Skip to Content

Office of the Faculty Senate

COVID-19 and the Classroom

To help faculty navigate the challenges of teaching in the classroom during to the current pandemic, the Faculty Welfare Committee and the Committee on Scholastic Standards and Petitions, in conjunction with others across campus, have developed materials that we hope faculty will find useful.

Guidance for Spring 2021

  • Social distancing and face covering policies remain in effect (see the Return to Learn Plan). Students failing to comply may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for violation of UNIV 3.04 or STAF 6.26. See Enforcement of Public Health Directives. 
  • Classroom cleaning protocols remain in effect (see the Return to Learn Plan). Faculty should make students aware of cleaning supplies and request that they wipe surfaces before and after class. Facility Operations, including Custodial Services and Building Maintenance Services, will continue to monitor pandemic supply levels in general classroom spaces. Should a faculty or staff member note that a general classroom space is in need of pandemic supplies, they should call the Facilities Work Management Service Center number at 777-9675 (FMCNotify@fmc.sc.edu) and/or use the online form on the Facilities "Submit A Request" webpage to request replenishment of pandemic classroom supplies.
  • Students, faculty, and staff will be required to test monthly for COVID-19  
  • Students should use the COVID-19 Student Report Form to report all COVID-19 related absences 
  • See the Coronavirus Web site for the latest information.  

Consistent with university policy (UNIV 3.04), faculty may enforce public health directives during a period of communicable disease outbreak on campus; these directives include the application of mandatory face coverings in all university classrooms and physical distancing. UNIV 3.04 notes: 

 “Recognizing that there is currently conflicting guidance between CDC and WHO, it is the preference of the Public Health Team to maintain CDC-recommended physical distancing of 6-feet among students where feasible, but to follow WHO guidance and allow not less than 3 feet in combination with face coverings and other mitigation strategies if adjustment is necessary. Instructors are expected to either wear a face covering or face shield, be behind a barrier (e.g., sneeze guard), or be physically distanced from the students by a distance of no less than 10 feet. Given the established requirement for face coverings in every classroom combined with heightened daily facilities cleaning and campus disease monitoring, the Public Health Team supports a reduction in physical distancing in the classroom setting, but only as logistical constraints warrant.”

Student Who Fails to Wear a Face Covering

If a student attempts to enter a classroom without a face covering, an instructor may: 

  • ask the student to remain outside the classroom for the safety of others; 
  • ask the student to put on a face covering before entering the classroom; 
  • offer the student a disposable face covering.  

If the student refuses to wear a face covering or has no options to retrieve a face covering, the instructor may: 

  • tell the student to leave and come to the next class in a face covering; 
  • tell the student to leave or you will submit a referral to the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity resulting in disciplinary sanctions that could include removal from the course. 

If the student refuses to leave the classroom as requested, you may: 

  • ask the student to sit apart from the rest of the class in an area where physical distancing is possible (if there is space in the classroom), continue to teach the class, and submit a referral to the office of student conduct; 
  • dismiss the class and submit a referral to the Office of Student Conduct. 

If the student is causing a disruption (e.g., yelling, using profanity, interrupting your ability to teach), you may also contact UofSC police.

What if the offending student tells me that they have a disability? The Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) will work with registered students on accommodations related to the mandatory face covering policy. Those accommodations may be an alternative to the standard cloth face covering (such as a face shield) or changes to online instruction, but the SDRC will not issue any student permission to be in a classroom without a face covering. If a student informs you that the SDRC has permitted them access to your classroom without a face covering and you have no documentation from the SDRC, inform the student that they need to visit the SDRC office in Close-Hipp suite 102.

Student Who Fails to Observe Physical Distancing

If a student fails to abide by physical distancing mandates (e.g., sitting next to each other in a seat not designated for occupancy, gathering together before or after class, etc.), the following options are available:

  • Request that the student sit in a seat designated for occupancy. You can remind the students that you have the ability to report students to the Office of Student Conduct if they fail to abide by university policy, and physical distancing is part of university policy at the moment.
  • If the student fails to comply, you may:
    • continue to teach the course and optionally report the students to the Office of Student Conduct;
    • dismiss the class and submit a referral to the Office of Student Conduct.

Student Who Violates Quarantine and Isolation Mandates

As outlined in the following section on attendance and class participation, the university has developed a system where students can submit documentation if they have been placed in quarantine or isolation due to exposure to COVID-19 or testing positive for COVID-19, respectively. When this occurs, if the documented student comes to a face-to-face class before they are medically cleared, the student is in violation of UNIV 3.03 and can be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

Reporting Students to the Office of Student Conduct

If a faculty member needs to report one or more students to the Office of Student Conduct, they should use the Public Health Directive Concern Report. For students who make honest mistakes regarding mask use, social distancing, etc., and who cooperate and correct their behavior, reporting should be unnecessary. The online form should be used for students who display blatant defiance or disregard for the safety of those around them. Faculty should also bear in mind that it may take some time for the Office of Student Conduct to adjudicate these cases fairly; in particular, after a report about a student is made, it will not be possible for the Office of Student Conduct to make a decision about disciplinary actions before the next class meeting.


Faculty are encouraged to email students before the start of the semester to clarify course modality and attendance expectations.

In first weeks of class, faculty should highlight communications protocols such as required office hours and anticipated email response times. Students who are enrolled in multiple asynchronous classes may especially benefit from regular updates and reminders. Faculty may consider, for example, posting a brief announcement to Blackboard every Monday about topics and assignments for the week (Blackboard announcements can also be emailed to students).

Faculty teaching fully asynchronous classes are encouraged to consider specific assignments that require students, individually or small groups, to meet synchronously with the instructor at least once in the term, for example, to review course materials or discuss a research activity.

Faculty are encouraged to discuss communications strategies with their colleagues and to develop best practice recommendations appropriate to their disciplines and courses.   

Students enrolling in classes with synchronous or face-to-face components should be expected to attend and participate in those modalities unless explicitly excused by the instructor. While faculty should be prepared to provide make-up work for absences due to documented illness and other COVID-19 related contingencies, faculty should use their judgement in granting excuses and are not expected to make all course content available asynchronously on demand.

The University’s new attendance policy for undergraduate students will require faculty to excuse absences for documented illness. Although this policy will officially take effect in the 2021–2022 academic year, faculty are strongly encouraged to adopt its excused absence provisions. Under this policy, faculty will not assess grade penalties for excused absences and must make reasonable accommodations for make-up work.  

When students approach faculty members about medical absences related to the pandemic, they should be referred to UofSC’s COVID-19 Student Report Form. The online form allows students to document their COVID-19 situation, which could be a positive test for COVID-19 or a need to quarantine as determined by Student Health Services, medical provider, or other public health authority. The form facilitates notification to faculty members regarding the dates the student will be absent and requests consideration for students who are symptomatic.

Undergraduate students with problems that may lead to absences, but which are not the result of a positive COVID-19 test or a quarantine order, should be referred to an additional report form available from the Undergraduate Ombuds. Faculty members may also submit an alert about an undergraduate student who may be experiencing difficulties through the UofSC Student Success Center. These reporting processes ease the burden of evaluating the documentation for absences while also maintaining student confidentiality as much as possible. 

 Faculty with concerns about a student's health, well-being, or safety, may also submit a referral to the university's Student Care and Outreach Team through the Dean of Students' Office. 

Faculty cannot provide the name, identifying characteristics such as age or gender, or the number of students in their classes who test positive for COVID-19. This information is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and exempt from disclosure pursuant to South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FERPA prohibits faculty from disclosing personally identifiable information (PII) from our student’s education records and defines PII to include information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity either directly or indirectly through linkages with other information. Because of the limited number of students enrolled in a particular class with a known faculty member on campus, the faculty member cannot release any form of COVID-19 testing data without potentially identifying particular students. In addition, FOIA exempts medical records from the definition of public records subject to disclosure. 

 Faculty are encouraged to consult the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) for information about how use Blackboard and Teams for holding online meetings and lectures, as well as for online video capture and dissemination. CTE also has suggestion for grading participation in lieu of penalizing absences (see Example Syllabus Statements).  

 Strategies to encourage attendance and participation will vary by discipline, modality, and course type--clinical, laboratory, lecture, and discussion courses each bring unique challenges. Faculty are encouraged to talk with their colleagues about the strategies that seem most successful and to adopt, where possible, uniform expectations across classes of similar kinds. Being consistent in our expectations of students can only improve the chances that those expectations will be met.  

 In all situations where students have significant absences that impair completion, an instructor should be lenient in offering students the option of an incomplete (I) grade. Incompletes are normally reserved for situations in which a student’s ability to complete coursework in the normally allotted time is impaired by “unanticipated illness, accident, work-related responsibility, family hardship, or verified learning disability.” Faculty are encouraged to interpret these criteria expansively. For example, a student who is quarantined, whether because the student themselves had a positive test for coronavirus or because there were indications of illness in someone with whom the student had been in close contact, may be considered to have a legitimate illness-related reason for failing to complete all their coursework. However, before completing arrangements to allow a student to receive an incomplete, faculty should require students to first talk with their academic and financial aid advisors as incomplete grades may affect financial aid eligibility and degree progression. 

Under appropriate circumstances early in the semester, faculty may also advise students to withdraw from the course. If serious impediments to a student’s completion of the course occur later in the semester, undergraduates may be advised to petition for a late “hardship” withdrawal. A similar process is available to graduate students through the Graduate School. A petition for late withdrawal may be the best option for a student who misses much of the later portions of a  course due to circumstances related to the pandemic. 

Instead of Spring Break, several Wellness Days have been scheduled throughout the semester to provide faculty and students opportunities to recuperate. Faculty are strongly encouraged not to schedule major exams and or assignment due dates immediately following these breaks.  

 UofSC’s Learning Management System, Blackboard, has the capability to administer online exams using security software options, including ProctorU (which charges students a fee for each exam) or Respondus LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor. These services may be used to maintain the integrity of a student’s testing environment. Online exams offer other affordances that may support academic integrity.  Options available in Bb include timing assessments, prohibiting backtracking, and establishing pools from which questions are selected at random. Faculty are encouraged to consult with colleagues and with CTE to develop best practices for online examinations in their respective fields.  

 Faculty are reminded that students asynchronous classes may have selected those classes to accommodate work schedules, limited computer access, or to continue their studies from abroad. It is not practical to define a single exam time for such courses. Faculty should consider:  

  • scheduling a large window of time (a day or more) in which students might complete the exam at any poin 
  • defining multiple day/time options for students to select from in taking the exam 
  • assigning an evaluation that is not a test such as a term paper, reflection paper, project, or recorded presentation.

Whenever possible, faculty should use University supported technologies and services that are free to students. Although the cost of additional technologies or services may seem incidental, these can add up across a student’s course load. Maintaining additional accounts and logins can also prove burdensome. 

If additional, for fee, technologies and services are essential for instruction, faculty should clearly indicate the cost to students in the syllabus at the start of the course and remind students before the cost is incurred.  

Similaly, if ProctorU will be employed to proctor online exams, instructors should state the total anticipated cost in the syllabus.  

For additional information and syllabus statement examples please refer to the CTE’s Syllabus Template Resource page. Examples are for guidance only and not to be considered standard University policy.

Course Delivery Mode Options and Class Meeting Schedule

Example 1:
You are currently enrolled in [course information]. This course is taught [instructional method, e.g. 100% on the Web in a synchronous format]. Students are required to participate in [online meeting or lectures at specific days and times]….

Example 2:
This is a HyFlex course. You may choose, on a day-by-day basis, to participate in person, online, or through a combination of online and in person. You may also complete all or part of the in-person component of the course using [Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom, etc.] from any location. To join the class live via [Collaborate, Zoom, etc.] use this link: ______. Within 24 hours of the end of class time you will be able to view the class recording in the ______ section of the Course Menu.

Example 3:
For this course, class sessions and discussions will be recorded or live-streamed. Such recordings/streaming will only be available to students registered for this class—to assist those who cannot attend the live session or to serve as a resource for those who would like to review content that was presented. These recordings are the intellectual property of the faculty and they may not be shared or reproduced without the explicit written consent of the faculty member. Further, students may not share these sessions with those not in the class or upload them to any other online environment. Doing so would be a breach of the Code of Student Conduct. Students who prefer to participate via audio only will be allowed to disable their video camera, so that only audio will be captured. Please discuss this option with your instructor in advance.

Excused Absences and How to Report an Illness

All absences due to documented illness or quarantine will be excused, and no grade penalty will be assessed for missing classes for this reason. If you experience COVID-19 symptoms, please stay home, contact the COVID-19 Student Health Services (SHS) nurse line (803-576-8511), complete the COVID-19 Student Report Form to notify professors that you will be absent from class. When talking with the SHS nurse, be sure to ask for documentation of the consult as you will need this to document why you missed class. You will use the COVID-19 Student Report Form if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or if you have been ordered to quarantine because of close contact with a person who was COVID-19 positive. In each of these situations you will be provided appropriate documentation that can be shared through the Student Report Form.

Participation and Attendance Policy

Example 1:
Class Presence and Participation. Class presence and participation points are given to encourage your active class participation and discussion. You will be rewarded with a high score (see rubric below) as long as you frequently come to class and/or actively contribute to the discussion during class times. Participation in weekly discussion sessions will be graded on the following scale:

  • Unexcused absence = 0 points
  • In class, but asleep or obsessed w/laptop or phone = 1 point
  • In class, but silent or ill prepared = 2 points
  • In class and making an okay contribution = 3 points
  • In class and making quality contributions = 4 points
  • In class, but your cell phone rings = −3 points

Example 2:
If you know you are going to be absent from class (either face-to-face or synchronous sessions), I request that you please send me a brief e-mail to explain your absence in advance. Students who repeatedly arrive late to the lecture or recitation will have their class participation grade lowered.

Late/Missed Assignments and Exams

Example 1:
Late Assignments: Group projects, your individual paper, and your final paper, are due at 11:59 PM on their respective due dates. These items may be turned in after the deadline, but you will be eligible for fewer points once the deadline has passed; you will only be eligible for 95% of the total grade if it is submitted by 3 AM the following morning, and you will lose an additional 10% from the total you are eligible to earn for every 12-hour period it is late thereafter. Papers more than 3 days late will earn a grade of 0. Note also that extensions will not generally be permitted, but if you think you are subject to an exceptional circumstance, please discuss it with me outside of class (and as soon as possible).

Example 2:
Late Assignments and Missed Exams: To avoid dealing with lateness and missed exams, I provide you with more assessment opportunities than you need for your grade. If you miss an exam or an assignment for any reason, your grade on that item will be zero. To calculate your grade, I will select the best ones to count toward your grade. This means that NO arrangements will be made for late assignments or missed exams, so please be careful in choosing to skip assignments or exams early in the semester: You may be overwhelmed later, get sick, or otherwise need to miss an exam or assignment later in the semester.

Face Coverings

Face coverings protect you and your classmates in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Faculty, students and staff are required to wear an appropriate face covering in all classrooms and in other designated areas on campus. Face coverings should cover your nose and mouth in a community setting. Students with conditions that prohibit them from wearing a face covering must register with the Student Disabilities Resource Center (SDRC); appropriate accommodations will be approved by the SDRC, and I will be notified. Failure or refusal to wear the required face coverings in designated areas may result in your immediate removal from the classroom and corrective action, including referral to the Office of Student Conduct, in accordance with University policies and procedures (UNIV 3.04).

Important Links:

Hand and Surface Hygiene

Please use hand sanitizer upon entering the classroom and wipe down your desk/table and chair at the beginning of class. All wipes should be disposed of in the trash can and not left on the desk or floor.

Student Well-Being

Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the  Undergraduate Ombuds or the Dean of Students If you are comfortable doing so, please notify me as the professor so that we can find resources that may be helpful.

Students do not learn when they do not feel safe. If you feel unsafe on campus at any time in any place, please contact Police Dispatch at 803-777-4215 (in an emergency, please call 911) and reach out to the Division of Student Affairs and Academic Support. Again, if you are comfortable doing so, please notify me as the professor, and I will do my best to make appropriate accommodations.

Students may experience situations or challenges that can interfere with learning and interpersonal functioning including stress, anxiety, depression, substance use, concern for a family/friend, or feelings of hopelessness. Pay attention to what is happening in the classroom and in the lives of your fellow students. There are numerous campus resources available to students including University Counseling & Psychiatry Service and University Student Health Services. Help is available 24/7. Students who need immediate help should call 803-777-5223. An outside resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255).

COVID-19 Teaching Resources

 For more information, access Keep Teaching resources through the Office of the Provost, or find additional instructional support through the Center for Teaching Excellence.

 


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.

©