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Frequently Asked Questions

As we move through the academic year, we will update this page with frequently asked questions providing information on academic instruction. 

For more information on campus operations, visit https://www.calpoly.edu/roadmap.

For the latest advisories and updates related to coronavirus, please visit https://coronavirus.calpoly.edu.

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Daily Health Screening and Campus Pass

Who must participate in the daily self-screening program?

  • All currently enrolled students living on campus and off-campus students accessing campus for any reason (in-person classes, work, services, etc) must complete a daily self-screening.
  • All students living off campus who do not plan to come to campus during fall term are strongly encouraged to participate in daily self-screening to monitor their personal health and wellbeing.
  • The daily self-screening tool generates the campus pass, which is required for access to campus spaces and services.

What is the campus pass?

  • The campus pass is essentially a student’s ticket to enter campus facilities. The pass is generated via completion of the daily self-screening tool, and the pass color a student receives is dependent on their self-screening assessment. The full breakdown of campus pass colors is below:

How do students obtain a campus pass?

  • If a student is required to participate in ongoing testing or wants to access campus spaces and services, they must complete a self-screening by noon (12 p.m.) or before going to campus, whichever comes first, to generate a campus pass.
  • Students access the self-screening tool via the COVID-19 Info tab on their portal, or may opt in to receive a daily email or text message with a link to complete the daily self-screening.
  • Upon completion of a daily self-screening, students receive one of the four color passes above, which serves as their daily pass..

Which campus pass should instructors or staff accept for students to enter their in-person class or facility?

  • A GREEN CAMPUS PASS means a student is cleared to enter any open campus facility. This is the only pass that should be accepted for in-person courses and most campus services.
  • Students with a BLUE PASS are only able to access campus testing sites and health and safety services.
  • Students with a YELLOW or RED PASS, or those who do not have a pass, are only able to access health and safety services..

If a student tries to attend a class without a campus pass or is not following safety regulations, what should an instructor do?

  • If a single student is causing a disruption in class or not following safety regulations, an instructor may ask the student to leave the classroom. The instructor should make a report to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities as well.
  • If the student refuses to leave class, the instructor may dismiss the entire class for the day.
  • Faculty always have the authority to dismiss the class for a day when they determine there is a safety concern or significant risk of harm.  If they decide to dismiss a class for safety reasons, they should immediately notify and seek advice from their department chair/head. If the chair/head cannot help them fully resolve the issue, they should work with the dean’s office and other appropriate campus offices to develop a course of action to avoid or prevent additional such situations.
  • The CSU Red Folder may be helpful to instructors in this scenario as well.

Single Sign On (SSO) Restrictions

Which students may be subject to SSO restrictions?

  • Students who are required to participate in ongoing testing (see populations below “Which students are required to participate in the ongoing testing program?”) must test twice a week, three days apart, to remain in compliance.
  • Non-compliant students who are required to participate in ongoing testing will be restricted from campus applications via SSO after three days of multiple warnings.

When do SSO restrictions begin?

  • There will be no SSO restrictions during the first week of classes to help students acclimate to the process. Automated messages will be sent to non-compliant students beginning March 30, and SSO restrictions begin April 6.

How are students informed that they are at risk of SSO access loss?

  • Students that are in the testing compliance group were alerted prior to the start of spring quarter that they must test twice a week, three days apart, to remain in compliance with the COVID-19 Presidential Order.
  • Throughout the quarter, announcements will be posted daily on students' COVID-19 Info tab on the portal, and students in the testing compliance group who are approaching non-compliance will receive individualized notifications for the three days leading up to SSO restrictions.
  • Students who receive notifications about upcoming SSO restrictions have been instructed to notify instructors and/or campus supervisors before restrictions are applied; they also have been encouraged to talk to instructors during the first week of classes to learn more about how SSO restrictions will impact their course access.

If a student informs their instructor that they missed a class or assignment due to losing access to university resources for not complying with ongoing testing requirements, should the instructor allow make-up work, excuse the absence, etc.?

  • It is the responsibility of the student to notify their instructor if they are at risk of losing access to university applications.
  • An absence, including any late or missed work, due to non-compliance SSO restrictions does not fall within the university’s attendance guidelines and is subject to the instructor’s course attendance and make-up work policies.
  • Instructors may consider including information on testing compliance and SSO restrictions in their syllabi. Sample syllabus language is available on the CTLT website. A Canvas module with COVID-19 testing and safety protocols is also searchable through Canvas Commons.

Will instructors be notified if one of their students is SSO restricted?

  • The university will not notify faculty if their students are SSO restricted. Please take students at their word if they say they are locked out of campus applications.

How can students communicate with their instructor if SSO restrictions have been applied to their account due to testing non-compliance?

  • Students have been instructed to notify instructors and/or campus supervisors before SSO restrictions are applied.
  • Should a student contact you through a third-party channel due to campus SSO restrictions, be reminded that university policy states, “campus email is an official method of campus communication to students and may be used as the sole method of communication for some campus matters.”
  • For more information, refer to the messages sent to students and employees, on March 19 and 23 respectively, on the Campus Updates webpage.
  • Resources are available should instructors choose to add language on testing compliance to your syllabus, Canvas site, or discuss the COVID-19 testing compliance program with your class. Find these via the COVID-19 Faculty/Staff Toolkit and through the CTLT. A Canvas module with COVID-19 testing and safety protocols is also searchable through Canvas Commons.

What is the purpose of restricting student access to SSO?

  • In an effort to ensure the health and safety of our campus community and the surrounding public, the University established the testing compliance program to be fair and equitable for all students, while helping those in required testing groups adhere to the university’s ongoing testing program..
  • The COVID-19 testing compliance program has been designed so that students required to participate in ongoing testing will receive ample warning before losing SSO access and will have a rapid way of recovering SSO access by testing on campus. Upon completing a COVID test, a student’s access is restored in an hour or less.

COVID-19 Ongoing Testing Program

Which students are required to participate in the ongoing testing program?

Required to Test Currently enrolled students who meet one of more of the criteria below are required to participate in the testing program.
  1. Lives in university housing
  2. Is enrolled in in-person courses
  3. Works on campus
  4. Participates in research on campus
  5. Uses any on-campus service (except the Health Center)
  6. Lives in the same household or congregate living facility (meaning a group housing facility, such as a dormitory or fraternity/sorority house) with a Cal Poly student who meets any of the criteria listed as 1 through 5 above.

Members of Fraternity and Sorority Life, student-athletes and Cal Poly Band members will be contacted directly by Campus Health and Wellbeing for group testing.

Not Required to Test Students who do not meet the criteria for testing as defined in the amended Presidential Order and listed below are not required to complete ongoing testing and therefore do not need to request a testing exemption.

  • All students living outside of SLO County who are taking virtual courses and services.
  • Students who had COVID-19 within the last 90 days.
  • Students on county-mandated isolation, quarantine, or quarantine in place for the duration of their order.
Please note: While students who meet any of the following criteria are not required to complete ongoing testing, students who want to access campus spaces and services must have a green campus pass, which results from a complete daily health screen with no symptoms and a current COVID-19 test on file. For additional information on testing requirements, visit the testing compliance page.

Can students be exempted from the ongoing testing program?

  • Exemptions to the ongoing testing program will be approved for the following reasons:
    • Medical conditions/disabilities that prohibit testing, as approved by the DRC
    • Positive COVID-19 tests, which allow for a 90-day exemption
    • Enrollment in an in-person class for which faculty have agreements with students for all-virtual instruction
  • Students with other extenuating circumstances may also submit an exemption request for consideration by the Testing Exemption Committee. Students may submit exemption requests through the COVID-19 Info tab on the Student Portal.
  • Students should not submit a COVID-19 testing exemption request if they are seeking a short-term exemption request, access campus infrequently, have received a COVID-19 vaccine, or are on campus to attend an in-person class or lab activity at any time throughout the quarter.

Will instructors be informed if a student in their class tests positive? How so?

  • Should a student attending an in-person class test positive for COVID-19, the San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Health (SLOPH) will notify the instructor and other enrolled students if their contact tracing determines there is a risk of exposure. However, medical privacy laws prevent SLOPH or Cal Poly from sharing the health-related details of an individual student.
  • Specifically, a contact tracer with SLOPH will notify anyone who had been in close contact (i.e., anyone who has been within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) with the student while they were contagious.
  • SLOPH may request that Cal Poly notify the instructor and other enrolled students who may have been exposed.
  • SLOPH may issue quarantine orders for the instructor or individual students, suspend in-person operations of the course for a 14-day period, and/or advise self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms for all involved. SLOPH may also recommend follow-up testing for all individuals, including the instructor, that are in the course.
  • The student who tests positive will be directed to isolate, either at their off-campus residence or at isolation facilities on the Cal Poly campus and their Qualtrics daily screening pass will default to a Red Pass for the period of recovery and viral shed as determined by SLOPH. 
  • Should a student with a Red Pass try to attend your course, please notify the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities immediately at https://osrr.calpoly.edu/.
  • A Red Pass does not necessarily mean the student has tested positive for COVID-19, but it does mean that they should not be attending class.

As an instructor, what should I do if I am informed a student in my in-person class has tested positive?

  • The San Luis Obispo County of Public Health (SLOPH) will notify the instructor and the other enrolled students in the class if they determine there is a risk of exposure through their contact tracing process. Cal Poly may also make this notification on the behalf of SLOPH. If you are notified, please follow the instructions that will be provided by SLOPH.
  • A student who tests positive and is in isolation will have the responsibility to reach out to their instructors for accommodations, as will any students directed to quarantine by SLOPH.
  • The instructor should follow their standard practice to accommodate students with medical absences during the term and determine if and how they can provide alternate assignments for COVID-positive students.  If the student is unable to continue to do the academic work and complete it by the end of the term, the instructor may award an Incomplete grade until the student is able to complete the course, and at that time process a change of grade request to the assigned grade.  An Incomplete signifies that a portion of required coursework has not been completed and evaluated in the prescribed time period due to unforeseen but fully justified reasons and that there is still a possibility of earning credit.

Can instructors ask students for a doctor’s note to prove they tested positive for COVID-19 or are in quarantine?

  • Should a student inform their instructor that they’ve tested positive or are in quarantine, we ask that the instructor please take them at their word ​and keep this information confidential. Having to show proof may be challenging during an already taxing time for the student. ​
  • If an instructor feels that the student needs to show proof of their status, the instructor may consider asking to see a screenshot of their campus pass. All students taking in-person courses are required to complete the daily self-screening. If they have a digital pass with a red, yellow, or blue pass, that indicates they are not permitted to enter campus that day and have follow-up actions that need to be completed.
  • Due to the increased administrative and clinical demands on Cal Poly’s Health Center at this time, they are currently unable to provide a doctor’s note to COVID-positive students.

For students who are “commuting” to the in-person labs, do they need a COVID-19 test before each meeting? I.e. driving from the Bay area.

  • Per a Cal Poly Presidential Order, students who meet any one or more of the criteria below are required to participate in the ongoing twice-per-week testing program.
    • Lives in university housing
    • Is enrolled in in-person classes
    • Works on campus
    • Participates in research on campus
    • Uses any on-campus service (except the Health Center)
    • Lives in the same household or congregate living facility (meaning a group housing facility, such as a dormitory or fraternity/sorority house) with a Cal Poly student who meets any of the criteria listed above.
  • More information on the order and the exemption process may be found at https://president.calpoly.edu/.
  • More information on student testing may be found at https://coronavirus.calpoly.edu/student-testing.  

How are the student athletes and musicians being tested?

  • Student athletes have been surveillance tested since August, with specific scheduled testing times on a routine basis. Mustang Band members are tested with the same requirements as students who come to campus for any reason, with two required tests per week.

COVID-19 Safety Guidelines and Procedures

What is Cal Poly doing to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in in-person courses and labs?

  • Cal Poly follows the State of California guidelines for higher education with physical distancing between seating/desks, required face coverings, and any additional precautions that may be needed depending on the nature of the course.
  • Students were required to complete online safety training prior to the start of the academic year.
  • Students who are living on campus, taking classes and/or doing any activity on campus are required to show a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival at the start of each quarter.
  • Students must complete and pass daily health screenings to receive an access pass to attend in-person classes/labs.
  • PPE and physical distancing are required; PPE was provided free of charge to all students, faculty, and staff.
  • Clear barriers were installed between workstations where appropriate.
  • Rooms are sanitized between classes/labs.
  • Sanitizer stations have been installed in classrooms and buildings where classes are being held.

What training have instructors been given to help students wear proper PPE and to hold them accountable if they don’t follow COVID-19 safety protocols?

  • All Cal Poly faculty and staff were encouraged to complete online COVID-19 safety training that is similar to the training that was required for students.
  • Our division and the faculty union have also worked closely together to ensure that faculty members are following the COVID-19 safety guidelines.
  • In addition, emails were sent to faculty and staff on September 10 and March 23 with information on the processes for holding students accountable for ongoing testing and safety protocols.
  • There is information on PPE use at https://afd.calpoly.edu/emergency/resources/coronavirus/ppe and a link for reporting a COVID-19 incident available at https://osrr.calpoly.edu/ (report an incident).

What kind of response is happening on campus to encourage students to follow safe COVID-19 practices and guidelines?

  • The Public Health Liaisons are a team of student employees within Campus Health & Wellbeing who support a safe, informed, and positive Cal Poly campus community through an in-person peer-to-peer education and outreach model for COVID-19 prevention and response. 
  • The Public Health Liaisons are stationed at high-traffic areas around campus, including at asymptomatic testing sites, and will hand out free face coverings and mini hand sanitizers. Public Health Liaisons also will serve as resource referrals while role modeling safe COVID-19 practices. While the Public Health Liaisons will promote healthy habits and remind students of their shared community responsibility, they will remain focused on positive reinforcement, not policy enforcement.

Who can I contact if I know of an area where several students congregate and could use encouragement to maintain safe practices?

General Course Questions 

Are special equipment and supplies required for some courses?

  • Many labs at Cal Poly require students to purchase supplies or kits that include components and expendable materials. Depending on the department, this equipment may also be provided at no cost to the student. These fees are typically equal to or less than the cost of a textbook associated with lecture-format courses.  The departments have worked to include additional items that allow students to perform lab-based tasks at home and have distributed the cost of more expensive items that will be used across multiple labs to maintain an overall cost of lab materials close to that of a typical lecture course. 

What makes an in-person class essential? Departments put forward which classes they believe need to be offered in person, but is there an overriding set of principles?

  • All of our in-person courses had to follow the policies and considerations as set forth by the California Department of Public Health and the California State University (CSU).
  • The CSU Chancellor granted exemptions to allow courses to be offered in person based on space or specialized equipment requirements, external mandates, and/or pedagogical needs (e.g., learning outcomes that cannot be met by adjusting pedagogy, appropriate replacement for use of specialized equipment cannot be found, accreditation requirements, potential loss of grant funding, issues that are unique to certain academic programs, etc.).
  • The university consulted with its own and local public health officials on the courses that were proposed to be in person before sending these courses to the CSU.
  • Every in-person course was heavily scrutinized by the Chancellor’s Office before being approved.

Some sessions of an in-person class will be remotely taught. Is this allowed and how can that be made clear to students?

  • Instructors do have the right to have remotely taught sessions in their in-person courses. We ask that you please communicate the timing of these remote sessions to your students as far in advance as possible and include this information in your syllabus for review on the first day of class.
  • We are working to ensure that course details such as remote sessions of in-person courses can be communicated through our registration system. Please share such plans with your department so they can be factored in to planning.

Is there a campuswide policy that all promised in-person classes are also available online?

  • No. Some courses have been determined to only be effective in an in-person format and are not open for virtual enrollment. However, if students cannot attend a class in-person, we work with them on an individual basis to find alternative solutions that keep them on track for graduation.

How can faculty be mindful of the challenges many students face when learning from their home as opposed to learning in a classroom?

  • Instructors should be mindful that a classroom on campus can be quite different from a "classroom" in a student's home. Instructors should be aware that when students attend class remotely, they may be in a place where they observe familial, cultural, and/or religious expectations that impact their attire and/or behavior. 
  • Instructors should also be aware that students will have differential access to resources to complete their courses. For example:
    • some students may not have access to consistent spaces to complete work;
    • some may have limited privacy, family obligations, and/or home environments that may limit their in-class participation and may necessitate the turning off of their video;
    • some may be taking classes in the same physical space as roommates or family members that are in different classes at the same meeting time;
    • some may have health issues or living with someone with health issues;
    • some may need assistance with getting the appropriate technology or internet connections to complete their courses;
    • some may have difficulty meeting their basic needs.
  • Instructors should also be mindful of the added stress and trauma that our students may be experiencing in the midst of current social and political issues as well as the stress of isolation during the pandemic.
  • With these differing situations in mind, we ask that instructors be aware of the barriers and stressors that their students ​may be facing during virtual learning​, and do what they can to accommodate students' needs and support their success.

Student Experience

How can first-year students navigate this year and make this a more positive experience?

  • Connect with your professors and department head/chair. They are happy to discuss concerns, issues and solutions with you. Contact information is readily available on course syllabi, Canvas learning shells and college/department websites.
  • The Mustang Success Center is the dedicated advising hub for first-year students. It offers great resources and is dedicated to helping students succeed.
  • The Writing and Learning Center offers free peer-to-peer tutoring for students, which can help students make connections and get help with their coursework.
  • Join a club that matches your interests and connect with those students online. Many clubs are meeting virtually weekly or more. Search for clubs at https://clubs.calpoly.edu/clubs-directory

Is there indoor study space available during spring quarter?

  • The second floor of the University Union (Bldg. 65) opened on March 28 with the following hours: 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. weekends. Capacity limits, as well as monitoring and frequent cleaning, will be in place.

How will the Graduation Writing Requirement (GWR) be offered in a virtual setting?

  • There are 2 ways to complete the GWR requirement (https://writingandlearning.calpoly.edu/gwr):
  • Pass a GWR-certified upper-division course with a C or better on a major writing assignment and a final course grade of C or better with at least 35% of the final grade based on the cumulative grade of all writing projects; OR,
  • Earn a passing score on a GWR portfolio (*Note: the GWR portfolio replaces the Writing Proficiency Exam for academic year 20-21).
  • (The Writing Proficiency Exam that was typically given several times throughout the year is being replaced by the GWR portfolio for the current academic year)

Is there any recourse for students who originally enrolled in an in-person class but now wish to remain entirely virtual?

  • Students could change from an in-person class to a virtual class through the waitlist process the first 4 days of classes or via a permission number during the last 4 days of the add/drop period. Please check with your college for accommodations. In-person classes are not expected to provide the course in-person and virtually simultaneously.
  • If a student was enrolled and attended an in-person class and then became sick or unable to attend for some other reason (e.g., death in family; COVID-19), the situation would be handled just like in a non-pandemic term, either with or without help from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) (students must choose whether to register with the DRC). That is, the course would not necessarily have to be delivered virtually to that student, but some alternative would need to be worked out. It could turn out that the student ends up dropping or withdrawing from such a class if the absence is severe enough or a course substitution could not be identified.

Where can students and/or supporters voice their frustrations about the lack of online synchronous classes available?

  • We understand that parents are anxious and want their students to be successful. Because each individual student’s situations and needs are so unique, we recommend having your student connect with their professors and department head/chair.

Asynchronous Course Delivery

What is the rationale for asynchronous style of teaching?

  • Course delivery through an asynchronous mode is common throughout higher education; this is not unique to Cal Poly or this period of time
  • This modality provides students control over their learning.
    • Students can learn at a pace and time that works best for their personal learning style and work around other commitments.
    • Students can access materials as needed to revisit concepts or lectures.
  • Students without access to certain technologies – laptop computers, webcams, fast internet speed – do not experience the learning disadvantage they might during a synchronous course.
  • Asynchronous courses are scheduled within a framework that still provides for interaction between students and the professor, e.g., usage of online discussion boards, chat rooms, emails, texts or group projects
  • Faculty still maintain close contact with students through scheduled office hours, and also respond to emails and voicemails.
  • Instructors took multiple factors into account when determining which modality to choose:
    • The ability to best serve the most students;
    • The class learning objectives and effectiveness of asynchronous instruction;
    • Their teaching style;
    • The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have included their need to care for their own young children.
  • Instructors will continue to have the option to create and teach asynchronous courses as well as synchronous ones.

Have classes been changed from synchronous to asynchronous? Why would this be?

  • Over fall and winter quarters, a few courses switched from synchronous to asynchronous largely at the request of students who were experiencing issues with scheduling, time management, or technology, among other reasons.
  • Per the CSU, we were are only able to indicate two modes of virtual instruction in our registration system - synchronous or asynchronous. Any instructors that needed to have at least part of their course occur at a scheduled time needed to use the synchronous mode, even if some part of their course would be delivered asynchronously.
  • At the start of every quarter numerous students experience time conflicts and are forced to choose between one class or another. This quarter, given the predominant use of virtual instruction, many faculty determined that offering asynchronous instruction would help students alleviate time conflicts and help them maintain a full course load.

Study Abroad

Will students be able to study abroad in winter or spring 2021?

  • We have suspended winter and spring 2021 study abroad programs that operate entirely abroad.
  • Given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that the CDC Travel Health Level 3 Warning that remains in effect for most countries in which our students study, this was the best decision to protect the safety and well-being of our students.
  • Winter and spring 2021 study abroad programs or internships that are offered entirely virtually remain available to students. More information is available at https://studyabroad.calpoly.edu/.

Will there be study abroad opportunities in summer or fall 2021?

  • We are suspending summer 2021 study abroad and international group programs starting in June or July that meet the following criteria:
    • Have a level 3 or higher Department of State travel advisory AND/OR
    • Have a level 3 or higher CDC travel advisory
    • Note: this includes most summer programs offered
  • For study abroad and non-credit programs starting in August and September:
    • We are suspending all non-credit programs (Engineers Without Borders, choir tours, etc.) until winter quarter 2022. Exemptions will be reviewed 90 days prior to departure for programs in countries where Centers for Disease Control and Department of State levels are at a 2 or lower.
    • We will continue to assess the viability of study abroad programs with August and September start dates, and plan to make a recommendations about those programs by early May 2021. This decision is planned to be announced in advance of fall registration windows.
  • Programs that we propose to remain viable for June and July include those in countries where the Department of State and CDC advisory levels are at level 2 or lower. As of March 24, this includes programs in South Korea. Students may check with an advisor for more details by contacting studyabroad@calpoly.edu. Decisions about study abroad programs opening in countries at levels 2 or lower will be made on case-by-case bases.

What types of virtual study abroad experiences are available?

  • Virtual study abroad experiences range from coursework to satisfy major, minor or GE requirements to virtual internship opportunities for credit. Students may take one or more courses to supplement their studies at Cal Poly or participate in an internship with a foreign start-up or local community development organization. 
  • Countries represented include Australia, Netherlands, Spain, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Germany, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Jordan, China, India, Madagascar, Tanzania, and more.
  • Coursework options are available in a variety of disciplines such as foreign languages, social sciences, health sciences, international business, and more. 
  • Foreign Language options include Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Swahili, Vietnamese, and Quechua.
  • When students take advantage of a virtual study abroad program, they get to take courses taught by experts in their fields, gain international and comparative perspectives, engage with local cultures and communities, and not be bound by location. 
  • For a complete list of offerings, visit our website

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