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Guidance for Faculty on Accommodating Illness or Quarantine

Given the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic, it is possible that faculty and students may be absent from class more often than in previous academic years. This page is meant to provide guidance and suggestions for faculty for preparing for and responding to student and faculty absenteeism.

Faculty Absenteeism

What happens if a faculty member becomes ill or must quarantine/isolate temporarily during the term related to COVID-19?

The following are suggested approaches for handling absenteeism, as well as tips to help faculty best prepare for potential illness or required isolation/quarantine.

Scenario 1: If a faculty member is required to isolate/quarantine at home but otherwise feels able to teach, the following options are available and should be pursued in the following order:

  • Option 1: Find a substitute who can teach in person (e.g. faculty colleague, TA, etc.).
  • Option 2: Allow a TA to hold the class in person, while the faculty member teaches via Zoom remotely.
  • Option 3: Temporarily move the course to a fully remote format during the period of illness or isolation/quarantine. Please note that faculty members should not switch their in-person courses to remote instruction due to required quarantine/isolation without prior approval from their dean and the COVID-19 Surveillance Team.

Note that if persistent absence occurs, department heads may need to find an alternate instructor for the remainder of the course.

Suggestions for preparing for potential illness/quarantine:

  • Consider how you want the student experience to happen if you can’t be there. What can you do in advance to prepare?
  • If a substitute makes sense for your course, try to organize this prior to the start of classes or early in the term and provide the back-up instructor/TA with any information they may need to prepare.
  • One of the most important things a faculty member can do to plan for absence is to use Blackboard Learn. If faculty plan ahead and build out their Blackboard site before class starts, there are fewer details to manage when faculty or students become ill. Students also appreciate having access to course materials and seeing grades via this platform, and they expect to be able to do so.
  • Establish clear lines of communication early in the course, so that you can quickly inform students if you need to be out. An email to the entire class can be sent via Blackboard Learn. Becoming familiar with this platform and using it throughout the term, whether your course is remote or not, will be helpful.

Scenario 2: In the event that a faculty member is ill and unavailable to teach remotely:

  • Every department should determine a back-up plan for each course, should a faculty member become sick.
  • Departments will need to handle these situations similarly to how they would have pre-COVID (e.g. find an alternate instructor, provide instructions to the class, etc.)

Student Absenteeism

What happens if a student becomes sick with COVID-19 or requires quarantine during the term?

The following are suggested approaches for handling student absenteeism, as well as tips to help faculty best prepare for potential illness or required isolation/quarantine.  We strongly suggest that faculty convey to their classes that there is a plan in place for student absences.

Scenario 1: Students required by Drexel to undergo a mandatory quarantine or isolation period will not be required to withdraw from a course. Instructors will make every effort to keep the student connected to the course material through any of the following options, as appropriate to the specific circumstance:

  • Providing remote synchronous access to the course, so that the student can participate live during the time of the class meeting.
  • Recording the course and sharing the recording and course materials asynchronously.
  • Working with the student regarding missed material: Provide an alternate assignment if the student is unable to participate in a class activity and provide guidance regarding group-based work.
  • Providing additional office hours specifically for affected students, if possible.

For more guidance and suggestions, please download the PDF “Managing Student Absences During the Pandemic,” developed by the Teaching and Learning Center.

Suggestions for preparing for potential illness/quarantine:

  • One of the most important things a faculty member can do to plan for student absence is to use Blackboard Learn. It is one of the most helpful tools for students, allowing them to find everything related to their course in one place. If faculty plan ahead and build out their Blackboard site before class starts, there are fewer details to manage when students become ill. Students also appreciate having access to course materials and seeing grades via this platform, and they expect to be able to do so. 
  • There are going to be classes, primarily discussion-based classes, that are not appropriate for recording. Faculty will have to work with students in these cases. It may be possible to create alternate assignments for these students to take the place of classroom discussion. Faculty could assign special readings, podcasts and perhaps reflection assignments for students who are affected by the inability to participate in discussion.
  • Instructors can also advise students to form small study groups with peers who can fill them in with information or notes they might miss during an absence. Instructors might also intentionally develop these groups on the first day of class and use them as needed even if there is no significant student absence.
  • Faculty can consult with the Teaching and Learning Center — which now offers individual consultations — to develop a custom solution that is based on the learning outcomes for the specific course.

Scenario 2: In the case of extended illness or absence, students should review the University's Incomplete (INC) policy (for undergraduates and graduate students) and Grade Appeals policy.