COVID-19: Important instructional continuity guidance

March 10, 2020
Thomas Smith and Dylan Rodriguez
March 10, 2020

Faculty Colleagues,

Earlier today, you received an update on academic continuity and campus operations related to COVID-19. This is a follow up message with important additional information for instructors related to academic continuity. Please read this carefully. 

On Thursday March 5, we issued this guidance to help instructors implement instructional continuity plans that prioritize and protect student, faculty and staff health while maximizing flexibility for online delivery of each course. If you are currently teaching a course but have not yet reviewed this guidance, please do so. 

On Monday March 9, the Provost met with the Senate Executive Council to discuss additional measures beyond this initial guidance to further protect the health of our campus community, while supporting student learning. 

Based on this discussion, and with the full support of the Senate Executive Council, we are issuing the following guidance to instructors:  

1.    Regarding winter quarter instruction. Week 10 classes have not been canceled. Instructors should increase their efforts to transition course materials and instruction online through Friday March 13. These efforts continue to be voluntary and should be chosen based on circumstance for each course. Instructors do not relinquish copyrights in the course materials they have created by posting the materials to iLearn.


2.    Regarding winter quarter final exams. As announced earlier today, and beginning on Saturday March 14, there will be NO in-person final exams for winter quarter courses. Winter quarter exams are not being canceled but they must be administered in a take-home, online, or other alternative format. Instructors should follow the March 5 guidance and consult to develop alternative assessment plans. Consultation with department chairs is encouraged, especially in more challenging situations. Last-minute registration with a proctoring service such as ProctorU or Examity is discouraged due to multiple complicating factors. 


3.    Regarding spring quarter instruction. As announced earlier today, instructors should plan to teach online at least through April 3 and possibly longer. Conditions may change, but at this time, all in-person classes have been suspended for at least the first week of spring quarter. This includes lectures, discussion sections, class labs, performance studios, field-based courses, and all other types of in-person instruction. These measures are meant to be temporary and will be reviewed as new information about COVID-19 becomes available. Additional guidance for lab, performance and field-based courses will be issued.   

In all cases, it is the instructor’s responsibility to communicate course-specific information clearly to students. This includes the status of remaining instruction and assignments for winter quarter, the status of winter quarter final exams, and the status of spring quarter instruction. Importantly, this means spring quarter instructors must communicate their online instructional plans to students prior to the commencement of spring quarter. All instructors may access their spring quarter course lists through iLearn beginning now. Students will have access to spring quarter courses in iLearn beginning March 15. 


The Academic Senate offers the following guidance to facilitate the faculty’s fulfillment of their instructional responsibilities under these extraordinary circumstances: 


1.    In anticipation of potential disruptions to the academic calendar and completion of coursework as originally described in course syllabi, instructors are encouraged to minimize inconveniences to students, and to be as flexible as possible in accommodating students’ needs.


2.    If changes to methods of Course Evaluation are deemed necessary by the instructor, they must inform students of these changes as soon as possible, in compliance with Senate Regulation R1.8.1:


“The instructor in charge of an undergraduate course shall be responsible for assigning the final grade in the course. The final grade shall reflect the student's achievement in the course and shall be based upon adequate evaluation of that achievement. The instructor's methods of evaluation must be clearly announced during the progress of the course. Evaluation methods must be of reasonable duration and difficulty and must be in accord with applicable departmental policies.”


3.    Instructors will administer Winter 2020 final exams online through iLearn or other alternative measures in temporary suspension of the final paragraph of Senate Regulation R1.8.1 (below). Synchronous exams (i.e. all students taking the exam at the same time) should be administered during the originally assigned exam time to avoid creating exam conflicts for students. Instructors should emphasize that students must continue to vigilantly observe UCR Academic Integrity policies. 


“If a final written examination is given, it shall not exceed three hours duration and shall be given only at the times and places announced in the Schedule and Directory”,


4.    Instructors should be mindful of students who may not be able to utilize certain alternative exam or instructional methods due to issues of accessibility, illness, or other justifiable reasons.  In such cases, instructors should pursue appropriate exam options for affected students on a case-by-case basis.


5.    Instructors should avoid entirely canceling their Winter 2020 final exams if possible. If they do decide to cancel the final exams and re-weight their grading requirements, they should be attentive to offering the fairest possible distribution of credit for coursework already completed.


6.    Regarding GD (Grade Delay) and I (Incomplete) grades:  we remind instructors of Senate Regulations R1.1.1.1 and R1.4 (below).  In accordance with these regulations, unless the narrow requirements for a GD are fulfilled, a student’s excused absence from the final exam should warrant the grade I. (Completion of the coursework is normally expected within one quarter, but this normative timeline can be extended by the appropriate Dean). We encourage flexibility in determining criteria for “passing quality” and “excused absences” in order to prevent students from unnecessarily burdening the health care system with requests for physicians’ notes. 


“The grade GD (Grade Delay) shall be entered on the student’s record: a) when administratively the faculty member is not able to assign a grade or b) when disciplinary proceedings are in progress.”  (R.


“The grade I (incomplete) denotes that a student's work was of passing quality but incomplete for good cause.” (R1.4)


Instructional Guidance Specific to Graduate Education


1.    Beginning March 10, 2020 until the resumption of in-person course instruction, Oral Qualifying Exams and Dissertation/Thesis Defenses may be held entirely via videoconference, temporarily suspending current Graduate Council policy which limits this form of participation to one committee member.  All committee members must be present on the videoconference for the entirety of the Exam or Defense.  The Graduate Council policy to be temporarily suspended reads as follows:


“For both the PhD Oral Qualifying Exam and Dissertation/Thesis Defense all committee members must be physically present. If that is not possible, ONE member of the examining committee may participate remotely (e.g. Skype or other video conferencing technology).”


2.    Beginning March 10, 2020 until the resumption of in-person course instruction, Graduate Division will temporarily accept alternative documentation of Oral Qualifying Exam results and Dissertation/Thesis Defense approvals.  Under current policy, Graduate Division requires original (“wet”) signatures on Qualifying Exam and Dissertation/Thesis documents.  During this exceptional period, Graduate Division will permit certification of such outcomes via 1) committee member emails sent from an official UCR account supplemented by 2) committee members’ scanned or electronic signatures.


Thank you again for helping UCR respond to the challenges created by COVID-19. Please remain alert for additional guidance that will be issued as new information is received.




Tom Smith

Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor


Dylan Rodriguez

Chair of the Riverside Division of the Academic Senate