Guidelines for Instructors and Students on Teaching, Learning, and Assessment (Fall 2021)

Posted: June 17, 2021 | Updated July 23, 2021
Jump to: Guidelines for Instructors | Guidelines for Students | Guidelines on Assessment

McGill is committed to creating and maintaining respectful, inclusive, and accessible learning environments aimed at supporting students’ academic success. In Fall 2021, in-person teaching is the norm to the extent possible, but some courses or course components will still be delivered online. Therefore, some instructors will need to consider planning for a blended learning environment. Blended learning refers to teaching and learning activities made up of a combination of online and in-person course components, both of which are necessary for students to achieve the learning outcomes. Design decisions are made to maximize the benefits of online and in-person opportunities given the course context, including contact hours. The Planning your Fall 2021 courses: Blended learning activities and assessments webinar may be help you plan your Fall courses 2021. Access a video recording, slides, and Blended Activities and Assessments Planner (worksheet).

These Guidelines highlight relevant University policies and parameters to be aware of to create teaching and learning experiences that are accessible and pedagogically robust in the various Fall 2021 teaching contexts. In tandem with the Guidelines are recommendations for sound teaching practices that became particularly salient when the University shifted to online teaching and links to resources to support the implementation of the Guidelines and recommendations.

The Guidelines complement but do not supersede applicable University regulations and policies, and collective agreements, including but not limited to:

In Section A, Guidelines for Instructors, “you” and “your” refer to instructors, such as McGill academic staff members, course lecturers, teaching assistants, and guest lecturers, who are delivering all or part of a course or program to McGill students.
In Section B, Guidelines for Students, “you” and “your” refer to students enrolled at McGill.
Section C of the Guidelines is relevant to both instructors and students.

A. Guidelines for Instructors

As an instructor at McGill, you are responsible for being familiar with and abiding by applicable policies, such as the ones listed at the top of this page. You may wish to include information in your course outlines that addresses the Guidelines and other practices relevant to teaching in online, in-person, and blended learning environments. Sample phrasing is available in the Course Outline Guide:

📄 Download (.docx file) the Course Outline Guide in:

  • English (For Fall 2021)
  • French (version automne 2021 à venir bientôt)

Several items in these Guidelines refer to Zoom and Lecture Recording System (LRS) recordings. Note that recordings will not be used to formally assess your teaching performance for the purposes of reappointment, tenure, performance, or merit.

More information for instructors about Fall 2021 teaching is available here

Guidelines Generally recommended teaching practices Recommended teaching practices for particular circumstances Resources

1. Communication with students

It is important that each instructor in charge of a course or program explicitly communicate key information to students during the first week of the term via the course outline so that there is no ambiguity for students about this information and so that they can refer to it as needed throughout the term.   It will be important to indicate in the course outline which course components, including assessments, will be online and which will be in-person, noting that plans are subject to change based on public health directives.

📄 Download (.docx file) the Course Outline Guide in:

2. Recordings of synchronous classes

myCourses is the McGill-supported platform for hosting recorded content. As such, it offers standardized service for McGill instructors and students, thereby providing increased security and data protection, and simplifying user experience/access, information technology maintenance, and platform integrity. Use of any alternative platform must be approved by the head of the unit, in consultation with the Office of the CIO or its delegate, and must comply with the University’s policies and directives. McGill keeps recordings for one year, after which time they are deleted. You can allow students enrolled in your course to have access to recordings for the entire year or for selected periods.

You are encouraged to record your classes to allow students to review material outside scheduled class time and provide greater accessibility of course materials for students who face barriers.

Recording synchronous class components should be done either with the LRS in classrooms outfitted with the system or with Zoom. Using Camtasia is also an option.



Given that in-person class recordings made with the LRS do not record students’ faces or names, explicit consent is not required.



Students will be asked to consent to being recorded if they are participating in any component of a course that is being recorded via Zoom. Students are notified through a “pop-up” box in Zoom when recording is turned on. Students who are not comfortable being in a class that is recorded can either choose to remain muted and with camera off throughout the class, or not take part by logging off Zoom and watch the recording after the class.

Class recordings should be scheduled using Zoom from within myCourses as this helps limit access to authorized McGill students.

It is recommended to enable live captioning of recordings to facilitate access to all students and to be able to generate a session transcript, which may be required by some students with disabilities.



You may signal to students that you prefer they leave their cameras on, but this should not be required as it may have the unintended effect of (a) creating a disadvantage for students with weak Internet bandwidth or other technological limitations and/or (b) compromising students’ privacy.

Students who cannot comply for technology reasons or privacy reasons must inform you at the beginning of term so that appropriate accommodations can be discussed. Failure to do so may result in students not receiving an accommodation.

If your class requires active participation, consider options such as “chat” functions or audio only, or seek guidance from the Office of the Dean of Students on other considerations.

If your class requires that you observe student performance, such as in a language course where you need to see the mouth and facial expression, or in a music performance course where you need to see hand movement, it is important to make it known to students in advance that they will need to turn on their cameras for specific portions of the class.

Office of the Dean of Students

3. Workload

With managing students’ workload in mind, please recall that item 7.1.2 in the University Student Assessment Policy (USAP) states that any assessment worth more than 10% of the final grade cannot be due during the final two weeks of classes unless it is an oral exam or an assessment about which students were notified in the first week of class.

When planning your course, including learning activities that take place both during and outside scheduled class time, try to be mindful of both students’ workloads and your own.

It may be possible to coordinate some assignment due dates with colleagues who are teaching courses in the same program so that students do not have clusters of assignments due at the same time.


4. Accessibility and inclusivity

The University is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive environment for all members of the community. Incorporating principles of inclusive course and assessment design will create a learning environment that is inherently more accessible to all students, while simultaneously reducing the potential need for individual accommodations or academic considerations.

Consider prioritizing accessibility and inclusivity when designing and teaching your courses.  

5. Well-being

  Teaching during unexpected and unusual circumstances, such as a pandemic, can increase workload and cause stress. Instructors should be attentive to their own well-being, as well as being mindful of their students’ well-being For online courses, keep in mind that long stretches of time on virtual learning platforms can be tiring for instructors and students alike. Thus, consider designing class time (e.g., lectures, seminars, conferences) to be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous (prerecorded) content. Check within your Faculty to see if there are specific contact hour requirements to satisfy professional accreditation requirements.

6. Fall break

Students in most Faculties will have a break on October 12 and 13.

Since the break is intended as an opportunity for students to rest, visit loved ones, catch up on existing work, and focus on wellness, assignments and exams should neither be due during the break nor should take-home assignments and exams be assigned for students to work on during the break. Academic units are encouraged to coordinate where possible to avoid overloading students either before or immediately following the break.

  Fall 2021 Study Break

B. Guidelines for Students

While you are a McGill student, you are responsible for being familiar with and abiding by applicable policies, such as the ones listed at the beginning of these Guidelines, as well as abiding by the information in your course outlines.

Guidelines Generally recommended learning practices Recommended learning practices for particular circumstances Resources

1. Academic integrity

Per McGill’s Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures, “[t]he integrity of University academic life and of the degrees the University confers is dependent upon the honesty, integrity and soundness of the teacher-student learning relationship and, as well, that of the assessment process.” Note that student obligation measures under the heading “C. Academic Offences” in the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (i.e., avoiding plagiarism and cheating) and associated disciplinary measures apply to all exams and other assessments whether online or in person.

Instructors’ teaching materials (e.g., slides, audio and video recordings, lecture notes) remain their intellectual property even when shared with students. You may therefore use these only for your own learning (and research, with proper referencing/citation). You are not permitted to disseminate or share these materials; doing so may violate the instructor’s intellectual property rights and could be cause for disciplinary action.


Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures

2. Recordings of synchronous classes

McGill takes all reasonable measures to ensure that class recordings are accessible only to students registered in the course. Therefore, you need to log in to myCourses to access the recordings. McGill keeps recordings for one year, after which time they are deleted. Instructors can allow students enrolled in their courses to have access to recordings for the entire year or for selected periods. Instructors are encouraged to record their classes, using McGill’s Lecture Recording System (LRS) or Zoom, so that students can review material outside scheduled class time and have greater accessibility to course materials should they face barriers.  


You will be asked to consent to being recorded if you are participating in an online course component that is being recorded via Zoom. You will be notified through a “pop-up” box in Zoom when recording is turned on. If you are not comfortable being in a class or a component of a class that is recorded, you can choose to keep your audio muted and video off or not take part by logging off Zoom, and watch the recording after the class.

In addition to the recording of your image and voice, your name (or preferred name) may be displayed on screen, and your instructor may call your name during class time. Therefore, this personal information will be disclosed to classmates, whether during the class session or in viewing the recording. By remaining in classes that are being recorded, you accept that personal information of this kind may be disclosed to others, whether during class time or in viewing the recording.

In cases where instructors set up recordings through myCourses (the recommended practice), recordings are automatically made available to students in myCourses within several hours. In some cases, it can take up to 24 hours for instructors to receive access to Zoom recordings.



Normally, recordings are automatically made available to students in myCourses within 6 hours, but in some cases, it can take up to 24 hours.


3. Class security

Per the Policy on the Responsible Use of McGill’s Information Technology Resources, do not share your login or password information. Keeping this information confidential minimizes the risk of harassment and intrusion into your learning environment by unauthorized and ill-intended users, and ensures that you remain compliant with University policy.     Policy on the Responsible Use of McGill’s Information Technology Resources

4. Expectations for engagement in synchronous online classes

If you have a disability that may impact your attendance or participation, proactively speak to the Office for Students with Disabilities regarding your eligibility for reasonable accommodation.

The University is committed to maintaining teaching and learning environments that are respectful, inclusive, and accessible for all. To this end, offensive, violent, or harmful language arising in both online and in-person teaching and learning environments may be cause for disciplinary action.

To maintain a clear and uninterrupted learning environment in classes taking place over Zoom, keep your microphone muted throughout online class time unless you are invited by the instructor or TA to speak.

You should follow instructors’ directions about the use of the “chat” function.

For pedagogical reasons and to enrich the experience of all students, attendance may be monitored and/or active participation may be expected or required during class time. As such, you may be asked to turn on your camera and audio. If you do not have the necessary resources (e.g., adequate Internet bandwidth or equipment) to do so, or if you choose not to turn on your camera for privacy reasons, inform your instructor at the beginning of term so that appropriate accommodations can be made. Failure to do so may result in students not receiving an accommodation.

5. Well-being

  If you are feeling overwhelmed with your academic work, seek support to manage your time and workload.   Student Services

C. Guidelines on Assessment

This section provides guidelines and recommendations applicable to assessments that occur or are due during the term, as well as during the final exam period.

Guidelines Generally recommended assessment practices Recommended assessment practices for particular circumstances Resources
Specific questions about assessment should be addressed to your Associate Dean or the Dean of Students. Note that for all assessment scheduling, instructors are required to respect the Policy for the Accommodation of Religious Holy Days.    

1. In-person assessments

Within term

In-person/blended courses: Classrooms have been assigned to align capacity with public health directives, and, as such, these classrooms are available for instructors to hold in-person assessments during the term. Instructors can hold in-person assessments at regularly scheduled class times.

Online courses: Instructors may consider holding in-person assessments by booking a classroom of appropriate size or using assessment hubs. Instructors should contact their Associate Dean for more information.


The weighting of an assessment should align with the length of time available to complete it.


Online synchronous assessments: Given that students will be in the same time zone and have access to internet service on campus, online synchronous assessments, such as students in a large class doing a quiz online at the same time, are a viable option. Instructors may still want to allow time for connectivity issues. Instructors can decide on the amount of time to allow based on the length of the class period and the time allotted for students to complete the assessment. A 5-minute window for 50-minute classes and a 10-minute window for longer classes may be appropriate. Instructors might consider providing students with their office (or other) telephone number or that of their TA (if appropriate) so that students who cannot connect to the internet during class time can inform them immediately. Students should be advised to telephone the IT Service Desk (514-398-3398) for technical support and keep a record of their ticket number in case follow-up is necessary.


Final examinations

More information about final exams will be available closer to the start of the Fall 2021 term. Instructors can contact their Associate Dean for more information.


2. Frequency of assessment

  From a pedagogical perspective, regular low-stakes assessment provides student with more feedback and practice opportunities than less frequent higher-stakes mid-terms and/or final exams. However, too many lower-stakes assessments may increase workload and stress for students, and contribute to fatigue related to excessive requirements for course activities. Keeping in mind that students are taking several courses, instructors might consider assigning a mix of lower- and higher-stakes in-course assessments, and be sensitive to the combined workload implications of multiple assessments due within the same week.   Frequent Low-Stakes Assignments

3. Equipment

Students who need to upgrade their Internet service or purchase a camera to do their assessments but face financial barriers to doing so may apply to the Scholarships & Student Aid Office (SSAO) for In-Course Financial Aid for undergraduates or graduate students. Students seeking this aid based on demonstrated financial need should start the process at the beginning of term so that they are able to meet assessment deadlines. NB: Certificate and diploma students in the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) are not eligible for SSAO aid programs. These students should contact SCS to find out whether aid is available.    

4. Online oral examinations and presentations

Instructors can require students to turn their cameras on for online oral exams and presentations. However, if students do not have the necessary resources (e.g., adequate Internet bandwidth or camera), instructors must offer an accommodation. The Office of the Dean of Students can be consulted to advise on appropriate alternatives.    

5. “No-review” testing


McGill does not recommend the “no review” testing option within myCourses for any graded assessments unless:

a) this approach to assessment is tied to specific learning outcomes and has been practiced during the term, or

b) “no review” is applied to defined sections of an assessment and not to questions within sections. It is suggested that sections have a minimum of eight questions. Full information should be given to students about the number of sections in the assessment, the number of questions in each section, and the weight of each section.


6. Accommodations

OSD-approved time-based accommodations for assessments

In cases where students are eligible per the OSD for time-based accommodations, students must first request use of their approved accommodations using the appropriate form via the OSD:

  • for online assessments, instructors are responsible for adjusting the time in myCourses;
  • for in-person assessments, accommodations will be coordinated and most often administered by the OSD.

Other OSD-approved accommodations

Students requesting accommodations on the basis of disability should contact the OSD.

Other accommodations

Students requesting other academic considerations or accommodations related to COVID-19, other illnesses, pregnancy, or other personal circumstances should consult their Student Affairs Office (or Client Services for students in the School of Continuing Studies).


7. Academic integrity and online proctoring

Any form of technology-enabled invigilation, also known as “online proctoring,” by instructors, which includes the use of proctoring software (or Zoom used for proctoring purposes), is not authorized except under exceptional circumstances. These circumstances require approval of the Associate Provost (Teaching and Academic Programs) and the Dean of the Faculty in question. Requests for approval for the Fall term should be made in writing to the Dean no later than August 9.

Instructors may remind students of the importance of honest work; to aid in this, an academic integrity statement may be included in the assessment. Students can be required to acknowledge that they have read the statement.

Instructors may remind students that posting or sharing exam content, including exam questions or their answers, both during and after submission, is not permitted and may subject the students involved to disciplinary action.

Consider using text-matching software to help students understand what is and is not plagiarism.


Final assessments

This section offers guidelines and recommendations for final examinations and other assessments to be written or submitted during the official exam period for the Fall 2021 term, which is scheduled for December 7-21. Individual Faculties may have additional recommendations, which should be communicated to all instructors teaching their courses. Information about whether all final examinations can be scheduled in person will be available closer to the start of the Fall 2021 term.


Open-book exam: An open-book exam is an assessment method that allows students to consult materials such as class notes and summaries, memory aids, textbooks, and other approved material or sources while completing the exam.

  • Two types of open-book exams exist:
    • Timed exams: exams that must be started and completed within a specified number of hours (e.g., 3 hours);
    • Take-home exams: exams that students can start, finish, and return to within a longer time period (e.g., 48 or 72 hours).
As online exams are not invigilated, instructors should communicate to students whether an exam—timed or take-home—is intended to be open or closed, and, if open, which materials are approved for consultation. An exam cover page is one way to communicate to students which materials are approved for consultation.   📄 Download the Exam Cover Page template.

8. Implementation

Online timed exams should:

a. not exceed three hours;

b. be released at the scheduled start time of the exam according to the official exam schedule; and

c. allow for connectivity issues by adding additional time for submission (a suggestion is 30 minutes). Students who encounter technical difficulties should contact IT Support.

Take-home exams to be submitted online should:

d. have a submission deadline that matches the scheduled exam end time as this will reduce exam conflicts. In general, take-home exams should be released to students a minimum of 48 hours before they are due. Other practices regarding release times may be acceptable provided that information is explicit in the course outline.

Final exam schedule

e. To be able to prepare a final exam schedule, the University’s Exam Office will, as usual, ask instructors to submit the Method of Evaluation form. A link to the Method of Evaluation webform will be sent to instructors before the start of the Fall term to collect details on their in-course and final assessments. The form will include online modes of assessment.

f. The final exam schedule, which will indicate the exam type, will be posted on the Exams website in early October.

g. The final exam schedule, with details such as when a timed exam will be released and when a take-home exam is due, will be posted approximately two weeks before the start of the final exam period.


9. Conflicts

Students with final examination conflicts will be contacted by the Exam Office of Enrolment Services, as will the instructors of these exams, to resolve conflicts. This will be done by the end of October, after the final exam schedule has been posted on the Exams website.

Students with accommodations that create exam conflicts will be notified by the OSD, as will the instructors of these exams, to resolve conflicts. This will occur after all conflicts in centrally scheduled exams have been resolved by the Exam Office of Enrollment Services.

Exams website


McGill University is on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. We acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous people whose footsteps have marked this territory on which peoples of the world now gather.

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