Fall 2021 Instruction

Instructional Support

Looking for instructional support? Connect with the Center for Teaching, Learning and Mentoring! Current support opportunities include:

Staff members at the center can also help you connect with local support in your school or college.

Campus Masking Policy

Effective Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, all students, employees and visitors to campus will be required to wear face masks when inside campus buildings. Read the full announcement.

Communications to students emphasize their responsibility for following the policy and indicate that a failure to attend class with an appropriate face mask will be considered an unexcused absence.

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Can an instructor or any employee wear a clear face shield instead of a mask?

No. Current campus guidance states that “all students, employees and visitors to campus are required to wear either a reusable, well-fitting cloth mask or a single-use disposable mask when inside campus buildings.” Students, employees and visitors may choose to wear a face shield in addition to – but not as a replacement for – a reusable or cloth mask. Instructors concerned about speaking in the classroom while wearing a mask can find information about classroom microphones below.

Employees who have a medical condition or disability that affects their ability to wear a face covering may request an accommodation; contact your Divisional Disability Representative.

How should I respond if I see someone (a student, another employee, visitor, etc.) not wearing a face mask where one is required?


Remind them about the face covering requirement. Using language such as, “I notice you aren’t wearing a mask” is a good place to start. Remember that not everyone is able to wear a face covering, and it is not your responsibility to evaluate their accommodation needs. Students with documented accommodations work with the McBurney Center and are expected to share their accommodation with you at the start of the semester. As appropriate, remind the class that not everyone is able to wear a face covering.


Offer them a face covering if you have extras and if they need one. Speak with your supervisor if you have questions about where to find extra supplies.


Respond using your best judgment. If you are dealing with a visitor to your space who refuses to put on a face covering, you may ask them to leave. If they continue to refuse to comply, do what you can to de-escalate the situation, including walking away. You are not expected to jeopardize your personal health and safety to enforce the campus health protocols.

Students who repeatedly fail to comply may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and may be subject to disciplinary action under the non-academic misconduct policy. Submit an incident using this incident report form.

Please note that only supervisors, managers, and HR representatives can direct employees to leave the workplace.

Download a PDF of this guidance.

What should an instructor do if a student refuses to wear a face mask while in the classroom?

Those who can wear a face covering but refuse to do so will be asked to leave the building. Any student absence from class due to refusal to wear a mask should be treated as an unexcused absence. Such unexcused absences should be treated in accord with each course’s particular unexcused absence policy, which should be clearly stated on the course syllabus.

Students who repeatedly fail to comply will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and may be subject to disciplinary action under the non-academic misconduct policy. Submit an incident using this incident report form.

Students who have a medical condition or disability that affects their ability to wear a face covering should request a reasonable accommodation.

Course Modality

Instructors are expected to teach course sections, including lectures, discussions and labs, in the modality indicated in the schedule of classes (as reflected in Course Search and Enroll and Faculty Center). Modality decisions and modality changes must be approved at the department and school/college level and are subject to review. Individual instructors may not unilaterally change the modality of any course section.

Please see the campus definitions for the three types of modalities: in-person (P), hybrid (WC), and online (WO).  Note that an in-person (P) course may have occasional and rare online meetings. Such occasional and rare meetings should be used only in cases of unavoidable instructor absence and after other possibilities, including colleague coverage, have been explored.

COVID-19-Related Absences

Student Absences

Individual students unable to attend in-person class meetings for COVID-19-related reasons (or for any reason) should contact their instructor to discuss options for access to course materials and activities. Instructors are encouraged to be flexible and supportive of all students in such circumstances. Students who must miss multiple class sessions should talk with their instructor and with their academic advisor about the best course of action.

If multiple students in a course section must miss in-person class meetings for COVID-19-related reasons, every effort should be made to avoid a disruption of in-person instruction. Instructors should work with their department, school and college to explore ways to provide students who cannot attend in-person sessions access to course materials and activities. Any interruption of in-person instruction should be temporary and brief.

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Will I be notified if a student in my class is required to be tested for COVID-19, has failed to test for COVID-19, or tests positive for COVID-19?

No. In fall 2021, no testing information about students will be shared with instructors.

Students who are required to test for COVID-19 are receiving frequent messages from campus about this requirement and those who fail to comply are being held accountable.

Given our high rates of vaccination on campus and the campus mask requirement, instructors will not be informed by campus when a student in their class tests positive, unless they are deemed a close contact. Students may, however, choose to share this information on their own.

Once someone is fully vaccinated, they are not required to quarantine if they are exposed to someone positive for COVID-19. Instead, if they are deemed a close contact, they are instructed to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and seek testing 3-5 days after their most recent exposure and at any point if they develop symptoms.

Everyone should be in the habit of monitoring themselves for symptoms daily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend fully vaccinated people undergo routine screening testing unless they have symptoms or are a known close contact. Students and employees who are not fully vaccinated will already be testing weekly.

How is contact tracing operating this fall? Will I know if I have been near someone who tested positive?

UW–Madison University Health Services (UHS) manages contact tracing for those individuals who test positive for COVID-19 at on-campus testing locations. Review description of a close contact.

If you were in close contact with someone who tested positive on campus, you will receive more information via phone call from a contact tracing staff member or an email from UHS noting that you have an important message waiting in your MyUHS account. To check your secure messages, log on to your account and navigate to “Messages” to see if you have a message related to this contact.

If you are fully vaccinated (it has been two weeks since your final dose of the vaccine), you are not required to quarantine even if you have a close contact who is positive for COVID-19. You should get a COVID-19 test 3–5 days after a known exposure. You should also test if you develop any symptoms. If you have symptoms, ensure you isolate until your test results are available. If your test result is negative, you should see a health care provider to assess your symptoms.

Also see: “Since a student may not know who they were next to in class, how will a contract tracer know who in the class to inform?

What should I do if a student in my class tells me that they have tested positive for COVID-19? Should I inform the other students? Should I cancel class?

While we want to give other students information intended to protect themselves and others, it’s important to respect the medical privacy of those who become sick. Informing your class that someone has tested positive may reveal the identity of the student who is sick. Instructors should not do this. If a student wishes to inform the class, they may do so, though they are not required. You should not cancel class.

Instead, please regularly remind your students of the following:

  • They should continue to monitor themselves for symptoms daily. This is true regardless of whether someone in the class has tested positive since exposure can happen in many different settings, on and off campus.
  • If they develop symptoms of COVID-19, they should isolate themselves immediately and make an appointment to get tested.
  • They may hear from a campus contact tracer if they are deemed a close contact of someone who has tested positive. However, while campus has a team conducting robust contact tracing, it will not always be possible to identify all close contacts of someone who has tested positive.
  • If they learn they are a close contact of someone who tested positive, whether from a contact tracer or from the individual, they should follow instructions for quarantine and/or testing.
  • Risk of exposure in classrooms is low given that more than 90 percent of on-campus students and employees are vaccinated and everyone is required to wear masks. Most people in our community are strongly protected from infection. There is no need to cancel class because a student has tested positive.

Additionally, instructors should be flexible with and supportive of students who cannot attend class in-person due to illness or quarantine but every effort should be made to avoid a disruption of in-person instruction. If you have questions about your individual classroom situation, contact your supervisor or department leadership.

Are instructors required to provide students remote or online access to in-person courses?

In general, instructors are not required to provide remote or online access to courses scheduled for in-person instruction. Students who enroll for courses scheduled for in-person instruction are expected to attend in-person course sessions.

Students with a documented accommodation need related to in-person instruction should contact the McBurney Center. The McBurney Center will work with the student and instructor to explore the possibility of reasonable accommodations.

See general guidance above for how to address instances where individual or multiple students need to miss class.

Instructor Absences & Coverage of Teaching Duties

Instructors of in-person courses who are unable to teach in-person for COVID-19-related reasons should contact their supervisor or department leadership to discuss and coordinate arrangements that will minimize disruption to their in-person courses. As in analogous, non-COVID-19-related circumstances, colleague coverage is a first option to consider. Any interruption of in-person instruction should be temporary and brief.

Office Hours

Instructors are strongly encouraged to offer students the opportunity to attend office hours in person this fall. Meeting in person allows for the kind of rich instructor-student engagement that is at the core of the UW-Madison residential learning experience. Instructors and students should follow current university public health guidance including wearing face masks when indoors.

Microphones for Instruction

All classrooms that are large enough to normally require a microphone already have a microphone system with a communal clip-on pickup element. This equipment should remain in the classroom.

Also, instructors who have a documented accommodation and/or who have a student in their class with a documented accommodation that requires a microphone, will automatically be contacted and provided with the necessary equipment.

Steps instructors can take to determine if they need additional microphone equipment and how to obtain it:

  1. Determine what equipment, if any, already exists in the room(s) you are teaching in by visiting the room(s) in person or contacting the department that controls the space. You can also consult this list of General Assignment classrooms and compatible equipment (via Box) to determine if you already have access to compatible equipment or not.
  2. If a room you are teaching in does not have the necessary microphone equipment and/or you do not have access to compatible equipment for a room, contact your department to request additional equipment.

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Is it safe to use a microphone in a classroom shared by other instructors?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, transmission from surfaces contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19 is not a substantial source of infection. The virus is primarily spread through exposure to respiratory fluids containing the virus, typically through inhalation of small droplets and aerosols; contact between exhaled droplets/particles and mucous membranes (mouth, nose, eyes); or by directly touching contaminated hands or objects to mucous membranes.

Because instructors using microphones in classroom settings will be required to wear masks, direct contact between the surface and the mucous membranes of users should not occur. Campus public health experts recommend practicing ample hand hygiene (wash and sanitize hands) before and after using shared equipment as a way to further reduce the limited potential for spread. Users may also gently clean the microphone with a disinfectant wipe provided in each classroom.

What resources are available to assist instructors with the use of microphones and portable systems?

Instructors can use the following instructions and short videos to assist with the use of the microphones and the portable systems:

Cleaning Supplies & PPE

Cleaning/Disinfecting Supplies Available in Buildings

Cleaning and disinfecting supplies will be maintained onsite in each building with instructional spaces. Building managers and department contacts have been asked to identify a space in each building where the supplies will be kept and made available to building occupants. The locations will vary from building to building; contact your building manager for more information.

Details about the supplies:

  • Physical Plant has placed 500, one-gallon bottles of hand sanitizer in building entrances and high-traffic areas across campus. These bottles are checked nightly and refilled as needed.
  • Physical Plant will place two, one-gallon containers of disinfectant wipes in the main entrance of classroom buildings before the start of the fall semester. These containers will be checked and restocked nightly.

Ordering Cleaning/Disinfecting Supplies and PPE

With the exception of the supplies listed above, procurement and distribution of cleaning/disinfecting consumables and PPE has returned to our normal (pre-pandemic) process. Physical Plant will no longer provide wipes, spray disinfectant and paper towels in classrooms.

Any cleaning/disinfecting supplies or PPE needed for regular, ongoing day-to-day operations (such as masks, mask fitters, gloves, face shields, and gowns) will continue to be available at no cost through ShopUW+ until current inventories are exhausted. Once that occurs, these items should be procured by the base unit/lab/school/college from other ShopUW+ vendors using normal practices.

Orders will typically be delivered the next working day after the order is placed. To find these items from the ShopUW+ homepage, go to Shopping Home > Facility Supplies > MDS Warehouse. A keyword search (e.g. “mask”) can be used to find the items of interest.

The suggested disinfectant (that Physical Plant uses) is called Oxivir Tb and is available in one-quart spray bottles on ShopUW+.

Field Trips

Course field trips are allowed in fall 2021. Instructors should be aware of the following:

General Rules

  • Students cannot be required to disclose their vaccination status.
  • Participants should be encouraged to abide by the “recommendations” that apply to them based on their vaccination status.
  • Those who are unvaccinated should do the following:
    • Wear a mask at all times
    • Physical distance where possible (to reduce their risk as much as possible)
  • Those vaccinated should not have restrictions other than those mandated by states, counties, districts and businesses, which are usually related to community transmission in the location.
  • Anyone with symptoms should NOT attend field trips.
  • Anyone in an active isolation or quarantine should NOT attend field trips.


  • Vehicle: When traveling in vehicle, all participants are required to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.
  • Public Transport: When traveling on public transport, masking requirements are based on the transportation service (it is highly recommended to wear a mask at all times since these vehicles have limited air flow and can result in prolonged exposure).
  • International: Please consult with International Academic Programs.

Additional Considerations

  • Pay close attention to COVID-19 cases and transmission level of the destination (all are measured by total cases per 100k persons in the past 7 days)
    • High   > or = 100
    • Substantial  50-99
    • Moderate  10-49
  • In areas of “High” or “Substantial” transmission, those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in indoor settings or outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible.

Individuals traveling domestically for business purposes should also follow the University Travel Policy.