Teaching Policies and Guidelines for Fall 2023

The purpose of this web page is to remind you of key policies and recommended practices for your course(s) this coming semester. We have collected these policies and recommendations in a single document for easy access and referral. We hope you will consider incorporating the relevant points into your course’s syllabus and, if you have not already done so, adopting the practices of making your syllabus publicly available on the web.

For full details on all academic policies and procedures, please see the e-catalogue.

Please let us know if you have any questions about these matters, or if you have suggestions about other issues that should be addressed in similar communications. Many thanks for all that you do to support the University’s teaching mission at such a high level of excellence.

Michael Falk, Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education, Whiting School of Engineering

Sri Sarma, Vice Dean for Graduate Education and Lifelong Learning, Whiting School of Engineering

Expectations regarding recording lecture content and alternative formats (WSE only)

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, WSE students have benefited from the ability to review recorded class lectures that they could not attend in person due to a need to self-isolate or other exigencies. Maximizing the ability for students to learn both inside and outside of the classroom is an important aspect of universal design for learning (UDL), as it benefits all learners and reduces barriers to academic success. Equally important is engaging students in an interactive in-person learning environment. At the recommendation of the WSE Faculty Senate Committee on Technology in the Classroom the Dean’s office requests WSE faculty provide one or more alternative means for students to review the contents of class sessions within 24 hours of the class in which these were delivered. This may be achieved via means other than recording live lectures. Various means for meeting this pedagogical goal are outlined below

Alternative Formats

  • Recorded Live Lectures: Recordings made of lectures using Zoom or other technologies uploaded to Panopto and provided via the Canvas LMS to ensure FERPA compliance. 
  • Curated Recorded Class Lectures: Recorded lectures from a previous semester can be provided if the same content is covered and the audio and visual quality is clear so long as these videos do not contain identifiable information (names, images, voices) of students from prior enrollments.
  • Pre-Recorded Lectures: Pre-recorded lectures using technology that creates high-quality audio and visual (usually a screen recording). These can be created at home, in your office, or using CLDT’s studios. 
  • Lecture Notes: Detailed lecture notes that explain the material covered in class should be accompanied by guidance as to which content is covered in each class session and its relative importance.  
  • Presentation Slides: Presentation slides may be sufficient so long as they provide enough detail for students to understand the content and context, otherwise they should be supplemented by lecture audio recordings or transcriptions. There is useful related information at these websites: 
  • Textbooks: Where a textbooks or other published sources are required and followed by the instructor, these should be supplemented by a guide that clearly communicates the content covered in each class session, where it can be found in the texts, and its relative importance. 

To help address concerns about student attendance at in-person class sessions, the Committee recommends that all faculty consider incorporating best practices for in-person engagement into their classes. The appendix to this document lists established best practices for creating an engaging classroom experience. If instructors need support creating any of the alternative formats or assistance implementing teaching strategies, please contact the Center for Learning Design & Technology.  

Online classes: Zoom links and in-person requirements (WSE only)

In limited cases, departments have been authorized by the WSE Dean’s office to produce fully online classes where the online learning modality offers some clear benefit to students. We remind instructors of these courses:  

  • Please be sure to email the Zoom link to all students enrolled in your class.  
  • You may also want to email the Zoom link to students on the waitlist and to those who have expressed interest in potentially adding your class.
  • Online classes may have in-person requirements, for example, instructors may require that students take exams in-person. These requirements should be clearly spelled out in the syllabus, and ideally should be highlighted on the first day of class. 
COVID-19 specific guidance

General information about COVID-19 related policies at the university can be found at this site. The university has instituted vaccination requirements for our community. At present, there is no indoor masking requirement or testing requirement for faculty, staff, or students. We remind you that:

Instructors may not

  • Ask about the vaccination status of any other JHU affiliate. 
  • Be notified of which JHU affiliates are unvaccinated. 
  • Create class-specific policies regarding masking and/or vaccination status. 

FAQs about these policies are available here

As public health considerations, legal considerations, state, and local mandates evolve, the university is responding to these changes while, at all times, focusing on ensuring that we are in compliance with requirements and are doing all we can to protect the health and safety of our community. At the same time, we also are committed to advancing our mission by providing an education of the highest quality and creating knowledge for the benefit of the world. We will continue to update you with the latest information, including providing answers to any questions you have, and greatly appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate all of this in a careful and thoughtful manner.
Please let the appropriate Vice Dean of Education (KSAS undergraduate: Erin Rowe, KSAS graduate: Mary Favret, WSE undergraduate: Michael Falk, WSE graduate: Sridevi Sarma/Christine Kavanagh) know if you have any questions. We are here to talk through any questions/concerns you may have.

Fall Break and Thanksgiving Break

There will be a two-day Fall Break on October 19-20. There will be a Thanksgiving Break November 20-24. We ask that you consider not assigning your students work that must be completed during the break periods. The last day of classes for standard semester courses will be December 8.  

Canvas and the Canvas gradebook

The Canvas learning management system is the official learning management system maintained by the university. Canvas provides many features to help facilitate your course including posting and collecting assignments, sharing content, sharing your syllabus, and communicating announcements to students. If you have not used Canvas, training and help guides are available from the Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation: https://ctei.jhu.edu/canvas 

One simple feature you should strongly consider using is the Gradebook. This allows you and/or your teaching assistant to post grades for assignments and exams. Use of the Canvas Gradebook eliminates the need to keep a separate record, however, the gradebook can be exported as an Excel file if you so need to work in a spreadsheet. Using the Gradebook also allows you to efficiently communicate grades and feedback to students. 

It is possible to calculate final course grades in Canvas and upload them to SIS. (Note that this functionality is not available for combined rosters.) However, faculty should not publish final course grades to students through Canvas before students complete their course evaluations. The Gradebook’s “Total” column is hidden from students by default for this reason. 

Graded work before the drop deadline

The last day a student can drop a Term I class is September 17, 2023. The last day a student can drop a semester-long class is at the end of the sixth full week of classes, October 8, 2023. The last day a student can drop a Term II class is November 12, 2023. It is helpful to students to have a chance to review some graded work before that date so that they can make an informed judgment as to whether or not to drop a course. Specific information about drop dates is available on the registrar’s website.

Audits (not available to undergraduate students)

When a graduate student enrolls in a course with Audit status, they must reach an understanding with the instructor in writing as to what is required to earn the AU grade notation. If the student does not meet those expectations (e.g., fails to attend class), the instructor will notify the Office of the Homewood Registrar in order for the student to be retroactively dropped from the course. Dropped coursework does not appear on the student’s transcript. 

Changing a course registration from Audit (student receives no letter grade) to Credit (student receives letter grade), or from Credit to Audit is permissible during the official deadlines for each semester. Registration changes beyond this deadline are not permissible.

Changing a final grade (A through F, Pass, I, IP, MR, or X) to AU is not permissible at any time. 

The following ASEN Graduate Courses cannot be taken for Audit: 

  • Graduate Research 
  • Dissertation Research 
  • Master’s Thesis 
  • Master’s Essay 
  • Independent Study 

These courses can only be taken as P/F or for a letter grade, at the instructor’s purview. 

Student illness and class attendance

Class attendance is a student responsibility and is expected of all JHU undergraduate students. Occasionally, health, family or personal matters may interfere with their ability to attend class. In this situation, the student is expected to notify their professors as soon as they are able about missing class and discuss how to make up missed class time or assignments. It is the professor’s responsibility to create a policy on how to handle these situations, this should be outlined in the syllabus.

  • “Sick notes” are not provided to students or faculty and students should abide by the honor system when telling you they need to miss class due to a medical issue.  If there are long-term concerns because of a student’s health, Student Outreach & Support (undergraduates) or the Office of Graduate Education and Lifelong Learning/Office of Student Support and Advocacy (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) may be in contact with the faculty to communicate needed support.   
  • Faculty should not ask students to reach out to Student Outreach & Support or the Office of Graduate Education and Lifelong Learning/Office of Student Support and Advocacy (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) for illness verification. However, faculty can certainly refer students to these offices for support because of an illness.  
  • Please review your policies regarding missed classes and work to ensure that students who heed the advice of health professionals are not penalized academically. 
  • If a student reaches out to you and states they are in quarantine/isolation because of COVID, we ask that you take the notification at face value and not seek further validation. 
Anxiety, stress, and mental health (syllabus insert)

JHU has several resources to support students. Many students struggle with stress at times with stress, anxiety, and depression. The Counseling Center has many resources available to students:

In addition, The Johns Hopkins University Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team (BHCST) pairs experienced, compassionate crisis clinicians with specially trained public safety officers on every shift on and around the Homewood campus, seven days a week. The BHCST will provide immediate assistance to those who need it and, just as importantly, link individuals in crisis to ongoing support services in the days and weeks that follow. Call Public Safety, 410-516-5600, and ask for a BHCST clinician. 

If you have concerns about a specific student, please contact: 

  • For emergencies (threat to self or others): 410-516-4600 or 911
  • For on-scene mental health support: BHCST at 410-516-4600 
  • For undergraduates: Student Outreach & Support at 410-516-7857 or  [email protected] (undergraduates) 
  • For KSAS Graduate Students: Renee Eastwood, Assistant Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Academic and Student Affairs
  • For WSE Graduate Students:  Megan Barrett, Assistant Dean for Engineering Student Affairs
Starfish for reporting student progress/difficulty

Starfish is a tool through which you can raise concerns about students experiencing academic or personal challenges. This is an early intervention system that connects the appropriate assigned staff members to a student of concern in order to provide support and resources. Once a connection is made to the student a faculty member can view comments in Starfish to learn if the challenge has been addressed and/or resolved. It is also now the method by which we collect mid-semester reports for undergraduate students. You can access Starfish through Canvas or SIS (when in “advisor” mode) you can also use the Starfish link: https://t.jh.edu/starfish.  For general Starfish help and resources for faculty go to: https://uis.jhu.edu/starfish/ . Please contact Sloane Hanley at [email protected] or Ruth Sherman at [email protected] if you have additional questions.  

Prompt submission of grades

Late grades have implications for students’ financial aid, academic standing, visa status, and graduation. Therefore, it is vital that faculty post their grades promptly. The expectation is that grades will be submitted within 48 hours of the administration of the scheduled final exam time/final project due date (if in lieu of a final exam, etc.). Online grade submission for Term I classes will be available beginning October 24, 2023. Online grade submission for semester-long and Term II classes will be available beginning the last day of classes, Friday, December 8. The grading dates & deadlines for Fall 2023 can be found here: https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/registrar/faculty-staff/

  • We understand that this can be challenging for large courses when their final exam slot falls toward the end of the examination period. If some grades need to be prioritized (for example, for graduating seniors) it is possible to submit some grades through SIS and later, again through SIS, submit grades for other students.  
  • For questions, please use the information found under Request Support at https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/registrar/.
Administration of final examinations

For more information on final exams, please consult the final exam policy in the e-catalog: 

WSE Undergraduate: https://e-catalogue.jhu.edu/engineering/full-time-residential-programs/undergraduate-policies/academic-policies/registration-policies/#examreadingperiodpoliciestext

KSAS Undergraduate: https://e-catalogue.jhu.edu/arts-sciences/full-time-residential-programs/undergraduate-policies/academic-policies/registration-policies/#examreadingperiodtext

The Fall 2023 final exam schedule has been posted at the following link https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/registrar/ under Students –> Schedule of Classes -> Final Exam Schedule. A direct link can be found here: https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/registrar/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2023/08/Fall2023_FinalExamSchedule.pdf

The posted final examination schedule allows the 14-week semester to be used, as intended, for instructional purposes alone, and also gives students adequate time to prepare for examinations.  Instructors are not permitted to make ad hoc arrangements for the administration of final examinations.  Consistent with the recommendation made by the Commission on Undergraduate Education that the policies related to final examinations be reiterated each year, and with the concurrence of the Academic Council, we wish to call your attention to the following guidelines and urge your cooperation: 

  1. The times and places of final examinations are officially scheduled by the University Registrar.  All final examinations are to be administered during the official final examination period at the time prescribed for the course in question.  Students should not be polled as to their willingness to change the time of the scheduled examination. Exams scheduled outside the formal schedule inevitably conflict with other examinations or other obligations.  
  1. The reading period was established so that students could have several days free of other obligations in order to prepare for their examinations. Please keep those days clear for that purpose. No final examinations are to be administered during the reading period. 
  1. While faculty have the discretion to schedule quizzes, mid-term examinations, and hourly examinations (including tests that they may regard as comprehensive) during any class period of the regular semester, the practice of scheduling a formal final examination for the last class period violates both the letter and the spirit of the final examination policy.  It compromises the length of the semester for instructional purposes and limits the ability of students to prepare adequately. 
  1. Any take-home final examination can be due no earlier than the time of the regularly scheduled final examination.  Faculty members sometimes substitute other academic exercises for a final examination.  When assigned as a final exercise, with the expectation that the student will prepare for the assignment and complete the assignment after classes have concluded, such substitutes for examinations should be treated as final examinations and be due on the course’s scheduled examination date.  While faculty members retain the discretion to assign appropriate due dates for papers and projects, it is inappropriate to structure a course so that assignments must be completed during the reading period. 
  1. If weather necessitates the cancellation of final examinations, make-up examinations must be administered only within the formal examination schedule. 
  1. Faculty members who have other imperative professional obligations that require some adjustment to the final examination schedule should confer no later than September 8, 2023, with the respective Vice Dean for Education. 
  1. Students find it extremely helpful when a course syllabus describes all the requirements for a course, including the date of the final examination and weight to be accorded it, in addition to the course description and goals, reading assignments, grading policies, contact information, and office hours, and the ethics insert that we have recently suggested for inclusion. Please include this information in your syllabus. 

These procedures are prescribed in the interest of fairness to students and an orderly and manageable final examination schedule.   

Incomplete Grades

The complete policies regarding incomplete grades are available here:

Undergraduate: https://e-catalogue.jhu.edu/engineering/full-time-residential-programs/undergraduate-policies/academic-policies/grading-policies/

Graduate: https://e-catalogue.jhu.edu/engineering/full-time-residential-programs/graduate-policies/academic-policies/#courseinformationandacademicstext

The following text is an excerpt which highlights changes that were initially implemented for the 2022-2023 academic year and continue for this year: 

  1. A request for an Incomplete grade must be initiated by the student no later than the last day of classes via the Incomplete Grade Contract available in SIS 
  1. The required elements on the Incomplete Grade Contract are listed below; all of these topics should be included in the conversation between the student and the instructor.
    • The reason for the request for an incomplete grade 
    • A description of all outstanding work that must be completed
    • Date the work is due from the student
    • The reversion grade if the student does not complete any of the outstanding work 
  1. Undergraduate Students: Instructors are required to submit the new grade to the Office of the Homewood Registrar no later than 45 calendar days after the last day of classes. If the Incomplete grade is not resolved within 45 calendar days after the last day of classes, the Incomplete grade is automatically converted to the reversion grade. 
  1. Graduate Students: If the incomplete grade is not resolved within the agreed period in the incomplete grade contract (which cannot exceed the maximum allowed period of the end of the third week of the next immediate semester), the incomplete grade is automatically converted to the reversion grade. 

The significant change here is that there is an Incomplete Grade Contract available to students in SIS to request an incomplete grade. This is how all incomplete grades must be initiated now.  The other significant change is the timeline for completion of an incomplete grade for undergraduate students, now set at 45 calendar days after the last day of classes. Formerly, the default deadline was the end of the third week of the following semester (and this remains the deadline for graduate students for the AY23-24). Instructors can email the registrar’s office to request extensions to this deadline. The extended deadline may not be later than the last day of the subsequent semester. See the full catalogue entry for considerations for students on academic probation and graduating students. 

In cases where a faculty member loses contact with a student prior to the end of the term and/or the student fails to show up for their final exam without explanation two situations may apply: 

  1. If the instructor knows the student’s situation, i.e. the student or someone with reliable information has reached out to the instructor about this illness or accident, the instructor should contact the registrar directly to initiate an incomplete grade on behalf of a student experiencing extenuating circumstances. The registrar can process a post-deadline incomplete, entering the appropriate information on the student’s behalf. The advising office can assist the faculty member with this as needed. 
  1. If the instructor does not know the student’s situation, i.e. the student has just disappeared, the instructor has two choices; they can enter a grade based on the completed work or they can leave the grade blank. If the student surfaces later and there is a reasonable excuse involving a situation beyond their control, the registrar can process a grade change up until the end of the subsequent semester. 
Academic integrity (syllabus Insert)

Cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty are corrosive and harmful to our university. We urge you to place a statement about academic integrity on your syllabus. It may be helpful to share examples of academic misconduct specific to your course/discipline for student context. It is also important to make clear the ground rules for your course (may students work together on homework assignments, etc.).  The following syllabus insert was created by a faculty ethics committee some years ago, and we recommend that you adopt it: 

The strength of the university depends on academic and personal integrity. In this course, you must be honest and truthful. Ethical violations include cheating on exams, plagiarism, reuse of assignments, improper use of the Internet and electronic devices, unauthorized collaboration, alteration of graded assignments, forgery and falsification, lying, facilitating academic dishonesty, and unfair competition. 

[In addition, the specific ethics guidelines for this course are: 
(1) (Insert unique rules here, such as your policy regarding collaboration on assignments or use of old exams/graded materials.) 
(2) (etc.)] 

Report any violations you witness to the instructor. You can also contact:   

  • For undergraduates: the associate dean of student conduct (or designee) by calling the Office of the Dean of Student Life at 410-516-8208 or via email at [email protected] 
  • For KSAS Graduate Students: [email protected]  
  • For WSE Graduate Students:  [email protected] 

We also encourage the use of an ethics pledge on examinations: 

I attest that I have completed this exam without unauthorized assistance from any person, materials, or device. [Signed and dated] 

If possible and appropriate, it can be helpful to incorporate a brief class discussion about what academic misconduct looks like in your class, including your expectations on group work, if relevant. 

If you find that a student has committed an ethical violation, please follow the proper procedures even if you and the student have come to an agreed-upon resolution.  

For undergraduate students, the adjudication procedures can be found online here

The adjudication procedures for graduate students are different. The policy can be found on the Homewood Graduate and Postdoc Affairs website.

Disability services (syllabus insert)

Students with disabilities may need accommodations, but first, they must make themselves known to Student Disability Services at Homewood Campus. This office is also available to consult with faculty about any issues or concerns.  

Please include the following verbiage on your syllabus: 

Johns Hopkins University values diversity and inclusion. We are committed to providing welcoming, equitable, and accessible educational experiences for all students. Students with disabilities (including those with psychological conditions, medical conditions, and temporary disabilities) can request accommodations for this course by providing an Accommodation Letter issued by Student Disability Services (SDS). Please request accommodations for this course as early as possible to provide time for effective communication and arrangements.

For further information or to start the process of requesting accommodations, please contact Student Disability Services at Homewood Campus, Shaffer Hall #101, call: 410-516-4720 and email: [email protected] or visit the website.  

Inclusivity (syllabus insert)

The following information on inclusivity in the classroom was developed by the Homewood Council on Inclusive Excellence. Please consider including the sample in your syllabus. 

There are several elements of your syllabus that you might consider conveying to the students your expectations for the climate of your classroom, and open communications to hear any concerns.  

Adding your pronouns to the syllabus (he/him, she/her, they/their) signals that you are welcoming to people who are non-gender-conforming. For more information, contact LGBTQ Life and/or attend a Safe Zone training.

The following text is suggested to share your expectations of the classroom climate.  

Classroom Climate: I am committed to creating a classroom environment that values the diversity of experiences and perspectives that all students bring.  Everyone here has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.  I believe fostering an inclusive climate is important because research and my experience show that students who interact with peers who are different from themselves learn new things and experience tangible educational outcomes.  Please join me in creating a welcoming and vibrant classroom climate.  Note that you should expect to be challenged intellectually by me, the TAs, and your peers, and at times this may feel uncomfortable.  Indeed, it can be helpful to be pushed sometimes in order to learn and grow.  But at no time in this learning process should someone be singled out or treated unequally on the basis of any seen or unseen part of their identity. 

If you ever have concerns in this course about harassment, discrimination, or any unequal treatment, or if you seek accommodations or resources, I invite you to share directly with me or the TAs.  I promise that we will take your communication seriously and seek mutually acceptable resolutions and accommodations.  Reporting will never impact your course grade.  You may also share concerns with the department chair ([Chair’s Name and Email]), the Director of Undergraduate Studies ([DUS Name and Email]), the WSE Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion (Darlene Saporu, [email protected]), the KSAS Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion (Araceli Frias, [email protected]) or the Office of Institutional Equity ([email protected]).  In handling reports, people will protect your privacy as much as possible, but faculty and staff are required to officially report information for some cases (e.g., sexual harassment). 

If you have TAs, be sure to give instructions to them on how to receive any concerns. For example: 

  1. Listen to the student’s concern. 
  1. Be non-judgmental. 
  1. Note critical details (time, place, witnesses). 
  1. Ask what kind of response the student is seeking. 
  1. Reports of sexual harassment must be conveyed to the Office of Institutional Equity. 
  1. Be mindful of privacy and discretion in handling the student’s concern 

The following section can lower barriers to inclusion arising from family obligations.  It may not be appropriate for all classes, for example lab courses with safety regulations. 

Family accommodation policy: You are welcome to bring a family member to class on occasional days when your responsibilities require it (for example, if emergency childcare is unavailable, or for the health needs of a relative).  In fact, you may see my children in class on days when their school is closed.  Please be sensitive to the classroom environment, and if your family member becomes uncomfortably disruptive, you may leave the classroom and return as needed.

Religious holidays

Religious holidays are valid reasons to be excused from class. Students who must miss a class or an examination because of a religious holiday must inform the instructor as early in the semester as possible to be excused from class or to make up for any work that is missed. If possible, try to avoid scheduling exams/presentations for major holidays. A list of many religious holidays is maintained at https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/religious-spiritual-life/religious-holy-days/

Jewish holy days and religious festivals begin at sunset the evening of the first date. Muslim holy days are based on a lunar calendar, and the actual dates are determined by direct observation of the moon and announced by the local mosque.  The dates listed may vary by a day or two.  

More information may be found at the Religious and Spiritual Life website. If you have any questions regarding a particular case or would like any guidance, please do not hesitate to contact the Johns Hopkins University Chaplain at 410-516-1880 or [email protected].  Thank you for your sensitivity to this matter.    Students may also request a religious accommodation through the Office of Institutional Equity at the website: https://oie.jhu.edu/religious-accommodations/