FAQ for Faculty About Remote Teaching

Emergency Sat (SEM)/ Emergency Unsat (UEM)

Why are we switching to Emergency Sat/ Emergency Unsat?

Dean Claudine Gay's letter to faculty explains our reasoning. "Emergency Grading Policy — Dean Claudine Gay," https://www.fas.harvard.edu/fas-coronavirus-updates

How should I assess students this semester?

You should make clear to your students the expectations they must meet in order to earn an Emergency Sat, and you should continue responding to papers, problem sets, and all other assignments. (You're still free to assign grades to these, or you could use an alternate form of feedback). You should also record brief qualitative feedback about each student at the semester's end, for the use of the student's adviser and resident dean.

Additional guidance on assessment can be found here:

OUE Guidance on Emergency Sat (SEM)/Emergency Unsat (UEM)


What kind of qualitative feedback is useful at semester's end?

The feedback doesn't need to be very extensive, but it would be helpful if you could provide the student's advisers with information along the following lines:

  • What course(s) would this student be prepared to take next semester?
  • What is the student’s proficiency with key concepts and skills that will be required for progress in subsequent courses?
  • What material may require refreshing before subsequent courses?
  • What would you want instructors of future courses to know about this student’s skills/performance?

How can I record this qualitative feedback?

There are three ways to enter the feedback. Here is guidance from the Registrar's Office.

What will the consequences of this be for our students?

Your students may be wondering what this grading system means for their transcripts, for honors, for their applications to fellowships and professional schools. Please refer them to the College FAQs.

Will honors theses be graded Emergency Sat/ Emergency Unsat?

No. Since honors theses reflect work that was done entirely or almost entirely before COVID-19 hit, they will continue to be graded cum/magna/summa this semester. 

Will my qualitative feedback appear on a student's transcript?

No. That feedback will be kept in the my.harvard system, where it will be visible to advisers and resident deans. Students may request access to this feedback as well.

Is it possible for students to receive letter grades this term?

No. As Dean Gay explained in her message on March 27, 2020, we are instituting Emergency Sat/ Emergency Unsat grading out of a commitment to equity. Instructors have come to feel that they cannot assign grades equitably, given the radically different circumstances students find themselves in.


We cannot make the usual comparisons in the midst of a global pandemic, and the shift to an alternative grading scheme reflects the enormity of our current situation.


We remain committed to student choice, but we recognize that this is not a situation in which all students truly have the freedom to choose. Some students are able to continue doing their best work, at least for now, but other students cannot, because of circumstances beyond their control. Were we to permit students to opt-in or opt-out of P/F grading, students who find themselves in very challenging situations would have no choice but to shift to P/F--and they would suffer in comparison to their peers as a result. A mandatory SEM/ UEM system is the only way to treat all students equitably.

Does SEM/UEM include Pass/Fail courses students were taking?

Yes, the shift to universal Emergency SAT/Emergency Unsat includes Pass/Fail courses students were taking this term. If this shift puts a student in danger of earning a UEM, please give that student opportunities to earn an SEM instead.

We understand that many of you are concerned about students currently registered to take classes P/F who may be in danger of not meeting the requirements for SEM.  So are we.    It is very important for faculty to check the progress of students who had planned to take their courses pass/fail.  Some of those students may be on track to earn a D, which would have been enough to earn a Pass, but would not, ordinarily, be enough to earn a SAT (which is the equivalent of C- or better). 

Grading, Deadlines, and other Academic Policies

What about final assessments?

The dates of reading period and exam period will remain unchanged. You should not plan to teach during reading period. All final assessments should be complete by the end of exam period. If you do plan to give a scheduled final exam, please adhere to your assigned exam window. If you are giving a take-home final exam, we suggest using a 24-hour exam window that corresponds to your assigned exam date.

Can we extend the semester's end?

The final day of the semester is still May 16.  That date is set by the university and is not in our power to adjust. 

What about students who fall ill and need extensions?

The EPC approved an extension of time policy to establish a way for students who become ill or have challenges completing their coursework this semester because of COVID-19 to petition the Ad Board for an extension of time up until July 1 to complete required coursework. In cases where the Ad Board has in advance granted an extension of time, a temporary notation of EXT will be made. EXT is a temporary notation; a final grade of SEM or UEM must be given upon the expiration of the extension.

You may grant an extensions of time for all work and forms of assessment, including take-home exams, through May 16. The Administrative Board will grant extensions through July 1 for students who cannot complete work by May 16. The Registrar’s Office will notify faculty about any students in their course who have been granted the extension through July 1. Questions about extensions should be directed to adboard@fas.harvard.edu or the student’s Resident Dean.

Can we be flexible with our deadlines?

The transition to remote teaching may well require that you adjust various deadlines within your course, and you are certainly free to do so.  Please make sure your students are aware of any changes. At the same time, the transition to remote learning may well be posing real challenges for some of your students.  We’d encourage you to be as flexible as you can, consistent with the goals of the course, in adjusting deadlines for those students. 

Are we still following the same schedule for honors and Hoopes?

The Hoopes deadline has been extended by a week.  https://prizes.fas.harvard.edu/hoopes-prize. As for other deadlines, the Educational Policy Committee will work with the Registrar’s Office to see how flexible we can be, given that the semester must still end on 16 May. 

How should we grade year-long courses?

After weighing the benefits of making this either entirely a matter of student or faculty choice or having a uniform policy, the EPC decided that spring 2020 courses will be divided with credit, which means that faculty will assign a grade for fall semester and either SEM or UEM for the spring semester.  If an instructor feels that this solution is not appropriate to their course, they should contact the OUE.  That way, we can talk them through the options.

For those courses currently graded SAT/UNSAT in the fall, and Letter Graded in the spring, faculty are asked to divide these courses with credit, assigning a letter grade to the fall term and either SEM or UEM for the spring term. If a student finished only the first half of the course, there is no need to change the fall grade from SAT/UNSAT. You will find instructions detailing how to change a student’s grade in my.harvard by visiting this link. If you have further technical questions, you may wish to follow up with the Registrar’s Office by emailing enrollment@fas.harvard.edu.




What support is available to help me teach remotely?

Start with the OUE guidance, the Bok Center resources, or the university-wide resources. We recorded some of the pedagogy sessions that we held over spring break, and you can access them here.  

  • If you have technological questions, you can find answers here.   

  • If you’d like a volunteer to “ride along” with your course, to manage the Zoom and troubleshoot minor tech challenges, you can ask for one here.  

  • If you’d like to consult with a pedagogy expert at the Bok Center, you can contact them here.  

  • And we’d be grateful if you could tell us about your experiences teaching remotely, so that we can see what other guidance and support might be useful to you.  


What if I need additional technology?

The FAS has limited funds to support purchase of new technology that teaching staff can borrow. Before you seek new hardware, we encourage you to think carefully about whether you can achieve your teaching and learning goal either by redesigning a class activity or by using the technology available. We’re happy to consult with you about that (instruct@fas.harvard.edu).  

If a specific technology would greatly improve the quality of the teaching and learning experience, start by seeking local resources from your department or your division. If the department or division cannot provide the technology you need, email instruct@fas.harvard.edu with your request. All technology purchased to facilitate online teaching will be offered on loan and must be returned to FAS once regular on-campus teaching resumes.    


What about MPC video and audio production resources?

Looking and Sounding Your Best on a Webcam: A new resource created by the Media Production Center (MPC) to help instructors record from their homes. Instructors can work with the MPC to make improvements, assemble post-production packages, and more. The MPC provides video and audio production services in support of teaching and learning, outreach, and research at Harvard. They work with faculty and their students, administrators, departments, and staff across the University to create instructional, training, and promotional videos, podcasts, musical recordings, livestreams, arts and musical performance documentation, and course capstone projects.

How do I teach across multiple time zones?

You are free to move your class time, if doing so would make it possible for more students to engage with your course. (Just check to make sure you’re not causing new conflicts with other courses!) Please record your classes for the sake of students who can’t watch them live, and please make sure that there are other opportunities for those students to engage with teaching staff and their classmates in real time. Reassure these students that they are still very much part of the course.  

Please be mindful of the additional challenges that your students in distant locations will have in participating in your course activities. Your assessment of participation, in particular, should be adjusted to take into account individual student circumstances so that grading is equitable for all students.   

See our advice and options for managing students in multiple time zones.


Am I permitted to record my classes?

Yes.  This is an individual faculty decision, but there are many good reasons to record courses, and it is one important way to provide access to students in different time zones or with other challenges with remote learning at home.  Please see the following guidance from Harvard’s Office of the General Counsel on ensuring that your recordings remain within the Harvard community:  



Do TF appointments continue?

TF/ TA/ CA appointments all continue. TFs/ TAs/ and CAs should be not asked to take on substantial additional time commitments, although they may be asked to do different kinds of work, as the circumstances require.

What about library research?

The library has resources for students doing research remotely: https://library.harvard.edu/how-to/remote-learning. And faculty and students with specific questions should write to Ask a Librarian https://library.harvard.edu/services-tools/ask-librarian

Will Q evaluations be administered this semester?

We recognize that this is a highly unusual semester and that instructors have shifted to entirely new modes of teaching with very little notice. We will nonetheless continue to administer course evaluations this semester, to maintain academic continuity and to provide feedback to instructors on their teaching. However, the questions will be streamlined and modified, as will guidelines for how results should be interpreted and shared.    

Can I still give an exam in my class?

We recommend that you adapt all closed-book exams to be open-book or take-home exams instead. Or alternatively, that you replace them with a paper or project final assignment. If your course needs a closed-book exam, see our advice and options for proctoring a closed-book exam using Canvas and Zoom.   

Is the Honor Code still in effect?

Yes. It’s important that you remind students in writing that take-home exams are formal assessments and that academic integrity on exams is a fundamental academic standard that the College takes very seriously, whether or not the exams are proctored.  Faculty should:  

  1. Include specific language on take-home exams that make clear that the assignment is a “formal assessment and that academic integrity on exams of any form is a fundamental academic standard that the College takes very seriously”;  
  2. Reinforce/ forward take-home exam instructions for each day the exam is open;  
  3. Include the Honor Code affirmation (provided below*) on all assessments for the remainder of the term; faculty are welcome to edit the affirmation as they see fit;  
  4. Be as specific as possible in their instructions to students about what resources they are expected to use or not use in taking the exam. 

*Student Affirmation: “I affirm my awareness of the standards of the Harvard College Honor Code.”   


Supporting Students

Is peer tutoring still available?

Yes. ARC peer tutoring will be available via Zoom by appointment. Students can schedule appointments (up to two hours per week per course) for many courses using the ARC Scheduler. For courses not available through the Scheduler, students can use the Tutor Matcher. Instructions for using these systems are available on the ARC website

What about concentration events for first-year students?

All on campus events have been canceled, but students are encouraged to visit the Advising Programs Office website for more information OR individual websites to learn more about concentrations.

Must first-year students document an advising conversation?

First-year students are encouraged to explore concentrations by visiting concentration websites, but will not need to document the conversation by April 15. Those students who have already attended a Fields of Study session or have spoken with a concentration adviser are encouraged to submit a report as the information is used to match students with a sophomore adviser. More information can be found on the Advising Programs Office website.

What resources are available for students learning remotely?

The Academic Resource Center (ARC) has excellent guidance for students. ARC: https://academicresourcecenter.harvard.edu/learning-remotely. In addition, ARC coaches will be available from 9:00 am until 9:00 pm (ET) to meet with students in a range of time zones.  

What about Summer Internships and Post-Graduate Employment?

It is still too early to tell how COVID-19 will affect summer internships and post-graduate employment. Many employers have been reaching out to the Office of Career Services and to students to say, if necessary, they will offer internships and post-graduate employment virtually. Other employers and organizations are less sure of what they will be able to offer. Students with summer or full-time offers should connect with their contacts at the organization to see what they are thinking. Students still seeking opportunities should make an appointment with an OCS Adviser, through Crimson Careers, to devise a job search strategy. OCS is in the process of communicating with employer partners about the new spring semester grading policy. Students still seeking should know that OCS continues to receive internship and job postings from organizations with opportunities every day.

What about students whose spaces aren't conducive to learning?

Students who told us that they wouldn’t be able to learn at home, whether for lack of internet or challenging family situations, were permitted to stay on campus. Other students, however, are finding it more difficult than they had hoped now that they’re at home.  

We are encouraging students to contact their instructors and their resident deans for help with any obstacles they are facing.  If the obstacles can be addressed with additional funds, the Resident Dean and Financial Aid Office can work with the student. (The Financial Aid Office has and will continue to provide support to aided students, even if they have left campus.)  

If the obstacles can be addressed with adapted assignments, we’d encourage you to be as flexible as you can, consistent with the goals of your course. Please consider adapting assignments so that internet access isn’t necessary. 

Please contact oue@fas.harvard.edu or the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning for support in designing alternative options for students. 

What about students at home without reliable internet?

Several internet providers are taking steps to provide access to internet services for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. If students are unable to access any of these services, they should contact their resident dean. Resident deans know who the students’ financial aid officers (FAO) are and can assist students with contacting their FAO. Students may consider using smartphones with cell connections as a stopgap (when available).  

Students could contact these internet providers for reduced-cost or free internet: 

Students may contact their instructor(s) and ask that the course be adapted so that it can be done without internet. We ask faculty to be as flexible as possible and to please consider adapting assignments so that internet isn’t necessary.  

Are there other ways I can help students in difficult situations

Harvard alums are collecting money for Harvard College students in need, the funds to be administered and distributed by the Financial Aid Office: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/support-for-first-generation-low-income-harvard-students.  

How can I continue to accommodate my students with disabilities?

If your students need new or additional accommodations under these circumstances, or if you’re wondering how to honor an existing accommodation, you should contact the Accessible Education Office at aeo@fas.harvard.edu or 617-496-8707.