Continuity for Student Absences

Academic Continuity for Student Absences Due to Illness, Isolation, or Quarantine

As faculty and students return to in-person teaching, we recommend that instructors prepare to accommodate lengthy student absences. Students who become ill or must quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 exposure will benefit from the methods described below to continue making progress in their courses. 
 
In most cases, we do not recommend “hybrid” formats that attempt simultaneous dual delivery of a course to in-person and virtual students. Without specialized training and a correctly equipped classroom, Yale faculty and students have found this approach to be problematic. An effective hybrid model that allows seamless teaching and interaction with both groups requires significant support. Recent studies have found the learning experience inequitable for those students attending class remotely as they may feel excluded from the classroom learning community (Olt 2018).
 
For all classes, plan for student absences to affect assignments and exams by building in flexibility for due dates and a few dropped grades in calculating the overall course grade. For some classes consider adding flexibility for  where and when students take exams, in which case guidance on assessments in the remote context may be helpful to revisit.
 
We offer the following recommendations to ensure academic continuity for a variety of course types. It may be helpful to know that Poorvu Center student learning services expect to offer virtual options for students this fall. Please contact us with questions about developing a contingency plan for extended student absences. Many of these approaches will be helpful for a variety of course types, but we have found them particularly suited to the following formats.
 

Lecture courses

  • Class recordings: We encourage instructors to record their in-class lectures and make them available to all students for review and to enhance accessibility. Doing so will also generate easily shareable course materials for absent students.
  • Canvas modules: Many well-organized courses feature Canvas modules that allow students to work through course materials and access slides, notes, and other class materials, in addition to posted class recordings. 
 

Seminar courses

  • Peer support teams: Students can be assigned to groups at the beginning of the term in order to provide support. If a student in the group becomes ill or needs to quarantine, group members can share notes or summarize class discussions. This practice may also reinforce a sense of community in your class and reduce anxiety about asking a peer for help.
  • Buddy system: In some cases, a student could ask a friend enrolled in the seminar to share notes or summarize class discussions.
 

Language courses (or other highly interactive courses that meet frequently)

  • Connect via Zoom: For courses where progress will be severely limited by an extended absence, instructors could accommodate such students by allowing a designated student partner to Zoom them into live class sessions. This could be a friend selected by the absent student, or the Poorvu Center will assign an Undergraduate Technology Assistant (UTA) to facilitate remote participation by absent students. The remote student should not expect to actively participate in the class session; they should plan only to watch and listen in real time, then work with the instructor to catch up.  To request a UTA, please contact the Poorvu Center at least 24 hours in advance to facilitate remote participation by absent students. We will do our best, but we cannot guarantee that a UTA will be available for every session.
 

Lab and studio courses

  • These courses pose challenges due to hands-on and highly individualized pedagogy. Peer support teams or the buddy system described above may be helpful strategies to accommodate absent students. Some courses may be able to use existing resources such as videos or other strategies inspired by remotely teaching labs.
  • We invite instructors to contact us with a strategy to share or to discuss suitable options for their situation.
 

Related Resources 

  • Guidance for Teaching with Masks - A summary of resources and practical tips for you and your students from the Poorvu Center
  • Olt, Philip A. (October 2018) Virtually There: Distant Freshmen Blended in Classes through Synchronous Online Education. Innovative Higher Education 43(3). DOI:10.1007/s10755-018-9437-z
  • Zydney et al. (October 2018). Here or There Instruction: Lessons Learned in Implementing Innovative Approaches to Blended Synchronous Learning. TechTrends 63(1). DOI:10.1007/s11528-018-0344-z