Last updated January 28, 2021 

These frequently asked questions address the Spring 2021 semester. We will update this page as new questions come in so please check back regularly. If you have questions that are not answered here, please contact us at

Information about Summer 2021 is now available; click here to view the Summer Session 2021 FAQs.

General Questions Regarding Spring 2021

All faculty have the option of teaching on campus, in a hybrid in-person/online course or exclusively online. It will be the choice of the individual, who will not have to disclose personal health information.
Consult your department chair or dean.
The Duke education is a unique, intensely personal, and highly engaged experience. We think it is of such value and benefit to students that we will take as many steps as necessary to provide it to as many students as we can safely accommodate given the uncertainties that currently exist.  Accordingly, if conditions permit, we would like every student to have at least one semester on campus this year. (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ")
Regular access to campus facilities, including faculty offices, is being managed through the Return to the Workplace (RTW) process ( Consult your school’s RTW coordinator for specific information about your area.
Every school as well as central units like Duke Learning Innovation, the Office of Faculty Advancement and OIT can provide resources and guidance for faculty.

Wherever they are during the break, students are expected to adhere to the Duke Compact and student COVID-19 Policy Plan:

Additionally, the “Community Responsibility” section of the Duke United website outlines the expectations for all members of the Duke community:

The Duke Compact is posted here:

(Retrieved from Duke Office of Durham & Community Affairs Winter Break FAQ)

COVID-19 Precautions & Policies

We will continuously monitor a range of indicators, including local and national conditions, infection and severity rates, hospital capacity, state and local regulations, and community status to determine whether any changes need to be made to campus activity. Should conditions deteriorate we would first move to a “shelter in place” status, in which all in-person classes would shift online, activities would be canceled, and facility access restricted. Closing the campus and sending students home would be a last resort because of the potential negative impact on families and community health.  (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ") The university has laid out several contingency plans if rising numbers of national infections require university officials to change the current schedule for student return in the Spring:
  • If baseline tests show concerning positive rates, all students will be sequestered in on-campus rooms or off-campus apartments, and all classes will start remotely for the first three days of the semester.
  • If the baseline tests are significantly worse than expected, again students will be sequestered and classes will start remotely for the first 10-14 days of the semester.
  • If infection rates in North Carolina and elsewhere in the United States are so high that it’s impossible to allow students to return to Durham as planned, all classes will start remotely and students will be brought to campus only when health risks and travel restrictions permit.

Most graduate and professional programs will be online-only or hybrid with minimal in-person classes.  Schools will continue to provide specific information to their students. Graduate and professional students will primarily have access to their designated academic spaces, including laboratories. Graduate and professional students will be able to access other important support services such as Student Health.  (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ")

For more specific directions for graduate and professional students returning to Duke or the Durham area in Spring 2020, please see "Pre-Arrival Testing and Entry Information for Graduate & Professional Students" (Retrieved December 21). You can follow more updates at at the Graduate School website.
All students will continue to be governed by their school-specific bulletins and will have to sign the Duke Compact.  Violations of either are subject to disciplinary sanctions up to and including expulsion. We hope that the ability to build and sustain a united Duke community and protect the health and safety of our neighbors, friends and colleagues will be the strongest incentive to observe these common-sense guidelines. (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ")

All students who will be living on campus or who plan to be on campus for any reason and any length of time this spring are required to participate in entry testing upon their arrival in Durham. Entry testing for undergraduate students will take place in Penn Pavilion from Thursday, January 14, to Wednesday, January 20, 2021, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST each day.  Extended testing hours, until 6 p.m., will be offered on January 15 and January 20. There will be no testing on Monday, January 18.

Students must register for a testing slot in advance of their arrival by Friday, January 8Registration is now open.

After entry testing, all students are required to sequester in their residence hall or off-campus home until they receive a negative COVID-19 test result. Test results will be made available through Duke MyChart, likely 36–48 hours after testing.

Any students who test positive will receive isolation instructions, under the care of Duke clinicians, and will participate in contact tracing, which is used to identify any other potential positive cases.

For more specific information about these protocols, please see the December 21 email communication to undergraduate students from which this information was retrieved.

Graduate and professional students will be required to take an entry test to receive access to campus. Entry testing for graduate and professional students will take place in Penn Pavilion, and they must register for a testing slot in advance by Wednesday, December 30. 

For more detailed information, see the December 21 email communication to Graduate and Professional Students from which this information was retrieved.

Duke has also provided a more in-depth FAQ for graduate students.
Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate (at one of Duke’s isolation facilities if living on campus, at their home or other location if they live off-campus) for 14 days and will be monitored by Duke Student Health. In addition, the contact tracing process will be activated and individuals who may have been exposed will be notified and tested.
Medical experts at Duke will review each situation and determine whether contacts need to be referred for testing or other actions. Members of the Duke community will be expected to comply with any quarantine guidance they are given.  (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ")
Faculty and staff who visit campus regularly will have to complete the app every day (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ")
Mention the requirements to wear appropriate face coverings, maintain physical distancing, and adhere to other safety guidelines. Include information about health resources for students, including wellness and mental health. And echo the need for us all to pitch in to prevent COVID-19 spread.
You can find the latest guidance and updates at Those guidelines are likely to evolve this year and updates are being posted to

Duke is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and local health department to develop a safe, efficient and equitable plan for vaccine distribution to students, faculty and staff based on a prioritization plan.

The initial phase of distribution will focus on vaccination of health care workers at high risk for COVID-19 exposure based on work duties or vital to the initial COVID vaccine response. Most members of the Duke community who do not have two or more of certain chronic conditions defined by the CDC, will likely not be eligible for vaccination until late spring or early summer.

For more information, see the website this information was retrieved from:

For answers to more questions regarding Duke’s practices and policies regarding COVID-19, please visit the Duke Coronavirus site, Duke Today’s coverage on the Spring and the Duke Today Reopening FAQ.

Learning Technologies

Starting Tuesday, January 12, all meetings will be required to either have a Passcode or Waiting Room enabled to ensure safer, more secure meetings. Below are a few scenarios you may encounter:
  • If you already have a Passcode or Waiting Room, there will be no change to how you schedule meetings;
  • If you do not have Passcode or Waiting Room enabled, Zoom will automatically enable a Waiting Room;
  • If you choose to add a Passcode to an already scheduled meeting, you will need to re-send the calendar invitation. Otherwise, Zoom will automatically enable a Waiting Room.
For more information about Zoom security and privacy, see OIT's webpage on Zoom Meetings: Security and Privacy in Your Meetings.

To assist with enabling the new Zoom security settings, OIT will be offering live support 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday, January 11 to Friday, January 22. You can join the Zoom support meeting at

Instruction Mode: In-Person

Yes, course designations may change as a result of a number of factors, including availability of the faculty member, campus and local conditions, and the composition of the students enrolled in the class. (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ")

The in-person class experience will be different for sure.  All students and faculty will have to use face coverings, physical distancing will be enforced, classrooms will be used at a limited capacity, and students may be participating online as well as in person. (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ")

All Duke classrooms will be reconfigured to meet requirements for physical distancing, cleaning and hygiene, and capacity will be generally limited to 25% of the normal available seating.(Retrieved December 2020 - from

For examples of Duke instructor experiences in Fall 2020, please see "Six things I learned about face-to-face teaching in the time of Covid-19" and "In an Immigrant Health Class, a New, Real-World Opportunity Emerges." For specific experiences with Zoom Carts, see Duke Today's "Zoom Carts Help Keep Semester Rolling."
This varies from space to space. Some rooms may also have portable Zoom carts made available to help better facilitate connection between remote and in-person students. Faculty should reach out to their regular local/school IT staff person for more details.
Model Compliance and Positive Behavior. Make sure that you follow required and recommended health safety measures during interactions at all times on campus.

Gently Enforce Compliance with the Health and Safety Guidelines. If you notice that a student is not complying with health and safety measures, and circumstances allow for a constructive conversation, remind that individual of the guidelines and the reasons behind them. If a student is not wearing a face covering, for instance, provide them with one if you have spare masks or let them know where they can get one (masks should be available in designated rooms in each classroom building).
Be Firm and Consistent in the Case of Non-Compliance. If a student in your course refuses to comply with health and safety guidelines, and cannot provide adequate proof of exemption, ask them to leave the room to protect the safety of others in the class. If the individual refuses to leave, stop the class, tell students that you will schedule a remote/virtual class to cover the material for that day, and then instruct everyone to leave the room. If you are an instructor of record, report the incident to your DUS and/or DGS, depending on the level of the course, as well as your chair/dean. If you are a TA, report it to the instructor of record.

Use Available Resources to Deal with Non-Compliance. If a situation around non-compliance arises (students gathering in close proximity, for example) that jeopardizes health and safety, and you do not feel comfortable addressing the situation directly, please contact your DUS, DGS, program director, or chair/dean. You can also contact Duke’s anonymous Speak Up Program at (800) 826-8109 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), complete the Speak Up online form, or contact the Duke Office of Audit, Risk and Compliance.
This Zoom Room Cart User Guide from OIT provides instructions on using the Zoom cart interface, and this guide on Zoom Room Cart / Sakai Integration provides instructions on integrating Sakai with your Zoom Room cart. Please contact your local IT group with specific questions or concerns.

See the Duke Registrar’s website for more information on the different instruction modes.

Instruction Mode: Hybrid or Online

Should you experience a technical failure in the future that affects your ability to conduct your course, here’s what you should do:

Step 1: Send an email letting your students know that the planned activity (class, office hours, etc.) will not be happening as scheduled. If you cannot access email but use Sakai, post an Announcement for students to see when they next access Sakai.

Step 2: Explain how the missed content will be made up. Some options include: record a lecture video and post it online, create an activity students can do on their own or in groups, move the content to another scheduled class session, or post a Sakai discussion forum topic on the topic of the class.

Step 3: Adjust deadlines and due dates. If a technology failure impacts a due date or exam, share the new date. Give students flexibility to make up missed work if the new due date or exam date conflicts with their schedule.

Make and share your backup plan before anything happens. For instance, tell students that if a synchronous discussion is ever canceled, they should anticipate a text from you or a discussion forum activity posted at a later time.

Review the Guide to Course Delivery to see your options for delivering course content.

To receive updates when a Duke-supported service is experiencing issues and when issues are resolved, subscribe to Duke IT Status alerts. For immediate technical assistance contact the OIT Service Desk through the web, email ( or phone: (919) 684-2200.

To receive updates when Zoom is experiencing issues, subscribe to Zoom Status alerts.
We understand that you and your students might be using non-Duke supported technologies in your courses. While we recommend using the supported and endorsed tools to keep things simple, secure and reliable, you might also be faced with a situation that warrants the use of non-Duke tools.

Keep in mind that when you use tools that have not been reviewed and supported by Duke you are (1) responsible for making sure your students’ data is protected and not shared; (2) responsible for informing your students that they’re using a tool that Duke does not support and has not reviewed for privacy and security (this is especially necessary when a tool produces something public – like a public blog or website, for example); and (3) responsible for providing technical support for the tool yourself (if the tool or platform doesn’t already provide sufficient support).

For Duke students in China some commonly used tools (e.g., Google Docs, Google Sites, WhatsApp) may not be accessible. Students may be able to work around this problem by using a VPN (or virtual private network); however, this solution may not be straightforward for students.

Intellectual Property Concerns

The same policies apply on campus and online. The Duke Policy on Intellectual Property Rights in the Faculty Handbook “reaffirms [the university’s] traditional commitment to the personal ownership of intellectual property rights in works of the intellect by their individual creators…”  The policy states that “recording of lectures may only be done with the permission of the instructor presenting the lecture.” It also limits what students may do with such recordings: “Student recording of lectures, when permitted by the instructor, shall be for private study only. Such recordings shall not be distributed to anyone else without authorization by the instructor whose lecture has been recorded….Unauthorized distribution is a cause for disciplinary action by the Judicial Board.” Zoom allows class sessions to be recorded. We recommend faculty record class sessions and require it if students will be responsible for content that is presented exclusively in Zoom. (This is because students are now located in time zones all over the world and cannot reasonably be expected to participate live in synchronous sessions.) If faculty have concerns about recordings they can set them to delete after a certain length of time. Or they can focus their teaching on instructional methods that do not require audiovisual recording.
Students in different time zones might not be able to attend live class sessions, so if instructors use live Zoom sessions they should be recorded and shared with the class later. 
  • Make sure recording is turned on before you begin each session.
  • Remind your students that the session will be recorded and that their classmates will be able to review it. (Zoom will also ask for consent to be recorded.) For more information on protecting student privacy visit the Privacy page on ScholarWorks.
  • Remind students they may not share recordings outside the class, nor should they record sessions without your permission. To do so violates Duke policies. Set guidelines and expectations clearly. 
  • If you schedule a Zoom session in Zoom and record to the cloud the link for the recording is only sent to you as the host. If you schedule the session through Sakai the recording is visible to those with access to the Sakai site.
  • Breakout rooms in Zoom are not recorded without permission of the instructor. 
  • Direct your students to review this section on the Keep Learning website for further information.
Duke respects the privacy of the community and will follow its policies and relevant laws.

Academic Accommodations and Accessibility

Instructors should continue to comply with academic accommodations authorized by the Student Disability Access Office (SDAO). In most cases, accommodations will not change, and the Testing Center is operating remotely. If you are concerned about meeting particular accommodations remotely, reach out to SDAO. Students with accommodations should provide instructors with a letter outlining their approved accommodations. If a student has new or updated accommodations for any reason, the SDAO will provide the student with a new letter to give to instructors.
Students should be in touch with the Student Disability Access Office to update accommodations under these circumstances. They can request updates online here. More information for students is available at
The specific accommodation for a take-home exam is based on the nature of each student’s disability. Some academic accommodation letters indicate that additional time is not needed. Other letters indicate students should receive extended time in such cases. The Student Disability Access Office (SDAO) staff member listed on a student’s academic accommodation letter can assist with the interpretation and provide guidance on the implementation of a specific accommodation.
Accessibility guidelines for remote instruction are essentially the same as for in-face instruction, and the two main instructional platforms–Sakai and Zoom–are ADA-compliant.  Continue to design documents, presentations, and images according to web accessibility guidelines.  Duke Learning Innovation provides guidelines for creating accessible content in Sakai. If you are using a new online tool or app that you have not used in class before, consider whether it is accessible before adopting it. See also: How do I address accessibility concerns?
Yes. Transcriptions of recorded Zoom sessions are helpful for students. However, even the best automatic transcription often contains errors.  We recommend you view and edit the transcript before posting.  If you have a student that requires captioning or a note-taker, SDAO will work with you and the student to ensure their accommodation is met.

Student Support

Many academic support resources will be delivered virtually this semester, including the Academic Resource Center, the Testing Center, Academic Guides, Academic Advising Center, Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support, Career Center, Duke LIFE, and the Global Education Office. These virtual resources will be available to students regardless of their location.  (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ")

Additional resources for students: Latest Information: Duke United – University information on campus reopening Keep Learning – Hub for student-focused information and FAQs Mental Health Support: Blue Devils Care: 24/7 mental telehealth support to all students at no cost. To get started, visit Register once using your email address and Service Key DUKE2020, then you’ll be ready to use the service whenever you need it. Counseling & Psychological Services: CAPS remains open and counselors are continuing to provide care remotely through telemental-health appointments. DukeReach: Submit a report to DukeReach if you’re concerned about the physical or mental well-being of yourself or another student.

All students should call Duke Student Health. Faculty and staff should call their health care provider or Duke Employee Health. Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ")
Yes, students in quarantine or isolation will be able to continue their studies remotely.  (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ")
If you have concerns about the health or behavior of any student in your classes or with whom you interact, contact DukeReach (, as well as the relevant DUS, DGS, or program director, as appropriate. If you need advice or a sounding board yourself, talk to your faculty adviser, your DGS or another mentors.

Grading and Assessment

The normal letter grading system was in place for the Fall semester, and there has been no change announced for the Spring. (Retrieved July 2020 - from "Duke Reopening FAQ") However:

For Spring 2021 Only: The S/U Grading Option adopted by the Arts and Sciences Council for Fall 2020 will continue on for Spring 2021. Any department may convert any or all of its 199 and below level courses to a S/U grading basis while retaining existing curriculum codes for those courses, but no department is obligated to do so.  (From Trinity's update on Courses: Satisfactory / Unsatisfactory Grading Option)