Supporting Short-Term Student Absences due to Illness

COVID is an ongoing reality of our day-to-day lives, in addition to the range of illnesses that can plague us throughout the fall and winter seasons, any of which may result in students being absent from class. As a reminder, Lakehead University has continued with temporarily suspending the need for a student who is ill to provide a Certificate of Illness or Incapacitation completed by a Medical Professional as per University Regulation IV “Examinations – Missed Examinations Due to Illness or Other Extenuating Circumstances”. Instead, students must submit a self-declaration to their instructor and can be directed to the Student Central “Missed Assessment” webpage for support on the steps required to submit their declaration.

The following recommendations may be helpful as instructors develop flexible and compassionate approaches to support these students. The recommendations take into account differing course structures, learning goals, and learning outcomes. Whatever approach/es is/are selected, instructors are encouraged to clearly indicate it/them on their syllabus so the expectations are clear for students from the start of the course.

Maintaining Engagement and Instructional Continuity

Depending on how long students are unable to attend class, there are several options instructors may wish to consider to support their learning until they are able to return to the classroom. For some suggested strategies related to maintaining engagement and instructional continuity, click on the options below to learn more.

Recording class sessions
  • If you are teaching a class with a Zoom component, consider recording the sessions. These recordings could be made available to the entire class or only to those students unable to attend (although these would benefit all students). You can also limit how long the recordings would be available.
  • If you taught this class in a previous term and have recordings from that term, consider making these earlier recordings available to students in the current term.
  • Consider creating asynchronous content such as video or audio recordings of your on-campus lectures, labs, or tutorials. These can be supplemented with asynchronous modules that could include discussion forums, problem sets, and other asynchronous activities.
Sharing class materials and updates in myCourselink/D2L
  • Posting additional materials and notes (e.g., lecture PPTs, class notes) under Content for excused students will help ensure these students are up-to-date with course content and class discussions.
  • Utilize the communication tools (e.g., announcements, email, discussion forums, calendar, etc.) in myCourselink/D2L to quickly and easily share course updates and reminders. Many of these tools have subscription features that provide instant notifications when changes are made to the course site.
Encouraging discussion beyond the classroom
  • Create discussion forums in myCourselink/D2L to encourage students unable to attend class to ask questions. These forums can be used for formal assessment and informal activities (e.g., general meeting place to chat with peers, share interesting resources, etc.). 
Providing virtual office hours
Being flexible with assessments
  • Consider adjusting assignments, extending deadlines, creating alternative assignments, or providing accommodations for students to make up assignments and other activities.
  • Remember that, in cases where a student may be absent for an extended period and not able to complete all assessments prior to the end of term, an instructor may assign an Incomplete Standing grade as outlined under section VI Standing in the University Regulations.
  • Refer to the Information for Instructors: Student Illness and Missed Exams in cases where students miss a formal exam.

While the preceding strategies are widely applicable, their implementation may vary depending on your teaching and learning contexts. Contact the Teaching Commons if you have questions about specific implementation in your classroom or course.