Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about maintaining continuity of learning throughout the semester.

All FAQs

Advising

For the most up-to-date information about alternative grading, visit the alternative grading page.

There are many resources available to help students enrolled in remote courses. You can also access more general student support resources that are being offered in flexible ways at this time. Talk with your adviser regarding specific academic concerns you may have.

Undergraduate students must use the appeal process to petition for a retroactive late drop through the Faculty Senate. As soon as you determine you cannot participate in the course, you should work with your academic adviser to ensure that all parts of your petition are complete prior to submission. Note that you should not submit your petition to the Faculty Senate Office directly; a petition can only be submitted through your college or campus. The Faculty Senate Office has additional details on submitting a petition.

Graduate students’ requests for a retroactive late drop must be submitted by the graduate program to the student’s Records Coordinator in the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services. The graduate program should provide a detailed explanation describing the extenuating circumstances, why the course in question could not be dropped by the published late-drop deadline, and why the course cannot be completed as planned and indicate its support for the request.

For both undergraduate and graduate students receiving financial aid, having incomplete (DF, NG, LD) or failing grades (F) on their transcript at the end of the semester may negatively impact their federal and state aid satisfactory academic progress review, which typically occurs annually at the end of spring semester. This annual review determines a student’s eligibility for aid for future semesters. However, students who are on financial aid probation for fall 2020 should consult with an Office of Student Aid adviser to discuss how a fall 2020 incomplete or failing grade may impact their spring 2021 financial aid eligibility.

Watch for email notifications about progress reports, and be sure to set up a meeting with your instructor and/or adviser to address concerns with your academic progress and make a plan to get back on track. You can check your course syllabus for your instructor’s preferred contact information. Many students will be able to make an appointment with their adviser directly through Starfish. If your adviser does not have scheduling enabled in Starfish, you can contact your adviser or advising office directly to set up an appointment.

Access to academic advisers will be maintained throughout the fall semester. Please check Starfish to schedule an appointment with your academic adviser or contact your academic adviser via email to learn more about how they will conduct advising appointments.

Your academic adviser will have tips and strategies for communicating with your course instructors. If you have already tried to resolve the issue through communication with your instructor and are still experiencing problems, you may contact the department head, school director, or director of academic affairs of the unit offering the course. You can also complete our Academic Concern form to get your issues addressed.

Your instructors will let you know how best to contact them, how quickly you can expect to hear back from them on correspondence, and when and where they will be holding office hours, whether in-person or virtual. This information will be on your course syllabus, but if you are unsure, please ask until you have the information you need. Penn State Learning resources may also be provided at the department or college level, and every campus has a learning center.

You are expected to attend all scheduled classes for each of your courses, regardless of instructional mode. In the event of occasional and/or temporary absence, students will follow the attendance policy of the University with some flexibility. If students must quarantine or isolate, courses delivered face-to-face will include elements of remote delivery to allow them to continue to engage in class.

Students must continue to meet the academic requirements set by the college or major.

Class Format/Instructional Mode

You may be able to make alternative arrangements to take your exam at a more convenient time. Contact your instructor to identify the options for your course.

According to University Policy, students must get express permission from their instructor to record class sessions. Screenshots showing instructors and students are considered recordings. Even if permission is granted, student-initiated recordings must be used only for educational purposes for the students enrolled in the initiating student’s class. Recordings may be used only during the period in which the student is enrolled in the class. Authorized student-initiated recordings may not be posted or shared in any fashion outside of the class, including online through social media or other digital channels, without the express written consent of the course instructor or appropriate University administrator. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of class recordings may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

All students are expected to behave respectfully in classes, no matter the format or delivery mode. Read the latest information about expectations for students on the Student Affairs website.

Individual units and departments will develop approaches to laboratory instruction that account for physical distancing protocol. In some instances, labs may be offered remotely. Other labs will be offered in person.

Yes, there are places on campus for this purpose. In addition to the normal student spaces that have had seating adjusted to account for physical distancing, dozens of smaller classrooms have been identified on the University Park campus as Remote Learning Rooms. These rooms are open for use during normal building hours and have clear signage indicating that they are intended for accessing remote classes. The rooms do not have computers available for student use, so you will need to bring your own technology. Please wear headphones so you do not distract others. If you are talking as part of class participation, be aware of your speaking volume and consider using headphones with a microphone. You can find details by selecting the Remote Learning Rooms layer on the campus map or on the Penn State Go app. Clicking on the Remote Learning icon (headphones) will provide detailed information for each building.

If the course is being offered as remote synchronous instruction, then you have a scheduled meeting day and time. If the course is offered as remote asynchronous instruction, then course materials and assignments are made available for you to work through on your own schedule, keeping in mind that there will be due dates for assignments and there may be common times for quizzes and exams.

Learn more about the technology you will need for any remote course on the Technology Resources page.

You should first speak with your course instructor. If you cannot resolve your schedule, you can complete our Academic Concern form.

We will use discussion boards and online engagement tools to ensure you can continue working with peers and faculty. Tools like CanvasZoomOffice 365 (including Teams), and Kaltura will allow you to collaborate, discuss course work, and complete assignments. Your instructor will provide you with additional information.

Some lectures may be recorded. Please check with the instructor teaching the course.

Classrooms

Most computer labs are open with adjusted schedules and limited seating. Students should verify lab hours and availability by consulting the student computing lab webpage.

Health and Safety

In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health guidelines, wearing face masks and adhering to physical distancing practices, including maintaining six feet of physical distance between people, are critical components in helping to maintain the health and safety of the entire campus community. Students, employees, and visitors are required to practice physical distancing and wear face masks/coverings when inside campus buildings, including in classrooms, labs, offices, and other public spaces, and the University is expecting that individuals also will wear a mask when outdoors on campus and in the community.

To aid in this effort, the University purchased 500,000 masks to be distributed across all campuses for people who need them. In addition, distance markers, directional arrows, signs, and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, classrooms, common areas, study spaces, and other shared locations, which also will be reconfigured with physical distancing principles in mind. Tables, chairs, and lounge furniture will be rearranged and/or blocked for use in some locations, and posting of maximum occupancy and do-not-congregate signs for most areas will become the norm, in accordance with the governor’s higher education guidance.

To help create a safer learning, living, and working environment for all students, faculty, and staff, new classroom policies will be in effect this fall across Penn State’s campuses in alignment with public health recommendations and Gov. Tom Wolf’s requirements for higher education institutions. Specific policy guidance is expected to be posted soon to the Office of Student Conduct website.

To reduce the risk of widespread virus transmission, wearing face masks and physical distancing will be required for all students and employees in classrooms, labs, offices, and campus buildings. Students and employees also should practice physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, and wear face masks while on campus, as well as within their local communities in line with local and state requirements.

If you fail to meet masking and physical distancing guidelines in a way that puts others at risk, you may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and required to participate in the University’s conduct process. Employee violations of these requirements should be directed to the appropriate academic department and/or Office of Human Resources.

The Penn State Student Affairs website provides comprehensive information about COVID-19 including what to do if you feel sick, contact tracing, and quarantine/isolation.

If you are quarantined, you may be able to attend class remotely. Your instructor will provide guidance on remote attendance or how absences will be handled if remote attendance is not available. Once you know you need to be quarantined, you should contact your instructors and your academic adviser.

Effective immediately, all students are strongly encouraged to complete a daily symptom checker to self-screen for potential COVID-19 symptoms before returning to campus. Students can access the COVID-19 symptom checker in the Penn State Go mobile app. Download Penn State Go from Google Play Store and Apple App Store

New users will be prompted to select their Penn State Go Experience when they start using the app. You can select from University Park, World Campus, or individual Commonwealth Campus Experiences in the app to view the Coronavirus Resources section for access to the daily COVID-19 symptom checker. 

Users who had previously downloaded Penn State Go will need to update the app to view the Coronavirus Resources section for access to the daily COVID-19 Symptom Checker. 

For more information, visit the Penn State Go website and learn about its features.

No. All students must wear masks; wearing a clear face shield does not satisfy the requirement.

International Students

You may be able to make alternative arrangements to take your exam at a more convenient time. Contact your instructor to identify the options for your course.

Students can locate information about which software they can access from international locations in the International Restrictions of Penn State Software and Technology Services (PDF)

If you are unable to use the software of your choice, please consult the document to see if there is a Penn State provided alternative. You may also try to connect through a Penn State–provided VPN. However, international governments can change access to the software at any time. 

Student Services and Support

Everyone’s lives have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and it is normal that you are experiencing stress, uncertainty, and disruption during this time. Penn State Health Promotion and Wellness has provided a variety of resources to give you positive coping strategies, including a guide to maintain your health and wellness (PDF) during COVID-19. It is also a good idea to stay connected with others, whether that’s with family and friends or through campus-related activities.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides resources including You@PSU, a wellness portal that provides personalized resources. CAPS also hosts virtual Life Hacks sessions twice daily for all Penn State students. These are free, drop-in gatherings focused on improving quality of life.

University Libraries are open with limited hours. You can also access remote resources.

Student Disability Resources engages in an interactive process with each student and reviews requests for accommodations on an individualized, case-by-case basis. Please contact the disability services office on your campus. Services are consistent, but hours and implementation may vary. 

You can find a wide range of accessibility resources offered by Accessibility and Usability at Penn State. All questions about the accessibility of materials and technology used in courses can be sent to accessibility@psu.edu.

If you are finding it difficult to cope or are feeling overwhelmed, we encourage you to reach out to your campus resources:

  • University Park students can call Counseling and Psychological Services at 814-863-0395 to make an appointment and speak with a clinician. CAPS is currently offering clinical consultations and short-term tele-mental health therapy.
  • Students at other Penn State campuses should contact their campus counseling staff.
  • Penn State World Campus students should contact their Mental Health Case Manager.

If you are experiencing high distress or are in crisis and are located in the United States, please call the Penn State Crisis Line at 1-877-229-6400 or call 911. You may also receive immediate support from the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘LIONS’ to 741741. Contact local emergency services if you are outside the United States.

If you are located in Pennsylvania, you can also access the COVID-19 Support & Referral Helpline.

Technology

Yes. Students who meet income-based criteria may be eligible for an FCC program called the Emergency Broadband Benefit. This benefit is intended to help households struggling to pay internet service during the pandemic and may also include a one-time discount on a computer, laptop, or tablet.

Students should continue to follow the meeting safety guidelines outlined by the University to avoid Zoom-bombings.

Xfinity’s 1.2 Terabyte (1,229 GB) Internet Data Usage Plan is now included with Xfinity Internet for most customers.

With 1.2 terabytes of data in a month, you can video conference for 3,500 hours, watch 1,200 hours of distance learning videos, stream 500 hours of high-definition video content a month, or play more than 34,000 hours of online games. A typical class that meets 150 minutes per week would use approximately 5 GB of data per month if using video and audio. Use of Zoom audio only uses approximately 0.5 GB per month.

For more information, including specifics on overage rates and timelines for rolling out this data plan in your area, read the FAQs on the Xfinity website.

To protect the integrity of exams and other assessments, instructors may require students to turn on their webcams in order to monitor the assessment. Visit the Use of Webcams page for more information about webcam usage during exams and assessments.

For questions about technology specific to course work, such as CADD, MATLAB, and other specialized software or hardware, contact your course instructor first. If you need general assistance with IT services, you can reach the IT Service Desk for 24/7 technology support through live chat or by emailing ITservicedesk@psu.edu or calling 814-865-HELP (4357).

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