Communication, Accommodation and Pivot Plans

Purpose: To provide information so faculty and graduate instructors are prepared to communicate with their students, make accommodations for students who are unable to attend the class in person, and to pivot their courses fully online, if that becomes necessary. Specific suggestions and instructions for best practices are discipline-specific and will be left up to individual departments and colleges. This is meant to provide an overall framework and general guidelines. We encourage individuals to take advantage of sessions and consultations to implement agile “resilient” course and instructional design with the Teaching for Learning Center and the Office of eLearning.

Communicating with Students before the First Day of Class

The first and most important point is that instructors need to contact all students in their courses one week before the start of the semester to clarify what the first day of class will entail (who should come in person, protocols for entering the classroom, etc.) and to introduce them to the basic structure of the course. The Division of IT is currently updating the website that shows the layout and IT capabilities of each classroom.


Please include the following items on your Canvas sites.

  • Syllabus
  • Syllabus statement regarding “Decreasing the Risk of COVID-19 in Classrooms and Labs” (
  • If the course is blended, a clear description of when and where individual students will be learning. For example, if half the class is attending in person one day and half another, specify which students will be in class which
  • How students will contact you, both regularly and in the case of an emergency
  • An affirmation that social distancing and face-covering protocols are required for all F2F components of the course. (If there are different protocols for a course, please make that clear to your students.) Students should be told to come to class with their own face covering, but that they will be available for students who don’t have one. Students should also know ahead of time that instructors will contact the Dean of Students if students are not wearing one (and do not have an accommodation for not wearing one).
  • The flexible course attendance policy that addresses how students who are unable to come to class will be able to access the materials, lecture, discussion, etc.

Accommodation Plan

Develop a plan for how you will accommodate students who are unable to attend class for medical reasons. Please note that instructors will not be contacted with specific student health information, but public health officials and contact tracers will be aware of positive cases and will be working with affected individuals. (If an instructor or student has been exposed to COVID-19, they will be contacted by a contact tracer.) In other words, students may disclose why they need to work remotely, but they do not have to. We ask that instructors work with students who make this request.

  • How will you facilitate engagement with course content? For instance, will you zoom students into class synchronously or post course content in weekly modules to Canvas to complete outside class?
  • If the course is activity based, will remote students participate in an equivalent manner using technology?
  • If the course is highly interactive, how will you facilitate interaction for students who are attending remotely?
  • How will you assess these students? Please plan assessments that can be easily adapted for this circumstance.

Pivot Plan

Develop a plan for how you will conduct the course if it becomes necessary to move the course fully online. Consider designing your course for resiliency in the first place. This means one basic design for any modality. In this way, if a pivot is required you will have only minor modifications to accomplish the shift.

  • How will you facilitate engagement with course content? For instance, will you zoom students into class synchronously or post course content in weekly modules to Canvas and allow students to work through the material themselves?
  • Is there content that will need to be eliminated and/or added under these new conditions?
  • How will your assessment strategies and protocols need to change? (If you suspect that you need proctored exams, you should notify the Registrar of this ahead of time.
  • Alternative assessments other than proctored exams are recommended by the Office of eLearning and the Teaching for Learning Center.
  • How will you interact with your students? How will students access you outside class sessions?