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Return FAQ for Instructors: Winter Quarter / Spring Semester 2022

Drexel University returned to in-person instruction for the Winter Quarter / Spring Semester 2022 the week of January 17. The following are frequently asked questions about the return to campus as it relates to academics and the classroom. For the latest public health and COVID-19 guidelines, please visit the Drexel Response to Coronavirus.

Last Updated: January 18, 2022

Classroom Health & Safety

Are masks required in classrooms?

As of August 3, 2021, Drexel requires all students and employees to wear a mask in all on-campus public and shared spaces, including instructional and research settings, regardless of vaccination status. Specifically, masks are to be worn in classrooms, lecture halls and seminar rooms. Masks are also now required when in Drexel libraries and in designated teaching and research laboratories/spaces. In addition, masks must be worn in all public spaces and settings where members of the public will use University facilities or visit the University. In general, at this time masks should be worn when indoors unless you are alone in an office or have a special exemption.

As of January 5, 2022, the University now strongly recommends that all members of the Drexel community upgrade their masks to KF94, KN95 or other NIOSH-approved, valveless respirator masks. While 2-layer, surgical face masks with wire clips are still somewhat effective, strongly consider doubling up with a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask that fits snugly against your face. Neck gaiters, masks with valves, and scarves DO NOT count as adequate face coverings indoors at Drexel.

Are there circumstances in which instructors may ask for exemption from wearing a mask?

Faculty who are seeking accommodation based on a documented disability must contact Human Resources to determine if they meet the criteria for approval. Additionally, many classrooms have recently been outfitted with upgraded technology, including podium or lapel microphones. A microphone may be helpful if an instructor is concerned about projecting their voice for the duration of the class. Please note that face shields are not considered acceptable substitutes to masks without a disability accommodation or approval from HR.

Can students or instructors remove their masks when speaking, eating or drinking in class?

Both students and instructors must keep their masks on for the entirety of the class period. Please refrain from eating in the classroom. If an instructor or student needs to drink water, they may briefly drop their mask, take a sip of their beverage, and then return the mask to correct positioning, covering both nose and mouth.

What should an instructor do if a student in a class is not wearing a mask?

If a student is not wearing a mask or complying with other required behaviors in the classroom, the instructor can take the following steps:

  • Ask the student to correct their behavior. This may involve determining if there is a reason why the student is unable to comply with the request; for instance, they may not have a mask. If a solution to the problem can be easily identified, and the instructor is able to assist the student in complying, such as directing them as to where to find a mask, they should do so.
  • If the student will not correct their behavior, the instructor should inform the student that they will be referred to Student Conduct if they fail to comply with the faculty member’s request and the University’s mask requirements.
  • If the student still will not correct their behavior, the instructor should ask the student to leave the classroom.
  • In the unlikely situation that a student refuses to leave the classroom, the instructor may call Public Safety to have the student escorted from the class. After class, the instructor should send a report of the incident to Student Conduct. Dismissing the class is not recommended, as it will create further disruption.

What if I have concerns about wearing a mask while lecturing?

The Teaching and Learning Center has developed a resource document on “Teaching in Masks: Common Questions and Recommendations” as well as a Teaching Tips blog post on “Masks, Mastery and Mental Wellbeing: Considerations for Returning to Classroom Teaching.” Additionally, there are tips related to teaching in a mask in the Classroom Readiness Checklist for Teaching Remote and Hybrid Modalities, created by the Graduate College.

Here is a brief overview of tips shared in those two documents:

  • Prior to the start of the term, practice speaking in a mask, and perhaps videotape yourself so you can identify ways to improve your delivery.
  • Stand closer to students, speak slowly and articulate clearly. If you are teaching in a large classroom with many students, consider using a podium or lapel microphone.
  • Consider using exaggerated body language (such as eye movements, hand gestures, head nods and shoulder shrugs) to improve communication.
  • Use visual aids and materials like slides and handouts to help illustrate your content.
  • Pause for questions and frequently check in with students to confirm they can hear and understand you.

For information on technology in the classroom, please refer to the Technology Support section of the FAQ below. The Teaching and Learning Center also offers support as well as teaching consultations.

Can I ask students their vaccination status?

No, instructors are not allowed to ask students about medical information. The University will not share vaccination status with any faculty or staff member, other than those in a health and safety role on a need-to-know basis.

Do fully online graduate or undergraduate students need to provide evidence of vaccination status?

Per Drexel University’s policy, vaccination is not required for students who are attending fully online classes with no in-person requirements, who are not living on campus, AND who are not returning to campus at any time for any other reason including on-campus work, social engagements, or other extracurricular or programmatic activities. DragonCards will be deactivated for all students — including fully online students — who have not uploaded their proof of vaccination to the Drexel Health Checker unless they have received an approved medical or religious exemption; however this will not impact the ability to register for or attend/complete fully online classes. If at any time an online student enrolls in an in-person course on campus and/or a course that has any on-campus requirements, the student must comply with the mandatory vaccination requirements. If a student plans to be a visitor on campus at any time, they should follow the campus visitor COVID-19 requirements.

Is the University enforcing distancing in the classroom?

As of June 10, the University is operating at 100% capacity in all classrooms, labs, workspaces and University spaces. Consistent with current Philadelphia public health guidelines, there is no required social distancing.

What is the University doing to ensure its classrooms and facilities are safe?

As part of its commitment to in-person instruction, Drexel has taken many steps to prepare our classroom spaces and protect the health and safety of our community, with required vaccination and booster shots (for those eligible) among the most important steps. Drexel Real Estate and Facilities has assessed the ventilation systems in each classroom and office space and purchased hundreds of new air filtration devices. Masking also remains a requirement in all on-campus public and shared spaces, including instructional and research spaces, in line with City of Philadelphia requirements, to add a layer of protection against breakthrough infection and reduce the potential of classroom exposures. For more information on what the University is doing to ensure its classrooms and facilities are safe, please visit the Health and Safety page of the Drexel Response to Coronavirus website.

Accommodations and Absences

How is the University accommodating students with disability accommodations?

Students who seek accommodations or temporary adjustments for a documented disability should contact the Office of Disability Resources, which is the standard process.

How can faculty and staff seek medical accommodation?

Faculty and staff who are seeking accommodations based on a documented disability must contact Human Resources to determine if they meet the criteria for approval. Please note that accommodations based on the needs of family members or anyone other than the individual requesting cannot be accepted through this process.

What if faculty have a concern that cannot be addressed via a medical accommodation?

If the request for accommodation is unrelated to a disability, faculty must work with their department head to determine if the issue can be addressed. However, please keep in mind that departments cannot shift courses already scheduled to be in-person to a remote format. For guidance on how to address faculty illness or quarantine requirements mid-term, please see the following question.

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

Given the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic, it is possible that more faculty may be absent during the year than in previous academic years. In light of that, we are offering the following 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 without prior approval from their dean or 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 2In 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.)

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 acknowledge student concerns about missing class due to illness or quarantine and let students know in advance that they have strategies in place to accommodate 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. 

What should an instructor do if a student does not want to return to campus in for the Winter 2022 Quarter/Spring 2022 Semester for personal reasons?

As the Provost shared on January 14, 2022, we have taken every step recommended by our medical and public health experts to facilitate the return to in-person instruction and the on-campus experience. Although courses were taught remotely for the first two weeks of January, the University has remained open, including the Rec Center, Libraries, residence halls and dining facilities. While many students have expressed the desire to return, we know others are anxious about returning to in-person instruction and have requested for Drexel to offer all courses in remote and face-to-face modalities.

As most instructors know, the University does not have the capacity to offer all courses in both face-to-face and remote modalities and has not done so at any point during the pandemic. Because we cannot offer all courses in both formats, we cannot universally accommodate student requests to remain remote. However, where possible, we ask that instructors do all that they can to support our students during this challenging time. If a student is having temporary challenges related to the pandemic that can be accommodated for a limited period, we need to make every effort to support them. More guidance on how to do so can be found under “What happens if a student becomes sick with COVID-19 or requires quarantine during the term?". 

Are there accommodation options for graduate student TAs?

Teaching assistants should follow the same accommodation processes as faculty. They can seek accommodations based on a documented disability through Human Resources to determine if they meet the criteria for approval. If the request for accommodation is unrelated to a disability, TAs should contact their department head to determine if the issue can be addressed. Please keep in mind that departments cannot shift courses already scheduled to be in-person to a remote format.

What is the process for professional staff to request a flexible work arrangement?

The new process to evaluate and apply for a flexible work arrangement can be accessed on the Human Resources Flex Work page. Please visit the Human Resources page for information about flexible work arrangement options and the discussion and request process.

Can I change my in-person course to a remote or online format before or during the term?

We remain committed to coming back to in-person learning in the fall and have taken many steps to prepare our classroom spaces and protect the health and safety of our community, with required vaccination and booster shots (for those eligible), as well as masking, as some of the most important steps. There may be some cases when a department can change the instructor of a course to accommodate extenuating circumstances, without changing the course modality. This should be addressed by the department/college.

While HyFlex teaching and recording of courses is encouraged whenever possible, instructors should not switch in-person courses to remote instruction without prior approval from their dean or the COVID Surveillance Team. Similar to fall quarter, if the COVID Surveillance Team were to become aware of more than one student with a COVID-19 infection in a particular classroom that cannot easily be explained based upon exposure(s) outside the classroom, they would contact the professor with further instructions concerning the method of course delivery. Conversely, if a faculty member notes a high absenteeism rate in a single class and they have not been contacted by the COVID Surveillance Team, they should email COVIDTracing@Drexel.edu to ascertain how to proceed.

If a faculty member becomes ill or requires isolation/quarantine during the term, please refer to the question “What happens if a faculty member becomes ill or must quarantine/isolate temporarily during the term related to COVID-19?” for more details and recommendations.

For strategies that can be used to support students if they become ill or requires isolation/quarantine, please refer to the question “What happens if a student becomes sick with COVID-19 or requires quarantine during the term?

Technology Support

Are instructors required to record classes?

The University is not requiring that all classes be recorded; however, we strongly recommend that instructors do record when possible. Recording classes for students to access online or by request remains an important strategy for accommodating student illness or isolation/quarantine. Faculty are also encouraged to use HyFlex technology if they are willing and able to do so. There are also circumstances when recording may be necessary, such as when a faculty member has been assigned a remote companion course. Please also note that Drexel’s Undergraduate Student Government Association conducted a survey of student experiences during the pandemic and found that recorded classes have become an invaluable study and review tool for many students.

Some instructors have expressed concern that providing students with class recordings will disincentivize attendance. A few strategies to help combat this include making the recordings available upon request, sharing them only with students who have missed class due to illness or quarantine, or making in-person attendance/participation part of the students’ grade. However, requiring in-person attendance possess its own challenges during a time of potentially increased student absenteeism due to the pandemic.

Recorded lectures that are shared with students must abide by FERPA regulations. Guidelines on Recording Classes Under FERPA and PA Law are available in this PDF from the Office of Compliance, Privacy and Internal Audit.

What privacy/FERPA considerations must be taken into account when recording and sharing lectures?

The Office of Compliance, Privacy and Internal Audit has shared guidelines on Recording Class Under FERPA and PA Law in this PDF

What is the recommended software for recording lectures?

Drexel Information Technology recommends using Zoom to record in-person lectures. Zoom allows instructors to record the class and simultaneously accommodate remote students, if needed. It can also provide automatic captions and transcriptions. Kaltura Capture can also be used for recording your computer screen, your camera and your microphone audio. When recording lectures, it is recommended that instructors repeat questions asked by students so the question is picked up by the recording.

Where can I receive technological support for the use of hybrid/HyFlex technology in the classroom, such as recording lectures?

The following are some of the resources available to faculty regarding hybrid/HyFlex technology in the classroom, including the recording of lectures:

Who do I contact if the technology in my classroom isn’t working?

Instructional Media Services maintains media equipment in classrooms, trains faculty in the use of media-equipped classrooms, and creates instructional materials. Contact IMS at ims@drexel.edu.

Who do I contact about software questions (e.g. Blackboard Learn, Zoom, etc.?)

For support with Drexel Learn, contact the Instructional Technology Group at itg@drexel.edu. For questions about Zoom, submit a ticket to ZoomAdmin@drexel.edu. For other general questions, contact the IT Help Desk at 215-895-2020 or consult@drexel.edu.

How can I learn which technology is available in my classroom?

If an instructor has a question about the technology available in their assigned classrooms and whether it could be used to support accommodations for student absences, they can contact Instructional Media Services (215-895-2925, ims@drexel.edu). If it is determined that the instructor needs access to HyFlex technology that is not currently available in the classroom, the instructor may contact the Office of the University Registrar (exammail@drexel.edu at University City; ccrooms@drexel.edu at Center City) to inquire about reserving an alternative classroom.

A full list of the classrooms managed by IMS can be found on the Classroom Information webpage. Technology updates are happening in classrooms across campus prior to the start of the term, and updates to IMS-managed classrooms will be reflected on the IMS site once finalized.

General Academic Questions

Are there any restrictions on office hours?

Instructors may choose to hold office hours in person or virtually. However, if an instructor is teaching in person, it is strongly recommended that they also offer some in-person office hours. Masks are required indoors in public and shared spaces for all individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated.

Are there any changes to the final exam period?

There are no changes to the final exam period. Please refer to the Academic Calendar for important academic dates throughout the year.

Are there any changes to grading for the 2021-2022 academic year?

No, normal grading policies will apply. The University returned to normal grading in Summer 2021 after offering optional Pass / No Pass grading from Spring 2020 to Spring 2021.

Should instructors include a specific syllabus statement related to COVID-19 or masks?

Yes. The following is the recommended syllabus statement related to masks (please note that this syllabus statement was updated on October 20, 2021):

As of August 3, 2021, Drexel requires all students and employees to wear a mask in all on-campus public and shared spaces, including instructional and research settings, regardless of vaccination status. Specifically, masks are to be worn in classrooms, laboratories, lecture halls and seminar rooms.Students are not permitted to eat during class. If a student needs to remove their mask to drink water, they may briefly drop their mask, take a sip of their beverage, and then return the mask to correct positioning, covering both nose and mouth. Please remember your mask to avoid class disruption.

If a student does not wear a mask or follow other required health and safety guidelines in the classroom, the instructor will take the following steps:

  • Ask the student to please correct their behavior. This may involve determining if there is a reason why the student is unable to comply with the request; for instance, they may not have a mask. If a solution to the problem can be easily identified, and the instructor is able to assist the student in complying, such as directing them as to where to find a mask, they will do so.
  • If the student refuses to mask, the instructor will inform the student that they will be referred to Student Conduct and they will be asked to leave the class.

As members of the Drexel community, we all play a role in supporting our collective health and safety, and I appreciate your collaboration and commitment to this. If you have questions or concerns about masking in class, please do not hesitate to ask. More information about masking is available at the link above and on the Drexel Response to Coronavirus website.

Research, Events, Travel and Wellness

How are the University's research activities continuing?

On-campus research activities are continuing with required facemasks and no density restrictions. All research activities that can be conducted remotely should be. For more information, please refer to the Office of Research's page on "Response to COVID-19 Pandemic" page

Are there any guidelines for events or gatherings?

Yes, for guidelines on indoor and outdoor events, please review the “Visitors and Events” page on the Response to Coronavirus website.

What are the University’s travel guidelines and procedures?

As of Jan, 3, 2022, Drexel University remains in a limited phase for University-related travel. All Drexel travelers participating in University-related travel are required to be fully vaccinated, including a booster for COVID-19. Vaccinated Domestic travel no longer requires approval via the Essential Travel Request process. However, all domestic travel must seek approval via their supervisor or designated departmental travel approver. Vaccinated International Travel must be approved through the Essential Travel Request process. Any Travel by non-vaccinated travelers with a medical or religious exemption may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, all travelers must confirm that funding for their travel fits within the unit’s existing budgets.

For the most up-to-date information and guidance documents, please visit the COVID-19 Essential Travel Guidance page of the Procurement Services website.

What resources are available to support the health and wellness of faculty and staff?

Drexel University is committed to fostering a culture of wellness among students, faculty, professional staff and the surrounding community. A Healthier U is Drexel Human Resources initiative to support faculty and staff wellbeing, and more details can be found on the Drexel HR website.

Drexel's Employee Assistance Program provides access to confidential, 24/7 counseling. This benefit is offered at no cost to benefits-eligible faculty and professional staff, their family members and Drexel graduate students. Log into the SupportLinc website (username “drexel”) or use the app. You can also visit the Employee Assistance Program website or call the SupportLinc helpline at 1.888.881.5462 to find out more about these benefits. Additional COVID-19-related resources for faculty and professional staff can be found on Drexel’s Human Resources page: COVID-19 Resources.

Where can I refer students for health and wellness support?

Students should visit the Student Health Center, staffed by doctors and nurse practitioners from Drexel Medicine, for physical health services. If they are having symptoms, students should contact the Student Health Center right away by phone (215.220.4700) or through the Drexel Health Checker. For more information, they should visit the What to Do If You Feel Sick page. 

Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus website lists resources and ideas on its Mental Health and Wellness page. The Office of Counseling and Health Services also maintains a comprehensive list of resources around topics like coping with COVID-19, suicide prevention, peer counseling, anxiety and stress reduction, and more. Please visit the Crisis Resources page for contact info related to mental health emergencies.