Faculty Development

Teaching Policies and Guidance

**This page is from an old version of CSUN's Teaching Toolkit. Find an updated version on the current Teaching Toolkit on Canvas.**

Pencil iconWhat are some of the key policies you should know as you design and facilitate your courses?

We appreciate that reviewing policies may not be the most exciting part of preparing for your class, but knowing and engaging with these guidelines significantly helps all the systems and people at CSUN support our students. Below are some of the more critical policies to know right now, all authored and brought to you by Dr. Elizabeth Adams, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies. 

Zoom, Copyright, Online Proctoring Guidance in the Pandemic Era

Policies aren't typically created fast, although this pandemic is teaching us otherwise. We are all going to discover areas where we need more guidance and leadership and things might change this year as we go along. Since we are all here for the students, now more than ever is a time to really listen to their experience, their needs and overall perspective.

Here are some of the questions emerging, some with policy (must do or don't) and some with guidance (should do or not).

Mandating Web Cameras: Can we require students to have their cameras on during zoom sessions?

CSUN does NOT have a policy that will support that requirement. We have learned there are a long list of reasons, good ones, that students would choose not to turn their cameras on (if they have one at all). We know you want to connect with students, see their facial expressions and emulate your face-to-face environment; please understand that learning online is different. Choose flexibility and get to know your students before putting in place rigid policies in your courses this year.

Surveillance & proctoring tools: Can we require students to purchase and use home surveillance/proctoring tools to prevent cheating?

CSU Chancellor's Office (CO) released a memo providing guidance urging all campuses and faculty to take into consideration:

  • Alternate Assessments
  • Equity
  • Privacy
  • Disability Accommodation

There are growing concerns that the use of surveillance tools, especially in this unique moment, unfairly targets and further marginalizes students. Thus, we recommend not designing your courses to be mostly high-stakes exams (3-5 exams worth most of the final grade) resulting with you spend all your time and energy worried about academic dishonesty. Faculty Development's Teaching Toolkit on promoting academic honestly has resources to help think creatively about exam alternatives.

Recording Live Sessions: Can we record our Zoom sessions & post this in our Canvas course?

In short yes. But this document from the Chancellor's Office of the CSU provides guidance on this exact issue and more.

For instance, what happens if a student do not give their permission to be recorded? Choose flexibility. Work with that student to find a creative accommodation to meet their need (e.g., they don't turn on their camera; they aren't penalized for not contributing in the chat).

Copyright & Fair Use: Can I copy my entire book and give it to my students? What about movies/videos, images, and other "stuff" I want students to have access to?

This document from the Chancellor's Office of the CSU Actions provides guidance on these questions and 11 more.

What is the pandemic teaching us?

Faculty Development has been facilitating workshops and programs since the moment this pandemic began. We've been asking faculty to share what they have learned, especially when it comes to the silver lining unexpected positives. We don't have policies for these beautiful reflections, but they are worth mentioning and spreading:

  • Choose flexibility instead of being so controlling
  • Be more compassionate and humanistic
  • Ask students what's going on, and choose to believe them
  • Maybe it's okay to turn in assignments after the due date
  • Learning how to teach online is going to improve my face-to-face classes
  • I actually like teaching online

Student Attendance, Adding, and Dropping Classes

Students Adding Classes
  • As soon as the semester begins, students will start asking you if they can “add” your class.  The waitlist and online registration process works during the first week of classes.  If you give out permission numbers, you may over enroll your class.
  • Starting in week 2 (through week 4), you may give out permission numbers.  This is entirely at your discretion.  If students tell you that “need” your class, it may be worth checking with your department chair or associate dean to confirm the request. Students receiving permission numbers must go online to SOLAR in order to “add” their classes.  Adding a class is not your responsibility; it is the student’s  Issuing a Permission Number does not mean the student has been added to your class; the student has to complete the transaction.
  • You should take roll in some way.  You can check Canvas logins to your classes.  In smaller classes meeting on zoom, you may want to “call” roll the way you would have in a face to face class.  Students should be automatically enrolled in your Canvas site if they are enrolled in the class.  If they don’t have access, suggest that they check their portal for their enrollment status.
  • If students do not "attend" the first two meetings of a course that meets more than once a week, or miss the first meeting of a class that meets only once a week, they lose the right to remain in the class unless they have notified you of their absence prior to class. If there has been no notice, you may issue another student a permission number for the space.  Students who do not show up are still responsible for dropping classes even if you have given the space away.  You do not have to allow students to stay in class if they arrive after the first two meetings and haven’t notified you of the reason for their late arrival.  You do have discretion here, but if you give a seat away and then don’t insist that the absent student drop, you’ll be over-enrolled. As with many things for Fall 2020, the distance nature of teaching complicates this issue.  Best practice would be to have a standard way (communicated via the syllabus) of marking presence and then follow it.
  • If students come to you after September 18 and ask you to “add” them because they just learned they are not on your roster, you should not comply unless you believe there is a compelling reason to do so AND you think the student can pass the class.   It is the student’s responsibility to check the status of their enrollment well before Census Day.  Enrollment matters need to be settled by September 18. Do not feel guilty. One thing to know is that allowing students to add or drop after September 18 is, ultimately, the purview of undergraduate and graduate studies (Fall 2020) and the associate deans (Spring 2021).  Your decision to sign the form that allows them to add or drop late may be overruled.  
Students Dropping Classes
  • Because the University wants students to drop unwanted classes early so other students can take their places, it is easier to drop classes than to add them.  Thus, students can drop one or all of their classes on SOLAR without any approval up to September 18 in Fall 2020. Please urge them to drop early so other students, waiting for class openings, can enroll.
  • After September 18, students may drop only by filing a Late Change of Schedule requests with undergraduate and graduate studies (Fall 2020) and your associate dean (Spring 2021).  Like adds, students must obtain your permission before “dropping,” (via email) so you have notice of their intention to change their schedule.  You’ll also be asked the last date of attendance of the student.  Try your best to give this information (Canvas logins can be used as a proxy).  You’ll also be asked if the student is passing the class. Late drops are granted only for serious and compelling reasons.  Please never tell students that your signature will allow them to drop classes after deadlines.  Some late withdrawals are medical in nature.  You’re not being asked to judge the medical circumstances even if the student chooses to disclose the nature of the request to you.
  • Other than students losing the right to remain in class if they are absent without notice from the first two class meetings, (see adding section, above), the Faculty Senate has not enacted official attendance policies. Professors define excess absences in differing ways.  Some lower student grades for excess missed classes or assignments and others impose other sanctions. Get some advice from colleagues on setting and enforcing attendance policy. You should include your attendance policy on the syllabus.
  • If students miss classes while representing the University in official curriculum-related, University-approved activities, (e.g. athletics or drama/music performances), you are expected to provide, within reason, opportunities to make up any work or exams that are missed. Students are expected to supply details and written documentation signed by the supervisor of the activity. You should receive this information from the student either the first week of class or as soon as the information becomes available.  Athletes will ask you to sign a form acknowledging receipt of athletic schedule information.  Likely, this will not be happening much, if at all, in Fall 2020, but it’s good to know for the future.
  • CSUN policy forbids the imposition of penalties on students who miss examinations as a result of religious holidays.  Faculty must administer tests at alternate times that would not violate students’ religious creeds.  Faculty also are encouraged to make alternate arrangements for the submission or completion of course work that is due on religious holidays. 

Office Hours, Advising and Mentoring Students

Office Hours: The Liminality of the State University Office
  • You need to have office hours. It’s a thing. Yes, even in virtual land. The number of office hours you are required to hold will vary with the number of units you teach and your department’s policies. Office hours should be listed on syllabi, and submitted to department offices for posting and inclusion on websites.
  • Students (even those who have been here a while) don’t understand what office hours are for. They think you’re working and don’t want to bother you. They think you’re scary. Some faculty are starting to rename this to "Student Hours." Not sure if that's working, so try to make the students feel welcome; share your expectations of the conversations you are up for in office hours; and mostly don’t be scary.
  • If a student requests that a parent, guardian or other party participate in your online office hours, please be aware that you are not allowed to speak with anyone but the student about his or her academic career without first obtaining a signed release from the student. This regulation is part of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974. FERPA rules apply even if the student is younger than 18 (not unusual for freshmen) and even if the parent is paying the student’ educational costs.
Advising & Mentoring
  • CSUN has a terrific team of professional staff advisors throughout the campus. We have a center called the Matador Advising Hub (or just The Hub) for incoming first-time freshmen. New transfer students are advised either in the Student Services Center/EOP offices in the colleges (sometimes called “the satellites”), by department advisors, or in the Advising Resource Center/EOP. All advising for Fall 2020 is done remotely.
  • These advisors are largely responsible for making sure that students are registered in the right classes to keep them on track to graduation, know the rules around majors, minors, general education, and all the other pieces they need to move forward toward their degrees.
  • The satellite offices also serve students in our Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). Established in 1969 by legislative mandate, EOP supports highly motivated, low-income, first-generation college students and provides them with modest grants and opportunities to participate in several highly successful high school-to-college transition programs.
  • Students will, of course, also seek you out for advice and guidance. Unless you’re just desperate for new things to learn, you probably don’t want to commit our GE plan to memory. It may be helpful, however, to know where the courses you’re teaching fit into a student’s degree. Are they electives? GE courses (in which case they won’t have many if any of your own majors), major courses, graduate classes? Students may also ask you about what they can do with the major or whether graduate school is right for them. Being open and inviting of those conversations is really important to student success.
  • Mentorship is critically important to student success. Please be there for your students in that way. But, also don’t be hesitant to refer them to an advisor if they ask a technical question about GPA calculation, applying for graduation, or the like!


Making (and Keeping) the Grade
  • The University uses A through F letter grades that adhere to traditional meanings of A for Outstanding, B for Very Good, C for Average, D for Barely Passing and F for Failure. Plus and minus are optional and left to the discretion of the instructor, but you must state which mode (using plus/minus or not) you will use in class on the syllabus. Each faculty member determines his or her own grading criteria.
  • A maximum of 18 CSUN units may be taken Credit/No Credit, but this grading option is not allowed for courses in General Education, the major or the minor. Announce these grading policies in class and put them on your syllabus.
  • In general, the University requires faculty members to keep students’ academic materials from one semester until the end of the first week of the parallel semester one year later. To be safe, we recommend that you keep final exams and other written and/or electronic materials which you do not return to students and which contribute to students’ final grades, until one week into Fall 2021. After that, you should destroy these materials.
  • All final grades must be submitted online, through the SOLAR grade roster on the faculty portal by the deadline set by the University (e.g., for Fall 2020: December 23, 2020). Failure to meet this deadline impacts the entire University since student records cannot be processed until all grades are entered.
Incomplete “I” Grades: For Exceptional, Late-Occurring Events
  • Grades of Incomplete or “I” only should be given in the rare instance when the student is passing the class but a small portion of the required coursework has not been completed and evaluated during the regular semester. The remaining assignments should be of such a nature that they can be completed independently. You may give an “I” grade for reasons that you determine are serious and unforeseen. You should not volunteer to give an Incomplete, although a student looking for a late drop might be counseled to consider an Incomplete.
  • Incomplete forms are available at http://www.csun.edu/anr/forms/ by scrolling down the alphabetical listing to “Incomplete Requests.” Upon learning of circumstances that warrant an Incomplete, the instructor and student both should complete and sign a “Request for an Incomplete” form, including the time frame by which the “I” must be completed. This time may be one semester or one year.
  • When you enter your grades in SOLAR at the end of the semester, you need to include the details of the Incomplete contract you construct with the student. A tutorial on how to do this can be found at: http://www.csun.edu/anr/soc/guides/incomplete.html.
  • If the outstanding work described on the form is not completed precisely within this time frame and submitted by the instructor, the “I” grade will be replaced by a grade of “IC” (incomplete charged) which is counted as an F and no late Changes in Grade will be approved by Undergraduate Studies.