Student FAQs for Taking Online Classes

This Information page will be updated frequently. Please revisit often.

  1. Can I take all of my courses pass/fail or withdraw from my courses?

    On March 20, 2020, the University announced that all undergraduate students (including those on Penn-sponsored abroad programs), research master’s students, and PhD students may choose to designate any currently enrolled course pass/fail for the Spring 2020 term.

    Spring 2020 courses that have ended or for which a course grade has been posted may not be changed to or from pass/fail. You may take as many of your Spring 2020 courses pass/fail as you choose. Research master’s students and PhD student will have until the end of the day on April 29 to decide whether to take any course on a pass/fail basis. Undergraduate students will have until the end of the day on April 29, to decide whether to take any course on a pass/fail basis.

    You must “opt in” to this expanded pass/fail option, and any courses taken on a pass/fail basis during Spring 2020 do not count against the total number of courses you may take pass/fail according to the policy of your School. Courses you select as pass/fail during Spring 2020 will count towards any of your undergraduate, research master’s, or PhD degree requirements, including undergraduate requirements in your major, concentration, and minor. A final grade of Pass will not affect your GPA. A final grade of Fail will impact your GPA the same as an F.

    Professional degree programs may or may not offer a similar pass/fail option for their students. Please ask your Dean if you are unsure.

    Each school’s policies continue to apply regarding withdrawing from a course. You should reach out to your academic advisor if you have concerns about completing a course. School advising offices are still operating.

  2. Will Penn be having summer courses online or in-person?

    Penn’s current remote learning plan will extend to all credit-bearing courses scheduled to begin on May 26, including both Summer Session I and Summer Session II, as well as the 11-week Summer Session. This decision, while not taken lightly, arises from the indefinite stay-at-home order in Philadelphia and the need to resume campus activities only when it is considered safe do so.

  3. I’ve never taken an online course. What should I expect?

    Taking a class online could involve any combination of the following:

    • Watching a lecture or video(s), which may be live or pre-recorded
    • Submitting reflections on lectures or other course material
    • Participating in discussion boards
    • Participating in a classdiscussion virtually using Zoom or BlueJeans
    • Submitting assignments online
    • Taking quizzes or exams online

    All instructors are being asked to communicate to their students about how the course will be offered online. Make sure you understand their expectations for participating in the course and submitting any assignments.

  4. When will my course be scheduled?

    Online course content can be provided synchronously (live sessions for the entire class at the same time), asynchronously (recordings or material that can be watched or completed at any time), or by a combination of both methods.

    Penn is strongly encouraging instructors to record all content, including synchronous sessions, so it will be available to review at any time.

    If your instructor chooses to provide synchronous content, it should be offered on the same day(s) and time(s) as your course is regularly scheduled during the semester (in Eastern Daylight Time). If you will be participating from a different time zone, please alert your instructor.

    Your instructor will communicate any changes to the syllabus including revised deadlines for assignments or exams if applicable.

  5. What if my course is a lab or studio?

    All courses are transitioning to remote delivery, including laboratory classes, studio classes, and classes that involve a performance component. Instructors have been asked to develop ways to deliver content for these courses online.

  6. How will assignments and exams work?

    Instructors will communicate to their students about how the course will be offered online, including how students should complete any assignments or exams. Assignments and deadlines may or may not be adjusted, but students are expected to continue completing the course requirements as outlined by the instructor. Make sure you understand your instructor’s expectations and ask questions if any expectations are unclear.

  7. What hardware and software will I need to participate in online classes?

    You will need a computer and reliable Internet access. The University is primarily relying on Canvas but instructors may also use other web-based tools including BlueJeans or Zoom. Some individual classes may require utilizing specific software and further information will be provided by your instructor. Here are links to the most used tools and guides to those tools:




  8. I need technical support.

    On March 20, 2020, Penn launched a Student IT Support website with information about PennKey and Two-Step Verification and guides to remote learning tools (Canvas, Panopto, Blue Jeans, Zoom). The website also lists Student IT Support for each of the University’s 12 schools. Please bookmark this website and visit often.

    Beginning March 23, 2020, Penn will offer 24/7 Student IT Support for all enrolled students. Please visit Student IT Support for instructions on how to access this assistance.

  9. Have any registration dates changed?

    Yes. The course registration deadlines for the remainder of the Spring 2020 term have changed. You can continue to check the Academic Calendar for the most up to date information.
    • Advance registration for the Fall 2020 term is now April 14 through April 24.
    • The last day to change the grade type in a Spring 2020 course is now Monday, April 13.
    • The last day to withdraw from a Spring 2020 course is now Monday, April 13.
  10. How do I access the library?

    Penn libraries’ digital resources and services as well as librarians are still available. Visit COVID-19: Libraries Access and Support for the most up to date information and instructions on how to access materials and resources.

  11. Can I be anywhere I want when I take my class online?

    Yes, but remember that you should continue to be professional during synchronous sessions just as you would in an in-person class.  You should be appropriately dressed and sitting down in an area where you can focus. Be cognizant of what is in the background. You should not be multitasking during online classes. And we really hope we don’t have to remind you not to ‘Zoom and Drive.’

  12. I currently have accommodations, or will need them to participate in online classes. What should I do?

    Please contact Student Disability Services as soon as possible. If you have had accommodations this semester, contact your SDS advisor to discuss how your accommodations will continue to be implemented for the remainder of the semester. If you are making a first-time accommodations request, complete the Self-Identification form online and submit documentation of disability via Secure Share.

  13. What if I get sick and cannot participate in my online class?

    If you are sick and cannot participate in the class or finish assignments, notify your instructor via email or Canvas as soon as possible. For undergraduate students only: the Course Absence Report system remains open for the remainder of the Spring term and you should continue to use it if you are not able to participate, just as you would prior to courses being delivered remotely.

  14. I am struggling with taking my classes online. Can I just take incompletes?

    An incomplete in a course is rarely a good solution for difficulties you are having with a course. You should reach out to your academic advisor if you have concerns about completing a course. School advising offices are still operating.

    The learning instructors at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center and the staff at the Tutoring Center also remain available to assist students during this time.

  15. I have other concerns about my courses.

    Students should contact their academic advisors and/or school-based advising offices, which remain open. Additional online guidance for each of the four undergraduate schools can be found at:

  16. A note about academic integrity:

    As you return to classes, please keep in mind that the University remains committed to the standards of academic excellence outlined in the Code of Academic Integrity. You should continue to follow the expectations outlined in the Code, and are responsible for asking your instructor for any clarifications. If you have questions about how aspects of the Code of Academic Integrity relate to your classes in this changing landscape, ask your instructor. Remember that the Code states "If a student is unsure whether his/her action(s) constitute a violation of the Code of Academic Integrity, then it is that student’s responsibility to consult with the instructor to clarify any ambiguities."

    Additionally, it is important to educate yourself around the University's copyright policies and how they apply in the online space. Please take a minute to read the policies and ask questions as needed.

  17. I am an undergraduate student. How does taking some or all of my courses pass/fail impact my GPA?

    If you pass a course you took pass/fail, a grade of ‘P’ appears on your transcript for that course. A grade of ‘P’ does not impact the GPA. However, if you fail a course, a grade of ‘F’ appears on your transcript for the course and impacts the GPA, whether or not you were taking the course pass/fail. Speak with your academic advisor before making any decisions about whether to take any of your courses pass/fail.

  18. Is Penn going to online classes for the Fall 2020 Semester?

    Penn, like other universities around the world, has shifted to remote instruction for its spring and summer sessions. Penn is a leader in new forms of teaching and learning, including online instruction, and we are confident that our students and faculty are having an outstanding experience completing this semester. We do not know how the current pandemic will play out in the months ahead, and so we cannot predict at this time how the fall semester will look. We are planning for every possibility and closely following the guidance of health authorities and international, federal, state, and local governments.We are committed to working with any admitted student who would like to enroll at Penn and faces circumstances related to the pandemic that complicate that decision, including financial, visa, family, and health issues.

    We are also committed to keeping all members of the Penn community informed, including the Class of 2024 and their families, and will communicate further about the fall semester as the situation evolves.

Important Links & Resources

School COVID-19 Pages

Annenberg School for Communication

Arts & Sciences

Dental Medicine

Engineering and Applied Science

Graduate School of Education


Penn Law

Perelman School of Medicine

Social Policy and Practice

Stuart Weitzman School of Design

The Wharton School

Veterinary Medicine


Tips for Learning and Studying Remotely

Remote Learning Tips for Students from The Online Learning Initiative

Resources for Remote Learning from Weingarten Learning Resources Center 



Student Remote IT Support - 24/7 support, links and guides for tools such as Canvas, Zoom, and BlueJeans, and school IT websites


Library and E-textbooks

COVID-19: Libraries Access and Information

Libraries' Online Catalog: Franklin

Free e-textbooks from VitalSource through Campus Express Online 


Other Resources

Penn First Plus Resource Guide

Health and Wellness Updates - Student Health and CAPS Remain Available

Career Services Resources     

Last updated April 30, 2020 - 04:29pm