Frequently Asked Questions

Classes and academics for students

Surveys are designed to gather generalizable data based on the opinions of a representative sample of the student population and the University rarely does a census survey of its entire student body. In order to have the time to analyze the survey results and take into account the student perspective in the decision-making process, the survey was sent to a random sample of 17,000 students at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses. As the data are analyzed, the Return to Campus task group will share the survey results with the Penn State community. Further, the task group is planning for future surveys as well as focus groups for students to provide the insights the University needs before returning to in-person experiences.

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Following the U.S. Department of State’s March 19 decision to issue a worldwide Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory, Penn State canceled all remaining study abroad programming for the spring (2020) semester as well as summer. At the time all Penn State students, whether on study abroad or traveling individually, were directed to return home. All Penn State travelers still currently abroad have been contacted with recommendations for returning home. If they are unable to travel, Penn State has provided students with guidance on sheltering in place.

Further, Penn State is strongly encouraging all faculty and staff to follow the guidance outlined by the U.S. Department of State. As previously announced, and until further notice, all University-affiliated international travel is suspended. This includes new travel as well as any currently booked trips until further notice, unless otherwise authorized by the provost.

Previously, Penn State has also canceled all summer education abroad courses and University-affiliated student group travel through August 2020.

At this time Penn State Global Programs is evaluating plans for fall 2020 study abroad programming.

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Current students

Students who are in need of accommodations for their summer courses are encouraged to contact Student Disability Resources as soon as possible by calling 814-863-1807 or emailing edaccessibility@psu.edu. Staff are available for virtual appointments and can explore accommodation needs specific to the online environment.

New students

Student Disability Resources welcomes contact from incoming students who are interested in registering for services. Staff are available for virtual appointments and can answer any questions about the registration process.

Incoming students are encouraged to complete their registration over the summer prior to the start of the fall semester. Students can learn more about registering for services by calling 814-863-1807, emailing edaccessibility@psu.edu, or reviewing information at http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources/applying-for-services.

Penn State has a disability services office at every Penn State campus that provides accommodations and services for students with disabilities. Incoming students should contact the disability coordinator at the campus where they will be enrolled.

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Summer 2020

Given the continuing challenge and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic and to protect the health of students, faculty and staff, Penn State has made the decision to extend virtual delivery of courses into the summer.

At this point, the University is planning to deliver all courses and programming virtually for the Maymester, Summer Session I and Summer Session II, through a mix of asynchronous online and synchronous remote course offerings. Grading methodology will revert to its typical form, with students receiving a letter grade for most courses. In addition, while the plan calls for online instruction for Summer Session II, the University is preparing in case health dynamics shift and students could safely return to campuses for in-person instruction. Any such decisions and related processes for welcoming students back will be made based on guidance from government and health authorities and include careful planning focused first and foremost on the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff. More information will be shared as the situation continues to evolve.

Fall 2020

University leaders will keep the community informed, and plan to provide additional updates and information by June 15 or sooner. At this time, the University remains optimistic for a fall 2020 return to on-campus learning, in line with the latest directives and guidelines from the governor and other government and public health authorities. As the pandemic unfolds by the hour and day, our top priority remains the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and broader community. Penn State task groups are continuing to prepare for a coordinated phased return to on-campus working, learning and living for students and employees across each of the University’s campuses.

Updates on plans for each upcoming segment of the academic calendar will be provided as decisions are made, and in accordance with state and national health guidance.

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In the face of severe financial impacts to the University brought on by the global coronavirus pandemic, on April 23 Penn State President Eric J. Barron announced some salary adjustments; a 3% across-the-board cut to university budgets in the next fiscal year; and his intention to work with the Board of Trustees to freeze tuition for the 2020-21 academic year to limit student costs. Read the president’s message to the university community here.

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Because of the economic hardships facing Pennsylvania and the nation, Penn State plans to freeze tuition rates for all students, including in-state and out-of-state students, University-wide for the 2020-21 academic year. The plan, which will be presented to the University’s Board of Trustees for final approval at its July meeting, would mark the third consecutive year that Penn State has held tuition rates flat for Pennsylvania resident students. Read more about the plan here.

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Yes. LEAP and NSO are critically important to our new first-year and transfer students’ transition to Penn State. With the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and in the interest of your health and safety, Penn State has announced that new student orientation and LEAP will be held virtually for summer 2020.

For orientation, students can begin making reservations the week of April 20 and will be able to select a date to begin their virtual orientation experience based upon their starting semester, campus of enrollment, and college of enrollment. Summer Orientation will take place in June and July for first-year, transfer and international students, and will involve a mix of real-time and self-paced learning. Students will have the opportunity to meet with an academic adviser to discuss their academic plans; register for courses; gain access to critical Penn State systems, including LionPATH; and begin to make connections with fellow students.

Read this story for additional information and resources related to orientation.

Penn State’s LEAP program, designed to help first-year students at University Park to get a head start in the summer before their first fall semester, will be offered virtually, with both asynchronous online and synchronous remote course offerings. The virtual LEAP program will replicate the residential model with two small, cohort-based courses as well as out-of-class programming and peer-mentoring to help students successfully transition to Penn State. The course portfolio for incoming students will consist primarily of general education courses, as these are open to students in all majors and allows all students to begin progress toward their degrees.

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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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As Pennsylvania’s land-grant institution, the University recognizes the sustained financial hardship the global pandemic is putting on Pennsylvania families, and families everywhere, and is adjusting summer tuition in an effort to lessen that impact on our students. Students will receive the same, high-quality Penn State education they have come to expect, delivered virtually, and will continue to make progress toward their desired Penn State credential. Additional details are available on Penn State News.

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The University is adjusting in-state and out-of-state tuition for the summer sessions in light of the persistent financial strain the pandemic is causing across Pennsylvania and the country. As Pennsylvania’s land-grant institution, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania continues to subsidize the true cost of tuition for Pennsylvania residents.

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We know there are many students who are experiencing financial stress. The University has worked to adjust the pre-existing Student Emergency Fund to meet the growing needs of our student community during this pandemic crisis by making this a deliberate part of the University’s fundraising efforts. Students who are in need should reach out to the Student Care and Advocacy Office, which has increased its staffing to meet the influx of applications and help evaluate and assist students in the most dire situations. Additional resources for students, as well as faculty and staff, are listed at https://virusinfo.psu.edu/resources.

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The Office of Student Care and Advocacy and Counseling & Psychological Services are two resources that stand ready to support any student requiring attention to immediate financial or academic issues or counseling needs arising from the many changes and uncertainties caused by the global coronavirus outbreak.

Student Care and Advocacy
studentaffairs.psu.edu/studentcare
814-863-2020
StudentCare@psu.edu


Counseling & Psychological Services
studentaffairs.psu.edu/counseling
814-863-0395
24-hour Crisis Line: 1-877-229-6400
Commonwealth Campus Counseling Services

For a full list of resources available to students and other members of the Penn State community, visit https://virusinfo.psu.edu/resources.

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Yes. To provide support to students from a distance during this critical time, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) remains open and is continuing to offer a range of services, including same-day phone support, individual counseling sessions, a new You@PSU self-help portal, and daily virtual LifeHacks sessions for students.

CAPS is providing telephone-based services to all students, as well as offering video-based counseling for students who reside in states that permit tele-counseling over state lines.

To get support, University Park students can call CAPS at 814-863-0395 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and students at Commonwealth Campuses can contact the CAPS office at their campus location. In addition, when CAPS is closed, both the Penn State Crisis Line (877-229-6400) and the Crisis Text Line (text “LIONS” to 741741) are still available 24/7 for all students who are in crisis or need support.

While the logistics of providing counseling and therapy to students have changed during the response to this global pandemic, CAPS is a phone call away regardless of where a student is located, and CAPS continues to work through state-by-state regulations for providing services.

For a full list of resources available to students and other members of the Penn State community, visit https://virusinfo.psu.edu/resources.

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The welfare of students is our top priority, and we are assisting students who are fearful or unable to return to their home country. Students seeking more information and assistance with summer plans regarding University Park break housing should visit https://housing.psu.edu/break-accessholiday-housing for more details and contact information, or contact the Housing and Food Service office at their Commonwealth Campus.

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The U.S. Department of State has issued a worldwide Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory and is advising U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends avoiding all nonessential international travel. Penn State is extending the same guidance to all students, faculty and staff.

Penn State is urging faculty, staff and students to be vigilant and to continue to exercise good judgment to stay as safe as possible, and to follow the latest stay-at-home orders from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. We have placed restrictions on University-affiliated travel, and though we cannot dictate decision-making pertaining to other professional and personal travel, such travel is strongly discouraged. In addition to the risk to their personal health, travelers should be aware of the elevated risk to other members of the community — including individuals with compromised immune systems and the elderly — should they become infected.

Travelers should consult the CDC’s website for the latest travel health notices, and research the restrictions imposed in the country they plan to visit, as well as any U.S. government restrictions that could impact their return to the United States, as the global travel situation is changing frequently. With widespread, ongoing transmission of novel coronavirus worldwide, if you have traveled internationally in the past 14 days, stay home and monitor your health.

The CDC recommends that individuals stay home as much as possible and avoid close contact, especially if they are at higher risk of severe illness. If you must travel for personal reasons, follow any state and local travel restrictions currently in place.

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A wealth of information and resources is available at remotelearning.psu.edu. Further, faculty members will share additional information with you via Canvas or email with class-specific information and expectations.

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Log in to Starfish, click on the “my network” tab, and schedule a virtual Zoom meeting with your adviser.

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Your assigned adviser is an excellent resource. They can help triage situations and connect you with appropriate resources.

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Contact your course instructor first. If you need further assistance, contact the head of the department offering the course.

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The current uncertainty about how the global coronavirus pandemic will evolve makes it difficult to predict exactly when study-abroad programming will resume, but Penn State Global Programs is evaluating plans for fall 2020 study abroad programming. However, in the long term and at its core, Penn State is a global institution and we are committed to providing study-abroad experiences for our students. We realize the current situation has created an enormous disruption in our study-abroad programs, but we look forward to a time when we will once again have students benefitting from educational experiences across the globe.

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Funding of teaching and research assistantships will not be affected by the University moving to remote delivery of courses.

Graduate students serving as instructors and/or supporting courses offered by other instructors should contact the department/instructor responsible for the respective courses for guidance on how to adapt to a remote format for delivery/support appropriate for the course.

Graduate students conducting research for their dissertation or as part of a research assistantship are expected to continue their research activities. Please contact your research supervisor for further guidance or if you have additional questions.

More information for graduate students can be found on the Graduate School’s COVID-19 Updates page.

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Penn State is committed to addressing the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students while also maintaining academic progress as much as possible for our graduate students. First and foremost, graduate students should reach out to their advisers to discuss their individual needs. The Senior Vice President for Research has circulated guidance to all faculty about maintaining the research enterprise, and the University has had to scale back research in some areas, but we are doing everything we can to continue essential research and provide access to faculty and graduate students to maintain that activity. We are making every effort to support graduate students in accessing facilities and projects that are critical to their degree.

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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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The full resources of the University are behind meeting student learning outcomes and course objectives, and faculty are working to deliver the most critical information for student success. In laboratory courses, the University is working with faculty to prioritize that learning objectives are met with flexibility. Some examples of ways faculty are doing this include livestreaming demonstrations of experiments then providing data to students to analyze. Innovations are emerging daily. Please contact your instructor directly if you’re unclear about the expectations for your lab requirements.

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At the end of the spring semester, once students receive their letter grades, they will have the option, on a course-by-course basis, for those grades to remain as letter grades or to appear as one of three options on a new satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading scale.

We want to provide our students every opportunity for success during this unprecedented time and recognize the change in their learning environments and the need for a rapid adaptation to remote learning. The key is that this is optional for students, and we encourage all students to work closely with their academic advisers to makes these decisions. More details on this policy are available at https://remotelearning.psu.edu/alternative-grading.

Students who wish to explore the effect that selecting an alternative grade for a course may have on their GPA can visit http://www.registrar.psu.edu/grades/spring-2020-grading/gpa-calculator/ for instructions. While the instructions are available now, the tool will not go live until Wednesday, May 20, after grades are finalized. Students will have until 11:59 p.m. EDT on May 29 to make their decisions regarding optional alternative grading.

Details about the scale: Students will have the choice to receive a “SAT” notation (in lieu of a letter grade of “C” or better); a “V” instead of the letter grade “D”; or a “Z” instead of a letter grade “F” — all with the notation on transcripts indicating the extraordinary circumstances we all are dealing with this semester. The alternative grades will not impact a students’ GPA in either direction but will still count toward credits achieved and progression of semester standing, which will help in the continuation of our students’ academic careers. This is important for helping students navigate many processes, from maintaining financial aid to maintaining a certain semester standing when purchasing student football tickets.

This alternative grading option is available to all undergraduate students, including World Campus students, and those returning from study abroad.

Additional details are available on Penn State News.

For information on graduate student grading, visit the Optional Alternative Grading for Graduate Students FAQ and Penn State News for more information.

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All students are expected to behave respectfully in classes, no matter the format or delivery mode. Disruptions in a remote class will be handled in the same way as in a face-to-face class. Your instructor may speak to you about your behavior. If your behavior does not change, you may be asked to leave the class. If your behavior continues to be disruptive, a report may be filed with the Office of Student Conduct and an incident may be reported through the conduct process. Students involved in a serious disruption of the learning environment may not be permitted to return to class until University procedures have been completed.

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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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Penn State campus computer labs are closed, however, Penn State is offering the ability for students and faculty to access computer labs remotely. Students with unmet technology needs should contact Penn State IT at 814-865-HELP (4357) or ITservicedesk@psu.edu for individual arrangements. We are committed to helping you fulfill your responsibilities.

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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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Is there a way I can access ebooks for free?

You now have access to a program called VitalSource Helps that can provide you free ebooks via an app called Bookshelf. Through this program, you have access to up to seven ebooks. If you foresee needing more than seven, look into other textbook options before using these seven ebooks.

How long is the VitalSource Helps program available?

This program is offering free access to ebooks for spring 2020 students. Ebooks will be available through May 25, 2020, to ensure you are able to use required learning materials through your final exams. Once the free access period ends, you will maintain access to your Bookshelf account. However, ebooks provided during the VitalSource Helps program will no longer appear.

How many ebooks may be accessed for free as part of the VitalSource Helps ebook program?

You may add up to seven ebooks to your account for free. There is a “counter” in the lower left corner of the Bookshelf screen to help you keep track of the number of ebooks accessed.

What happens if I have more than seven ebooks I could use from the program?

If you need more than seven ebooks, we recommend that you look for alternative sources for your textbooks before you select the seven ebooks you will have access to at VitalSource.
VitalSource, publishers, and resellers have worked together to make tens of thousands of ebooks available to allow you to find your required learning materials. You may access up to seven ebooks.

What type of content is available as part of the VitalSource Helps ebook program?

This program provides access to textbooks only, not any other materials. Custom content, interactive content, and content used for assessment is not included. Commonly assigned materials from publishers, often referred to as “courseware” (like Pearson’s MyLab, Cengage MindTap, WileyPlus, etc.) are not included in this program.

How do I access VitalSource Helps ebooks?

To access VitalSource Helps ebooks, you will need to use an app called Bookshelf. To do this, visit bookshelf.vitalsource.com. Before you can begin searching for and reading ebooks, you will need to log in or create a Bookshelf account with your Penn State email address.
To access Bookshelf, you will need to create a Bookshelf account with your Penn State email address.

What do I do when accessing Bookshelf for the first time?

Once you create an account, log in and click on the “Explore” tab in the upper left corner of the screen to find ebooks.
If you know that you have used Bookshelf in one of your courses and have an account with your Penn State email address, log in with that email address. You will see a new tab called “Explore” when you login. This tab will provide access to the free ebooks.

What if I already have a Bookshelf account?

If you know you have an existing Bookshelf account that is not linked to your Penn State email address, you can learn how to change the email address associated with your Bookshelf account to your Penn State email address.

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If you do not have access to a computer and/or the internet from your location, please log in to the IT service portal and fill out the Penn State Mobile Technology Request Form to formalize your computer/access request. University IT is continually working on the availability and distribution of equipment. Information about your request will be relayed via the phone number you provide in the request form. Once you receive your equipment, contact the IT Service Desk for 24/7 support.

If you lack internet connection, you can also use your phone as a hotspot. Penn State IT has provided instructions for how to set up hotspots on Samsung, Pixel and iPhones.

In order to use a personal hotspot on your device, you may also secure additional data from your wireless carrier. The following providers have information readily available on how to upgrade data: AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Find more providers and information on the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected page.

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The University began considering student connectivity needs early on in the process of deciding to move our courses to a remote teaching format. We are very mindful of the situation and we continue to work hard with our students to set them up for success.

First, we need to know who does not have good access—either because of lack of technology or poor connectivity. So, during the initial remote instruction period, we began identifying students who were not connecting. A combination of consulting with faculty and advising helped to identify those students who may be having connectivity issues. Academic advisers are reaching out to each of those students to learn about particular circumstances, and what we might be able to do to help them access content for their courses.

In addition, students should reach out to their instructors if they do not believe they have the resources necessary to connect remotely. More information is also available at https://remotelearning.psu.edu/, as well as resources that can assist with a solution.

The good news is that internet providers have expanded in areas that weren’t available before. As we get more information about student access, there are a number of options we are exploring, including the deployment of mobile hot spots in certain rural areas with limited access. And we are grateful for the internet providers who are stepping up to improve access.

If students have a difficult time connecting, they can get assistance by emailing itservicedesk@psu.edu or by calling 814-865-4357. A group of technology professionals are dedicated to answering these inquiries to learn about students’ circumstances and to connect them to the unit that can assist with their situation or provide appropriate resources that may be available.

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To address impacts caused by the novel coronavirus public health crisis, Penn State is implementing alternative grading policies for graduate, Penn State Law and Dickinson Law students for the spring 2020 semester. For more information about alternative grading for undergraduate students, visit remotelearning.psu.edu/alternative-grading.

The following provides additional information and links to resources for students at:

  • The Graduate School: Graduate students may choose to keep their grades as received, or request to have one or more grades converted to one of three alternatives (P, V or Z). None of the three grades will have any impact on a student’s GPA. Please consult the Optional Alternative Grading for Graduate Students FAQ and Penn State News for more information.
  • Penn State Law: Penn State Law at University Park will have a mandatory credit/no-credit grading system for the spring 2020 semester in order to be supportive of students during the novel coronavirus public health crisis. This mandatory credit/no credit approach is also the one most widely taken by law schools around the country. To learn more about the grading policy, read the memo on grading changes and FAQ or visit Penn State News.
  • Dickinson Law: Penn State Dickinson Law has implemented a mandatory credit/no-credit standard for all Dickinson Law courses to be responsive to both the individual and collective needs of the entire student community. To learn more, visit Penn State News.

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I have questions about accommodations for my disability. Are accommodations available, and who can I contact for more information?

Current students

Students who are in need of accommodations for their summer courses are encouraged to contact Student Disability Resources as soon as possible by calling 814-863-1807 or emailing edaccessibility@psu.edu. Staff are available for virtual appointments and can explore accommodation needs specific to the online environment.

New students

Student Disability Resources welcomes contact from incoming students who are interested in registering for services. Staff are available for virtual appointments and can answer any questions about the registration process.

Incoming students are encouraged to complete their registration over the summer prior to the start of the fall semester. Students can learn more about registering for services by calling 814-863-1807, emailing edaccessibility@psu.edu, or reviewing information at http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources/applying-for-services.

Penn State has a disability services office at every Penn State campus that provides accommodations and services for students with disabilities. Incoming students should contact the disability coordinator at the campus where they will be enrolled.

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Where can I find more information about remote learning, coursework and expectations?

A wealth of information and resources is available at remotelearning.psu.edu. Further, faculty members will share additional information with you via Canvas or email with class-specific information and expectations.

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Penn State campus computer labs are closed, however, Penn State is offering the ability for students and faculty to access computer labs remotely. Students with unmet technology needs should contact Penn State IT at 814-865-HELP (4357) or ITservicedesk@psu.edu for individual arrangements. We are committed to helping you fulfill your responsibilities.

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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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Is there a way I can access ebooks for free?

You now have access to a program called VitalSource Helps that can provide you free ebooks via an app called Bookshelf. Through this program, you have access to up to seven ebooks. If you foresee needing more than seven, look into other textbook options before using these seven ebooks.

How long is the VitalSource Helps program available?

This program is offering free access to ebooks for spring 2020 students. Ebooks will be available through May 25, 2020, to ensure you are able to use required learning materials through your final exams. Once the free access period ends, you will maintain access to your Bookshelf account. However, ebooks provided during the VitalSource Helps program will no longer appear.

How many ebooks may be accessed for free as part of the VitalSource Helps ebook program?

You may add up to seven ebooks to your account for free. There is a “counter” in the lower left corner of the Bookshelf screen to help you keep track of the number of ebooks accessed.

What happens if I have more than seven ebooks I could use from the program?

If you need more than seven ebooks, we recommend that you look for alternative sources for your textbooks before you select the seven ebooks you will have access to at VitalSource.
VitalSource, publishers, and resellers have worked together to make tens of thousands of ebooks available to allow you to find your required learning materials. You may access up to seven ebooks.

What type of content is available as part of the VitalSource Helps ebook program?

This program provides access to textbooks only, not any other materials. Custom content, interactive content, and content used for assessment is not included. Commonly assigned materials from publishers, often referred to as “courseware” (like Pearson’s MyLab, Cengage MindTap, WileyPlus, etc.) are not included in this program.

How do I access VitalSource Helps ebooks?

To access VitalSource Helps ebooks, you will need to use an app called Bookshelf. To do this, visit bookshelf.vitalsource.com. Before you can begin searching for and reading ebooks, you will need to log in or create a Bookshelf account with your Penn State email address.
To access Bookshelf, you will need to create a Bookshelf account with your Penn State email address.

What do I do when accessing Bookshelf for the first time?

Once you create an account, log in and click on the “Explore” tab in the upper left corner of the screen to find ebooks.
If you know that you have used Bookshelf in one of your courses and have an account with your Penn State email address, log in with that email address. You will see a new tab called “Explore” when you login. This tab will provide access to the free ebooks.

What if I already have a Bookshelf account?

If you know you have an existing Bookshelf account that is not linked to your Penn State email address, you can learn how to change the email address associated with your Bookshelf account to your Penn State email address.

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If you do not have access to a computer and/or the internet from your location, please log in to the IT service portal and fill out the Penn State Mobile Technology Request Form to formalize your computer/access request. University IT is continually working on the availability and distribution of equipment. Information about your request will be relayed via the phone number you provide in the request form. Once you receive your equipment, contact the IT Service Desk for 24/7 support.

If you lack internet connection, you can also use your phone as a hotspot. Penn State IT has provided instructions for how to set up hotspots on Samsung, Pixel and iPhones.

In order to use a personal hotspot on your device, you may also secure additional data from your wireless carrier. The following providers have information readily available on how to upgrade data: AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Find more providers and information on the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected page.

Permalink

The University began considering student connectivity needs early on in the process of deciding to move our courses to a remote teaching format. We are very mindful of the situation and we continue to work hard with our students to set them up for success.

First, we need to know who does not have good access—either because of lack of technology or poor connectivity. So, during the initial remote instruction period, we began identifying students who were not connecting. A combination of consulting with faculty and advising helped to identify those students who may be having connectivity issues. Academic advisers are reaching out to each of those students to learn about particular circumstances, and what we might be able to do to help them access content for their courses.

In addition, students should reach out to their instructors if they do not believe they have the resources necessary to connect remotely. More information is also available at https://remotelearning.psu.edu/, as well as resources that can assist with a solution.

The good news is that internet providers have expanded in areas that weren’t available before. As we get more information about student access, there are a number of options we are exploring, including the deployment of mobile hot spots in certain rural areas with limited access. And we are grateful for the internet providers who are stepping up to improve access.

If students have a difficult time connecting, they can get assistance by emailing itservicedesk@psu.edu or by calling 814-865-4357. A group of technology professionals are dedicated to answering these inquiries to learn about students’ circumstances and to connect them to the unit that can assist with their situation or provide appropriate resources that may be available.

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Will LEAP and New Student Orientation (NSO) programming continue remotely?

Yes. LEAP and NSO are critically important to our new first-year and transfer students’ transition to Penn State. With the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and in the interest of your health and safety, Penn State has announced that new student orientation and LEAP will be held virtually for summer 2020.

For orientation, students can begin making reservations the week of April 20 and will be able to select a date to begin their virtual orientation experience based upon their starting semester, campus of enrollment, and college of enrollment. Summer Orientation will take place in June and July for first-year, transfer and international students, and will involve a mix of real-time and self-paced learning. Students will have the opportunity to meet with an academic adviser to discuss their academic plans; register for courses; gain access to critical Penn State systems, including LionPATH; and begin to make connections with fellow students.

Read this story for additional information and resources related to orientation.

Penn State’s LEAP program, designed to help first-year students at University Park to get a head start in the summer before their first fall semester, will be offered virtually, with both asynchronous online and synchronous remote course offerings. The virtual LEAP program will replicate the residential model with two small, cohort-based courses as well as out-of-class programming and peer-mentoring to help students successfully transition to Penn State. The course portfolio for incoming students will consist primarily of general education courses, as these are open to students in all majors and allows all students to begin progress toward their degrees.

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All students are expected to behave respectfully in classes, no matter the format or delivery mode. Disruptions in a remote class will be handled in the same way as in a face-to-face class. Your instructor may speak to you about your behavior. If your behavior does not change, you may be asked to leave the class. If your behavior continues to be disruptive, a report may be filed with the Office of Student Conduct and an incident may be reported through the conduct process. Students involved in a serious disruption of the learning environment may not be permitted to return to class until University procedures have been completed.

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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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Why are you reverting to normal grading methodologies beginning in the summer?

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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Penn State is committed to addressing the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students while also maintaining academic progress as much as possible for our graduate students. First and foremost, graduate students should reach out to their advisers to discuss their individual needs. The Senior Vice President for Research has circulated guidance to all faculty about maintaining the research enterprise, and the University has had to scale back research in some areas, but we are doing everything we can to continue essential research and provide access to faculty and graduate students to maintain that activity. We are making every effort to support graduate students in accessing facilities and projects that are critical to their degree.

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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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The full resources of the University are behind meeting student learning outcomes and course objectives, and faculty are working to deliver the most critical information for student success. In laboratory courses, the University is working with faculty to prioritize that learning objectives are met with flexibility. Some examples of ways faculty are doing this include livestreaming demonstrations of experiments then providing data to students to analyze. Innovations are emerging daily. Please contact your instructor directly if you’re unclear about the expectations for your lab requirements.

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At the end of the spring semester, once students receive their letter grades, they will have the option, on a course-by-course basis, for those grades to remain as letter grades or to appear as one of three options on a new satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading scale.

We want to provide our students every opportunity for success during this unprecedented time and recognize the change in their learning environments and the need for a rapid adaptation to remote learning. The key is that this is optional for students, and we encourage all students to work closely with their academic advisers to makes these decisions. More details on this policy are available at https://remotelearning.psu.edu/alternative-grading.

Students who wish to explore the effect that selecting an alternative grade for a course may have on their GPA can visit http://www.registrar.psu.edu/grades/spring-2020-grading/gpa-calculator/ for instructions. While the instructions are available now, the tool will not go live until Wednesday, May 20, after grades are finalized. Students will have until 11:59 p.m. EDT on May 29 to make their decisions regarding optional alternative grading.

Details about the scale: Students will have the choice to receive a “SAT” notation (in lieu of a letter grade of “C” or better); a “V” instead of the letter grade “D”; or a “Z” instead of a letter grade “F” — all with the notation on transcripts indicating the extraordinary circumstances we all are dealing with this semester. The alternative grades will not impact a students’ GPA in either direction but will still count toward credits achieved and progression of semester standing, which will help in the continuation of our students’ academic careers. This is important for helping students navigate many processes, from maintaining financial aid to maintaining a certain semester standing when purchasing student football tickets.

This alternative grading option is available to all undergraduate students, including World Campus students, and those returning from study abroad.

Additional details are available on Penn State News.

For information on graduate student grading, visit the Optional Alternative Grading for Graduate Students FAQ and Penn State News for more information.

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To address impacts caused by the novel coronavirus public health crisis, Penn State is implementing alternative grading policies for graduate, Penn State Law and Dickinson Law students for the spring 2020 semester. For more information about alternative grading for undergraduate students, visit remotelearning.psu.edu/alternative-grading.

The following provides additional information and links to resources for students at:

  • The Graduate School: Graduate students may choose to keep their grades as received, or request to have one or more grades converted to one of three alternatives (P, V or Z). None of the three grades will have any impact on a student’s GPA. Please consult the Optional Alternative Grading for Graduate Students FAQ and Penn State News for more information.
  • Penn State Law: Penn State Law at University Park will have a mandatory credit/no-credit grading system for the spring 2020 semester in order to be supportive of students during the novel coronavirus public health crisis. This mandatory credit/no credit approach is also the one most widely taken by law schools around the country. To learn more about the grading policy, read the memo on grading changes and FAQ or visit Penn State News.
  • Dickinson Law: Penn State Dickinson Law has implemented a mandatory credit/no-credit standard for all Dickinson Law courses to be responsive to both the individual and collective needs of the entire student community. To learn more, visit Penn State News.

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What measures did Penn State announce on April 23 regarding personnel, tuition and budget impacts?

In the face of severe financial impacts to the University brought on by the global coronavirus pandemic, on April 23 Penn State President Eric J. Barron announced some salary adjustments; a 3% across-the-board cut to university budgets in the next fiscal year; and his intention to work with the Board of Trustees to freeze tuition for the 2020-21 academic year to limit student costs. Read the president’s message to the university community here.

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Because of the economic hardships facing Pennsylvania and the nation, Penn State plans to freeze tuition rates for all students, including in-state and out-of-state students, University-wide for the 2020-21 academic year. The plan, which will be presented to the University’s Board of Trustees for final approval at its July meeting, would mark the third consecutive year that Penn State has held tuition rates flat for Pennsylvania resident students. Read more about the plan here.

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As Pennsylvania’s land-grant institution, the University recognizes the sustained financial hardship the global pandemic is putting on Pennsylvania families, and families everywhere, and is adjusting summer tuition in an effort to lessen that impact on our students. Students will receive the same, high-quality Penn State education they have come to expect, delivered virtually, and will continue to make progress toward their desired Penn State credential. Additional details are available on Penn State News.

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The University is adjusting in-state and out-of-state tuition for the summer sessions in light of the persistent financial strain the pandemic is causing across Pennsylvania and the country. As Pennsylvania’s land-grant institution, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania continues to subsidize the true cost of tuition for Pennsylvania residents.

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Funding of teaching and research assistantships will not be affected by the University moving to remote delivery of courses.

Graduate students serving as instructors and/or supporting courses offered by other instructors should contact the department/instructor responsible for the respective courses for guidance on how to adapt to a remote format for delivery/support appropriate for the course.

Graduate students conducting research for their dissertation or as part of a research assistantship are expected to continue their research activities. Please contact your research supervisor for further guidance or if you have additional questions.

More information for graduate students can be found on the Graduate School’s COVID-19 Updates page.

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What is the status of Penn State’s education abroad programming? What programming has been canceled to date?

Following the U.S. Department of State’s March 19 decision to issue a worldwide Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory, Penn State canceled all remaining study abroad programming for the spring (2020) semester as well as summer. At the time all Penn State students, whether on study abroad or traveling individually, were directed to return home. All Penn State travelers still currently abroad have been contacted with recommendations for returning home. If they are unable to travel, Penn State has provided students with guidance on sheltering in place.

Further, Penn State is strongly encouraging all faculty and staff to follow the guidance outlined by the U.S. Department of State. As previously announced, and until further notice, all University-affiliated international travel is suspended. This includes new travel as well as any currently booked trips until further notice, unless otherwise authorized by the provost.

Previously, Penn State has also canceled all summer education abroad courses and University-affiliated student group travel through August 2020.

At this time Penn State Global Programs is evaluating plans for fall 2020 study abroad programming.

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The welfare of students is our top priority, and we are assisting students who are fearful or unable to return to their home country. Students seeking more information and assistance with summer plans regarding University Park break housing should visit https://housing.psu.edu/break-accessholiday-housing for more details and contact information, or contact the Housing and Food Service office at their Commonwealth Campus.

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The U.S. Department of State has issued a worldwide Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory and is advising U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends avoiding all nonessential international travel. Penn State is extending the same guidance to all students, faculty and staff.

Penn State is urging faculty, staff and students to be vigilant and to continue to exercise good judgment to stay as safe as possible, and to follow the latest stay-at-home orders from Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. We have placed restrictions on University-affiliated travel, and though we cannot dictate decision-making pertaining to other professional and personal travel, such travel is strongly discouraged. In addition to the risk to their personal health, travelers should be aware of the elevated risk to other members of the community — including individuals with compromised immune systems and the elderly — should they become infected.

Travelers should consult the CDC’s website for the latest travel health notices, and research the restrictions imposed in the country they plan to visit, as well as any U.S. government restrictions that could impact their return to the United States, as the global travel situation is changing frequently. With widespread, ongoing transmission of novel coronavirus worldwide, if you have traveled internationally in the past 14 days, stay home and monitor your health.

The CDC recommends that individuals stay home as much as possible and avoid close contact, especially if they are at higher risk of severe illness. If you must travel for personal reasons, follow any state and local travel restrictions currently in place.

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Why didn’t I receive a student survey about fall return to campus?

Surveys are designed to gather generalizable data based on the opinions of a representative sample of the student population and the University rarely does a census survey of its entire student body. In order to have the time to analyze the survey results and take into account the student perspective in the decision-making process, the survey was sent to a random sample of 17,000 students at University Park and the Commonwealth Campuses. As the data are analyzed, the Return to Campus task group will share the survey results with the Penn State community. Further, the task group is planning for future surveys as well as focus groups for students to provide the insights the University needs before returning to in-person experiences.

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Summer 2020

Given the continuing challenge and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic and to protect the health of students, faculty and staff, Penn State has made the decision to extend virtual delivery of courses into the summer.

At this point, the University is planning to deliver all courses and programming virtually for the Maymester, Summer Session I and Summer Session II, through a mix of asynchronous online and synchronous remote course offerings. Grading methodology will revert to its typical form, with students receiving a letter grade for most courses. In addition, while the plan calls for online instruction for Summer Session II, the University is preparing in case health dynamics shift and students could safely return to campuses for in-person instruction. Any such decisions and related processes for welcoming students back will be made based on guidance from government and health authorities and include careful planning focused first and foremost on the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff. More information will be shared as the situation continues to evolve.

Fall 2020

University leaders will keep the community informed, and plan to provide additional updates and information by June 15 or sooner. At this time, the University remains optimistic for a fall 2020 return to on-campus learning, in line with the latest directives and guidelines from the governor and other government and public health authorities. As the pandemic unfolds by the hour and day, our top priority remains the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and broader community. Penn State task groups are continuing to prepare for a coordinated phased return to on-campus working, learning and living for students and employees across each of the University’s campuses.

Updates on plans for each upcoming segment of the academic calendar will be provided as decisions are made, and in accordance with state and national health guidance.

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The current uncertainty about how the global coronavirus pandemic will evolve makes it difficult to predict exactly when study-abroad programming will resume, but Penn State Global Programs is evaluating plans for fall 2020 study abroad programming. However, in the long term and at its core, Penn State is a global institution and we are committed to providing study-abroad experiences for our students. We realize the current situation has created an enormous disruption in our study-abroad programs, but we look forward to a time when we will once again have students benefitting from educational experiences across the globe.

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Is the Student Emergency Fund available to me?

We know there are many students who are experiencing financial stress. The University has worked to adjust the pre-existing Student Emergency Fund to meet the growing needs of our student community during this pandemic crisis by making this a deliberate part of the University’s fundraising efforts. Students who are in need should reach out to the Student Care and Advocacy Office, which has increased its staffing to meet the influx of applications and help evaluate and assist students in the most dire situations. Additional resources for students, as well as faculty and staff, are listed at https://virusinfo.psu.edu/resources.

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The Office of Student Care and Advocacy and Counseling & Psychological Services are two resources that stand ready to support any student requiring attention to immediate financial or academic issues or counseling needs arising from the many changes and uncertainties caused by the global coronavirus outbreak.

Student Care and Advocacy
studentaffairs.psu.edu/studentcare
814-863-2020
StudentCare@psu.edu


Counseling & Psychological Services
studentaffairs.psu.edu/counseling
814-863-0395
24-hour Crisis Line: 1-877-229-6400
Commonwealth Campus Counseling Services

For a full list of resources available to students and other members of the Penn State community, visit https://virusinfo.psu.edu/resources.

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Yes. To provide support to students from a distance during this critical time, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) remains open and is continuing to offer a range of services, including same-day phone support, individual counseling sessions, a new You@PSU self-help portal, and daily virtual LifeHacks sessions for students.

CAPS is providing telephone-based services to all students, as well as offering video-based counseling for students who reside in states that permit tele-counseling over state lines.

To get support, University Park students can call CAPS at 814-863-0395 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and students at Commonwealth Campuses can contact the CAPS office at their campus location. In addition, when CAPS is closed, both the Penn State Crisis Line (877-229-6400) and the Crisis Text Line (text “LIONS” to 741741) are still available 24/7 for all students who are in crisis or need support.

While the logistics of providing counseling and therapy to students have changed during the response to this global pandemic, CAPS is a phone call away regardless of where a student is located, and CAPS continues to work through state-by-state regulations for providing services.

For a full list of resources available to students and other members of the Penn State community, visit https://virusinfo.psu.edu/resources.

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Log in to Starfish, click on the “my network” tab, and schedule a virtual Zoom meeting with your adviser.

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Your assigned adviser is an excellent resource. They can help triage situations and connect you with appropriate resources.

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Contact your course instructor first. If you need further assistance, contact the head of the department offering the course.

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