Frequently Asked Questions

Classes and academics for students

Are there any on-campus spaces available at University Park for students to use for remote class sessions?

The University has approximately 45 designated Remote Learning Rooms at University Park for students to use to view their remote classes individually or together in small groups, while social distancing and wearing masks, this fall. These spaces are smaller general purpose classrooms that have not been scheduled for classes because social distancing (due to COVID-19) did not permit for the necessary occupancy. So these rooms are free for this use. In addition to regular student spaces on campus that have had seating adjusted for social distancing, these rooms are open for use during normal building hours and have clear signage indicating that they are intended for access for remote classes. Students will need to bring their own devices. Room locations and capacity are available by selecting the “Remote Learning Rooms” option on the campus map a map.psu.edu.

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The University expects students to self-monitor their health, including for example by taking their temperature before going to class or campus. While fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, it is only one of the potential symptoms individuals may have. If you have a temperature or symptoms of feeling sick, individuals should reach out to their health care provider.

As part of the Penn State Go app, the University will be rolling out a COVID-19 symptom checker as another resource in which all members of the University community can check symptoms they may be having and receive instructions for how to proceed. The app also will contain updated information about CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health resources and helpful information, such as dining arrangements.

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The University is working with the Wolf Administration on its Back to State plans and has confirmed with the Pennsylvania Department of Education that the order limiting indoor gatherings to fewer than 25 people does not apply to classrooms. Other indoor gatherings, however, cannot exceed 25 individuals and must adhere to masking and social distancing requirements. The University will continue to work closely with the Wolf Administration on its return-to-campus plans and is prepared to shift quickly as the pandemic and resulting orders and guidelines evolve, all with a focus on the health and safety of Penn State campuses and surrounding communities

All schools in Pennsylvania, including universities, continue to be subject to guidance from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which are designed to aid in safely resuming in-person instruction. These guidelines allow for larger groups in classrooms as long as face masking and social distancing are in place. The University has committed to meeting and, where possible, exceeding the Wolf Administration’s guidelines.

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The University expects to have most decisions about the mode of delivery for fall 2020 courses finalized by approximately mid-July in order to provide students with an opportunity to review their schedules and make any changes as needed. Students will have the chance to modify their schedules, subject to course availability, based on their unique needs, the requirements of their program, and preferences for in-person or remote instructional offerings.

Despite the challenges associated with the pandemic, Penn State anticipates that about half of its classes across all campuses will have an in-person component this fall structured in a way that allows for social distancing in classes. Adjusting classroom capacities to allow for distancing has significantly reduced the ability to offer in-person classes and other educational experiences, however, about 19% of courses are currently scheduled to be delivered entirely in person and an additional 28% of courses will have an in-person component combined with remote instruction. The University is continuing to explore options to expand its capacity for holding additional in-person and mixed-mode classes, including using other indoor spaces on campus that will allow for social distancing.

Students are encouraged to check LionPATH for updated information about the instructional mode, meeting day and time, and meeting location for each of their classes. Students desiring to make changes to their course schedule can do so directly in LionPATH. However, students should work with their adviser to make any possible adjustments to their schedule to accommodate their personal circumstances, with the possibility of enrolling in courses with an in-person component or changing to an entirely remote course load. Depending on their mix of courses and the requirements of their program, it may or may not be possible to adjust their schedule to include more in-person courses.

Penn State is focused on supporting students and helping them meet their desired educational outcomes no matter the method of course delivery, and advisers will be available to assist students in crafting their individual class schedules.

Students are able to make changes to their course schedules now through the regular drop/add deadlines on Aug. 29 and 30. Students experiencing difficulty getting into specific courses are encouraged to utilize the wait list feature in LionPATH and to check regularly for available classes as other students also finalize their fall course selections. Students also can consult their adviser regarding available courses at a different Penn State campus via a temporary change of campus location or a multi-campus registration.

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Because of the economic hardships facing Pennsylvania and the nation, Penn State has frozen in-state and out-of-state tuition rates University-wide for the 2020-21 academic year, marking the third consecutive year that Penn State has held tuition rates flat for Pennsylvania resident students.

For years, Penn State has offered many educational options for students at campuses across the commonwealth within a varied cost structure. Consistent with past course offerings and established tuition rates, and with a focus on the health and safety of our students and their families, the University is leveraging this flexibility to offer additional cost alternatives for the fall 2020 semester based on individual needs. For fall 2020, there are options with varied tuition rates, so that students can continue to make progress toward their degrees:

• Students who come to University Park or any one of our 20 Commonwealth Campuses this fall will have the option to choose from a variety of flexible instructional modes – from in-person course delivery to hybrid and remote learning options. In addition, there will be in-person engagement and co-curricular experiences – with appropriate social distancing and other precautions in place – including Student Affairs services, tutoring, and clubs and organizations. Tuition will be charged at the campus’s standard in-state/out-of-state rate.

• Temporary change of campus location: Students will have access to all of the in-person and remote courses and co-curricular programming offered at their temporary campus that any student may select for any reason for the fall 2020 semester. As such, tuition will be charged at the temporary campus’s standard in-state/out-of-state.

• Temporary change of campus to Penn State World Campus: World Campus offers a portfolio of asynchronous online courses, which feature engagement with peers and faculty built into the course design. Please note, however, that World Campus does not offer the full range of courses available either at University Park or the Commonwealth Campuses, and there is limited capacity in World Campus. Tuition will be charged at the World Campus rate.

Penn State is focused on supporting students and helping them meet educational outcomes regardless of the method of delivery. It is essential that students consult their academic adviser to determine the best option to accommodate their individual needs; shifts in their mode of education could delay their progress toward graduation or mean changes in financial aid, awards, and other differences.

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The University purchased 500,000 reusable masks to be distributed across all campuses. Cloth face masks will be provided to students as needed at the beginning of the semester and employees will receive face masks prior to returning to work. To reduce the risk of widespread virus transmission, wearing face masks and social distancing will be required in all University buildings, including in classrooms and labs, as well as outdoors on campus when social distancing is not possible. Students and employees also should practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings and wear face masks within their local communities, in line with local and state requirements.

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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 has been posted to the Office of Student Conduct website.

To reduce the risk of widespread virus transmission, wearing face masks and social distancing will be required for all students and employees in all University buildings, including in classrooms, labs and offices, as well as outdoors on campus when social distancing is not possible.

While high levels of compliance are expected based on feedback from recent student and employee University surveys, those who put others at risk by not following the University’s requirements will be held accountable in a manner consistent with how other violations of Penn State guidelines and policies are managed.

To learn more, read this Penn State News story.

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The University will provide resources and support to international students who can’t be on campus to help them select courses and develop schedules that will enable them to move forward with their academic progress and advance toward a degree. As a member of the Penn State family, a student joins a long tradition of academic excellence with a university committed to providing unrivaled opportunities. It is through the dedication of exceptional students, faculty, and staff that makes Penn State a truly extraordinary place to study. Our faculty – who are the same in the classroom as those that would teach you remotely – have innovative solutions to provide exceptional learning experiences for our students. You will meet faculty, you will make friends, and you will set yourself on a path toward success this fall and when you are back on campus. We are ready for you now to help you prepare for your future. Additional options are being developed and considered and will be announced over the coming weeks.

For additional information and answers to frequently asked questions for international students, please visit https://global.psu.edu/covidintlfaq#.

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Flexible options will be available to students who are unable to return to any campus so they can continue to make progress toward their degrees. Additional information can be found at https://keeplearning.psu.edu/fall-2020/learning-at-home/. You can also learn about Penn State’s flexible instructional modes at https://keeplearning.psu.edu/fall-2020/flexible-instructional-modes/.

If you are unable to come to a Penn State campus this fall, you can still be connected with the Penn State community and provided with opportunities to stay engaged and motivated. Resources for beginning or continuing your education are available through Penn State Start at Home and Continue at Home programming.

We are committed to providing you with the breadth of support to make this a productive and engaging fall; a world-class education regardless of the method of instruction; an experience that will help you build relationships with a peer group of students who are going through this situation with you.

And once you can join us on campus, you will continue these relationships in person.

For our international students, we are excited to welcome scholars from across the globe into our community, even if current circumstances prevent residential study. International students who are unable to travel to a Penn State campus this fall as a result of travel restrictions, delays in visa processing, or other circumstances related to COVID-19 will be able to use asynchronous remote learning options from time zones outside the U.S. International students can visit global.psu.edu or contact the Office of Global Programs at 814-865-7681 for more information.

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Penn State is prepared to be nimble and responsive based on the latest information, monitoring and evolving virus infection rates. The University will employ strategies to create an effective detection and management system for all of its campuses, including testing, contact tracing, and monitoring and reacting to trends in data at the community, state and national levels to see if a pattern is emerging so leaders can act accordingly.

All classes that are planned to have in-person meetings will have contingency plans for reverting to remote instruction modalities if health circumstances require ending in-person learning earlier than Nov. 20. All future decisions will be based on the best available public-health information, in the interest of the safety and well-being of Penn State students, faculty and staff.

A number of factors may lead to additional distancing measures or adjustments to campus-based residential course delivery. These factors include changes in the virus caseload of a campus or region; a county’s status under the governor’s red-yellow-green guidelines; the capacity of the local health care system; community compliance with health and safety protocols; and additional risks, such as the onset of an early virulent flu season. Faculty experts in epidemiology, medicine and public health are continuously monitoring county, state and local disease data, which will allow the University to respond to any changes in the pandemic that would require proactive steps to mitigate and manage any potential outbreak. Any recorded upticks will be analyzed and, as needed, decisions about the status of in-residence instruction will be made on a campus-by-campus basis, taking into consideration guidance from public health officials.

The University’s 16 task groups focused on responding to the coronavirus have been scenario planning for months. These scenarios necessarily include one in which Penn State must send students home from a campus and revert to remote learning. If our public health advisers become concerned that it is no longer safe for students and employees to be on our campuses, we are prepared to quickly take action and change course.

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The task groups continue to review all of Penn State’s more than 1,700 classrooms, seminar rooms and labs across all instructional campuses to accommodate for social distancing requirements. Based on a variety of factors, for example the needs and size of a class, classes will be reassigned to larger rooms to accommodate social distancing requirements. Changes will be communicated for those that have already registered, and opportunities to work with advisers will be made available.

Studies of Penn State classrooms are continuing across the campuses to revise room layouts; establish a distanced space for instructors; and to identify room capacities and potential alternative spaces for classes to take place. These efforts, along with the flexible educational model, delivering some classes remotely and/or online, will allow the University to lower classroom population density, allow for social distancing and meet both educational and safety goals.

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Yes, social distancing will be required for all in-person activities on campus this fall, including in classes and labs, as a means to reduce possible virus transmission and to reduce the potential disruption to students’ learning by needing to quarantine close contacts. When in class, both students and instructors should maintain a distance of six feet (about two arm lengths) between one another. The task groups continue to review all of Penn State’s more than 1,700 classrooms, seminar rooms and labs across all instructional campuses to accommodate for social distancing requirements. Changes will be communicated for those that have already registered, and opportunities to work with advisers will be made available. Some non-classroom spaces will be repurposed for instruction and every class that meets in person will allow for appropriate social distancing. Additional measures — for example, assigned seating and monitoring of attendance to help facilitate contact tracing will be deployed as considered necessary. To serve as a reminder to all, distance markers, directional arrows, signage and other visual cues will be installed in high-traffic areas, and classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations across the campuses.

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We are dedicated to supporting students who are immunocompromised or at-risk to identify and develop appropriate accommodations, for both on-campus housing and academic needs. Students in need of housing assistance can find contact information for Housing and Food Services at https://hfs.psu.edu/campuses. Students in need of academic assistance should reach out to their college or campus advising office.

For students who are unable to return to any campus this fall, there are flexible options so that they can continue to make progress toward their degrees.

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The health of the Penn State community is our top priority, and we must all do our part in preventing the possible spread of coronavirus. Faculty are expected to be flexible in their interpretation of class attendance policies. Sick students are expected to stay home and call their health care provider. In-residence courses will be delivered in a flexible format to allow students who miss class due to quarantine or illness to continue to make critical academic progress. University Park students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should begin the screening process for coronavirus over the phone by calling the UHS Advice Nurse at 814-863-4463. Students at Commonwealth Campuses should contact their on-campus health services office or a local physician’s office. Penn State urges faculty and staff to contact their health care provider if they have a cough, respiratory symptoms, a fever or have concerns related to COVID-19, and to stay home as well.

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Graduate students also will return to campus in the fall in a manner consistent with that described in the announcement. While the specific environments associated with graduate education vary by program, Penn State is committed to providing a robust, and meaningful and flexible experience for all. More details will be forthcoming about how graduate programs will adapt in the fall from both The Graduate School and graduate programs associated with individual academic units.

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University Libraries’ COVID-19 information page details the options for returns of various types of library materials across the University. Additional information is available in this Penn State News article.

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There will be changes to the academic schedule focused on enhancing safety, minimizing travel and lowering the risk of spread of the virus. To meet these goals, the fall semester will begin on the originally scheduled date of Monday, Aug. 24, and campus-based residential instruction will end Friday, Nov. 20, with the remainder of the semester—including finals—being delivered remotely and/or online when classes resume after Thanksgiving break on Nov. 30. Some units, such as Dickinson Law and Penn State Law, have different start dates and will also begin as originally scheduled. To minimize travel and lower the risk of spreading coronavirus on campuses, classes will be held on Labor Day (Sept. 7). The semester will end following finals on Dec. 18, as originally planned.

Delivery of the curriculum will occur through a flexible mix of remote, in-person, or a hybrid of both modes, mixing remote and in-person, with all courses with enrollment over 250 at University Park and over 100 at a Commonwealth Campus delivered remotely, in line with the governor’s requirements for higher education. Following University guidance, campuses and academic units will determine how to deliver smaller classes, which may need to be offered remotely due to health and safety considerations for faculty and students, restrictions that physical distancing places on class size and room availability, and the status of virus spread in local communities.

Faculty are expected to be flexible in their interpretation and management of in-person class attendance so that sick students can stay home, and the University will work with immunocompromised and other at-risk students to develop appropriate accommodations. For students who are unable to return to any campus this fall, there are flexible options so that they can continue to make progress toward their degrees.

Penn State is focused on supporting students and helping them to meet their desired educational outcomes no matter the method of delivery, and advisers will be available to assist students on crafting their individual class schedules and curricula options.

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The optional alternative grading system was put into place for the spring 2020 semester to help students minimize the impact of suddenly moving to a remote learning environment in the middle of a semester, on top of many having to move back to their permanent residence. With the University announcing that the summer session will be delivered virtually well in advance of classes beginning, it is appropriate to revert to traditional grading methodology.

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Classroom Guidance for Instructors is posted on the website for the Office of Student Conduct. This document describes the steps that faculty can take to provide a positive learning environment and manage COVID-related concerns in the classroom. The guidance includes a sample statement for faculty to include in their course syllabi as well as a series of steps that faculty can take if a student fails to adhere to health and safety requirements. Students who fail to comply with requirements will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and will not be allowed to return until the matter is addressed through Penn State’s conduct process. For more information on how to prepare to manage classrooms this fall, watch this video featuring Danny Shaha, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

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During remote learning delivery periods, experiential education (including credit-bearing internships, clinical assignments, or noncredit experiences that are required for degree completion) must be virtual. This includes any internship experiences offered through Penn State that you may wish or need to take advantage of. In addition, internal Penn State internships must follow Penn State guidelines regarding hiring and funding. This decision reinforces the University’s primary goal to maintain health and safety for all involved and to recognize that different and rapidly changing situations are emerging across the nation and world.

If an internship is required for you to graduate, your college and academic program should communicate an alternative plan to you. Learn more about your options related to experiential education during remote learning delivery.

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No. The university has a camera-optional practice for teaching through Zoom. Faculty are aware that some students may have special circumstances that preclude the use of a webcam. Whenever possible, students should use their webcam during the classes conducted via Zoom, and they should use the other features such as chat and raise hand to participate and engage in the class.

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All Zoom recordings are automatically uploaded to Kaltura, which provides unlimited storage. Your instructor can edit, embed, and share Zoom recordings within Kaltura. Detailed instructions for accessing Zoom recordings in Kaltura are available.

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Yes. Penn State’s WebApps provides remote access to the most-used, specialized software that you would typically access in a Penn State lab. Currently available applications include:

  • Microsoft Office suite (Access, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, Publisher, Word)
  • Dassault Systemes SolidWorks
  • Esri ArcGIS Desktop
  • Esri ArcGIS Pro
  • Mathsoft MATLAB
  • Minitab, Inc. Minitab
  • Minitab, Inc. Minitab Express
  • SAS JMP Pro
  • SAS
  • Wolfram Mathematica

The following applications have limited connections and are available by request only:

  • IBM SPSS Statistics
  • Autodesk AutoCAD
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Microsoft Project
  • Microsoft Visio

  • To request a connection for applications with limited connections or to to see if your application can be added, submit a request to Device Management.

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No. Faculty should adopt a camera-optional practice for teaching through Zoom. A camera-optional approach respects student issues such as access and equity (some may not have cameras on their devices), safety and security (some may be deployed military or in need of safety or privacy), and religious strictures. Faculty members who previously did not take attendance in their in-person classrooms should continue to respect that their students will attend remotely. Faculty who took attendance previously should explore manual and automatic options for taking attendance through Zoom. For help with these options, visit keepteaching.psu.edu/training. If a faculty member chooses to record a Zoom session, student participation during the session should not be required. Students should be provided the choice to opt-out from identification in the recording by muting their audio, disabling video, and not typing into the chat window. In these cases, students should still be considered in attendance and should not penalized in any way.

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Penn State computer labs will be reopening for the fall 2020 semester. Social distancing and enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures will take place in accordance with CDC recommendations. It may be necessary to reduce computer availability and adjust hours of operation to accommodate social distancing and the necessary cleaning and disinfecting procedures. The University will monitor and evaluate cleaning protocols for these areas and adjust as needed.

Students and faculty may also access University computer lab software remotely via WebLabs. Students with unmet technology needs should contact Penn State IT at 814-865-HELP (4357) or ITservicedesk@psu.edu for individual arrangements.

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