Recommendations on Supporting Ill or Quarantined Students and Assigning Incomplete Grades

In order to prioritize the health and safety of our community during the fall semester, it is important that students who are experiencing COVID-related symptoms do not attend class. We encourage faculty to support this university goal by not linking course attendance to student performance assessments. In addition, faculty should expect and prepare for the fact that some students will miss class this semester due to quarantine or illness. Senior Vice President and Provost Wickert outlined in his July 22 memo that faculty must consider student absences due to compliance with public health recommendations (including self-isolating because of a positive COVID-19 test; waiting for a test result; or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms) as an excused absence. [Other excused absences are detailed in the Faculty Handbook, Section 10.4].

As general guidance, we encourage faculty to be flexible in providing alternative and make-up assignments for students who contract COVID-19 or who are in quarantine or isolation. Because our upcoming semester will pose unanticipated challenges, it may be helpful to identify in advance your course’s essential learning objectives/competencies that every student must complete to advance in their program. That assessment can then be used to structure alternative assignments.

We encourage faculty to plan in advance how they might handle the following potential scenarios. We have included potential solutions for illustrative purposes, recognizing that faculty have the discretion to determine the most appropriate method to assess student learning.


Possible solution

Moderate numbers of students must complete a quarantine period over the course of a semester disrupting the
use of consistent assessment

Structure your syllabus to allow students to choose among a larger number of assignments to submit (i.e. 4 out of 6 assignments). Consider alternate ways to evaluate mastery of course learning objectives. If multiple students fall behind, prioritize working with graduating seniors so that they are able to graduate on time.

A student misses several labs or studios due to quarantine or illness and leaves campus at Thanksgiving


Labs: The instructor could provide the student results from the class or lab group so that they can complete the lab report. Instructors may create videos or visuals of lab activities to provide context for that assignment.

Studios: If a student(s) is quarantined, the instructor might schedule an online meeting to keep the student engaged and provide individualized instruction.

The entire class must move online because the campus closes


Schedule multiple assessments in the first half of the semester to reduce the relative importance of the final exam. Consider scheduling an open-book, online final exam, a closed book online exam with proctoring software, or an alternative to an exam.

The instructor must quarantine
or becomes ill

To the extent possible, create assessments in advance and clearly document module learning objectives so that a backup instructor has a roadmap to follow.

A student cannot complete multiple assignments over a several week period due to illness

In some cases, faculty must decide at what point it is not feasible for a student to complete the necessary course assessments. In these instances, faculty may assign an incomplete grade if the student is passing at the time of the request. If a student misses key material early in the semester, the instructor may recommend that the student drop the course and re-enroll in a subsequent semester.

A large number of students miss multiple assignments over a several week period

There may be a case(s) when based on the number of student absences, the number of missed assignments, and an inability to adequately assess achievement of learning objectives, it may not be feasible to assign a large number of incompletes. In that case, the instructor should consult with the department chair or associate dean to determine a best course of action.


Best Practices to Consider: Faculty are encouraged to brainstorm and share with their departmental colleagues creative teaching strategies that will enable students who are quarantined or ill to meet course objectives. Developing consistent approaches within a curriculum or program can help ensure students are able to achieve the broad learning goals for a program and more specifically for individual courses.