Q&A: Coronavirus, classes and exams

This Q&A explains the special measures in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. They apply to professors, Bachelor’s students, Master’s students, students in the Special Mathematics Course (CMS) and students taking the MàN review course.

The information may change to account for futake ture decisions taken by the School as the situation evolves.

[08 January 2021 update]

Coming to Campus

Yes, but only 1,000 work spaces are available (including 11 spaces in Neuchâtel). Students wishing to study on site at EPFL must first reserve a work space through the EPFL Campus app or online at: https://campus.epfl.ch/. This can be done up to 48 hours ahead of time by clicking on the revision rooms tab (it will be visible from 7 January). Note that you can reserve several time slots on a given day. The rooms are cleaned every day, but we ask that you disinfect your work space before and after using the materials provided. More information about revision rooms online at: https://go.epfl.ch/revising

Otherwise, students can come to campus for the following services:

  • Appointments with a counselor, psychotherapist or at the EPFL Health Point
  • Services provided by the Student Desk (such as to answer course-related questions or to obtain an official document or statement)
  • Printing services
  • Lockers (i.e., if you need to pick something up)
  • IT helpdesk services (for hardware or software problems)
  • Coaching services (up to five people at a time)
  • Meals (lunch and dinner)
  • Religious ceremonies and celebrations, and reflection areas (up to five people at a time)

No. If you have problems with your Internet connection please fill in this form. The School has arranged a technical solution for students living in Switzerland.

The above rules also apply to Saturdays and Sundays.

Yes, as they are considered to be working for a teacher. They can come to campus to do their work, and if that falls on a day when they have an online class, they can stay on campus to take their class online.

Yes, they can go to the designated site for their project. But they must sign up with the professor as well as with the project coordinator or the professor in charge of the laboratory where they’re working.

Students can come to campus to work on their semester or Master’s project, even on days when their student group is taking classes online. They must follow all the health and safety guidelines and tracing procedures at the lab they are working in.

These students may come to campus only if they are on site to perform tasks related to their association and only if these tasks cannot be performed remotely. They must sign up ahead of time through the EPFL Campus app.

Student association presidents must keep a list of all people who are on site for reasons related to their association (and keep this list for 14 days). Presidents are also responsible for making sure all association members comply with the health and safety guidelines.

Visiting students coming to carry out a project in an EPFL laboratory will be allowed on campus as long as they meet the following standard conditions set out by the Registrar’s Office:

  • the professor must have granted approval
  • the visit must last more than two months
  • the project must be worth credits.

If you have any questions on this topic, please contact the Registrar’s Office.

The Library and the Rolex Learning Center are only accessible to EPFL students (reservation required). You again have the possibility to borrow documents from the collections at the loan terminals and to return your borrowed documents by dropping them in the white boxes.

A dedicated Pick-up a Book desk provided by the librarians allows you to withdraw books ordered through the NEBIS network. In this case, it is necessary to reserve your documents from the BEAST catalogue. Loan and access to the collections is made easier for you: withdrawal of printed standards on request, sending by email of articles and chapters of digitizeed books.

Detailed information on Coronavirus (COVID-19) information at the Library page.

Winter 2021 exam session

Exam dates and procedure

You will have to wear a mask during in-person exams and whenever moving around the EPFL campus, and your CAMIPRO card will be required to enter buildings. Detailed guidelines are available in the following document: Health and safety guidelines for the exam session.

Yes. They will be held from 11 to 30 January 2021. The two weeks before the exams will be study weeks (which will begin immediately following the Christmas break). The exam session will be followed by three weeks of vacation, and the spring semester will begin on 22 February 2021.

Partially. Around half of the exams will be given in person, including those for the core first-year classes. The remaining exams will be given remotely, either as online oral exams or take-home exams. We have asked teachers to give exams remotely whenever possible in order to reduce the number of students on campus.

For online oral exams, students can use reference materials – such as books, class notes and the internet – but they must work alone. See the guide for instructions on how to give these exams. An observer (or, if necessary, an additional assistant) must also participate in the oral exam. Due to data protection legislation, the exam cannot be recorded.

Take-home exams are written, open-book exams that students complete at home (see our guide for instructions on how to give these exams). In these exams, students can use reference materials – such as books, class notes and the internet – but they must work alone. Students are not supervised during the exams but they must complete them within a given timeframe. Teachers can think of take-home exams as being like mini project reports. Usually students are not supervised when they complete a project report, but teachers can use various methods to check whether the work a student submits is their own, if necessary. The same approach applies to take-home exams. These methods are described in our take-home exam guide.

See the page tools and resources for remote exams.

No. It is too late, and even if large gatherings are forbidden, the Federal Council allows on-campus exams.

No, a written take-home exam is an unsupervised exam. There is no requirement to switch on the camera and be observed. Students can think of it as being a bit like writing a project report – the work is required to be their own but no one observes them writing it. Teachers can verify that the work is their own by checking submissions for similarities to each other or to pre-existing texts. Teachers may come back to students and ask them to answer questions about their work if the teacher has questions about whether the work is genuinely the student’s own work. Please note that this zoom-check is not a new exam to refine the student’s grade. For instance, in the event that a student who submitted a good exam paper and got a 5, but there is suspicion, the teacher may question him or her to explain one function in a few minutes, but the student will not have to redo the exam.

Students in Switzerland and in a 3G/4G zone should fill in this form. When there is no 3G/4G network, the solution is an Internet access subscription with a network provider (Swisscom, UPC, …) – the costs are not borne by the school. Similarly, we cannot make separate arrangements for students abroad.

No there isn’t. Off campus exams organization is only possible for incoming exchange students whose home university offers supervision. EPFL students are required to take their exams on campus.

The total length of time teachers give for a take-home exam should be the regular exam length plus a little additional time (normally 1 hour) to allow students to prepare their materials for submission and then submit them online (see our students guide about off campus exams).

For example, if a teacher expects their exam to take 3 hours to complete, the teacher should give students the normal 3 hours plus 1 hour for a total of 4 hours. However, the total exam time must not be longer than a half day (6 hours).

For take home exams students should need an Internet connection, a device to connect to Moodle and a device to turn written pages into pdf for submission (e.g. a computer or a smartphone). See our students guide about off campus exams as well as the page tools and resources for remote exams.

Teachers will tell students if they need to write by hand or type their answers. For handwritten answers, students will need to convert their text to a file they can upload to Moodle (usually a pdf). This can be done with a smartphone and a computer – students do not need to access a scanner. Our students guide about off campus exams describes how to do this using freely available software. It is important to practice this before the exam. 

It is best to write with a dark blue or black pen (not with a light pencil or with light colored inks) on plain white paper (not lined or squared). Write only on one side to prevent the image from coming through the page when you scan. When you scan your images, ensure that you are in a well-lit area. It is important that you test this in advance of the exam – it is your responsibility to ensure that the material you submit is clearly legible to the examiner.

Yes they can. A Moodle exam test page is available to practice uploading files so students can be familiar with the system in advance. Details are in our students guide about off campus exams.

All students can be required to share written work via zoom during an online oral exam. Students can use either a smartphone, or a device with a mirror (we have sent on December 17 mirror kits to students who will have to take online oral exams. Teachers who need a mirror device can contact [email protected] to get one). Both options are cost free to students. If students wish to use a more costly solution (a purchased mobile phone or webcam stand, a tablet etc.) they are free to do so. Sections may also make more costly setups available to students, but students cannot be required to use a more advanced solution if they prefer to use a cheaper workable solution. Although all these solutions are easy to use, it is absolutely essential to test and practice using the preferred solution in advance of the exam, in order to avoid losing time or having an avoidable technical difficulty during the exam. 

See the page tools and resources for remote exams.

Yes.

The teacher is required to designate a contact point for the exam. If a student has technical problems that prevent them from submitting their work on time, they must contact the teaching team immediately. They will tell them how to proceed. If a student cannot submit their take-home exam on time, the teacher must add a comment to the grading sheet to inform the registrar’s office of this. The student will be allowed to retake the exam during the spring semester.

If a student has technical problems before or during an online oral exam, they must contact the teacher immediately. The teacher must give their students a phone number where they can be reached. The teacher can reschedule the exam for later in the winter session if they have an open slot. If appropriate, the teacher can give the student alternative questions. If the teacher cannot reschedule the exam within the winter session, the teacher must add a comment to the grading sheet to inform the registrar’s office of this. The student will be allowed to retake the exam during the spring semester.

If a teacher run into a problem during an exam, he or she can call our teacher help desk at 021 693 31 03. Someone will be available to answer urgent questions on all days of the exam session (including Saturdays) from 7am to 7pm. For questions related to a technical problem, please call the regular IT support desk at 1234.

VPSI are in the process of putting in place a ‘moodle examination environment’ which will be used for winter exam session take home exams. This will be separate to the existing moodle teaching environment.  All courses will be created in the “moodle exam environment” and students’ registrations will be imported (as is the case with the existing moodle environment). This new moodle exam environment will help to ensure stability and security for the exams.

Teachers will inform students how to access their take-home exam. Usually, however, it will take place on a new Moodle exams platform. Students will connect to this platform using their gaspar login just as with the course’s Moodle page. The exam will be available on that site from the scheduled start time. See our students guide about off campus exams. It also describes how to upload a piece of work to Moodle for a take-home exam and how to test access to the Moodle exam system.

No. In-semester exams are regarded as continuous assessment and teachers should use the existing moodle environment. For in-semester exams with large classes teachers should contact the Moodle team through 1234.

Teachers can give multiple choice exams if there are held in person. For online exams, teachers must test their students using either online oral exams or take-home exams as described above.

Since classes are now given entirely online, teachers should test their students using take-home exam or an exam during the winter session (either online oral exams or take-home exams as described above).

Yes. If possible, CMS exams will be given in person. Students will be informed of what type of exams they will have by early December.

Withdraw and failing grades

Bachelor’s and Master’s students have until 30 November to withdraw from one or more exams. After this deadline, you will be required to take all your exams.

If you withdraw from an exam, your degree program will be extended by one semester or by one year if necessary.

If you must miss an exam for a valid reason (such as if you are blocked abroad and cannot attend an in-person exam, or because of quarantine, illness or an accident), you’ll need to send an email to the Student Services Desk (at [email protected]) with your teacher on copy, as soon as possible and no later than the start of the exam. Exams that are missed without prior notification and a valid reason will be graded “NA” (for “not acquired”), and the missed attempt will count as a failure in the discipline.

At the end of the exam session, the exam conference reviews the situation with each section director. Together, they plan a replacement exam in the first 3 weeks of the spring semester. The form of this exam may be different from the exam organized during the session, but only with the agreement of the students concerned. We have decided to allow this on an exceptional basis so that students can complete their degree programs within a reasonable timeframe.

The same rules apply to first-year students. The Examination Conference decides whether the student is referred directly to the MAN when his/her grades cannot be made up for by the missing exams or begins the BA2 semester in his/her section and takes the replacement exams. In the second case, after the replacement exams, the student will be referred to MAN in case of insufficient average.

Concerning CMS students, they will be admitted to the second semester of the CMS and will take the replacement exams within the first 3 weeks. In case of insufficient average, the student will then be excluded from the CMS.

You will still have the option of taking missed exams during the winter 2022 exam session.

Bachelor’s and Master’s students who fail an exam (i.e., who receive a grade below 4) can retake the exam during the next winter exam session without that counting as another attempt. You can still choose to keep your failing grade from the winter 2021 exam session if you wish.

If you choose to retake the exam and your grade causes you to fail a block or group of classes, the Registrar’s Office will, on an exceptional basis, record the higher of the two grades on your transcript.

If you miss an exam without prior notification or if you hand in a blank answer sheet, you will be graded “NA” (for “not acquired”) and this will be considered a failing grade. In this case, the failure will be counted as an attempt.

Yes, they will be included in the calculation of your GPA and recorded on your transcript. If a failing grade causes you to fail a block or group of classes, you can retake the exam during the next winter exam session without that counting as another attempt to pass the year.

However, a failing grade will be considered permanent if you pass the block or group to which the class belongs.

If you take more exams than necessary to pass a block and a failing grade on one of those exams prevents you from passing that block, the Registrar’s Office may agree to remove that grade from your transcript. The request should be made through your section.

First-year students who end the first semester with a GPA below 3.5 will not be given an official failing grade, but must take the MAN course in the spring semester. At the end of the MAN, these students will undergo an assessment of the skills they have acquired, in order to determine whether they are equipped to retake the first year of their Bachelor’s programs. This assessment is mandatory for students to be able to retake their first year with two attempts.

Students who end the first semester with a GPA below 3.5 must take the MAN course in the spring semester.

No, the preparatory year will take place as usual. Students who end the first semester with a GPA below 3.5 will not be admitted into the second semester; they will be advised to take the EPFL entrance exam.

Teaching during the fall 2020–2021 semester

General information

EPFL has decided that, starting on Tuesday, 1 September, everyone must wear a mask in all buildings on all EPFL sites. You must have a mask on when you enter a building and then keep it on at all times, including when you move around within the building (e.g., in classrooms, offices, restaurants, computer rooms, hallways, elevators and bathrooms). Students and staff members are required to keep their mask on even after they sit down to attend class, study or work.

Please take a moment to read the FOPH guidelines on how to wear a mask properly. Everyone who enters an EPFL building must comply with these guidelines. 

This mask-wearing requirement comes in addition to the existing health and safety rules, which remain the most effective way of protecting ourselves and others.

No. Under the new measures announced by the Federal Council on Wednesday, 28 October, Swiss universities can no longer hold classes in person. As a result, starting on Monday, 2 November, and until the end of the semester, all EPFL classes and exercise sessions will be held online.

Class activities that require an on-site presence may continue, in accordance with the Modulo rotating-group system (if applicable) and under the responsibility of the unit head or the person in charge of the activity in question

Students are divided into groups based on their SCIPER number modulo 3 as follows:

0 = Group A
1 = Group B
2 = Group C

Students can see which group they belong to in the EPFL Campus application and in IS-Academia.

No.

PhD students who take Bachelor’s and Master’s classes have to follow the three-group system that is being applied to those classes. They are therefore assigned to a group based on their sciper number modulo 3. 

However, PhD-level classes are not divided into three groups. For more information, please read the Doctoral Courses section of the information page for PhD students.

It’s too soon to say. A lot depends on how the pandemic develops and how things go during the fall semester.

Course attendance

Please fill in this form. The School has arranged a technical solution for students living in Switzerland only. We cannot make separate arrangements for students in other countries.

We have asked for all classes to be recorded. If this is not the case, you should contact your class delegate or speak to the class teacher. You can also report the matter to your section.

Students can continue using Moodle and other standard online platforms. If you want to arrange a virtual meeting, you can now log into Zoom using your GASPAR account.

Teaching

There are two ways they can do this:

1. Stream classes live and provide a recording afterwards

  • using tablets and PCs
  • using Zoom for the live class with the “Record” feature on
  • with exercise sessions pushed back one week if needed

2. Record classes ahead of time

  • classes are recorded on tablets, PCs or at a blackboard in a lecture hall
  • some student activities can be carried out in person (25–50% of the regular class time).

Teachers can decide which method to use based on their teaching style and course content. Howewer, they must inform their sections of the method they choose.

Our Flexible Teaching unit – comprising staff from the Teaching Support Center (CAPE) and the Center for Digital Education (CEDE) – has developed a Flexible Teaching web page with guidelines and a variety of helpful materials. The CAPE and CEDE also hold regular workshops on flexible teaching methods.

The use of PhD assistants and other student assistants should be discussed with the section. Sections that employ guest lecturers who don’t have personal assistants should plan to provide some type of assistance. For classes that are streamed live and recorded at the same time, we suggest an assistant in the room to help with the streaming, recording, Q&A, etc.

Many students had trouble connecting to the various systems this spring and experienced “videoconference fatigue.” We therefore believe it’s important to record lectures whenever possible; we also suggest holding exercise sessions one week after any streamed classes.

Students also said that being on campus regularly and seeing teachers face to face is important to them, but there was no clear preference for streamed versus prerecorded classes. However, students did say that with online classes, they would like to have more opportunities for interacting with teachers and asked that we prioritize interactive teaching methods.

During live streaming, remote students might experience connectivity problems.

We need to allow for enough time for the recording to be posted online and for students to view it before the exercise session is held. Teachers have some flexibility in scheduling their exercise sessions, taking into account the time that students need to prepare for them.

If teachers record their lectures and make them available in advance, they can have more flexibility in using the scheduled time.

We recommend uploading the videos to SWITCHtube since it offers better conditions in terms of handling IP and data, for example, than YouTube and other private platforms. Instructions on how to upload videos to SWITCHtube are available at https://go.epfl.ch/QUICKSTART_SwitchTube

The image resolution while streaming isn’t good enough to see information written on a blackboard. We therefore recommend teachers use tablets instead. If they want to use a blackboard, we suggest they have their lecture recorded ahead of time. They can contact the EPFL audiovisual service (SAVE) to book a slot for recording their lecture.

Students are able to download videos to their computers once the videos are made available online. Teachers could prevent such downloads by deactivating this option and allowing the videos to be seen only through streaming, but that would put students without a reliable internet connection at a disadvantage.

By recording their lessons themselves and making the videos available to students, teachers de facto give their approval to be filmed.

Guest lecturers should use EPFL’s Zoom account.

The equipment teachers need (webcam, microphone, etc.) depends on whether they are streaming their class or recording it beforehand. If they are streaming, we suggest they use a wireless microphone; if they are recording their lecture, they can use a wired microphone. Recommendations for all these options are available at https://go.epfl.ch/QUICKSTART_Hardware

Microphones are available only in some of the large lecture halls (installed by the EPFL audiovisual service). To use Zoom in one of these lecture halls, teachers can either use the microphone available in the hall or use a wireless adapter to attach to their own microphone (see https://go.epfl.ch/QUICKSTART_Hardware). In the other lecture halls, they need to use their own wireless microphone. NB: Microphones in some lecture halls will be made compatible by the end of September only.

Teachers’ units are responsible for making sure their staff have the necessary equipment. Guest lecturers should contact their sections.

This equipment is designed for recording lectures but not for streaming. We are installing recording equipment in more lecture halls and hope that soon all suitable halls will have effective, reliable systems.

Teachers can use this guide for online oral exams. In these exams, students can use reference materials – such as textbooks, class notes and the internet – but they must work alone. These exams should be monitored by an observer (or, if necessary, an additional assistant), who should host the Zoom session. Due to data protection laws, the exams may not be recorded; observers should therefore take written exam minutes as per the standard procedure.

Teachers can use this guide for take-home exams. In these exams, students can use reference materials – such as textbooks, class notes and the internet – but they must work alone. The questions should focus on comprehension, synthesis, and applying the concepts learned in class, rather than on simply memorizing raw facts. Teachers should also avoid problems where the answers can easily be found online or in a textbook.

Exercises, lab sessions and projects

Exercise sessions will be held exclusively online starting on Monday, 2 November, and until the end of the semester.

The four core courses for engineering students (Analysis I, Linear Algebra, General Physics I, and ICC) involve many exercise sessions. We are therefore holding special online exercise sessions on Saturdays for these courses. First-year students are not required to do these sessions.

Only for Analysis I and Physics I. These sessions will be online only.

Practical work and lab sessions that must be held in person will be carried out with one student group a week and should focus only on the most essential experiments. Health and safety guidelines must be followed during on-campus lab sessions, and students must disinfect their workbenches before and after each session.

Architecture workshops follow the same rules as above for practical work and lab sessions. More information is provided directly by the architecture section.

These projects are usually carried out in the research institutes and the professors’ labs, where students are considered part of the staff and are therefore subject to the same health and safety rules.

Mobility

Yes, but under certain conditions. Students cannot travel to a country with a travel warning issued by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) for safety or sanitary reason. But they can travel in countries not recommended du to COVID. EPFL discourages students from traveling to countries outside the EU, the Schengen Area and the UK. That’s because the epidemiological situation can change very quickly, few commercial flights are taking place, and might be cancelled. The School will not be able to provide assistance in case of problems and repatriation could be complicated and expensive. And so you could have trouble returning to Switzerland.

Students go on an exchange program on their own responsibility, they must have insurance that covers any medical and accident-related expenses you may incur abroad and includes repatriation assistance.

Students may not leave on exchange if the classes they intend to take at their host university will be given entirely online; some of the classes must be held in person. They must also make sure that arriving at their host university after the winter’s exams will not cause any problems with their classes abroad, since we will not allow exchange students to change the time or format of their fall-semester exams.

Before departing, students should read up on all the health and safety requirements in the country and the institution they will be traveling to, and be sure to follow them. Before they return, they should check whether the country is on the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health’s list of countries and areas with a high risk of infection, and if it is, follow the quarantine rules when they arrive in Switzerland. Please be aware that students will be responsible for making your own travel reservations, taking charge of their expenses and handling any problems they may encounter in terms of getting medical care or returning to Switzerland (such as if your flight is cancelled or the border is closed).

For more information, see point 16 of the Directive setting out the conditions underpinning EPFL’s COVID-19 protection plan

The above requirements also apply to internships and Master’s projects abroad. The activities related to an internship or a Master’s project must also be carried out partly or entirely in person, unless the employer imposes online work for all employees.

Yes. Please be aware that students will be responsible for handling any problems they may encounter in terms of getting medical care or returning to Switzerland (such as if your flight is cancelled or the border is closed).

Yes with the agreement of their section.