Guidance for instructors

Planning for spring courses

For the spring semester, we continue to face challenges similar to the ones we faced in the fall, but there have been some important changes. This document is designed to provide information to faculty as they prepare to teach their classes.

First, our spring plan for COVID-19 surveillance testing will include weekly testing for all students, faculty and staff who will be on campus during the semester. Faculty and staff will receive a survey form that allows them to request a waiver if they will be working fully remotely for the semester.

Second, as of Jan. 11, all those with an in-person teaching assignment are eligible to sign up for the NY vaccination program. As the vaccination initiative moves forward, additional eligibility will be added. For more information about eligibility and signing up for an appointment, see the NY vaccination website: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov.  When you go to the scheduling website, you may find that available appointments are months away; if you return to the site and frequently refresh your browser, you may find earlier appointments because the supply of vaccines has increased. (Note that compliance with all mandated health and safety precautions, including weekly testing, wearing masks and social distancing will continue to be required for each of us, regardless of vaccination status.)

Since our spring semester will look much like the fall semester, these guidelines include many of the same suggestions shared in August as well as some more general reminders about the academic calendar, final exams and General Education courses.

To help instructors consider potential issues and questions for a variety of circumstances, included here are some sample syllabus statements and some clarifications about the academic calendar, in-person testing and other topics. We encourage faculty to consider how the issues and others that arise as you prepare for the semester could be addressed directly in the syllabus that you provide to students at the start of the semester. Stating policies clearly in the syllabus and establishing penalties for students who fail to comply will help students understand your expectations and prevent difficulties. In section B below there is sample language or examples of ways to respond to classroom disruption and safety violations; consider how you may want to include or adapt what you find here for your own syllabus. In some cases, sample consequences for non-compliance are listed [in square brackets] as examples; feel free to use these or modify them for your course, but be sure to include any such consequences in the syllabus for all students so they are informed of expectations and consequences.

  • A. General syllabus statements for all courses 

    Syllabus statement on course expectations and credit hours

    The Faculty Senate adopted a policy directing faculty to include in their course syllabi an explanation of expectations for work done by students outside of class. Binghamton University is unusual in offering a large majority of its undergraduate courses for four credit hours. This approach, developed by the Harpur College faculty in the 1960s, assumed that Binghamton courses offered greater depth than similarly titled courses at other institutions. It was central to the philosophy embodied in Harpur College's credo -- "From breadth through depth to perspective" -- and assumed that students would do significantly more work outside of class than for a similarly titled three-credit course. The policy is designed to assure that faculty explain to students the expectations we have of them for work outside of class; it provides suggested standard formulations that faculty can use to convey these expectations in their syllabi and also includes sample statements for three-credit and two-credit courses. The policy can be found at https://www.binghamton.edu/academics/provost/docs/syllabus-credit-hours.pdf. You are encouraged to take a look at this document and include information contained therein in your syllabi. If you have questions, contact Don Loewen, vice provost for undergraduate education and enrollment management at djloewen@binghamton.edu.

    General Education

    This is a reminder that faculty or graduate students teaching General Education courses should include the General Education student learning outcomes in their syllabi for the General Education categories that their courses meet. This is necessary for the University to be in compliance with regulatory and reporting requirements, including Middle States accreditation standards. The General Education learning outcomes can be found at https://www.binghamton.edu/general-education/documents/revised-outcomes-050615.pdf.  Contact Liz Abate, senior assistant for undergraduate education, at labate@binghamton.edu or 607-777-2146 if you have questions about the General Education requirements.

  • B. Courses with in-person component

    i. General statement suggestion for all in-person courses

    Binghamton University has adopted requirements to protect the health of students, faculty, staff and the community at large. Safeguarding public health depends on each of us strictly following these requirements. As a condition of enrollment, each student has acknowledged a statement of Rights and Responsibilities for the semester; included in this document is an acknowledgement that all campus requirements for spacing and wearing face coverings must be followed at all times. Health and safety standards will be enforced in this course.

    ii. Face coverings and physical spacing

    We recommend that your syllabus:

    • indicates that the University takes physical safety very seriously and that the University recommends and supports swift action and clear consequences if a student’s non-compliance risks the safety of others.
    • states how you will handle an in-class instance of inadvertent noncompliance or an in-class instance of deliberate noncompliance.
    • states what the consequences for noncompliance will be.

    The academic and course-removal sanctions listed here are provided because the Provost’s Office considers them to be valid responses if a student puts the safety of others at risk; you may indicate that in your syllabus. Noncompliance with face covering and/or spacing requirements, or attempts to attend class for the Student Rotation Model courses when not scheduled to do so, constitute a serious public health risk and a disruption of the learning experience. You may want to establish classroom policies that prohibit eating and drinking since these would require removing the face covering; longer classes could include a short break.

    Regardless of vaccination status, for in-person courses everyone must wear a face covering that completely covers both the nose and mouth tightly at all times in the classroom, and maintain 6-foot spacing in classroom seating. A face shield is not an acceptable substitute. [If you forget your face covering or it does not meet these requirements, you will be asked to leave the room immediately. You may not return until you meet the requirement.]

    Instructors should address what happens if the student misses a graded assessment due to being asked to leave the classroom for not having a proper face covering. For example, instructors may say that [the student will receive a zero on the assignment.  Or instructors may have a policy of will receive a zero on the assignment. Or, instructors may have a policy of dropping one quiz, etc.]

    If students are not seated in a manner that meets the necessary spacing requirements, [the instructor will reseat one or more students to comply with the requirements. It is at the instructor’s discretion whom to reseat.]

    Failure to comply with these requirements constitutes a public health risk to everyone in the learning environment and disrupts the class.

    If a student does not comply with the requirements and refuses to wear a face covering properly or to leave the classroom when directed, or to follow instructions for reseating when directed by the instructor, the instructor [will immediately cancel the remainder of the class session and inform the dean’s office, which will work with the Student Records office to issue a failing grade (“F”) for the course regardless of when in the semester the incident occurs. The dean’s office will also inform the Office of Student Conduct.] This penalty, along with other policies that affect grading, should be explicitly stated in the syllabus.

    If a student’s refusal to comply is a second offence, the Office of Student Conduct may recommend dismissal from the University.

    If the rules for health and safety measures change, the campus will be notified and the new requirements will take effect.

    iii. Student Illness 

    If students become ill or are asked to go into quarantine/isolation, they are not allowed to attend class in person. They should immediately notify the instructor and plan to participate online if they are able to do so while following instructions from health providers and/or health authorities. Further information on COVID-19 symptoms, next steps and FAQs are available at https://www.binghamton.edu/health/covid-19/quarantine-isolation/index.html. Students who exhibit symptoms should call the Decker Student Health Services Center at 607-777-2221 first.

    iv. For courses on the Student Rotation Model

    Suggested syllabus statement:  

    Seating in the classroom is limited and has been calculated to allow a safe number of people in the room. For the health and safety of all concerned, respect your assigned attendance dates and only come to class on those dates. Vaccination status does not affect this practice.

    Attempts to attend class on other dates without the instructor’s permission could jeopardize the safety of others and [will be considered an attendance violation] or [will result in a reduced grade for the course]. Repeated attempts to enter the classroom when not scheduled/authorized to do so will result in the instructor [immediately canceling the class if necessary, then informing the dean’s office, which will work with the Student Records office to issue a failing grade (“F”) for the course regardless of when in the semester the incident occurs. The dean’s office will also inform the Office of Student Conduct.] This penalty, along with other policies that affect grading, should be explicitly stated in the syllabus.

    If a student’s refusal to comply is a second offence, the Office of Student Conduct may recommend dismissal from the University. 

  • C. Academic calendar, full-semester requirement, exams, schedule of classes

    Special dates

    Friday, Feb. 26

    On Friday, Feb. 26, the University will follow a WEDNESDAY class schedule. Alert your students to this change.

    Rejuvenation Days

    Note that three days during the semester have been designated as Rejuvenation Days to allow instructors and students a short break. No classes or tests/exams will be held on these dates:

    • March 17
    • April 8
    • April 20

    i. Schedule of classes

    The schedule of classes indicates which classes will be delivered in the various course-delivery modes and meeting patterns for the semester. Students with in-person meeting patterns should be told to follow the schedule closely, especially if they have a course that includes both in-person meetings and remote classes.

    ii. Semester length

    The semester begins Thursday, Feb. 11, and the last day of classes is Tuesday, May 18. Instructors may not conclude the semester prior to the last day of scheduled classes.

    iii. Tests and exams

    Special arrangements have been made to accommodate in-person tests and exams for students who are enrolled in online courses (see below).

    Large-capacity academic testing will take place in the Events Center and West Gym:

    • March 8-12 (must request by Feb. 24)
    • March 29-31 (must request by March 17)
    • April 19, Apr 21-23 (must request by April 17)

    Note:

    • Classes are in session during these weeks.
    • Exams should be scheduled during regular class periods and follow standard meeting patterns, if offered during prime time.
    • Evening times can be used for scheduling multiple sections together.
    • In cases where an exam is not scheduled at the course’s regular meeting time, students with conflicts must be accommodated.
    • Requests can be made in the B There room scheduling system.
    • Requests must be made at least a week and a half prior to the start of the exam. 
    • The final exam schedule will be posted Friday, March 5. 

    In-person and online final exams:

    • May 19-21

    Online final exams:

    • May 24-26

    The syllabus should clearly state the dates that you plan to use for academic tests during the semester, if any. Final exams for all courses will be scheduled through our normal process by the Course Building and Academic Space Management Office. The final exam schedule will be posted on BU BRAIN Friday, March 5.

    iv. Final examinations

    All final examinations –– including any end-of-semester tests or exams –– must be administered during final exam week at the time scheduled for them. Faculty may not administer final exams, end-of-semester exams or quizzes, or require students to turn in take-home exams, during the last week of the semester. For spring 2021, this exclusion period shall be from May 10-18, with exams beginning on May 19. Take-home finals or take-home end-of-semester exams should be turned in during finals week. Students may not be required to take more than two exams during any 24-hour period during the finals period. If there is a conflict, the faculty member teaching the class with the largest enrollment should schedule a make-up time for affected students. You can find the final exam policy at http://www.binghamton.edu/academics/provost/faculty-staff-handbook/handbook-vii.html#C5.

  • D. In-person testing for online courses 

    i. In-person tests for online students

    If you are teaching an online course, or a course that has some students participating who are fully online, you can request space to conduct in-person tests. Students who are online for your course can be required to participate in in-person tests if they are registered for another in-person course or if they are living on campus. Only students who are fully online and not living on campus are exempt from this requirement. All instructors who are teaching an in-person course will receive information from the Student Records office at the start of the semester to tell them which students are required to participate in in-person tests. The information will be updated periodically by the Student Records office.

    ii. Scheduling an in-person test

    The Course Building and Academic Space Management Office will coordinate with academic departments on courses needing testing times and locations during these dates.

    • If you are teaching an online course, after the add/drop deadline you will receive a list for your course indicating which students are required to take in-person tests/exams.
    • Tests should be scheduled for your regular class period. Courses with multiple sections sometimes request evening time slots for tests and can use this option; students with conflicts will need to be accommodated. 
  • E. Courses with both in-person and online/remote learners

    i. Identifying which students are remote/online and which are in person

    The MyCourses Gradebook for your course has a Student ID column that will identify an online student as “Remote Learner.” You’ll be able to sort the column to group those students or you can export the file into a spreadsheet.  

    ii. Differentiated course requirements for in-person versus remote learners

    You may want to create equivalent but different types of assignments for students in your course depending on the way they’re participating. For example, you may give an in-person test for all students required to take them and offer a written assignment or other type of assessment to the remote/online learners who won’t be taking the test. MyCourses has ways to create varying assignments for the two types of students; training will be provided by the Center for Learning and Teaching for instructors who want to take this approach. All students should be expected to achieve the same learning outcomes and assessments should be chosen to assess progress in achieving those learning outcomes.

    Be sure to specify in your syllabus the grade distribution and assignments for each type of course participant, if you choose to differentiate. The expectations for each group should be clear from the outset.

    iii. Attendance expectations

    Whether a course is online or in person, or a combination of both, instructors can establish attendance and participation expectations and articulate them in the syllabus. Attendance policies vary by course and instructor, but the class schedule is established so that instructors can require attendance at in-person or synchronous online courses.

    Students in other time zones may find synchronous participation difficult for some courses; they can work with their advising office to find an alternate course or you may choose to accommodate their situation in other ways.

    Be sure to specify in your syllabus what your expectations are concerning attendance along with any corresponding impact on the course grade.

    iv. Class times, punctuality, minimizing population density in buildings

    We have not modified our standard meet pattern for the spring semester. Instead, we are providing dedicated space on campus for students who have back-to-back in-person and then online courses, or vice versa.

    Although building population density will be greatly reduced, instructors can minimize density and contacts further by helping with the following:

    • End each class session promptly or even five minutes early. Depending on how building traffic flow patterns develop, we may request that each class in certain buildings end a few minutes early to assist with transition times. 
    • Tell students to arrive for class for the start of class, not before.

    Putting this information in your syllabus could help students understand the importance of following these instructions.

  • F. Camera usage or requirements in online classes

    Instructors often prefer that students have cameras on during Zoom classes. The visual cues can both encourage discussion and let instructors know when students understand material or need help. At the same time, students' situations vary widely and should be considered by the instructor when planning for remote instruction. Some students are in physical settings where cameras can be sources of embarrassment or where other people are around and potentially disruptive. Some students may not have cameras. Be sensitive to these situations. Explaining why on-camera participation can improve the class by fostering interaction is one approach that could help to encourage camera usage.