Last Updated: August 19, 2020

As we prepare for the Fall 2020 semester, please find answers to some common questions grouped into the following categories:

  • On-Campus Student Status

    Who will be on campus for classes?

    First year students, transfer students with fewer than 30 credits, and some graduate students in specific approved programs will be taking classes on campus.  Classes will be remote for the first two weeks to accommodate the need for students to quarantine.

    Who will be living on campus?

    First year students and transfer students with fewer than 30 credits will be living on campus.  Some additional students might also be living on campus if they are experiencing hardships that necessitate them having a home on campus.  All of these students will need to be quarantined and will not be in class until September 8.

    Who will be researching on campus?

    Graduate students will be able to continue their access to campus to facilitate their ongoing research projects.

  • Teaching Assignments

    Which classes will be taught in person this fall, and which classes will be taught in a blended or hybrid format or wholly online?

    Since first-year students will be the only students living on campus, only classes for first-year students will be taught in person or hybrid, with limited exceptions for some graduate students. All other classes will now be taught online. Instructional modalities for all courses will be updated in Cardinal Students by Aug. 12.

    There are many unfamiliar terms being discussed. What is “blended” or “hybrid” instruction?

    A link to a glossary of terms is available at the Center for Teaching Excellence’s website.

    What are the 4 course modalities?

    There are 4 modalities to differentiate between the ways we are teaching this semester in Cardinal Students:  In Person, In Person and Synchronous Remote, Blended, and Online.

    Can faculty still teach from campus if their class is fully online?  What options are there for part-time faculty to teach from campus?

    Full-time and part-time Instructors who prefer to teach from campus for their online classes will have the opportunity to do so. There will be a way to sign up to reserve a classroom. Graduate students who are serving as instructors, TAs, or TFs are also able to reserve a room for teaching.

    What should faculty do if they become ill during the semester?

    We are asking all faculty to develop a contingency plan that will be included in your syllabus and submitted to the dean and/or chair of your department. The syllabus template includes a section where you can spell out your contingency plan. Questions to think through include, but are not limited to: 

    • Would you teach remotely while self-quarantined? 
    • Would you have someone cover the course?  
    • Would you provide asynchronous content?  

    Answering these questions will help students know what to expect and will help you be prepared should you need to self-isolate or self-quarantine. 

    If you are ill, in addition to communicating with your students, please notify your dean and/or chair that you are implementing your contingency plan.

    Can faculty start the semester remotely if they need to self-quarantine or self-isolate at the beginning of the semester due to travel?

    We know that these are unique times and circumstances and that planned travel might disrupt the start of the semester for you if you need to quarantine when you return to the DC area based on DC’s list of high risk states.  We also know all of our students will be starting remotely for the first two weeks of the semester, with classes starting in person on September 8.  If for some reason you need to quarantine beyond September 8 and are teaching on campus, notify your dean and students.

  • Academic Calendar

    How will the academic calendar be adjusted in response to COVID-19?

    Classes are starting one week earlier, on August 24.  In addition, all classes will be taught remotely for the first two weeks of the semester due to the requirement that students self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in the District of Columbia. After Thanksgiving, all classes will be virtual and all exams will be virtual.  The Academic Calendar will not eliminate any holidays, but will contain an Administrative Monday on Tuesday, October 13, to address contact hour issues.  The last date for in person instruction will be November 24 and the last day of classes will be December 5.  Finals will be held December 7 and December 9 to 12.  Grades will be due December 15.

    Will there be instruction after Thanksgiving, or just exams?

    According to the revised Academic Calendar, after Thanksgiving there will be one week of instruction followed by exams.   Specifically, the last date of in person instruction will be November 24.  The last day of classes will be December 5.  Finals will be held December 7 and December 9 to 12.  

    Will the academic schedule be adjusted to take account of earlier Metro closing times?

    At this point, there is no plan to change the schedule related to Metro times.  If you foresee having a transportation issue related to Metro, please consult your dean or chair.  According to WMATA, the metro is currently operating from 5 am to 9 pm.  

    Will the length of classes be adjusted to shorten exposure time to other students or, conversely, lengthened to reduce the number of different people who use the same space in the course of a day?

    At this point, there is no plan to change the daily schedule. Classes will meet at their normally scheduled times.  

    Will classes meet on Saturdays?

    At this point, no additional Saturday sessions are being added to the Academic Calendar.  However, it is possible that an instructor could request that their class meet on a Saturday if it is pedagogically supported (for instance, an extra in-person session of a lab class that needs to meet in person rather than virtually).  If the instructor plans to do this, then this request would need to be made to the class in advance with enough notice and students who are not able to attend (due to work or athletics) should not be penalized.  A request to use the classroom would also need to be submitted to ensure facilities will know it is being used and to prevent schedule conflicts.

    Will there be an Election Day holiday?

    Classes will be held as scheduled on Election Day, as is normally the case.


  • Safety Concerns

    External oversight

    Has the University’s Safe Return Plan (The Catholic University of America COVID-19 Phased Campus Reopening Plan) been vetted and approved by external health officials? (UPDATED: August 13)

    The University’s plan was submitted to the District Government on June 30 and has been emailed to faculty. The Department of Health reviewed the plan and sent it the Office of Planning for approval. The University was notified on August 12 that the District has accepted our Reopening Plan. 


    Physical distancing

    How is the safe capacity of classrooms being determined?

    Catholic University’s reopening plan was developed using a multilayered approach. Diagrams, to scale, of each classroom were used to determine maximum density that would allow students to be 6 feet apart from each other as well as space between instructor and first row of students. Plexiglass barriers have been purchased and will be installed in each room before the start of classes to allow additional separation between instructor and students. Three sided plexiglass barriers will be used in performing arts classes.

    Will there be the option of holding classes outdoors?

    We will not be officially assigning any classes to meet outdoors.  As in a usual semester, instructors always have the option of bringing their class to meet outside if the students in the class agree.  However, please keep in mind how being outside will work for any students who are participating remotely rather than in person.  We need to be sure that remote learners are able to be included from outdoors.

    If the number of students in the class exceeds the room capacity, will students be asked to attend on alternate days? Will instructors have discretion about attendance policies?

    We hope that with the reduced number of classes on campus this fall, fewer classes will need to rely on alternating attendance.  However, if the classroom cannot seat all in person students, we recommend that instructors assign alternating in person/remote rotations, so that students who are able can attend class in person at least once a week. For example, in a class of 25 students, 3 students are “all-remote.” In person students can be assigned to two groups of 11 students each, with one group attending in person on one day of the week and the other group joining remotely synchronously; the groups are reversed for the other day of the week

    How will lab classes work?

    Because laboratories are high-touch spaces, the risk of disease transmission is higher than with other classrooms.  Faculty are encouraged to consider teaching laboratories wholly online when it is possible to do so. When laboratories require some on-campus instruction, faculty are encouraged to consider teaching laboratories partially on-campus and partially online. When laboratories require fully on-campus instruction, a rotational approach is recommended. If laboratory capacity allows, it is recommended students be paired in two-person teams and rotate between on-campus and online participation. For example, the on-campus student might be responsible for manipulating the lab equipment and explaining the procedure to their lab partner who is participating remotely via videoconferencing. The remote partner might be responsible for recording data and other forms of lab documentation.

    How can I meet with students for office hours/advising?

    Office hours and advising are traditionally an important part of the faculty role.  We all value the opportunity to support students in courses, advise students on curriculum and degree progress, and mentor students in our fields.  Office hours should be conducted virtually using Zoom or Google Meet to allow all students to participate.  

    How will academic support services be provided, and will they be accessible to students who are fully remote or temporarily remote due to quarantine?

    Students who are learning remotely temporarily or for the whole semester will be able to access the full range of academic resources and supports that are available in person, including tutoring, Writing Center, Math Center, and Academic Coaching.


    Face covering policy 

    Will faculty be required to wear a face covering while teaching?

    In accordance with the District of Columbia requirements, face coverings must be worn.  At this time the District of Columbia has not allowed a blanket exemption for instruction without a face covering, outside of the pre-existing exemptions.  Please note, the regulations are continuously evolving.  The city has indicated they are open to negotiation where feasibility and risk may open an opportunity for alternatives. Faculty can request to use a full face shield in combination with a physical plexiglass barrier and physical distancing while lecturing.

    Will students be required to wear face coverings to class?

    The university will be requiring the use of face coverings on campus in general and in classrooms.  Current DC requirements for the reopening of the university in the fall semester include the use of face coverings in classrooms, along with students sitting 6 feet apart.  Catholic University is requiring the use of face coverings on campus as a way of showing our care and consideration for each other.  Please see the face coverings policy.

    If so, will faculty be required to enforce the face covering policy?

    Faculty should remind students who are not wearing face coverings in class that it is currently a requirement according to DC regulations and that it is a way that we are supporting our university community’s health and well-being.  Extra face coverings will be available in buildings so that if a student has forgotten one, it will be possible to obtain one easily.

    After a friendly reminder of the safety protocol, a student in my course is still not complying. What should I do?

    Students are asked to adhere to a Student Code of Conduct.  If students have been reminded and are not complying with the safety protocols in place in the classroom, please follow the disruptive student policy and email or

    Will faculty and/or students be supplied with face coverings at the start of the semester? 

    Faculty and students will be given two cloth face coverings.  Faculty will receive two in the “return to work” packages prepared by HR.  The deans and department chairs are responsible for letting HR know how many they need and when they need them.  The design of these face coverings is to make them easy to wear.  Student Affairs ordered face coverings for students to receive upon their return to campus.  

    Will extra face coverings be supplied to instructors for students who come to class without a face covering?

    Facilities ordered a supply of face coverings to distribute to the classroom buildings so that it will be possible to get a face covering for a student who comes to class without one.

  • Classrooms: Hygiene and Air Circulation

    Will classrooms be cleaned in between classes?

    Custodial Services is expanding cleaning capacity by contracting out overnight routine cleaning functions with the aspiration of cleaning all classrooms between classes.  The contracted services will enable a reallocation of custodial staff to shift resources during classroom instruction times.  Please note, the classroom schedule and staffing assignments will dictate the final cleaning schedule.

    Will faculty be supplied with cleaning supplies?

    As more faculty and staff are returning to campus, we want to remind them that Facilities cleaning staff is still conducting touch-point cleaning. This involves using approved disinfectants at least once daily on high-touch surfaces including light switches, door knobs/handles, interior handrails, elevator buttons, ATM machines, vending machines, common-area furniture and common area computer lab keyboards, conference room tables, classroom tables, and desks.  

    Cleaning staff are continuing to place a placard on the doors of all classrooms, conference rooms, and offices when they have been cleaned. If a faculty or staff member uses a room that is marked with a "clean" placard, they should remove the notice so that custodial staff know to clean the space. 

    Employees should maintain the cleanliness of their own personal offices/spaces by cleaning their own desks and personal computer keyboards. They are also asked to be respectful of their coworkers by cleaning up after themselves in shared commonly used spaces such as kitchens and copier/print rooms. Facilities will provide disinfectant for common use in these spaces. 

    Employees are asked to please return the products promptly to the common areas after cleaning personal spaces. The items are in short supply and the University is unable to procure enough for each person to have their own personal products in their work space. To request refills on cleaning products, please submit a routine request to Facilities. 

    Will provisions be made to improve air filtration and ventilation of classrooms and offices? (UPDATED: 8/13/20)

    Please refer to this article for some of the steps that the University is taking to improve the air quality of our classrooms.  

  • Policies: Attendance, DSS and Technology


    If a class is structured so that students attend on alternate days, will students who choose to attend remotely on an “in person” day be in violation of the attendance policy? Conversely, will students who attend in person on a “remote” day be in violation of the attendance policy?

    We are aware that attendance policies are going to be complicated by using blended modality and online learning.  We know attendance and participation in class is critical to learning and that we have attendance policies for a reason.  In general, we may need to adopt new ideas of what attendance and participation looks like - it might mean answering a discussion board question in an asynchronous class or participating in a chat or poll during a synchronous class.

    Room capacity issues may also be tight for some classes, and it might not be possible for students to switch around what they are doing from day to day.  Too few coming for “in person” class days might be difficult in a different way than too many showing up on a given day, since one is pedagogically difficult and the other prompts concerns for health and safety.  Both could take away from the value of the classroom experience.

    We believe this decision is rightly in the hands of the instructor.  For it to work in everyone’s best interests, the best recommendation for managing this type of issue is clear communication of expectations.  If in your class attending remotely on an “in person” day without notification of a valid reason (student illness, need to self-isolate or self-quarantine) will result in missed points, that should be clearly written on your syllabus.  Your class policy for attending on a “remote” day should also be clearly written on your syllabus. 

    If classes are recorded, can a student who has been given permission to attend online complete a course asynchronously? 

    Instructors may require synchronous attendance for remote learners, as best practice for hybrid learning includes the integration of in-person and remote learners in synchronous activities. Asynchronous content may of course be provided to both cohorts of students as part of the instructional design of the course. 

    At times, students might need to ask for the option to participate in the class in an asynchronous manner.  For instance, it might be necessary for some students to complete a course asynchronously if they become ill or if they are self-isolated at home and have connectivity issues.  Students may also indicate that they are having issues with synchronous attendance due to time zone issues.  If this occurs, you can make a referral to the Dean of Students office, the Center for Academic Success Advisor, or the Faculty Advisor to make sure the student is getting the support they need to complete the class.  You can do that through email or

    What if a student contacts me to say they are going to miss the first weeks of class beyond the two week quarantine?

    All first year students who are on campus will be required to quarantine for the first two weeks and will not be able to physically attend class until September 8.  As such, all classes for the first two weeks should be delivered using an online modality.  If a student is going to miss more than the two weeks of classes, it might be appropriate to allow them to participate remotely and to contact the Dean of Students office.

    Disability Support Services (UPDATED: 8/19/20)

    Am I still required to provide students with disabilities with accommodations if my class is online or hybrid/blended?

    Students who present faculty a current letter of accommodation will continue to receive approved accommodations no matter the format of the course (e.g. hybrid, online, blended). DSS will continue to work with faculty to ensure that accommodations are met, including testing accommodations. If faculty or students have questions or concerns about accommodations, please contact DSS immediately. Please see DSS's FAQ for further information. 

    How will I know if a student in my class has an accommodation?

    Students will be emailing their instructors a PDF of their letter of accommodation.  Please be prepared to schedule a ZOOM meeting to discuss the letter with the student.

    How will a student get accommodations for tests?

    Please remember that all testing for Fall 2020 will be conducted virtually. DSS will not host any in-person testing. Therefore, please note the updated Accommodated Testing Process: For students who request testing accommodations on a specific test, DSS will email instructors when a formal test request is made and work with instructors to ensure testing accommodations are in place. Instructors should extend time for each individual test and contact DSS if there are questions or issues. DSS will confirm testing accommodations in Blackboard, Respondus, and ExamSoft.

    Do I need to do anything to make sure my course is accessible?

    Please work to make your course materials accessible and navigable for students. DSS presented on accommodations in Fall 2020 and best practices for accessibility. The recording is available on the CTE website. 

    Technology Use

    What is the university doing to provide adequate support for instruction in these new modalities?

    Technology Services is increasing the number of professional staff available to provide support for both existing and new technology in the classrooms. There will be synchronous training available this summer, which will also be recorded for reference later.   Service desk staff will continue to provide on-demand classroom support as a priority, and additional technology is being installed in classrooms to allow for enhanced remote issue resolution.  This is intended both to reduce the delay in addressing issues and to allow off-site staff to provide immediate assistance.  Technology Service tickets for technology support can be submitted at any time.

    If instruction is hybrid, will students be required to bring laptops to class? 

    Instructors should feel free to set the technology policy for each class. Individual instructors could require students to bring technology to class if necessary for pedagogical purposes, for example, to enable the use of interactive features such as polling and Kahoot.  Hybrid learning can be enhanced if students are able to be on zoom from in class to participate in the chat with students who are attending remotely.

    Will students who are learning remotely be required to turn their cameras on?

    We have learned a significant amount about synchronous online learning since the spring semester.  We know we like to see the faces of our students while we are teaching; we know students like to see us teach and watch their peers.  We all like to see the various cats and dogs that pop up on the screen.  As such, it is acceptable for it to be a class policy that students should have their cameras on when possible.  

    However, students should be allowed to turn their cameras off for periods of time as needed during a class.  Faculty should also be willing to be accommodating if a student expresses an inability to keep a camera on for the class as we need to be sensitive to the fact that students may be in crowded living situations with parents and siblings wandering through; they may have broadband issues and be unable to stream camera and audio simultaneously; and they may simply be experiencing Zoom fatigue and need the camera off for a few minutes. It should be possible to establish a norm of leaving the camera on with breaks only as needed.

    How is the university helping faculty teaching remotely with their instructional technology needs and expenses?

    The Provost’s Office purchased 42 loaner laptops in the spring.  Interested faculty should submit their requests to their deans who in turn will work with the Provost’s Office to prioritize the requests since there are a limited number of laptops still available.  Faculty members also can use their campus offices and university classrooms as assigned.  It is also possible that faculty can use classrooms while not in use for other classes and other university facilities to produce and deliver content remotely, but this might involve coordination with Facilities for the extra cleaning that would be necessary. 

    For other technology requests, to support remote teaching in faculty offices or other locations, you would need to work with your dean who may be able to assist with your technology needs.

  • Training for Faculty

    Will training on the new technology that is being installed in campus classrooms be available? Will it be mandatory? In what format will it be delivered?

    We are excited for faculty to start using the new technology in the Enrollment Services classrooms.  Training is scheduled to begin in August before classes start.  Synchronous, virtual sessions will be available for faculty who wish to begin thinking of how they might use this technology for their classes in the fall.  This training will be mandatory.  Sessions will be recorded for faculty who are unable to attend “live.”  These will be posted to the Center for Teaching Excellence’s website.

    Will training in best practices for blended/hybrid learning be available? Will it be mandatory?

    The Center for Teaching Excellence’s website has resources on blended/hybrid learning, including recordings of the summer training sessions. Synchronous, virtual sessions were held in July and August; the full training schedule can be found on the website. Participating in this training is encouraged, but is not mandatory. One-on-one sessions are also available for instructors who would like extra assistance, or feedback on their syllabi. Send an email to to schedule an appointment.

    Will training be provided on Blackboard and using the new syllabus template?

    One of our Instructional Continuity summer projects was developing a new template for all courses in Blackboard. This serves the function of standardizing the course experience so students will know where to find different course components.   For instance, as part of this effort, the syllabus template has been incorporated into Blackboard so that instructors will have university content already built in and then can add course specific content.  This syllabus can then be downloaded as a pdt to then be uploaded to the syllabus manager.  Fall courses are now available in Blackboard to start preparing. 

    Training is ongoing.  Synchronous, virtual sessions will be available for faculty who wish to begin updating their courses in Blackboard.  Sessions will be recorded for faculty who are unable to attend “live.”  These will be posted to the Center for Teaching Excellence’s website.  Participating in this training is encouraged, but is not mandatory.

  • Academic Services: Libraries


    Will the library be open on a regular schedule?

    We are planning for Mullen Library to be open during the fall semester with a reduced schedule and with limited onsite services.

    Will occupancy of the library be capped at a certain number?

    Seating will be greatly reduced in Mullen Library. At this time we do not anticipate needing to enforce a fixed occupancy limit, however, in conversation with Facilities, we continue to explore options to ensure safe physical distancing. In order to support those unable to come into Mullen through the fall semester, we are planning to continue: curbside pickup of materials, digitization of print materials on demand, and online instruction and research consultations.