Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Updates for syllabus statements related to hybrid/remote teaching

This semester is unlike any other, even compared to Spring 2020. Your course is likely operating in a very different way than you are used to. For students, this semester will also be a very different experience. Some of them will have courses in different formats: remote-only (REO), in-person-plus-remote (IPR), or in-person(rotation)-plus-remote (IRR). Thus, now more than ever, it is crucial to be explicit about how your class works and your expectations for students

At the same time, we encourage you to think about places where you can be flexible with your students. Mental and physical health, technology, and other aspects of daily life may be uncertain or unstable in the Fall. Thinking ahead to situations where a student may have unreliable technology or where they might be unwell will help you be more prepared and more confident about supporting your students this semester. 

To help you update your syllabus for Fall 2020, we have prepared resources on a set of important issues that you will want to address. For each (see below), you will find

  • a description of the issue and related considerations,
  • questions to guide your thinking on new or revised policies that account for this semester’s special circumstances, and
  • sample language that you may adopt, adapt, or use as inspiration for your own statements.

In addition to the updated syllabus elements below, see our "regular" syllabus checklist page, and/or email eberly-assist@andrew.cmu.edu if you would like to discuss further.

Technology & Logistics

If your course is hybrid (i.e., both in-person and remote students), be aware that some circumstances may arise during the semester that would warrant a transfer to remote-only instruction for a day (i.e. building closed for disinfection), for several days (i.e. you get sick), or for the rest of the semester (i.e. the situation calls for CMU to go remote again). Think ahead about the procedures you would like students to follow in those cases and communicate your plans to your students on the syllabus. 

Class needing to go remote:

Consider adding a section to explain to students how to proceed if classes have to go remote only (for a day or longer). 

  • How will you contact students? Where should they go online (Canvas)? Will there be a Zoom link for students to join the synchronous class? Where will they find it? 
  • If your class involves hands-on practice and materials, how will students get access to the necessary materials? 

Class transition to remote after Thanksgiving:

Consider adding a section letting students know what the weeks after Thanksgiving will look like since everyone will be completely remote. 

  • Will classes take place on Zoom? 
  • Will classes be synchronous? 
  • How will students learn about due dates and assignments? 
  • Do any of your expectations (assignment submission, attendance, participation, etc.) change after Thanksgiving?

Individual students needing to go remote:

We encourage you to support students’ decisions to go remote during the semester. 

  • What would you prefer the student to do: would you want them to notify you by email in advance? Or do you not need to be notified? Would you prefer them to give you an idea of how long they want to be remote (the rest of the semester, one week?)? 
  • If you have different expectations for remote students (assignment submission, attendance, participation, etc.) how will the student learn about those and how quickly will they be expected to switch their practices? 

Sample statement:

If the class needs to go fully remote, you will receive an email from me (the instructor) and an announcement will be published on our course website on Canvas ([insert link]). During the semester, we will use the same zoom link available on Canvas in the first module of the landing page. Additionally, here is a copy of the link [insert link]

At any point during the semester, you may choose to participate in the class remotely. If you decide to switch to remote for one or more classes, please try to let me know by email [insert email] at least 24 hours in advance so I can prepare the breakout rooms and in-class sessions appropriately. In addition, if you are able, let me know the expected length of your remote engagement (e.g., number of classes or for an extended period of time). 

Textbooks

Given that many students will be attending classes from locations around the world, they may face difficulty acquiring their traditional, commercial print textbooks. Additionally, many students are facing emergency costs and financial pressures that impact their ability to pay for needed course materials and supplies. To mitigate these concerns, we encourage instructors to explore and consider the appropriateness of openly available course textbooks and Library-licensed resources for their courses. These options reduce out-of-pocket expenses for learners and their families and are available digitally on-demand. For assistance investigating open or library-licensed course materials, please contact University Libraries team of librarians and subject matter specialists

If the course materials you need are not available through the University Libraries, there are options that can keep out-of-pocket expenses down for learners and their families. 

The University Store team can help you by:

  • Searching for digital options (more budget-friendly) available from publishers
  • Setting up First Day of Class opt-in digital course materials through Canvas
  • Providing a platform for students to purchase new, used, rental, and digital course materials
  • Exploring options—digital, First Day of Class, physical books—should the department choose to fund the course materials

Technology Requirements

In addition to listing required books and other materials for your course, explain what technology tools will be needed both in and out of class (e.g., Zoom, Canvas, Google Docs, etc.) and, if relevant, how students should access those resources and technologies. 

  • What technology/applications will you use during the semester? Are those free? How do students access them?
  • Do students need special materials (for instance, for fabrication)? Are remote students responsible to source those materials or are you sending them kits? Who should they contact if they have problems with those materials? 
  • Do students leave some of their materials on campus in between classes? How will they access those if the building has to close/classes have to become remote? 
  • Do students typically use on-campus resources like the library? What is the process for accessing those in-person resources this semester? 

In the current circumstances, your policy on the use of technology in the classroom may need to be updated. Indeed, whereas your previous syllabus statement might have restricted students’ use of technology in the classroom, your students (whether they are remote or in-person) may need the use of a computer or a phone to participate in class this semester. For example, activities in your class may require in-person students to use a laptop or phone to interact with remote students.


  • Will in-person students need to have their own laptop or phone in the classroom? If so, what are your guidelines for responsible use of technology in the classroom? 
  • How can students let you know if they do not have the necessary equipment to participate in online activity during in-person classes? (Note: you can direct students to contact the Dean of students or their advisor if they lack access to appropriate equipment.) 
  • What guidelines would you give to remote students regarding technology? 

Sample statement:

This semester involves regular use of technology during class – both for in-person and remote students. Research has shown that divided attention is detrimental to learning, so I encourage you to close any windows not directly related to what we are doing while you are in class. Please turn off your phone notifications and limit other likely sources of technology disruption, so you can fully engage with the material, each other, and me. This will create a better learning environment for everyone. [If appropriate for your class needs: A laptop will be required for our in-person classes, so If you do not have access to one, please email me [insert your email] as soon as possible so we can find a solution.]

Student Support

All approved disability accommodations requested by a student should still be provided in a remote or hybrid teaching environment.  If you or the student have questions about how to implement these accommodations, please contact the Disability Resources staff member listed on the Summary of Accommodations Memorandum or the Disability Resources general mailbox access@andrew.cmu.edu.

Disability Resources recommends using the standard syllabus language, which can be found (with some additional information) here, and for convenience is reproduced below:

Sample:

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:

If you have a disability and have an accommodations letter from the Disability Resources office, I encourage you to discuss your accommodations and needs with me as early in the semester as possible. I will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, I encourage you to contact them at access@andrew.cmu.edu.

This semester, it is especially important to include a statement on Student Well-Being (see the sample statements available here ). You may also wish to include some personal language acknowledging the exceptional circumstances of our current context to further signal to students that you do take a personal interest in their well-being.

  • Is there something you want to add about physical distancing, acknowledging its impact on your students’ well-being? 
  • Are you implementing any recurring activity in your class to promote community? (i.e. taking some time every class to “check-in” with students regarding their struggles and successes)
  • Do you have outside-of-class activities meant to promote community with all students that you would like to highlight as a resource? (i.e. a common work session where students ask questions or work on a common assignment with instructors there as support?)

Sample statement:

This semester is unlike any other. We are all under a lot of stress and uncertainty at this time. Attending Zoom classes all day can take its toll on our mental health. Make sure to move regularly, eat well, and reach out to your support system or me [add email] if you need to. We can all benefit from support in times of stress, and this semester is no exception. 

[Continue with language on student wellness from other samples here, see this page]. 

A diversity statement in your syllabus is an important way to help to set the stage for a supportive and inclusive classroom environment. Faculty Senate has endorsed incorporating a diversity statement in CMU syllabi. Please refer to this page for suggestions and sample language, as you create a statement that reflects your classroom practices.

Consider adding a section to explain to students how to succeed in this class whether remotely or in person. This section will benefit students who are not used to this new mode of course delivery. This can serve as a good summary of how your class will work, including both in and out of class activities. This is an opportunity to explain your rationale for how you organized the materials and activities in your class. 

  • Should students access pre-recorded lectures or readings before class?
  • What should they do during class to succeed? 
  • How can they ask for help in and out of class? How might you explain the benefits of and “normalize” help seeking?
  • Would you encourage students to work with other students (i.e. in study groups) and, if so, how would they do that while physical distancing? 

For more information on what to include from our “regular” Study Tips page, click here

Listed below are several religious holidays observed by a number of our students throughout the year. Please avoid these dates when planning mandatory course activities:

  •     Ashura – sundown Friday, August 28 through sundown Saturday, August 29
  •     Rosh Hashanah – sundown Friday, September 18 through sundown Sunday, September 20
  •     Yom Kippur – sundown Sunday, September 27 through sundown Monday, September 28
  •     Dasara/Dussehra – Sunday, October 25
  •     Diwali – Saturday, November 14

Policies

Academic integrity is paramount to CMU’s mission of educating students. To emphasize academic integrity and highlight what that means for your course in this semester, reviewing and editing your syllabus statement is warranted. 

  • What does academic integrity look like for remote components of your course (e.g. remote assessments)? 
  • When do you expect collaboration to be acceptable and when would it not be? What does appropriate collaboration look like when students are remote/online? 
  • Do you plan on providing additional measures to promote academic integrity (e.g. signed statement before each exam, academic integrity OLI module, use of monitoring/proctoring software during assessments, etc.)? Even though additional measures may not eliminate cheating, research shows for example that adding an academic integrity reminder/signed statement at the beginning of an exam helps reduce the likelihood of cheating. Whichever additional measure(s) you are using should be described and explained in the syllabus. 

For additional information, see our resources for designing and administering remote assessments , writing an academic integrity syllabus statement, and CMU’s official policy

Sample Statement:

Academic Integrity is a core CMU value, and as a member of the CMU community, it is important that the work you turn in for this class is wholly your own. As your instructor, I will strive to ensure that you develop the necessary knowledge and skills to meet the learning objectives for this class, just as it is your task to put in the effort to complete the work and ask for help if you need it. In this hybrid/remote environment for Fall 2020, you might have questions about what is and is not acceptable. [Insert statement or paragraph about what cheating/plagiarism/unauthorized assistance or collaboration looks like for your specific course. Add the consequences of not abiding by those conditions] 

For each major assessment, you will be asked to sign a statement affirming that you will not cheat, plagiarize, or receive unpermitted assistance on the work that you turn in. As a reminder all students should follow CMU’s Academic Integrity Policy.

As the health crisis has continued, this semester is still full of uncertainty for both instructors and students. We encourage you to be flexible with your students. Getting medical notes to document a student visited a health professional might be difficult or even unadvisable at this time (access, risks, etc.), and covid-19 itself is a complex illness which can last weeks and affect individuals’ ability to engage in the classroom, even remotely. We encourage you to be flexible with attendance policies. For example, you may want to provide more unexcused absences than you normally would. 

For students who live in timezones that would make synchronous participation difficult (i.e. in the middle of the night), consider allowing them to participate asynchronously (for at least a portion of class meetings). 

Below are some considerations for developing attendance and participation policies as well as ways of tracking this data.

  • Are you interested in measuring “attendance” (e.g., a student was present for a Zoom session or in-class session) or “participation” (e.g., a student is demonstrating engagement with course material)?
  • Will you have different attendance and participation expectations for asynchronous and synchronous students? What will those be? 
  • Will you have different participation expectations for remote students and in-person students? What will those be? 
  • If a student switches to remote learning during the semester, where can they find more information about the new expectations? 
  • How will your expectations work after Thanksgiving or if the class needs to be fully remote before Thanksgiving? 
  • If students experience technical difficulties during synchronous classes (i.e. unstable Internet connection, unstable computer, etc.), how can they still get participation credit? 

Attendance

If you are interested in capturing attendance, think about how to do this in a way that is manageable for you and (ideally) creates a record that can be referenced later for grading purposes. Think about how to do this in a hybrid context (both for in-class attendance and remote attendance). Examples include: 
  • Utilize the “reports” feature in your main Zoom account. Zoom produces a “usage report” of everyone who logged into a particular Zoom session, and you can export this data into a variety of formats (PDF, Excel, etc.). 
  • Take a screenshot of the Zoom participants window at an appointed time during each class session (e.g., 10 mins after it begins). If you have a TA, they could take on this responsibility and translate the screenshot to an attendance log.
  • Ask participants to type their names in the chat box at the beginning of the class session and then be sure to “save” the chat box at the end of the session.
  • Create a simple Google Form (name and Andrew ID) and place the link in the chat box at the beginning of class. Ask students to submit one Google Form per class, and use the Excel spreadsheet timestamp to go back and assign attendance points later.
  • It may not be allowed or advisable to pass around an attendance sheet in your in-person class. How else will you take attendance in the classroom? Consider approaches that keep attendance in one place for both remote and in-person attendance, e.g., using the same google form for everyone. 
  • Attendance for students in distant timezones might be quite challenging. Consider designing for and measuring asynchronous participation instead of synchronous attendance (see the section below on participation). 

Participation

Measuring participation will likely require students to engage with course content. This type of engagement could happen synchronously or asynchronously. Again, you’ll want to decide on a system that is manageable for both you and the students. Some ideas for measuring student participation include: 
  • Zoom Polls - synchronous students can participate in these anonymously during a Zoom session, and instructors can track who recorded each response in the transcript they receive. Asynchronous participation could involve watching the class session’s recording and then answering similar questions via a Canvas or other online assignment. (Note: Canvas activities can be assigned to a subset of your students.)
  • Chat box - ask synchronous students to post at least one related question or comment in the chat box per week. Save the chat box and review the transcript after class. Asynchronous students can post their question/comment in a discussion board or other online platform.
  • Google Docs - if you ask synchronous and asynchronous students to produce something (e.g., a worked solution, a brainstorm list, etc.) individually or in small groups, have them record the deliverable and their names in a Google Doc. Then share the google doc link in the chat box during class. This type of participation could happen outside of class (e.g., as prep work for a session or for asynchronous students) or during the class (e.g., in breakout rooms).
  • Discussion board - have both synchronous and asynchronous students respond to an instructor-posed question or have students post a question/comment of their own on a weekly (or daily) basis. This discussion board could be leveraged as prep work for class (e.g., post one question that you have about the assigned reading) or as post-class work (e.g., what is one takeaway from today’s class session).

You can find our “regular” attendance policy page and the participation page

Though many students had experience with Zoom in the Spring semester, it is best to assume everyone needs a refresher or to learn the basic functions you will use in your class. Additionally, the features that you use in your classroom may differ from other instructors. Take the time to explain how your Zoom and/or hybrid classroom will proceed.

  • Do you want students to keep their mics muted? 
  • Can they answer questions in the chat? 
  • Can they use reactions (clapping and thumbs up) to react to peers’ contributions? 
  • Do you want students to use the raise hand feature to take turns speaking? 
  • What do you expect students to do in breakout rooms, if applicable, including turning on their video? 
  • Should students include their pronouns in the names appearing in the participant list? (and how would they go about that)? 
  • If you are teaching a hybrid class, how will remote students interact with the rest of the class (e.g. ask questions, answer prompts)? 
  • Will you request that students use their video (and how should students proceed if their network cannot handle it or they are uncomfortable sharing their video)? Can students use backgrounds (particularly if they share their space with others, knowing that it takes more bandwidth)? Can you explain why video is important in your class? Are there specific times in your class where video is more encouraged than others (i.e. breakout rooms, etc.)? 

Sample statement:

In our class, we will be using Zoom for synchronous (same time) sessions. The link is available on Canvas [copy link here too]

Please make sure that your Internet connection and equipment are set up to use Zoom and able to share audio and video during class meetings. (See this page from Computing Resources for information on the technology you are likely to need.) Let me know if there is a gap in your technology set-up [insert email address] as soon as possible, and we can see about finding solutions. 

Sharing video: In this course, being able to see one another helps to facilitate a better learning environment and promote more engaging discussions. Therefore, our default will be to expect students to have their cameras on during lectures and discussions. However, I also completely understand there may be reasons students would not want to have their cameras on. If you have any concerns about sharing your video, please email me as soon as possible [insert email] and we can discuss possible adjustments. Note: You may use a background image in your video if you wish; just check in advance that this works with your device(s) and internet bandwidth. 

[Options/alternatives to consider based on your class size/format/activities:]

  • During our class meetings, please keep your mic muted unless you are sharing with the class or your breakout group. 
  • If you have a question or want to answer a question, please use the chat or the “raise hand” feature (available when the participant list is pulled up). I [or a TA or a rotating student who serves as the “voice of the chat”] will be monitoring these channels in order to call on students to contribute.
  • Our synchronous meetings will involve breakout room discussions, and those will work better if everyone in your small group has their camera turned on. During large group debriefs, you may keep your video off. 

In-person classes will look very different for the fall 2020 semester. Everyone in the classroom has to wear a facial covering and maintain physical distancing. In addition, classroom seating configurations will be set up so that students face the front of the classroom, and instructors will manage ingress into and egress out of the room. (Note: signs will be placed around buildings to indicate traffic flow in hallways, and instructors will receive further information on how to help coordinate timing.) 

All students who choose to live, learn, and work on campus – whether living on campus or off – will be expected to abide by the community standards outlined in the document "A Tartan’s Responsibility". In this code, students agree to, among other behaviors, maintain required physical distancing, wear a facial covering, and follow UHS guidance when experiencing symptoms.

Thus, you can and should expect in-person students to wear a facial covering and maintain the physical distancing that is appropriate during your class. A suggested protocol for addressing a student who comes to class without a facial covering is as follows:

  1. Ask the student to please wear a facial covering and thank them when they do so. (If they do not have one, direct them to a distribution location on campus.)
  2. If they do not put on a facial covering, ask them to please leave and remind them that the course is accessible remotely.  (In rare cases where the course does not have a remote access option, then they may participate without a mask only if they have written documentation of an accommodation from the Office of Disability Resources.)
  3. If they do not leave, dismiss the class for the day, and remand the student to the Office of Student Conduct who will determine whether the student will comply with wearing a facial covering in the future or needs to be moved to a remote-only status. (As an alternative to dismissing and cancelling class, you may consider shifting class to remote-only if that is feasible.) 

Questions to consider in crafting your syllabus statement on this topic:

  • What should students know about attending your class in person? 
  • How will they interact with each other and the instructor? 
  • If students interact with materials in the classroom, what are the rules (can they share materials? Do they have to disinfect their work station?)?

Sample statement:

In order to attend class in person, I expect that you will abide by all behaviors indicated in A Tartan’s Responsibility, including any timely updates based on the current conditions. In terms of specific expectations for in-person students, this includes:

  • entering the classroom via the designated ingress route with appropriate physical distancing, 
  • wearing a facial covering throughout class,
  • sitting in the seats with appropriate spacing (and not moving furniture), 
  • using the sanitizing wipes available in the classroom to wipe surfaces (e.g., your desk, tablet arm) upon entry and exit,
  • exit the classroom at my direction, proceeding in a row-by-row fashion, following the designated egress route and maintaining proper distancing. 

Facial coverings. If you do not wear a facial covering to class, I will ask you to put one on (and if you don’t have one with you, I will direct you to a distribution location on campus). If you do not comply, please remember that you will be subject to student conduct proceedings, up to and including removal from CMU. Accordingly, I will be obliged to take other measures for the safety of the whole class. 

As an instructor, you are encouraged to record class sessions to share with students who cannot attend class synchronously. For more information on your responsibilities towards the recording of classes, please see this link (in particular, the second question “May I … record”). 

It is important to let students know that you will be recording class sessions and where the recordings will be available. Additionally, students should be told that they are not allowed to share the recording anywhere to protect the FERPA rights of all students in the classroom. 

  • Will synchronous class recordings be made available to students? 
  • Where will students access recordings? 
  • How long after class can students expect the recordings to be posted? 
  • Since breakout rooms cannot be recorded, is there relevant information generated during breakout rooms that students who missed class need to access? How would they access it?

In addition to the sample language below, you may want to draw on standard syllabus language related to whether you permit or restrict students’ recording of class sessions. 

Sample language:

All synchronous classes will be recorded via Zoom so that students in this course (and only students in this course) can watch or re-watch past class sessions. Please note that breakout rooms will not be recorded. I will make the recordings available on Canvas as soon as possible after each class session (usually within 3 hours of the class meeting). Recordings will live in our Canvas website [insert link]. Please note that you are not allowed to share these recordings. This is to protect your FERPA rights and those of your fellow students. 

This semester will be back to regular grading practices (unlike Spring 20 when students could choose a Pass/No-Pass grading option up to a week after final grades were released). This means that we will revert to students being able to elect Pass/No-Pass grading only up until November 9 (for semester-long courses), October 5 (for Mini 1 courses), or November 20 (for Mini 2 courses), assuming the course allows Pass/No-Pass grading at all. Make sure to let students know which of these applies in your course. And remember, it is always a best practice to include a Grading scale that lists the percentage credit or number of points corresponding to each letter grade.

Related to grading late/make-up work, we encourage you to consider granting more flexibility than you would be normally inclined to do. 

  • If you have in-class graded work (i.e. quizzes, activities with deliverables, etc.), how can students make up the work, especially if they are remote? 
  • If students have to submit late, what is the process for submitting late (and is it the same for in-person and remote students)? 
  • If students experience technical difficulties during a timed exam, how can they notify the instructional team? 
  • What assignments are more crucial to be submitted on time? If some assignment due dates are more crucial than others, indicate which ones and why (for instance, students require feedback within a week in order to produce the final product, peers rely on their assignment to complete a peer review, etc.) and then specify any late penalties. For less time-sensitive assignments, consider greater flexibility and/or reduced consequences for late submissions.

For more information, see the “regular” syllabus suggestions on late/make-up work.

Sample statement

Remember: If you registered for this class, you have until November 9th to change your grade in this course from a letter grade to a Pass/Fail grade. 

All assignments have due dates indicated on the syllabus. In general, submitting assignments on time lets the instructional team provide feedback in a more timely and efficient manner. Assignments build on each other, so timely submissions are crucial to your progress in the class. However, sometimes life happens. If you cannot submit an assignment on time, the default will be that you will be eligible for 90% of the grade the first 48 hours that the assignment is late. If you have to submit beyond 48 hours past the due date, please contact me [insert email] as soon as possible so we can make arrangements. 


[Optional language:] There will be two peer review assignments during the semester in which you submit a draft and then get reviews of the work from a set of peers before submitting your final draft. For these assignments, timely submission of your draft is critical so your peers can do their part on time (and so you can use their reviews in time for your final version). Please contact me as soon as possible if you are not able to submit any draft or peer review on time [insert email]. 

Given the goals of promoting community health and de-densifying campus, office hours that do not require specialized space should be held via Zoom. This also has the benefit of prioritizing equity between on-campus and remote students. 

When conducting office hours via Zoom, bear in mind that “waiting in line” via Zoom (in a waiting room) can be more disconcerting than in person. So when you decide on and describe your office hours plan, be mindful of how you will handle students who are waiting (ideally giving them some updates on wait-time or indicating their number in line) and/or how you can support multiple students (simultaneously or in sequence via multi-tasking).

  • Will you ask students to schedule a meeting with you? (Using Google Calendar appointment settings or Canvas)
  • If you have set hours for Office Hours, how will you support students in the waiting room? 
  • Can you send students in breakout rooms as they work independently on problems, while you help another student in line? 
  • Would asking students to work in groups during office hours make sense in your context? (for instance, asking students to share their questions via chat and creating breakout rooms for similar questions/topics. Students can contact the host for help when they are stuck)