Handling Extended Student Absences

For the Fall 2021 semester, if any of your students need to miss several consecutive days of your class due to isolating with COVID-19 or any other reason, you are not required to accommodate them with a fully online/hybrid/HyFlex class experience. However, in the interest of helping those who are asymptomatic or who only have mild symptoms keep up in class while they are out for several days, we offer some relatively light-weight suggestions to allow you to do this:

  • Synchronous participation: You may be able to use technology to allow remote student(s) to participate in class synchronously, if they are well enough to do so. Your classroom may be able to run Zoom using built-in equipment, or your classroom support staff may have Zoom carts available that can be brought to your classroom (Note: As of 8/30/2021, all Zoom carts in Trinity are currently in use). If neither of these options will work, and if you have a small class and the seating layout is conducive for this, you could run Zoom on a laptop (ideally with a mic and webcam hooked to the laptop) to include remote students. Your local IT or classroom support staff may have alternative technology solutions to supplement (or in addition to) running Zoom on your laptop, too, so be sure to check with them about their recommendations for this “remote synchronous attendance” approach.
  • Asynchronous participation: If synchronous remote attendance isn’t possible (or even if it is), it may be more reasonable to try to record your class sessions. Please note: Options for recording differ in different schools and in different classrooms, so be sure to check with your local classroom/IT support staff about your specific situation.
    • If you teach in a large classroom, your room may already have Panopto room capture built-in. You can contact the respective Panopto administrator for your room to set up captures for your class sessions. 
    • If you teach in a room without Panopto already installed, it might still be possible to use Panopto or Zoom (on your laptop) to record your class. This works best if your class is primarily lecture-based or with mostly instructor-driven interactions (lecture with Q&A, for example). Contact your local classroom IT support person about the best way to set this up; you may need to add a microphone and/or a webcam to your laptop for best results and they can provide or recommend one that will work for your circumstances. 
    • Note that If you have recordings from a prior semester which cover the same material, you may be able to use those instead. If those are hosted in Warpwire or another site for which permissions are needed, be sure to adjust permissions to allow your Fall 2021 students to see them. Also, if any of your prior students appear in the recordings, that could be a FERPA issues. Before using the videos for your current class, you must edit the prior students out or de-identify them by blurring or other means, unless you have a release form from each student who appears (see more here).
  • Group or project-based participation: If you teach a class that is largely activity-based, or uses group work for significant parts of the class, where video recording from a fixed point of view wouldn’t really be appropriate or useful, there may be a “lower tech” option. For example, capture information about the class activities and discussion using a Google Doc for group note-taking, or ask students to rotate writing a summary of the activities and outcomes and then share it on the class Sakai site. 
    • Or, if groups are maintained throughout the term, it may be possible for the isolating student to join their peers in their regular group via Zoom running on the laptop of one of the group members.
    • Alternatively, the group could audio-record or write a summary of their in-class discussion and share with missing group members; missing students could respond with written or recorded audio comments. 

Additional Considerations

  • Be sure your class materials/readings, schedule, notes and activities are described fully in your course Sakai site
    • If you aren’t already, consider sending out detailed announcements twice a week about what’s happening in class, so that isolating students know if they are on-track or what they have missed. 
    • Explain clearly how students can make up any missed assignments, and your policies about deadline extensions and how you’d like students to communicate with you about their situations. 
  • Offer online office hours so that isolating students can meet with you virtually as needed. If possible, add a few more office hours (or having your TAs add more) so that if a student needs or wants a slightly extended time to talk with you, there are options.
  • Think ahead about the key (graded) activities and assessments you have planned, and the key in-class activities which are most important as building-blocks for future understanding. Determine which of these would be difficult or impossible for students to complete remotely and which would be problematic if they delayed submitting for 10+ days. For those, consider creating another option for students who can’t be in-class during the time the activity is conducted or the assignment is due. Providing alternatives for assignment completion is a recommended best practice, and we encourage this practice for any and all students.
    • As an example, give students the option of discussing course readings in tools like Sakai Forums or Hypothes.is. These types of discussions can build community in your course and allow all students an asynchronous participation option.
    • This page created in Spring 2020 has other options for alternative assignments you might substitute where appropriate.
  • If you teach a large class, you may have several students isolating or missing class at any given time. If you have TAs, task one of them with 1:1 follow ups or email check-ins with any students isolating at a given time – having one person handling this may mean students are treated more consistently across your class sections. Alternatively, suggest that each TA try to stay in touch with students in their section who are isolating at a given time, or ask them to add additional office hour time slots. 

If you want to talk through specific scenarios related to your course activity and assignment design, drop by Learning Innovation online office hours, Mon 1 – 3 pm or Thurs 10 am – 12 pm Eastern. If you need help with setting up remote attendance in your classroom or recording your class, contact your local classroom/IT support person to see what options are available.