Guidance for Instructors for Managing COVID-19 and the Classroom

Last updated: November 1, 2023

The University has put many safeguards in place to protect the health of our community by slowing the spread of coronavirus and containing cases when they occur.  

The guidance below will help faculty and graduate student instructors keep everyone safe while engaging in teaching and learning. 

Teaching Your Classes 

May I choose to teach my course online? 

The University’s unique residential learning environment relies on in-person interaction between students and faculty. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of our courses will be offered in this format. Exceptions must be approved by school leadership and these decisions will be driven by considerations about pedagogy and how the instructional mode will affect the students. 

Can I hold class sessions online occasionally to accommodate guest speakers, even if my course is listed as “in-person”? 

Depending on the technology available in the classroom, a guest speaker may zoom in to the classroom to allow for in-person discussion with you and your students. If this technology is not available in the classroom, class sessions may occasionally be held online to allow for remote guest lecturers. Note that guest speakers who are in-person must follow the University’s policy on visitors. Please inform any visitor of this policy. 

Can I offer online exams even though my course is “in-person”? 

Yes. Faculty members have the flexibility to offer exams in any format that is best suited to the educational goals of the course. 

Can I hold some office hours/help sessions online? 

While faculty and other instructors are expected to be available to students for in-person meetings, you may consider offering a mix of virtual and in-person office hours. Your school may require you to provide some in-person office hours; please check with your department chair or associate dean. 

How do I accommodate zoom-in lecturers for an in-person course? 

Contact, our classroom support group, to plan for remote additions to in-person classes.  Note that faculty are not permitted to regularly zoom in to their in-person class unless their school has granted permission. 

What should I do if I am exposed to COVID-19 or test positive?
  • It is possible that you may become exposed, infected, or ill during the course of the semester.  
  • Any faculty member who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who has been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should contact Employee Health (434-924-2013).  If you are a student instructor, please contact Student Health and Wellness (434-924-5362; 434-297-4261 after hours). If you are home, do not come to Grounds; if you are on Grounds, please return home.  

Below are some suggestions for how to prepare in case this happens: 

  • Discuss now with your department chair (or associate dean) what protocols will be used should an instructor have to isolate.  
  • It may also be helpful to keep two weeks of notes prepared for your course should someone else have to cover for you while you are ill.  
  • If you are a faculty member and have GTAs assisting in your course, meet with them to develop a plan of action should you or one of them become ill or need to isolate. Although in certain circumstances it may be reasonable to ask a GTA or GRA to cover a single class meeting, you should avoid placing undue burdens on graduate students by asking them to perform duties that are outside their normal responsibilities or that exceed the time commitments associated with their appointments.  
  • Please let your department chair or immediate supervisor know if you must isolate. If you are well, asymptomatic, or have very mild symptoms and you feel able to work, talk with your department chair or supervisor about the possibility of working from home. They can give you guidance about teaching your course online or making alternative arrangements during the period of your isolation. 
Will my classroom have a plastic shield? 

Following the guidance of health experts, plastic shields have been removed from most classrooms. 

Responding to Students  

What actions should I take if a student tells me they tested positive for COVID-19, has to isolate due to COVID-19, or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19? 
  • Encourage the student to contact Student Health and Wellness if they have not been in touch already.   
    • If a student received a positive COVID-19 test result from outside UVA (e.g., CVS, Walgreens, home test), encourage the student to contact Student Health (434-924-5362) for guidance and care if they have not already done so.  
    • You do not need to report the positive test result; the student is responsible for doing so.  
  • If a student tells you that they are feeling ill, please direct them to stay home and contact Student Health, (434-924-5362; 434-297-4261 after hours). 
  • Work with the student to accommodate their time away from class. Please try to help the student keep up with their schoolwork. There are a variety of ways to help students during an absence. 
  • Faculty should not inform their class if a student discloses a positive test result.
What should I do if a student is absent from class and I suspect they may have COVID-19? 
  • There are a number of ways absent students can maintain progress in the course; the best strategy will depend on factors such as the specific course format, content, and size. We have assembled some options and resources.  
  • It is understandable that faculty or others may be concerned about the possibility that not all students attending in-person classes will inform their professors if they have tested positive.  If a student has stopped coming to class, your actions as an instructor are the same whether the absence is COVID-19 related or not.  
  • It may help to assume the student’s situation is COVID-19 related as you seek ways to treat them with compassion. If the student has stopped attending class altogether or is falling behind on their assignments, you should reach out to the student, describe the issue, and ask if they need assistance.   
  • Please remember that students who have tested positive or have been exposed to COVID-19 should not be stigmatized.  The fact that they have contracted the virus does not necessarily mean that they were behaving in an unsafe way or violating our health and safety requirements.   
What should I do if many students are absent from my class? 
  • There are a number of ways absent students can maintain progress in the course; the best strategy will depend on factors such as the specific course format, content, and size. We have assembled some options and resources. Please treat students with compassion and provide them as much flexibility as possible. 
  • Unless you have an approved health-based exception, moving your in-person class online requires the approval from your department chair and school dean’s office. 
Can I email my class to inform them if a student has tested positive?  
  • A faculty member or other instructor is not to disclose to their class that a student has tested positive. This has been our guidance to faculty from the beginning and is informed by public health advice and the law.  
  • Personally identifiable information about someone’s health (including the fact that a particular student has a positive test result) is protected health information under both federal and Virginia law.  University guidance thus protect students’ privacy and avoids disclosing information about one student’s health to other students or to colleagues; mentioning that there is a student in the class who has tested positive may jeopardize students’ privacy even if the student is not identified.
If a student tests positive in my class, can I hold class in person or do I need to move online temporarily? 
  • You do not need to change the mode of instruction because someone in a class tested positive.  If you have concerns about special circumstances or classroom activities, please discuss them with your department chair or associate dean.   
  • Please advise any student who informs you that they have tested positive to consult Student Health on next steps.
Will I be informed if a student in my class tests positive? 

It is common for students to self-disclose positive test results when they inform instructors that they will be unable to attend class. Otherwise, you will not be informed of a student’s positive test unless the VDH conducts contact tracing and you have been identified as a close contact.


Provost’s Office 
Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs 
Matt Banfield

Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students 

Coronavirus Information