Fall 2020 emergency academic regulations and policies
August 10, 2020
Dear Colleagues and Students,
In the event of a “Significant Disruption” of academic activities, Section 2.102 of the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty permits the chair of the faculty, in consultation with Deans’ Group, the registrar, and the chairs of the Committees on Academic Performance, Graduate Programs, and the Undergraduate Program, to declare that emergency academic procedures are in effect and to impose temporary changes in the regulations regarding the academic calendar, registration, assignments and examinations, grades, procedures for accepting theses, and the awarding of degrees.
I am writing to you here on behalf of the Academic Policy and Regulations Team (APART), whose membership (listed below) includes students and the current and recent chairs of key Faculty Governance committees concerned with the Institute’s educational mission. The emergency academic regulations and policies outlined here were developed by APART after extensive deliberation and consultation with students, faculty, and staff. Our aim was to design emergency regulations and policies that take into consideration the diversity of our educational offerings, that anticipate exceptional situations, and which are sensitive to the difficult and unusual circumstances confronting our students, our faculty, and all members of the MIT community who support our educational programs. APART appreciates the magnitude of the challenges facing many of our students, particularly those working from remote time zones and those with difficult learning environments. In developing these policies and regulations, our goal has been to take into account these challenges while not compromising the quality of the education and training being provided to all MIT students.
Outlined below are key features of the emergency regulations and policies with emphasis on those regulations and guidelines that have not been announced previously. Further details will be posted online for reference in the next weeks. Instructors are reminded that other term regulations and examination policies remain in effect.
Rick L. Danheiser
A. C. Cope Professor and
Chair of the MIT Faculty
Note: This was also sent to all instructors, department/section heads, undergraduate/graduate officers and administrators, assistant deans, and administrative officers.
Emergency academic regulations and policies for fall 2020
Class meetings and general regulations
- Academic calendar. All instruction – both graduate and undergraduate – will be delivered remotely during the first week of classes (September 1–7). Some in-person classes will be conducted on campus beginning Tuesday, September 8. In addition, all instruction will be delivered remotely for the final two weeks of classes (November 30–December 9). No academic exercises will be held and no assignments will be due during the Thanksgiving break, which begins at 5 p.m on Friday, November 20 and concludes at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 29. Note: Some Sloan graduate students may be enrolled in subjects that will meet on Saturday, November 21. For these students, Thanksgiving break begins at the conclusion of class sessions on Saturday, November 21. The last day of classes will be Wednesday, December 9. Final exams will begin after a four-day reading period. All exams – in both undergraduate and graduate subjects – will be remote and will take place December 14–18.
- Alternative arrangements (undergraduates). For subjects with a required in-person component, departments must provide an alternative arrangement for undergraduate students who will not be on campus and who would otherwise have their ability to graduate on time impeded. Alternative arrangements might include remote alternatives for the in-person component of a subject (which could be an independent project), or an alternative remote subject that can satisfy the degree requirements.
- Alternative arrangements (graduate students). Departments must similarly make alternative arrangements in the case of graduate students who are not able to attend required in-person subjects if it will impede their ability to graduate on time.
- Providing recordings of synchronous lectures. In the case of predominantly lecture-based subjects with “live” (synchronous) lectures held during the scheduled class time, instructors should strongly consider also providing a video recording of the lecture that students can access “asynchronously” at any time. This will be especially beneficial for students whose home time zone makes it difficult to participate in a class session at the normally scheduled time and for students with problematic home learning environments. However, for any subjects in which meetings involve significant interaction with or among student members of the class, the instructor may choose not to provide a recording. This may be out of concern, for example, that recording a discussion may reduce participation by those present synchronously, or because active participation in the live discussion is necessary to achieve the learning goals of the subject.
- Advising and registration in subjects with conflicts. Students sometimes wish to register for multiple subjects that have class meetings scheduled at the same time, and this may be more common during the fall 2020 semester with many subjects providing asynchronous lectures. Advisors should pay close attention to potential schedule conflicts this fall and should evaluate such conflicts in discussion with their advisees when asked to approve such registration, particularly when it involves subjects that have expected or required synchronous components.
- Contingency planning: in-person and remote subjects. Departments and instructors of subjects with a required in-person element must develop contingency plans for how such classes will proceed in the event that in-person activities (for some or all participants) are interrupted at some point during the semester. Examples of such situations include:
- An instructor or teaching assistant tests positive for Covid-19 or comes into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 and so is unable to teach in person for a period of time.
- A few, many, or all students in a class are required to quarantine because they were in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19
- Health conditions in the greater-Boston area deteriorate and the Commonwealth orders that we discontinue in-person instruction. Contingency plans should also be developed for remote subjects with regard to how these classes will proceed in the event that the instructor becomes ill and is not able to teach.
- Statement of required work. Instructors must provide students with information regarding the work required for the subject according to the schedule described in (8) below. For fall 2020, this information must include the number and kinds of assignments, the schedule of tests and due dates for major projects, whether or not there will be a final examination, and the grading criteria and procedures to be used. Instructors must also indicate how attendance at class meetings will figure into the final grade. Instructors should describe their expectations with regard to the participation of students in synchronous elements of a class, both remote and in-person. Instructors who are planning assignments or activities that will require undergraduate students to use iPads should discuss this.
- Schedule for statement of required work. For undergraduate subjects, the statement of required work must be provided by the end of the first week of a subject, together with at least an approximate schedule of tests and due dates for major projects. The precise schedule of tests and due dates for major assignments must be provided by the end of the third week for full-term subjects and by the end of the second week for half-term subjects. For graduate subjects, the precise schedule of assignments and exams and other information as detailed above must be provided by the end of the third week in a full-term subject and by the end of the second week in a half-term subject.
- Changes in statement of required work. Any subsequent change to what is announced during the first weeks of a subject must be approved in advance by the chair of the faculty. This includes (but is not limited to) any increase in the number of assignments, quizzes, tests, or exams.
- Student support. Instructors are encouraged to be flexible in assisting students with academic requests and should work with students disadvantaged in completing work due to their home situation (e.g., lack of privacy, internet connectivity issues, etc.). Here is some excellent advice for instructors on supporting and working with students during the Covid-19 crisis. Students should continue to utilize Student Support Services (S3) and GradSupport when they are dealing with personal or medical issues that interfere with their ability to attend class, complete work, or take exams. To make academic requests, undergraduate students should contact S3 and graduate students should contact GradSupport with as much advance notice as possible, understanding that some situations are unplanned and arise unexpectedly. Faculty should consider including statements about how they will approach such requests in their syllabus based on draft templates available from Student Support and Wellbeing.
- Third-party online proctoring. Instructors are advised not to utilize third-party online proctoring for midterm or final exams unless all other options have been exhausted. The use of third-party online proctoring (e.g., Proctortrack) requires the permission of the chair of the faculty, and requests must be submitted by September 1. If the use of third-party online proctoring is approved, this must be indicated in the statement of required work provided by the deadlines described in (8) above.
Scheduling of classes and midterm exams
- Scheduling of activities outside of normal class time. Some subjects may require extra hours outside of regular class time for special activities such as presentation sessions. Instructors are reminded that these activities require an exception from the chair of the faculty. In addition, these activities must be scheduled at the beginning of the semester and included in the syllabus, and students who are unable to participate because of regularly scheduled academic exercises in other subjects, which always take priority, must be accommodated.
- Scheduling and time allocated for midterm exams. In the case of midterm exams involving remote submission, instructors should include provisions in the scheduling to accommodate the time needed for submission and these arrangements should take into account students granted extended time due to disabilities.
- Alternative arrangements for midterm exams. Instructors should provide students with the option to take midterm exams during one or more alternative periods of commensurate duration within a 24-hour block of time that includes the regularly scheduled exam time. Instructors should consider such options to help address the needs of students in other time zones and to provide for students with uncertain internet connections or problematic home environments. If students are provided with this option, it must be made clear that they cannot select a time that creates a conflict with another scheduled class session or exam.
- Activities around Election Day. Instructors are strongly encouraged to avoid scheduling exams or having major assignments due on Election Day and the day following Election Day (November 3 and 4).
End-of-term assignments, final exams, and theses
- Scheduling end of semester assignments and exams. As stated in the Academic Calendar, the “last test date” (the Friday before the last week of classes) is December 4, 2020. Instructors are reminded that for both undergraduate and graduate subjects with final exams, there may be no assignments due and no tests held after the Last Test Date. For subjects that do not have a final exam, the deadline for any assignments due during the last week of classes is 10 p.m. EST on Wednesday, December 9, the last day of classes. In the case of graduate subjects with no final exam and no assignment due during the last week of classes, one test may be held during the last week of classes, before 10 p.m. EST on Wednesday, December 9.
- Final exams. Instructors are encouraged to de-emphasize high-stakes end-of-term methods of assessment such as final exams in fall semester subjects. In the event that a final exam is deemed necessary, then the following regulations apply. All final exams in full-term and H2 subjects must be remote exams of no more than three hours duration and must be held December 14 – 18 according to the schedule set by the registrar with the exception of the alternative scheduling described in (18) below. Any other exceptions must be approved by the chair of the faculty. The Registrar’s Office will coordinate conflict exams for cases where a student has two exams scheduled for the same time. Final exams can be “open book” or “closed book”. The choice of format must be announced and expectations must be clearly stated no later than the drop date (November 18, 2020).
- Scheduling of final exams. Instructors should provide students with the option to take the final exam during one or more alternative periods of commensurate duration within a 24-hour block of time that includes the regularly scheduled final exam time. Instructors should consider such options to help address the needs of students in other time zones and to provide for students with uncertain internet connections or problematic home environments. In order to apply for an alternative exam time, students must contact the instructor no later than 5 p.m. one week prior to the day of the regularly scheduled final exam.
- Thesis defenses and submission. Thesis and dissertation defenses should be conducted remotely. The dates for thesis submission as stated in the academic calendar will remain the same. However, students must submit an electronic copy rather than a hardcopy to the Libraries. Details of this submission process will be coordinated by the Libraries. As usual, individual departments will inform students of the departmental schedule for submission and approval of theses.
Academic Policy and Regulations Team
- Rick Danheiser, Chair of the Faculty and Chair of APART (Science, Chemistry)
- Arthur Bahr, Chair of CUP (SHASS, Literature)
- Rebecca Black, Graduate Student Member of FPC
- Duane Boning, Associate Chair of the Faculty (Engineering, EECS)
- Mary Callahan, Registrar
- Michael Cusumano, Deputy Dean of the Sloan School (Sloan)
- Daniel Frey, Recent Former Chair of CGP (Engineering, MechE)
- Martha Gray, Chair of CGP (Engineering, EECS, IMES)
- Kelvin Green II, Undergraduate Student Member of FPC, UA Assistant Officer on Diversity
- Jeremiah Johnson, Chair of CAP (Science, Chemistry)
- Tami Kaplan, Faculty Governance Administrator
- Anne McCants (SHASS, History, Director of Concourse)
- William Minicozzi, Chair of CoC, Associate Head of Math (Science)
- Kristala Prather, Recent Former Chair of CAP, Executive Officer of ChemE (Engineering)
- Krishna Rajagopal, Dean for Digital Learning (Science, Physics)
- Janet Rankin, Director of the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab
- David Singer, Secretary of the Faculty, Head of Political Science (SHASS)
- Larry Vale, Associate Dean of SA+P (DUSP)
- Ian Waitz, Vice Chancellor (Engineering, AeroAstro)