UCSB Academic Senate

Guidance for Faculty during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Published 10/1/2020. Last updated 12/30/2020.


The information on this page is intended as a resource for faculty/instructors during changes in campus operating status due to the COVID-19 crisis. It reflects current planning on our campus based on state and local restrictions, as well as public health and academic best practices. The situation is expected to remain fluid for some time, and new information will be added as it becomes available. At this time, the campus remains closed for most in-person instruction.

Helpful guides and strategies for remote teaching can be found on the Keep Teaching website.

Please contact Executive Director Shasta Delp (shasta.delp@senate.ucsb.edu) with questions or suggestions for information to add.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Policies and Updates

Winter Quarter 2021

Winter Quarter Instruction

Per Chancellor Yang’s message to the campus on December 23, Santa Barbara County Public Health has issued a health order that prohibits indoor classroom instruction at this time. As such, the small number of lecture courses we had planned to offer in-person during winter quarter will begin via remote instruction. We will continue to offer selected laboratory, performance, and field experience (i.e., non-classroom-based) courses in a face-to-face format. We encourage students with questions about specific courses to check with their instructors.

An important consideration in our winter course offerings is accommodations for students who will be taking classes remotely. Not all students are willing or able to return to campus for the winter quarter to participate in on-site classes. Please review the guidelines for accommodating undergraduate students in courses offered face-to-face in Winter Quarter 2021.

Senate Policy on Undergraduate P/NP Grading

For Spring Quarter 2020 only, the Undergraduate Council permitted the expanded use of P/NP grading by departments for courses in the major and waived the unit limitation on P/NP course applicability toward the major. The deadline for students to change the grading option for their courses was also extended. However, these measures are no longer in place. The Undergraduate Council voted to affirm that the regular Divisional rules about P/NP grading, as stipulated in Senate Regulation 35, are in effect for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Senate Policy on Final Exams

A final exam is required for every undergraduate course, per Systemwide Senate Regulations 770 and 772. However, instructors have a lot of flexibility in terms of the weight and the style of the exam. See the FAQs below regarding remote assessment of student learning and options for administering remote exams.

Campus Policy on Use of Faculty Offices

Faculty are to work remotely through the remainder of 2020, whenever possible.

Per Chancellor Yang’s memo of November 1, the campus received approval from the County of Santa Barbara for limited and managed access to individual faculty offices for the purposes of delivering instruction and conducting research. Public health protocols require building-level plans to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19, building-by-building inspections to address air-flow and traffic-flow, and review and approval from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. Faculty should contact their Building Access Committee or department chair to inquire about access to their office space and departmental facilities.

Consult the Guidance for Use of Faculty Offices and the recent Building Commissioning Process presentation for more information.

Single occupancy spaces have also been made available in Davidson Library and the Humanities and Social Sciences Building (HSSB) for graduate students and instructors. These spaces can be reserved for up to 10 hours per week, subject to availability. For reservations, please visit the following pages:

Campus Policy on Use of Research Laboratories

The campus is engaged in a gradual return to on-campus research activities. Limited access to laboratories and research facilities is available under state and county guidelines. The current status, stage 4a, restricts both the total number of researchers allowed and the density in each space at any given time. Only authorized users may access campus laboratories, with the permission of the appropriate building committee. The Office of Research maintains a webpage containing COVID-19 Information for UCSB Researchers. Vice Chancellor Incandela's December 4 update on the status of on-campus research is available here.

Library Open for Research Appointments

Starting October 6, and under the auspices of the Research Ramp-up, the UCSB Library Special Research Collections (SRC) will offer a limited number of research appointments for faculty and graduate students to use on-site archival and non-circulating materials from the Main Library and Music Library. The UCSB Library remains closed for general use.

For more details, and to request an appointment, please see this page.

After making a request, a UCSB Library staff member will contact the individual to confirm the availability of the materials of interest and help them identify relevant items so that they can make the most of their time in the Reading Room. Approved visitors will be booked for 3-hour appointments beginning between 9:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Appointments related to scholarly projects with deadlines (e.g., promotion, book contract, dissertation) will be prioritized.

All visitors will be required to follow the terms of use for UCSB Library Special Research Collections and to adhere to UCSB's requirements for working on campus during COVID-19, including enrollment in the COVID-19 screening program and completion of the daily COVID-19 screening survey.

Campus Policy on COVID-19 Testing and Wellness Monitoring

Per Chancellor Yang's message to the campus on October 15, faculty, staff, and members of our research community who have received authorization from their department chair/building committee or supervisor to come to campus for instructional, research, or work purposes that cannot be performed at home are strongly urged to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing. This asymptomatic testing is critical to helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on our campus and in the broader community. To schedule an appointment, students, staff, and faculty should visit our campus patient portal.

California COVID Notify

UC Santa Barbara is a member of California COVID Notify, an anonymous and voluntary COVID-19 exposure notification system that allows users to receive automatic alerts via their smartphones following potential exposure from other enrolled users, regardless of whether the individuals know each other. The program is a collaboration between UC and the State of California to assess the use of the technology on a voluntary basis as a means of reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. More information, including a link to instructions for opting in to the system can be found at California COVID Notify and on The Current.

Campus Policy on Physical Distancing and Face Coverings

Physical distancing guidelines may require building stairwells to allow one-way travel only; elevator capacity may be limited to one, two, or three people at a time; and physical distancing within office spaces may require reconfiguration of work spaces, meeting rooms, common areas, and lobbies to ensure appropriate physical distancing measures. These types of changes will be evaluated and implemented on an on-going basis by appropriate campus officials.

All individuals on the UC Santa Barbara campus and UCSB-controlled properties are required to wear face coverings (indoors or outside), in compliance with the California Department of Public Health and the County of Santa Barbara Health Officer Order. (This does not apply when (a) in a personal office when alone with the door closed; (b) while eating or drinking when well separated from others, or (c) if a reasonable accommodation granted by the University exempts the individual from this requirement.)

Reporting of a Failure to Comply with Campus Safety Protocols Related to COVID‐19

The following options are available to address issues related to violations of safety protocols on campus:

  1. An individual may bring their concern directly to the person in violation, or to the Department Chair. In matters that involve COVID-19 policies, Department Chairs are recommended as the first point of contact to assist in resolution.
  2. Anyone with concerns of retaliation, or other undesirable outcomes as a result of reporting violations, may file a Hazard Incident Report directly with the UCSB Environmental Health and Safety office by accessing their website (www.ehs.ucsb.edu). At the top of the homepage, there are links for reporting a Hazard (Blue), Near Miss (Turquoise), and Incident/Injury (Orange). Concerns related to COVID-19 should be reported as a “Hazard”. An EHS staff member will follow up with a telephone call if the reporting party chooses to identify themselves. The reporting party can remain anonymous if they so choose. In that case, the investigator will do their best to adjudicate the claims.

To report repeat violations or severely egregious claims, a reporting party may also contact the UC Whistleblower Hotline for investigation by calling (800) 403-4744.

Childcare Resources and Active Service Modified Duties (ASMD)

The University's Early Childhood Care and Education Services (ECCES) center has reopened. Resources and programs for families with school-age children are posted on the following websites:

ECCES may be able to assist families in need of childcare by connecting them with trained student employees. For more information and a list of interested students, contact Annette Muse, Director of ECCES at: annettemuse@ucsb.edu

Please note: ECCES’s students are required to complete several mandated trainings (Healthy Schools Act, Mandated Reporter trainings, UCSB COVID-19 training). Depending on where they are within the hiring process, students may have completed these trainings and received additional trainings specific to ECCES. All vetting of candidates and families is to be conducted by the parties involved.

Faculty members with family responsibilities that conflict with their university duties should communicate with their Chair and Dean about possible ASMD accommodations.

Systemwide Executive Order on Flu Vaccination

To support the health and well-being of UC students, faculty and staff and our communities, the University of California, in consultation with UC Health leadership, issued a systemwide executive order requiring all members of the UC community to receive an influenza immunization before Nov. 1, 2020. The Office of the President has compiled a list of frequently asked questions for employees about the 2020-21 UC influenza vaccination order.

UCSB is holding a flu vaccination clinic on campus for all faculty and staff members and students. Those who receive their vaccinations at the clinic should incur no out-of-pocket expenses. Health insurance providers will be billed automatically, and any costs not covered by insurance providers will be paid by the University. More information can be found here:

If faculty or staff working remotely need to access a UC facility in person, they must certify, by November 1, that they have received the 2020-2021 flu vaccine or have an approved exemption or accommodation. For more information on exemptions or accommodations, please visit this frequently asked questions page.

Questions can be directed to FluVaccination2020@sa.ucsb.edu. Additional information about the clinic is available in a Q&A on The Current.

Winter 2021 FAQs for Instructors

Current information on the reporting process for suspected COVID-19 cases or exposure is available at the link below. Faculty are encouraged to bookmark this link for easy access.

Remote instruction refers to classes offered online during the COVID-19 pandemic on an emergency basis. In contrast, during regular quarters of instruction, online courses are proposed to and approved by the Senate as permanent online offerings.

Nearly all undergraduate courses in Winter Quarter 2021 will be offered via remote instruction. A very small number of non-classroom-based courses will have in-person components, with appropriate safety protocols.

Faculty are to work remotely through the remainder of 2020, if possible. The deans are working with departments to identify faculty with critical needs for instructional delivery that cannot be managed from home.

Resuming teaching activities including gatherings of any kind on campus requires building inspections to mitigate risks of transmission and exposure of COVID-19, and consultation with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. Since the campus is currently closed for in-person operations, such activities are not allowed at this time, however the situation may change as new guidance is received. We will add information here as it becomes available.

Sample language welcoming students to your course can be found here (feel free to adapt it). Sample language for many course policies (also adaptable), and references to campus policies, can be found in this document.

You must provide reasonable approved accommodations to students in remote courses as you would in non-remote courses through the DSP process. Additionally, remember that students are experiencing additional stress as they navigate remote learning, in addition to the pandemic and the fight for racial and social justice. UCSB's Disabled Students Program continues to host information on instructor practices for students to request accommodations.

Faculty and graduate students can include links to the Student Wellbeing website and the Keep Learning website in their syllabi. In addition, students appreciate your availability in frequent online office hours; posting recordings of synchronous lectures on Gauchospace; providing plenty of advance notice for papers, assignments, and exams; using discussion sections for review and questions; offering some flexibility in the scheduling of exams; providing extra credit opportunities; and giving as much information as possible about your understanding and flexibility at the beginning of the course.

Student Affairs maintains a Distressed Students Guide, which contains guidance on responding to student concerns and a directory of resources.

Yes. However, faculty are advised to create flexible policies with regard to attendance and have an asynchronous option for students who are unable to participate synchronously. Successful participation in synchronous classes requires a reliable internet connection, a computer with a camera, and often a private space for learning, which may not be consistently available to students. International students and others in different time zones may also have difficulty attending synchronous course meetings. Alternatives include (but are not limited to) participation in asynchronous discussion forums via GauchoSpace, participation in peer review via a technology like ELI Review, or the option to meet synchronously with others at an alternative time.

Faculty are advised not to make the use of video mandatory. Some students do not have web cameras, private spaces for learning, and/or broadband internet. Any one of these factors may make it difficult for students to turn on their cameras.

Instructors should ensure that students are able to meet virtually with instructors, TAs, and one another in all courses. This can take place via Zoom sessions, GauchoSpace discussion forums, or technologies like Eli Review, all of which are supported by UCSB. Instructors should use the best technologies for the purpose.

  • Asynchronous technology (recorded lectures posted to GauchoCast/Panopto and linked to GauchoSpace site) is best for lectures and other forms of instruction that focus on delivering information.
  • Synchronous technology (Zoom) is best for interactive discussion.

Instructors should keep in mind that students are often in different time zones; students are also likely to have differing access to technology and private spaces for learning and discussion. If students are unable to participate in synchronous activities, asynchronous activities should be made available if at all possible. See this grid for more information on UCSB technologies and their bandwidth/immediacy. Remember that "high immediacy"/"high bandwidth" technologies may also be the least accessible for some students.

The amount of time that students spend engaging with course content (lectures, discussions, etc.) in a remote course should mirror that of an in-person course. However, especially if lectures are offered asynchronously, this time may be allocated differently. For instance, lectures can be recorded and set for viewing in smaller chunks of time; quizzes testing knowledge can be embedded in lectures, etc.

Instructors should carefully attend to TA workload to ensure that TAs do not exceed their appointment percentage, and should remind TAs to talk to them immediately if their work is taking longer than expected (210 hours for a 0.5 appointment; 105 hours for a 0.25 appointment, etc.). Instructors can:

  • Make sure their courses are tightly focused around important concepts,
  • Create low-maintenance ways for students to receive regular feedback, e.g., self-graded quizzes in GauchoSpace, peer review feedback via Eli Review, or rubrics that TAs can use for feedback,
  • Talk with TAs about how to focus their work, e.g., which activities or assignments are most important at different points in the term.

You can include the remote learning preparedness survey in your GauchoSpace site and point students to the Internet Access and Technology page of the Keep Learning website for assistance.

Some international students may have difficulties accessing some UCSB licensed resources. The campus is working on a more robust solution for this issue. We hope to have a solution in place in the next two to three weeks. In the meantime, we strongly suggest that you install the campus VPN client, Pulse Secure Campus VPN, and use that to make accessing these online resources more reliable. Information on installing and using Pulse VPN is available at: https://www.it.ucsb.edu/network-infrastructure-services/pulse-secure-campus-vpn

A recent article in The Current describes a backup plan for use in the event of a Zoom outage.

The UCSB Information Technology website includes a helpful list of technology-related services for faculty. Faculty may also reach the main IT Services Help Desk at ithelp.ucsb.edu or at (805) 893-5000 (x5000). A full list of Campus IT Organizations and Departments may be found here.

Yes. However, high stakes assessments (i.e., courses assessed with midterms and finals that count for a majority of the entirety of a student's course grade) are problematic, especially in remote learning. High stakes exams put enormous pressure on students who are already experiencing enormous amounts of stress that is compounded regularly. Additionally, the research literature on learning provides a preponderance of evidence indicating that high stakes assessments are not as effective for fostering learning as regular, lower stakes assessments. These assessments, often referred to as "formative" assessments, focus on learning in progress. Students and instructors can use them to check knowledge as it is developing. Instructors can then provide students feedback that either affirms the student's knowledge, or provides corrective feedback. Then, the student's overall development of knowledge can be assessed in a later exam.

The Keep Teaching UCSB website contains a page on Meaningful Assessment, which provides a variety of examples on how to assess student learning. Faculty can also view a self-guided workshop on meaningful assessment here. This interactive graphic provides multiple examples of formative assessments that have been used by faculty at UCSB as well as at many other colleges and universities. This set of resources in GauchoSpace, from UCSB's Reimagining Instruction for the Student Experience site, provides a more comprehensive set of resources for developing assessments that are appropriate for remote instruction.

Faculty can remind students that learning is predicated on a collaborative relationship between instructor and student, that this requires mutual trust, and that violations of this trust violate the UCSB Student Conduct Code and will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct. Faculty can also add instructions to their syllabi reminding students that seeking answers for their assignments or exams from "tutoring" websites like Chegg is considered cheating, will be investigated, and if necessary will be reported to the University.

Faculty can minimize incentives for cheating by designing assessments that support learning over time instead. This often means using a greater number of small assessments rather than a smaller number of high-stakes midterms/finals. Instructors considering proctoring of exams should keep in mind UCSB's recommendations for remote proctoring best practices.

A recent article from the Chronicle for Higher Education provides advice on ways to assess students online and minimize opportunities and incentives for cheating.

No. Instructors own the copyright to all course materials they create. Similarly, instructors may not post students' work without their permission. Campus guidance is described here, as well as sample language that you may share with students, e.g., in your syllabus.

ProctorU is currently the only online proctoring service with which UC Santa Barbara has a contract. An ad hoc committee convened in spring 2020 explored options for various academic integrity software. The committee's report has recommendations that may be helpful to you.

Instructors may consider whether non-proctored options will work for their students. Research has shown that lower-stakes assessments, such as consistent quizzes and/or tests that build knowledge consistently, often support more effective learning. If you choose to administer a high-stakes assessment, some non-proctored options you may consider instead are open-book exams, short answer exams, or multiple-choice tests that randomize questions from an existing quiz bank.

If you decide to proceed with a proctored exam, please inform students about the requirements of ProctorU listed below. The Faculty Association's investigations have raised especially important issues associated with data privacy and student consent. If students are not able to meet the requirements for any reason, you must provide them with a non-proctored exam that tests the same material, administered during the same period as the remote exam. Faculty may not assign a "NG" or "I" to students and then require them to take a face-to-face exam at a later date.

The requirements of ProctorU include:

  • Specific technologies (webcam, microphone, Windows or Mac operating system
  • Designated private space for examinations

You must inform students that you will use ProctorU and provide the opportunity for them to let you know if they will require an alternative exam, using the following language:

"ProctorU is an approved online proctoring service at UC Santa Barbara. This product monitors individual students and behaviors using video and video analysis during a remote exam to preserve exam integrity. ProctorU uses video recording and/or other personal information capture for the purpose of facilitating the test environment. The data collected is used solely for this purpose and the vendor is prohibited from redisclosing this information. Likewise, UC Santa Barbara does not use the data for any other purpose. Please ensure that you have reviewed ProctorU's privacy policy. If you cannot or would prefer not to use ProctorU for any reason, please notify me immediately. I will provide an alternative, non-proctored exam during the same period as the remotely proctored exam."

Select "Institution Pay" in the drop-down menu for ProctorU. This option provides a live proctor at the beginning of the exam and recorded proctoring, which is reviewed by ProctorU personnel, thereafter.

Campus planning for spring quarter instruction is currently underway, but it is likely to continue to include a large fraction of remote instruction. We will update this page as more information becomes available.

Access Archives from Earlier Quarters

Campus Resources for the COVID-19 Pandemic