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Course Guidance AY 2021-22

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Teaching will be predominantly in-person in the fall to support student learning in Stanford’s residentially-based academic community. A return to in-person instruction is a vital component of the university’s educational mission. 

The information provided below addresses many common questions and will support  instructional planning for autumn quarter. For the latest information for the Stanford community about the University’s response to COVID-19, visit Health Alerts.

The following resources may be helpful for your planning:

Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL)
Learning Technologies & Spaces (LTS)
Office of Accessible Education (OAE)
Returning to the Classroom - What to Expect TEACH Symposium presentation 8/31/2021

Classroom Safety

Planning Ahead

Instruction and course delivery

Disability-Related Academic Accommodations

Classroom technology (LTS)

Classroom Safety

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What is Stanford doing to keep everyone safe in the classroom?

This is a frequently-asked question. Stanford is committed to ensuring safe classroom settings using a multi-pronged approach. Stanford’s Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) provides regular updates via Health Alerts.

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Where can an instructor find information about classroom ventilation?

Building ventilation information is available on Cardinal Recovery’s Healthy Building FAQs.

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Can an instructor, TA, or student ask members of a course if they are vaccinated?

No. Stanford Health Check (for faculty and staff) and the VadenPatient portal (for students) are the allowable mechanisms through which Stanford asks for vaccination status. It is not appropriate for anyone to ask members of a course about their COVID-19 vaccination status.

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What types of masks are suitable for protection?

Acceptable types include cloth masks with tightly woven fabric (i.e., cotton) with minimum two layers, disposable/surgical face masks, and masks with inner filter pockets. Note: The following materials are not acceptable face masks: scarf, ski mask, balaclava, bandana, turtleneck, collar or single layer of fabric.

All faculty, staff and students should stay up to date on and adhere to the latest requirements or recommendations around face coverings. Guidance that is issued by Stanford University or Santa Clara County is subject to change based on conditions and CDC recommendations.

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Where can an instructor obtain a mask?

Instructors may use masks that they have purchased themselves or they can request masks from their home department or program.

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What should an instructor do if a student shows up for an in-person class and has forgotten their face covering?

Limited supplies of face masks will be available in university classrooms during the first two weeks of class. It is each individual’s responsibility to ensure they have a face mask to wear before entering an indoor space.

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May students or the instructor remove their mask in the classroom to eat or drink?

No. Eating or drinking is generally not allowed in classrooms. However, if a student or instructor needs to take a sip of water during class, they may partially remove their mask to take a quick drink.

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What happens if a student in a classroom setting refuses to wear a face covering?

Stanford currently requires that face coverings be worn in all indoor classroom settings. If a student arrives to class, office hours, or another classroom setting without a face covering and does not have an OAE accommodation*, the instructor should ask them to put one on. If the student refuses to put on a face covering, the instructor should then ask the student to leave the room. If the student refuses to leave the room, the instructor should cancel the class session.

If a student is not compliant with classroom public health guidelines, this should be reported via the Student COVID Community Concern Reporting Form where the matter will be addressed in the Dean of Students Office.

*Disability-related accommodations that allow a student to attend in-person classes and other instructional meetings without a face covering are expected to be very rare.

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What should a student do if their instructor or TA refuses to wear a face covering?

If they are comfortable doing so, the student should remind the instructor or TA that face coverings are required in all indoor classroom settings. If the instructor or TA does not put on their mask, the student should not enter the classroom.

If a TA is not wearing a face covering, the student should notify the course instructor. If the instructor is not wearing a face covering, the student should notify the department Chair.

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If an instructor holds class meetings or office hours outside, are face coverings required?

The current policy for outdoor masking can be found on Health Alerts. The university strongly recommends face coverings outdoors in crowded settings when 6 feet of distance from others cannot consistently be maintained.

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Is physical distancing required in indoor classroom settings?

No. Physical distancing is not necessary given Stanford’s comprehensive approach to health and safety in classroom settings, which includes the face covering requirement.

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Can an instructor limit course enrollment for social distancing purposes?

Instructors may limit course enrollment for pedagogical reasons in support of student learning. As Stanford is not requiring social distancing in classroom settings, instructors should not implement artificial enrollment caps for the purpose of social distancing.

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Where can an instructor check room occupancy for a classroom?

25Live has the most accurate information for university classrooms, including room occupancy (real teaching capacity), features, a picture of the classroom, etc. Anyone with a SUNet ID has view access in 25Live.

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Can an instructor check students’ Health Check badges before they enter a classroom setting?

Yes. An instructor may request that students show their Health Check badges before entering a classroom setting. Instructors should check all badges and not single out particular students. If an instructor intends to check student Health Check badges prior to each class or meeting with a student, this information should be included in the syllabus and discussed on the first day of class.

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What should an instructor do if a student has a red Health Check badge?

If a student shows a red Health Check badge prior to entering a classroom setting, the instructor should tell the student that they may not enter the room. The student should not return to in-person classes until their Health Check badge is green.

A red badge may not mean that the student tested positive for COVID-19; these students will have already been contacted and be in isolation. More likely, a red badge occurs when a student is out of testing compliance. It can take several hours for a red badge to revert to green after a test is completed.

If a student attests that they have completed a missed test but they still have a red badge, the instructor is not required to admit them into the classroom setting.

All members of the Stanford community, including students, have a responsibility to remain compliant by completing their testing in a timely fashion. Information about surveillance testing for students is available on the COVID-19 Testing and Health Check webpage.

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What happens when an instructor, TA or student in an in-person class tests positive for COVID-19?

If a member of an in-person class tests positive for COVID-19, the Registrar’s Office will send a courtesy notification to all members of a course letting them know that an unnamed person in the course has tested positive, and provide follow-up instructions. Because face coverings are required and vaccination rates are high, students and instructors in a class are NOT considered high-risk exposure close contacts and will NOT be asked to take special measures unless they have been identified as a high-risk exposure close contact in an additional setting outside the classroom. They WILL be encouraged to continue testing, monitor for symptoms, and stay home if feeling sick and get a COVID-19 test.

Environmental Health & Safety will notify the relevant building managers of the positive test.

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What should an instructor do if they think they have been exposed to COVID-19?

If an instructor believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19, they should follow instructions on Stanford’s Health Alerts website.

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Does the university clean a classroom if a positive case individual was present?

If the individual who has tested positive has been in the classroom since it was last cleaned, the room will be closed for cleaning. However, all classrooms undergo cleaning nightly in order to minimize the likelihood of having to shut down classrooms. Cleaning supplies such as wipes will also be available in classrooms near the hand sanitizer stations.

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Is there a risk of contracting COVID-19 by sitting in a classroom after a positive case individual had been present?

The risk of infection is extremely low due to the multi-tiered strategy, including universal masking, Stanford’s vaccination, testing, and the Health Check sentinel surveillance program. Transmission from surfaces is extremely unlikely based on what we know about COVID-19 transmission.

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Planning Ahead

What are the scenarios that might potentially disrupt teaching and learning?

Instructors are encouraged to identify course plans for situations including a student illness or absence, an instructor or TA illness or absence, poor air quality related to wildfires, and the unanticipated event that a classroom may need to be closed for cleaning.

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Should an instructor prepare for student absences due to COVID-19 illness?

Yes. Instructors should anticipate that some students in their courses may test positive for COVID-19.

Short-term absence due to COVID-19 should be approached in the same way as any other short-term absence. Long-term absence due to COVID-19 should be treated like other long-term absences. In some cases, a student may need to reduce their course load or take a leave of absence. Reduced Course Loads and Leaves of Absence are managed by the Office of Accessible Education and Undergraduate Academic Advising (undergraduates). There is no additional preparation required on the instructor’s part.

If a member of an in-person class tests positive for COVID-19, a courtesy notification will be sent to instructional staff and students letting them know that an unnamed person in the class has tested positive. The notification will contain further instructions and relevant contact information. If there is a need to quarantine, this will be included in the notification.

Environmental Health & Safety will notify the relevant building managers.

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What are some strategies an instructor can use to support students who are isolating due to a positive COVID-19 test, or who cannot attend class in-person due to an illness?

Instructors should be prepared with a flexible attendance policy to support student absences, including student illness or absence due to isolation. Some strategies to support students include:

  • Including syllabus guidance about class absences and how to make up missed classwork
  • Designing lecture notes and course materials to be shared with students. If an instructor wants to restrict access to certain materials to only students who are sick, they should consult with LTS about Canvas access.
  • Recommending that the student obtain class notes from another student in the course
  • If the class has affiliated resources such as the Hume Center or the CTL-run peer tutoring program, reminding students that Zoom tutoring appointments will be available.

Note: Instructors are not required to record courses for absent students.

Instructors should include these strategies in the syllabus and discuss them during the first class meeting.

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If a student reports that they will miss class due to illness, can the instructor ask if they have COVID-19?

No. Instructors should not require that a student disclose their illness or provide proof that a student is required to be isolated.

Some students may choose to disclose the diagnosis, and instructors should treat this information as confidential. Others may simply reach out to let instructors know that they are sick and unable to attend class.

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Should an instructor include a COVID-19 statement in the course syllabus?

Yes. To support setting classroom norms and confirming procedures for notifying an instructor of a student absence, the following should be mentioned in the syllabus:

  • Health and safety expectations
  • Attendance policy and strategies for making-up missed class content
  • How to notify the instructor if unable to attend class for any reason (e.g., illness, isolation, other reasons)

It may be helpful to consult CTL’s syllabus template and Fall 2021: Course Planning Checklist for Instructors.

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If an instructor is unable to teach in-person, what should they do?

If an instructor is unable to teach in-person due to illness or another unanticipated reason, the course should continue to meet in-person if at all possible. Ideally, a backup instructor will have been identified that has access to Canvas and the course grade roster, and can step in on short notice to teach the course.

If having a back-up instructor is not practical, the instructor should have a Zoom link ready to share with students in the class. Instructors should consult with LTS if they want to project Zoom in a classroom setting.

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Are instructors required to record their lectures or make all class sessions available by Zoom?

No. Instructors are not required to record their lectures or make their class sessions available by Zoom. Instructors may want to set up a Zoom meeting for their in-person class at the start of the quarter in case they are unable to teach in-person.

OAE is responsible to provide the support necessary to record the course for the student with this disability-related academic accommodation; it is not the instructor’s responsibility.

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Instruction and course delivery

Can an instructor choose to teach their course online in Autumn quarter?

No. Stanford continues to plan for a return to in-person teaching in the fall, with the majority of teaching conducted in-person. While some courses have been approved to be fully remote for pedagogical reasons due to masking requirements (e.g., some Language and Music courses), these have been reviewed and approved by the relevant Dean’s Office. Instructors do not have discretion to move their course online.

Instructors who wish to request an exemption from in-person teaching due to an underlying medical condition which puts them at high risk due to COVID-19 may request approval from their department Chair or Unit Director. Instructors will be asked to attest that the medical condition exists. Requests approved by the Chair/Director will then be considered by the school Dean or VP, and the Provost.

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Can a TA choose to teach their section online in Autumn quarter?

No. Expectations for in-person teaching extend to TA-led sections. Graduate students who wish to request an exemption from in-person teaching due to an underlying medical condition should contact the Office of Accessible Education (OAE) and provide medical documentation that may support a disability-related accommodation.

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Is the university supporting HyFlex courses?

While an instructor may offer a course as HyFlex, there are very limited rooms that support this teaching modality with high quality video and recording. Instructors who are interested in learning about this technology may contact Learning Technologies & Spaces (LTS).

The definition for HyFlex and other course modalities can be found on the Stanford Teaching Commons site.

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Can an instructor offer a hybrid course?

Yes. Courses may be hybrid if that structure supports the learning goals of the course. Note that all courses must have a substantial (>50%) in-person component that is a regular part of the course.

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Can office hours be held online?

Yes. A course may have office hours that are online, in-person or a combination of both. To accommodate student meeting preferences and any student who might be unable to meet in-person, it is recommended that instructors offer office hours in both formats.

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Can anyone outside of Stanford audit an in-person course with instructor consent?

No. For Academic Year 2021-2022, only Stanford faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, and matriculated graduate and undergraduate students are allowed to audit an in-person class with instructor consent.

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May instructors invite an in-person guest speaker to an in-person class?

Yes. Instructors may invite a guest speaker to attend an in-person class. Guests must follow all rules set forth in the university visitor policy, including completing the Stanford Visitor: Daily COVID-19 Health Attestation.

Guest speakers may also participate remotely.

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Can in-person class meetings, sections, and/or office hours be held outdoors? Can an instructor reserve a space?

Yes. Instructors can hold in-person meetings outside, but there is limited space available for instruction. Canopies for small groups (capacity up to 25 people) can be reserved via 25Live. These spaces are not equipped with technology and do not have access to electrical power.

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Is Stanford requiring instructors to record their courses?

No. Instructors are not required to record their courses. Instructors should have a plan for supporting students who are unable to attend class, and recording courses may be part of their plan.

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Can an instructor take students on a course-related field trip?

Yes. Where allowed by the current university travel policy, students may participate in field trips and other travel activities associated with a course. Additionally, course-related field and travel activities must adhere to current health and safety policies (e.g., face coverings, transportation in vehicles, lodging, and meals, etc.).

Field trip expectations must be clearly communicated in the course syllabus so that students can make an informed enrollment decision before the final study list deadline. It is recommended that course-related travel be optional, and instructors are encouraged to provide an alternative activity for students who choose not to travel off campus.

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Are auditors permitted to attend in-person classes?

For Academic Year 2021-22, auditing of in-person classes is limited to matriculated students, Stanford faculty, and Stanford staff. All auditors require the consent of the course instructor; faculty and staff auditors must complete the Application for Auditor form. Auditors are required to follow all health and safety requirements as students enrolled in the course.

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What are the guidelines for academic gatherings?

Information pertaining to academic and other gatherings is available on the Overview of gatherings and meetings at Stanford webpage.

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Disability-Related Academic Accommodations

If a student requires disability-related academic accommodation due to an existing medical condition that prevents in-person class attendance, what should they do?

Students should register with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE) and provide medical documentation so that the OAE can identify appropriate disability-related accommodations. Students are encouraged to present their OAE letter identifying disability-related academic accommodations to the course instructor at the start of the quarter, or as soon as possible.

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What action should be taken if one or more students has an OAE disability-related accommodation to take an in-person course remotely?

If one or more students receives a disability-related accommodation to take the same course remotely and the course modality is in-person, OAE will work with the instructor to determine if each student’s accommodation is appropriate. OAE is responsible to provide the support necessary to record the course for the student with the disability-related accommodation; it is not the instructor’s responsibility.

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Classroom technology (LTS)

What technologies are available in classrooms to support masked in-person teaching?

The largest University Classrooms have built-in audio systems with microphones. Instructors teaching in these rooms do not need to do anything in advance; simply use the microphone supplied in the room. In Medium/Large classrooms without installed systems, instructors may choose to purchase a personal voice amplifier. Three that performed well in our tests include the Hamilton-Buhl Amp-Up (Amazon, CDW-G , Hamilton Buhl, B&H), the Technical Pro WASP200U (B&H), and the JBL Clip 3 Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker (max range ~30 ft) to use with your bluetooth earbuds Amazon - choice of Colors or Amazon - w/case).

Note that instructors teaching in small rooms or with classes smaller than 30 may not need amplification, even with masks. Note also that voice amplification may be disruptive for adjoining classrooms/spaces.

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What assistance is available if an instructor chooses to record course content for a student who cannot be in class?

Instructors should contact LTS to determine what options are best for their course and pedagogy.

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