for Remote Learning; Transition Back to On-Campus Activity
  • Campus Maize and Blueprint
    The University has created a dedicated website to provide transparent information on the delivery of learning and teaching in 2020/21. The website includes information for visitors to campus, students and their families, and faculty and staff members. UM will provide a 'starter kit' for all students returning to campus, which will include face coverings and hand sanitizer. Learning and teaching in the 2020/21 academic year will be delivered in a mixed mode. In the Autumn semester, teaching will be delivered in person on campus from 31 August to 20 November 2020. Following the Thanksgiving break, learning and teaching will be undertaken remotely, culminating in final assessments, including examinations, that are conducted remotely. Students will be encouraged to return to campus for the start of teaching on 19 January 2021 and will continue until 20 April 2021. The exam diet will be undertaken over a single week on campus. UM has also published four campus-specific plans for the resumption of in-person, campus-based activities.
Transition Back to On-Campus Activity
  • University issues guidance on face coverings
    UM has issued guidance on the use of face masks in University buildings. The University has also stated that they will provide nonmedical-grade face coverings for all staff members who will undertake in-person work.
Transition Back to On-Campus Activity; Research
  • Research Re-engagement
    Michigan has created a webpage dedicated to outlining its plans to safely re-engage with research in person. The webpage provides specific guidelines for human, laboratory and studio, and field research.

Regulatory Flexibility