Coronavirus FAQ: Instructors

Answers to COVID-19 questions commonly asked by instructors regarding student absences, grades, international students, and online courses. 

At a state level, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan have launched a Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148.

Discrimination Helpline: 1-833-454-0148

This helpline reinforces the state’s efforts to protect the civil rights of Minnesotans. It allows those who experience or witness bias and discrimination to report incidents to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

The creation of the Discrimination Helpline comes at a time when there's continued reports from Asian American community members who are experiencing heightened fear and backlash due to COVID-19. One of the disconcerting aspects of the COVID-19 crisis is the continued rise of xenophobia and racism. 

Every Minnesotan can call the Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148 or complete and submit the Discrimination Reporting online form. The helpline is staffed Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Interpreters are available. 

Translation services are available and information about the helpline is available in 17 different languages

As this situation continues to rapidly evolve, fears tend to rise to the highest level, which may influence how people perceive and treat others. We are committed to an environment free of discrimination and to ensuring that all members of our community conduct themselves with integrity and respect, as per our Core Values.

Please remember to treat others kindly and respectfully and do not make assumptions about COVID-19 exposure or other discriminatory comments based on perceived race, color or ethnic origins. It is important to be informed of accurate information and not rely on rumors or speculation that leads to misinformation. You are encouraged to review the FAQs listed here, as well as the Helpful Resources, to obtain the most accurate information.

Everyone understands moving in-person courses online is neither simple nor ideal. This is an unprecedented situation. The fact is that if we must forego in-person classes, this is the best we can do for our students as we deal with a serious public health crisis.

Please remember that your students are undergoing this change, too. Be patient with them and communicate often, even if it’s just to cheer them on or remind them that you are still available online to answer questions during your office hours.

We are working with academic deans and departments to identify alternate educational experiences that can help students meet the course learning outcomes.

Please be patient. If you have ideas for solutions, please send them to

If you are unsure how to design an online course to meet your student's needs, please talk to the staff at Accessibility Resources or the IT Solutions instructional designers

If you can extend due dates or if one or more assignments can be adapted into a different form for a shorter time frame, please consider doing so.

Many of our faculty will normally request proof of illness in order to take a make-up exam, particularly in large enrollment classes.

It is reasonable for faculty to want confirmation that students have "valid" reasons for absences, but we would not recommend that faculty require documentation for absences for the next few weeks. Here are two expected scenarios:

Scenario 1:
If a student does have COVID-19, the recommended procedure is to call the health care provider first so the provider can prepare space and staff. But until that is widely understood, the likely outcome is people just showing up at clinics and potentially infecting others.

Scenario 2:
If a student goes to a clinic for documentation and is diagnosed with common cold or seasonal flu rather than COVID-19, they will be using time and human resources that should be focused on people who are sick.

We understand the challenge this will create for instructors, particularly those with large enrollment classes, but patience and empathy are the two most important qualities we need right now. Of course, the final decision about course attendance policies rests with the instructor unless department-level policies exist.

Brooke Burk, the new Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and the instructional designers in the Center for Excellence and Innovation (ML 88) can help faculty imagine and create ways to accommodate students who are ill this semester.

Students are counting not only on the knowledge, skills, and abilities your course offers but also on the academic credit to make progress toward their degrees, maintain their academic standing, and maintain their financial aid eligibility.

If a student becomes ill and is unable to complete the course by the end of the term, they may be eligible for an incomplete. According to the University's Grading Policy, the grade of “Incomplete” is reserved for special cases and means that, because of extenuating circumstances, the student failed to meet an important requirement of the course but has in other respects done passing work for the semester.

The coursework must be completed no later than the end of the Fall 2020 semester, but the instructor may require an earlier deadline based on the individual's situation. The terms of completion must be defined in an Incomplete contract, which is signed by the instructor and student.

A grade if In Progress (IP) is not appropriate for this situation. Instructors may assign the grade of “IP” to students whose work is still in progress at the end of a term because the course, by design or by arrangement prior to registration, requires more than one term to complete all assignments.

More information is available on the Registrar's website.

If you believe your course is an exception, please consult your academic dean.

The University is required to provide SEVP notice of which programs/classes will be affected.