Updated March 29, 2022
For more information about remote teaching, syllabus statements and more, please see the FAQs below. The Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning provides additional resources for teaching during the pandemic.
Risk Management and the Office of the Provost continue to collaborate with schools and units on plans to respond to positivity in their areas. Northwestern also may implement other measures as recommended by public health experts. Instructors should consider some “what if” planning scenarios in the event that remote instruction is necessary.
In addition to the broader academic questions listed below, many of Northwestern's schools have developed specific resources for their communities. Please visit the School and Unit Websites resource page for more information.
Are there university policies that instructors should communicate to students?
All instructors are asked to review the syllabus statements posted here and follow the instructions for including the statements provided on course syllabi.
Covid Testing, Vaccination
What are the COVID testing requirements for students, faculty and staff?
Unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are required to complete two University-administered tests every week. Asymptomatic testing is available for all students, faculty, staff and visitors.
What testing requirements are in place for students’ return to campus in March?
All undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of vaccination status or the presence of symptoms, are required to complete at least one in-person COVID-19 test during the week of March 27. Students, faculty and staff with an approved exception to the vaccination requirement are still required to complete two in-person tests each week.
Can instructors ask students in their class if they are vaccinated or boosted?
An individual’s vaccination status is confidential. Instructors should not inquire about their students’ vaccination status. Instructors may, if they wish, use the Symptom Tracker to verify that students may participate in in-person classes. Instructors who do so should ask all members of the class to show their Symptom Tracker badge rather than individual students.
What should instructors do if they learn that a student in their class is unvaccinated?
Though a student may share health information with you at times, this is confidential and must not be shared with others, including other members of the class or other instructors.
Illness, Quarantine & Isolation, Contact Tracing
What happens if a student tests positive for COVID?
A member of Northwestern’s COVID Response Team reaches out to walk students through next steps. This includes direction regarding the need to self-isolate in accordance with Northwestern and CDC requirements regardless of vaccination status as well as guidance on how Northwestern will help support their health and welfare throughout this period.
If I learn that one of my students has tested positive for COVID-19, should I inform the class?
While a student may choose to share their health information with you, this information is confidential and must not be shared with others, including members of the class. Note that when vaccinated individuals, who comprise the vast majority of our Northwestern community, believe they may have been exposed, they do not need to quarantine. However, they should obtain a COVID-19 test five days after their initial exposure. In times of increased spread or clusters on campus, Northwestern adjusts contact tracing protocols to focus efforts on members of the community who test positive and need assistance with isolation protocols and medical advice.
We ask that you facilitate continued engagement in your course for students who must quarantine or isolate. Please see Supporting Excused Student Absences Due to COVID for additional information and suggestions.
How will instructors be notified if a student in their class is required to isolate or quarantine?
Students will notify their instructors if they are unable to attend class, but are not required to share confidential health information with their instructors. Students who have a positive COVID test or must quarantine will be provided with language that they can use to notify their instructors and school advisor.
What should instructors do if a student comes to class and appears to show symptoms of COVID (e.g., coughing) or other illness?
Instructors and students must stay home from class if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID. Instructors are encouraged to remind students of this expectation on the first day of class. Because students may be concerned about their academic progress if they need to miss class, instructors should include a clear policy on excused absences in their syllabus. Instructors should share how and when they expect students to communicate with them about absences as well as policies for making up missed work. Students who are experiencing symptoms of COVID should follow the procedures outlined here.
What should I do if a student tells me they think they might have been exposed to COVID and therefore will be absent from class?
Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home from class. If a student is identified as a close contact, they should answer “Yes” in Symptom Tracker to initiate a case. This turns the badge red and alerts case management to contact the student. The case management team will switch the badge back to green for vaccinated students and provide instructions on required testing five days after their initial exposure. Vaccinated students can continue to come to class even if they have been identified as a close contact as long as they have no symptoms. Unvaccinated students are required to quarantine for at least five days and obtain a COVID-19 PCR test five days after their initial exposure. If a student tests positive, they are required to isolate for 10 days even if they are asymptomatic, regardless of their vaccination status. Please see Supporting Excused Student Absences Due to COVID for additional information and suggestions.
What should I do if I learn that a student in my class is in quarantine or isolation?
Though a student may share health information with you at times, this is confidential and must not be shared with others, including other members of the class. Instructors should identify in their syllabus how they will facilitate continued course engagement for students who are absent because they have symptoms of COVID or are in quarantine or isolation. See Supporting Students with Excused Absences due to COVID. Instructors may choose to record class sessions. See also Policy on Class Recordings and Guidelines for Recording Classes.
How long are students required to quarantine or isolate?
Vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who test positive need to isolate for at least five days. Unvaccinated students who are identified as a close contact are required to quarantine for five days. Vaccinated individuals identified via contract tracing are not required to quarantine. However, they need to obtain a COVID-19 PCR test five days after their initial exposure. Additionally, they need to mask indoors for 14 days after their initial exposure (which already is part of Northwestern’s mask mandate). Detailed information is here.
What should instructors do if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID or need to isolate or quarantine?
Instructors who are experiencing COVID symptoms should follow the processes outlined here. Please note that instructors teaching an in-person class may teach up to 10% of their class sessions remotely. Should exceptional circumstances arise that require additional remote class sessions, the instructor should contact their department or dean’s office.
How can instructors prepare for a class which may have students in quarantine or isolation?
Instructors should identify in their syllabi how they will facilitate continued course engagement for students who are absent because they have symptoms of COVID or are in quarantine or isolation. See Supporting Students with Excused Absences due to COVID. Instructors may choose to record class sessions. See also Policy on Class Recordings and Guidelines for Recording Classes.
Are masks required in classrooms?
Masks are not required in classrooms, but the University strongly recommends masking in areas where distancing is not possible, particularly as many members of our community return from Spring Break travel and students complete required testing.
Instructors and staff cannot require masking of others unless they are directed to do so as part of an approved disability accommodation through the Office of Equity or AccessibleNU. As our community adjusts to the changing environment on and around campus, we ask our students, faculty and staff to be conscientious of each other and honor individual requests where possible. In most situations, it’s best, though not required, to mask if those around you have chosen to do so.
Is social distancing required in classrooms?
In accordance with guidance from the CDC, state and local agencies, Northwestern does not require social distancing in indoor spaces including classrooms.
Should instructors open the windows of their classroom for ventilation?
In line with federal and state-recommended industry guidance, Facilities is performing consistent preventative maintenance updates on the University’s ventilation systems, while simultaneously operating those systems as close as possible to their operating specifications. This best ensures proper air filtration, appropriate outdoor air quantities, sufficient ventilation, and specified air flow. In buildings with HVAC systems, Facilities does not recommend opening windows. In buildings without HVAC systems, measures can be taken to increase outside air and air circulation. Please view the Space Modifications webpage for more information about classroom ventilation.
Is eating or drinking allowed in classrooms?
We ask that students limit any eating and drinking during class.
How should I conduct office hours?
Instructors may hold in-person office hours and/or host Zoom office hours.
Student Requests for Accommodations
How should instructors respond if a student asks if they can participate remotely in an in-person class for the entire term?
Instructors should not provide remote access to in-person classes for individual students for the term. Students seeking a disability-related accommodation should reach out to Accessible NU. Students who have an excused absence due to COVID should follow class policy stated in the syllabus during this limited time.
What happens if a student in my class requests a disability-related accommodation with AccessibleNU?
If a student is determined to be eligible for a disability-related accommodation(s) from AccessibleNU, the instructor will receive an accommodation notification email from an AccessibleNU advisor. The accommodation notification email will list the approved accommodations for your course. More information, including access to the ANU Faculty Portal that lists accommodations for your course, can be found here.
Student Engagement and Mental Health
A student in my class is struggling academically. Are there resources I can recommend to the student?
Academic Support and Learning Advancement offers a variety of resources to support students academically including peer-led study groups and individual academic coaching. The Writing Place offers both in-person and remote peer writing consultations.
Who should an instructor contact if they need assistance with a student who has not engaged in class for over a week and is unresponsive to emails?
Instructors who have concerns about a student’s academic progress in their class should reach out to the Key Advisor Contact for the student’s school.
What can instructors do to support students’ mental health?
Instructors can indicate their support for student mental health by including the syllabus statement on student wellness. Instructors can also provide a link on their syllabus to these student health and wellness resources. Instructors who want to share a concern about individual students who may be experiencing unforeseen life events, unexpected illness or personal or family crises should reach out the Key Advisor Contact for the student’s school.
How is Northwestern supporting instructors during the coming year?
Northwestern has developed a webpage detailing information about Northwestern’s actions and supports for faculty and staff. Faculty can find information on Work/Life Resources and the Faculty Work/Life and Family Resources brochure.
What options are available if I need to temporarily care for a dependent for COVID-19 quarantine-related reasons? (E.g. school, classroom or care center closure, dependent caregiver tests positive, child required to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure, etc.)
Staff employees may use personal floating holidays and vacation time to care for dependents during this temporary quarantine period. Effective Oct. 1, 2021 and until further notice, staff members also may use Incidental Sick Time for this reason.
If the work responsibilities can be sufficiently performed from home, the employee may seek permission from their manager to work fully remote during the temporary quarantine period. If approval is granted, it may be rescinded by the manager at any time.
Instructors who are teaching an in-person class may teach up to 10% of their class sessions remotely. Should exceptional circumstances arise that require additional remote class sessions, the instructor should contact their department or dean’s office.
All employees, both faculty and staff members, are expected to immediately and consistently stay in communication with their managers or department chair or dean’s office regarding their expected return to work or their regular on-site schedule.
Northwestern may require documentation to verify school/care center closures. Managers and school leaders are encouraged to provide flexibility for these instances; however, for staff absences the Staff Handbook polices related to attendance, unscheduled absences and pattern absences and Incidental Sick Time use still apply.
For questions related to the University’s caregiving resources and options, contact HR’s Well-being team.