Frequently Asked Questions - Instructor FAQ

Instructor FAQ questions

Instructor FAQ answers

About this FAQ

The following answers reflect the most current planning on our campus for Academic Year 2020-2021 instruction. Although subsequent developments in public health guidance may necessitate changes, these answers are intended to provide the best and most up-to-date basis for instructional planning.

This document will be supplemented and updated as needed on an ongoing basis. If you would like to propose a question to include here, or any other additions or corrections, please submit them to

Last updated 02/26/21

Important additional resources

This document lists questions commonly encountered by instructors. Instructors are also strongly encouraged to read through the Instruction FAQ for Students on the Office of the Registrar website, which both provides up-to-date information on logistics for instructional planning, and also conveys a sense of the students’ perspective on these issues.

Helpful guides and strategies for remote teaching can be found on the Keep Teaching website, along with links to important updates and communications as they become available.

The Remote Pedagogy Task Force in the Social Sciences Division of L&S has produced a very useful compilation of Advice for Remote Teaching, which includes both general approaches as well as specific guidance regarding technological options available through the campus.

Bcourses offers a range of resources likely to be particularly useful for remote instruction, including a set of online resources for R&C instructors that includes a good deal of information of general interest.

For further general ongoing updates on the campus response to the COVID-19 pandemic, see this campus listing of resources and support.

When will academic units receive confirmation regarding requests to offer Spring 2021 classes (fully or partially) in person?

Notifications are being issued on a rolling basis, based on ongoing assessments of the campus’s capacity to offer in-person instruction safely. Check with your department scheduler for more information. Classes approved for fully or partially in-person instruction will be listed on theOffice of the Registrar’s class schedule. Please understand, though, that Spring plans could still be disrupted by COVID-19. Therefore, all “approvals” for in-person instruction in Spring 2021 remain in effect provisional approvals. Changes in guidance from campus, or in directives from the  City of Berkeley and Alameda County public health departments may require ongoing adjustments. 

Why do some classes listed as in-person not yet have room assignments?

Campus is still making decisions about which buildings and classrooms will be used for Spring 2021 instruction, so some classes do not yet have room assignments. A notation of in-person instruction for a class indicates provisional approval for in-person instruction. If and when there is sufficient space, it will be assigned a classroom. If there is not sufficient space, the mode of instruction will be changed from in-person to remote instruction.

What is “remote instruction” and how does it differ from “teaching an online course”?

“Remote instruction” applies to the emergency online delivery of an in-person course as part of the campus COVID-19 emergency response. An online course is a course that has been approved for online delivery in a typical, non-emergency semester. On this distinction and its implications see also COCI’s Statement on Fall 2020 Instruction

Do changes made to adapt a course to remote instruction need COCI approval?

No, changes made to adapt a course to remote instruction do not need COCI approval. Remote instruction is a temporary, emergency measure for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, not a permanent change to the course. COCI, therefore, considers a course offered via remote instruction as part of the campus COVID-19 emergency response to be the same course as initially approved. Accordingly, COCI approval is not required. See COCI’s Statement on Fall 2020 Instruction

How should I treat the designated workload and contact hours for my course as I adapt it for remote instruction?

Generally, it is desirable that the experience of a course offered via remote instruction mirror that of an in-person class as closely as feasible. Given the vast diversity of both courses and clienteles across campus, however, in practice, instructors will need to be flexible and agile in making the best choices for their own circumstances. A basic principle is that a course’s workload, as laid out in COCI’s guidelines on Designation of Unit Value, should remain in line with that for a non-emergency semester. Although synchronous remote instruction may often be the closest approximation to “class contact time,” in some circumstances (e.g., students in widely disparate time zones), rigidly matching synchronous instruction hours to the weekly class contact hours specified in the course’s catalog description may not be the best or most practical option. In particular, instructors should be careful not simply to assign asynchronous instructional activities in addition to normal workload expectations. See also COCI’s Statement Regarding Fall 2020 Instruction and Planning).

Are there particular issues I should bear in mind in relation to DSP accommodations?

The following are some of the most common situations. For further information, you may also consult DSP’s own FAQ for Faculty, which includes useful guidance specific to remote instruction, along with Creating Accessible Content

1. Two of the most common issues relating to online instruction are poor audio and video quality of recorded classes and a need for captioning. 

a) On audio and video quality: you can request equipment (e.g., microphones and cameras) for remote instruction via the “Get Equipped” link on the Keep Teaching website. Beyond technology, be mindful of the need to speak clearly and at an appropriate pace. Remember that some students are aided by seeing your mouth, so if you are screen sharing a whiteboard or powerpoint, consider having two devices so that you can also have a webcam trained on your face.

b) On the need for captioning: The introduction of Kaltura, a web-based video management platform that allows UC Berkeley instructors, students and staff to upload, edit, manage and share videos and other media, is expected to help. Note that processing times for captioning may not be immediate, so uploaded pre-recorded videos may not immediately have captioning. Information and training is available at: Kaltura Service and

If you would like to arrange for DSP to provide captioning for your lectures, consult the link DSP, LOAs and accommodations for your students | Center for Teaching & Learning.

2. For DSP accommodations regarding exams, quizzes, and other timed assessments, bear in mind that both bCourses and gradescope offer ways to automatically provide extended time. For students whose exam and quiz accommodations include more than extended time (scribe, etc.), contact the DSP proctoring service as soon as possible to make arrangements.

How can I address concerns relating to academic integrity as I adapt my course to remote instruction?

All disciplines are not created equal when it comes to finding ways to carry out graded assessments remotely without compromising academic integrity. In some courses, instructors may choose to replace timed exams with papers or oral presentations. Papers can be checked for plagiarism using tools available within bCourses. Oral presentations are unlikely to reflect the work of students other than the presenter. For courses that rely primarily on exams, faculty concerns about cheating are exacerbated by the lack of in-person proctoring during this time of shelter in place. For more information on remote proctoring, see the Remote Proctoring FAQ  and follow to the question below. While there is no magic solution, the Academic Senate maintains a collection of best practices for remote assessment that examines this issue, and many others, in more detail. You may also consult the overview of options for “anti-cheating” measures in online assessments provided in the Advice for Remote Teaching produced by the Division of Social Sciences’ Remote Pedagogy Task Force.

One strategy to mitigate cheating and remind students of their obligation not just to themselves but to the community is to have a statement on an exam that the student must sign. To this end, the honor code at Berkeley is simple:

 “As a member of the UC Berkeley community, I act with honesty, integrity, and respect for others.” 

The code was developed by the ASUC in conjunction with the Graduate Assembly, the Deans of Letters and Sciences, and the Academic Senate. The honor code does not preclude instructors from including statements about honesty and integrity on their exams and assessments. For example, students could be required to sign a pledge along the lines of: “I swear on my honor that I have neither given nor received aid with this assessment/exam.” Students should also be reminded that penalties for cheating on exams could be severe – failure of the course at a minimum and possibly suspension.

Concerns about academic integrity are another reason to avoid grading on a curve that predetermines what share of students receive an A, B, C, etc.: students who cheat may still get their A’s, but in the absence of a curve, their “success” will not reduce the chances for other students to get A’s as well. If you decide to grade on a curve nonetheless, be sure to inform your class how the curve will work, in particular, how the scores of students who take the class P/NP will be treated.

What policies will be in effect for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 final examinations?

Guidelines for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 final examinations will be the same as those for final examinations in Spring 2020—alternate means of final assessment will be permitted with the approval of the department chair, but without need for COCI approval. See also COCI’s statement on Fall 2020 Instruction

What provisions will be in place for remote proctoring?

Instructors contemplating online proctoring for Spring 2021 were required to sign up with the VCUE’s office by Monday January 25, 2021. An excellent report about remote proctoring, authored by a group of faculty chaired by Clark Nguyen, lays out strategies to prevent academic dishonesty and the role of remote proctoring as one of many tools, the potential problems with remote proctoring, and discusses how those problems can be mitigated. The Spring 2021 proctoring pilot covers both midterms & finals. Further details can also be found in the Remote Proctoring FAQ prepared by the Center for Teaching and Learning.

What resources or guidance can I refer to in adapting to a class with students who may be scattered across disparate time zones?

For how to hold exams for students who are scattered across different time zones, consult the “best practices” here: Best Practices for Remote Examinations | Academic Senate. For best practices regarding how to use asynchronous instruction effectively for students who are in time zones that make synchronous attendance difficult, see: Remote attendance & participation | Center for Teaching & Learning

To communicate via the schedule of classes that all or portions of your class allows for asynchronous participation, ask the department scheduler to tag the class as “asynchronous” and provide additional details in “class notes.”

Can I require attendance for the synchronous meeting of my remote course?

Yes. Attendance policies are at the discretion of the instructor.  

The waiver of attendance requirements was for a brief period in March 2020 when we were unexpectedly transitioning to remote instruction and students were relocating. You should inform students in writing of how you will measure attendance. Will you use Zoom’s “usage report” or some other means? If a student is muted with video off, will that count as attending? That said, you may want to consider whether you will accommodate students in different time zones or with connectivity/privacy issues. For instance, one idea is to allow a student’s absence from the synchronous meeting to be offset with a paper reflecting on that day’s readings. 

The Center for Teaching and Learning offers the following advice for best practices related to attendance in remote instruction: “We recognize that attendance and participation are, for many faculty, fundamental elements of their classes. Many faculty may have students who, due to circumstances beyond their control, find it difficult to consistently engage in synchronous remote instruction. Look at these alternatives to synchronous attendance and participation.”

Can I require that students attending synchronous class meetings via Zoom do so with their video turned on?

Encourage your students to keep their video turned on. If you want to require it, you must provide a no-penalty alternative for those who cannot turn their video on. You cannot impose a penalty on  those who don't comply. It's important to remember the reasons some participants keep their video off. Some participants may have privacy issues and/or may have personal reasons for not turning on their video. Some computers don’t have sufficient bandwidth to manage a meeting in which everyone’s video is on, especially if several people in a household are sharing a single internet connection. Moreover, a video requirement can create a great deal of stress for some students.

If you do require "video on," you should provide in writing a clear pedagogical rationale (on your syllabus or other course document) why video presence is essential in your class (or during certain parts of your class). Because there still may be students who cannot turn their video on, you should also develop alternative ways of assessing the extent to which students are engaged and participating. For instance, you might require them to submit questions and comments in the “chat” or orally, or complete an assignment that asks them to reflect on some aspect of the synchronous class session, etc. The important thing is to be very clear about what your video requirements are, to provide pedagogical justification for those requirements, and to provide an alternative for students who cannot comply.

Where can I find guidance on problems I encounter teaching via Zoom?

Please visit the Zoom for Instruction Service and Support pages at for information on getting help with Zoom for instructional purposes. In addition, a Zoom support virtual helpdesk is available from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday, for quick, just-in-time basic support help. This team will be able to connect you with the Zoom for Instruction service support for more advanced issues as well.

I am teaching a course in a remote instruction modality. Am I required to get consent from students to make recordings to share with other students enrolled in the course and faculty/staff associated with the course?

For recordings of classroom lectures/discussion sessions that will only be shared with other students enrolled in the course and faculty/staff associated with the course it is recommended that a notice regarding the recording of classroom lectures/discussion sections should be provided prior to the start of the course (in the syllabus and course materials if possible) and students should be verbally reminded prior to the first class session that the lecture/discussion section will be recorded. The notice should advise students of mechanisms within Zoom (or other video-conferencing/recording services) that will prevent their image and voice from being recorded (such as turning off video, muting audio and using the chat function for submitting questions to the instructor) should they choose to opt out of being recorded.

Instructors are also advised to make sure that videos are closed captioned by DSP if students (including auditors) in their classes have this accommodation. For further details on ADA compliance of video recordings please see

I am teaching a course in a remote instruction modality. Am I required to get consent from students to make recordings to share with individuals (such as prospective students) who are not enrolled in the course?

For recordings that might be shared with individuals not enrolled in the course (e.g., prospective students), a notice regarding the recording of classroom lectures/discussion sections should be provided prior to the start of the course (in the syllabus and course materials if possible) and students should be verbally reminded prior to the first class session that the lecture/discussion section will be recorded. In addition, students should be provided with the capability to consent (or to withhold their consent) to the sharing of their images/voice in the recorded video with other individuals (not associated with the course).  The consent language should describe with whom the recordings will be shared and the purpose of sharing the recordings.   For students who opt out, they should be encouraged to mute their audio and turn off their video.   Their images and voice recordings can also be edited out of a Zoom recording prior to it being shared.

Instructors are also advised to make sure that videos are closed captioned by DSP if students (including auditors) in their classes have this accommodation or they wish to post videos in public forums. For further details on ADA compliance of video recordings please see

Are my students allowed to share recorded lectures and other class materials outside of class?

No. Course materials, including recorded lectures, are intended only for in-class educational purposes and should not be shared with people outside of the class. You may want to include language to that effect on your syllabus. DSP is a general exception to this; students may share your course materials with the DSP office.

The Student Code of Conduct 102.23 Course Materials and the campus’ Classroom Note Taking and Recording Policy are relevant, the latter of which states, “...class notes and recordings are based on the intellectual effort of the instructor, who has an interest in protecting this effort and ensuring the accuracy of any public representation of his or her work. Prior approval of the instructor is required for the recording of course notes and the sharing of course notes and other class materials beyond the students enrolled in the course.” Given that many recorded lectures include audio and video of students in the course, there are potential student privacy concerns as well.

I am a GSI. Where can I find information about remote teaching for GSIs?

The Graduate Division has compiled the following document addressing some of the common concerns particular to GSIs in the changed circumstances of Fall 2020: Addressing GSI Concerns: Fall 2020 Instruction FAQ. The GSI Remote Teaching Hub is a useful centralized source of information relating particularly to issues encountered with remote instruction. GSIs may also find it useful to consult the resources for instructors compiled by the Center for Teaching and Learning, which includes situations often encountered by GSIs: Resources. First-time GSIs in particular will want to be aware of the teaching conference for first-time GSIs being offered by the Graduate Division. More generally, up to date information relevant to GSIs is available via Grad. Div’s GSI Teaching and Resource Center

I am an instructor who works with GSIs. How can I prevent remote instruction from creating increased workload for my GSIs, as per regulations?

As noted by the Graduate Division, “As per the Graduate Council Policy on Appointments and Mentoring of GSIs, faculty members who teach with GSIs are required to meet with GSIs before the semester begins to review the course syllabus, clarify GSI responsibilities in the course, and, in the case of discussion sections and labs, describe the relationship of sections to lecture. If a course is being taught remotely, the Instructor of Record should also convey to GSIs in this meeting the number of hours per week that GSIs are expected to meet synchronously with their students and the number of hours they should devote to preparing asynchronous learning activities.

That workload expectation cannot exceed the hourly limits provided in the ASE UAW contract. GSIs should keep track of their hours. If GSIs find they are working more than allowed under the contract, they should approach their supervisor immediately so that their duties may be adjusted. Their Faculty Advisor GSI Affairs and department chair are also there to help make certain GSI workload remains within contractual parameters.”

Are instructors expected to follow “Berkeley Time”?

Instructors are expected to continue to follow “Berkeley time”: by the “Berkeley Time” convention, instruction in class meetings normally begins ten minutes after the official start time. For example, a class whose time is listed in the schedule as 10:00-10:59 begins at 10:10 and ends at 11:00. A 9:30-10:59 class runs from 9:40-11:00. While instructors and students in a remote setting do not need to travel between or “reset” classrooms, that time is still reserved for students and instructors to prepare their virtual spaces for the next course, to build in short breaks from Zoom, and to take care of any physical needs.Instructors might also consider beginning the class zoom feed on “clock time,” while delaying the formal beginning of class until “Berkeley time.” Such a window just before class for some less structured interaction (with the instructor and among the students themselves) may help make the remote instruction scenario feel a bit less impersonal.

How can I best prepare my course and my students for a power outage, particularly one which disrupts a scheduled exam?

Do your best to plan ahead and provide clear messages about how you will handle power outages and related disruptions. Let students know how you plan to communicate with them in the event of a disruption, with a method that is as robust to power outages and disruptions as possible, keeping in mind that there may be inevitable delays in sending and receiving these communications. Let students know how you expect them to handle assignments, exams, and access to course materials in the event of a disruption. Include these plans in your syllabus. Announce them verbally on Day 1. Be sure all GSIs are aware of these plans. In the week leading up to any exam, both you and your GSIs should reiterate your plans in written announcements to the students.

If you must cancel synchronous lectures because you, your GSIs, or some or all of your students are without power, you may cancel the class, or reschedule it, or provide  asynchronous materials (e.g. readings, pre-recorded lectures) once power has been restored. 

If you must reschedule an exam, try not to be in an urgent rush to complete the exam. If possible, wait at least 24-48 hours after the return of power, especially for extended outages. It is likely that you and your students will have practical concerns that may take precedence immediately after power is restored.

For more info, the Instructional Resilience Checklist contains a full list of suggestions of what to do before and after a disruption.

If my class is approved for in-person delivery, can I expect a “normal” semester of classroom instruction?

No—along with public health guidance regarding safe use of shared spaces, it will be important to bear in mind that you will need to retain a plan for moving back to remote instruction at any time if developments relating to public health (or other emergencies) render it necessary.Remember that the first two weeks of Spring 2021 semester will be remote and the week following spring break, even for those classes approved for in-person instruction.

How should instructors or their academic units handle enrollment for in-person classes, in light of the campus-wide maximum of 26 (25 students + 1 instructor)?

It may happen that existing enrollment exceeds this maximum of 25 students. In such instances, there are two options.

  1. The department will need to administratively drop students from the in-person component in order to lower enrollment to a maximum of 25 students. The department should notify the students it is forced to drop from such classes in a timely manner so that the students can select an alternative course.
  2. If the instructor is comfortable teaching to both an in-person and remote section, a remote section could be added. A scheduler could assist with the transfer of students from the in-person to the remote section. Instructors should consult with their department schedulers for additional information.
How will students find information about the mode of instruction for their classes?

The modes of instruction available in AY 2020-2021 are in-person, remote, hybrid, flexible, and web-based. For definitions of each, see Office of the Registrar -- Modes of Instruction. Students can find up-to-date information on the mode of instruction for each class in the Berkeley Academic Guide Class Search, the Cal Central Schedule of Classes, or the Schedule Planner. The Academic Guide Class Search is publicly available and instructions appear on the homepage. The latter two (Cal Central Schedule and the Schedule Planner) are only available within a student’s CalCentral but you can review a CalCentral enrollment guide for students. It will be helpful to make yourself familiar with those resources so that you see the students’ view on instructional formats. More generally, it is a good idea to be as detailed and specific as possible about the instructional mode of your class (e.g. how synchronous and asynchronous components of instruction will be deployed) in documents such as online course descriptions, syllabi, and so on, to allow students to make the best choices for their circumstances. Detailed and specific information that is shared with the department scheduler can be surfaced to students in the “class notes” section of the online class schedule. Advisors are regularly directing students to “class notes” for additional information.

What are the plans for Summer 2021 instruction?

Summer 2021 instruction will be remote. An exceptional process for departments to request limited in-person instruction for graduate programs was announced on Monday, January 25.

Are field trips allowed for Spring 2021 courses?

If you are planning group field trips for Spring 2021 for your approved in-person course, please be sure that these are amenable to social distancing and other public health guidelines and that you have consulted with your department chair and/or the University’s Risk Management to ensure that these meet university regulations.

If you are planning to assign students to engage in individual local travel as part of your remote-instruction course in Spring 2021, be sure that it is amenable to social distancing and other public health guidelines. Note that you can encourage students to engage in local travel but you cannot require it. Any assignment that would require local travel must have an alternative assignment that does not penalize students for choosing it.It is advisable to communicate any such assignments to students with reference to the current pandemic health guidance, to help students make safe and informed decisions, as a way both of helping students carry out such assignments safely, and also of reassuring them that such potential health concerns have been taken into account

If I am teaching in person in Spring 2021, am I required to take attendance in class in order to facilitate contact tracing?

Yes. Please see the 02/12/21 CalMessage from Lisa Alvarez-Cohen. 

"For the duration of the semester, all in-person instructional activities--regardless of whether they are held indoors or outdoors, routinely or on an occasional basis--must take and maintain an attendance record. The instructor, GSI, or staff responsible for any in-person instructional activity must take attendance and maintain it so that if necessary the attendance list can be provided to a contact tracer. Campus contact tracers will be advised to ask students about participation in outdoor instruction. These attendance records do not need to be anything fancy--just whatever system you would normally use for classroom instruction is fine--we just need to ensure that it would be possible to trace everyone who attended in case there should ever be a positive COVID-19 case."