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.

Coming to campus

Students are allowed to come to campus anytime as long as they comply with the public-health measures that have been put in place:

  • Masks are required at all times when moving around inside buildings and during all study-related activities (classes, exercise sessions, studying and practicals).
  • COVID certificates or EPFL temporary passes are required to attend classes and exercise sessions in person and to enter the RLC library.
  • COVID certificates are required in public spaces like EPFL Pavilions, restaurants and cafeterias. You do not need a COVID certificate for the food trucks, as long as you wear a mask and maintain social distancing.

Yes, students who do not have a COVID certificate or EPFL temporary pass can move around campus, as long as they wear a mask and maintain social distancing.

These individuals may also come to campus for:

  • Consultations at the Health Point
  • Personal counseling (psychotherapeutic support)
  • Appointments at the COVID-19 testing center
  • Help from the Student Services desk (for questions on studies, to pick up official documents and certificates, etc.)
  • Appointments with the IT help desk (hardware and software problems)

People without a Covid certificate or EPFL temporary pass will not be able to carry out their labs, practicals and project work. They will have to do regular tests and thus receive the certificate or temporary pass.

No, only students who have a COVID certificate or EPFL temporary pass can use the study rooms. The same holds true for computer rooms. In addition, masks must be worn in these areas.

People without a COVID certificate cannot enter restaurants/cafeterias and public spaces such as the RLC and EPFL Pavilions. However, if you have an EPFL temporary pass, you can use the RLC library.

A dedicated Pick-up a Book desk provided by the librarians allows you to withdraw books ordered through swisscovery. 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 digitized books.

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

End of semester exams and Winter 2022 exam session

The winter 2022 exam session will take place on the scheduled dates: over the three weeks from 17 January to 5 February 2022. They will be held according to the format that your teacher announced at the start of the semester.

In order to take exams on campus, students must have a valid COVID certificate or a temporary cantonal pass obtained after taking a pooled saliva test at EPFL’s testing center. Exam monitors are subject to the same rules.

Please note that certificates and passes are only valid for a limited period of time, and this period may vary. We suggest you stay informed by regularly visiting the FOPH coronavirus website and the EPFL coronavirus website. Students and proctors must wear a face mask at all times during the exams and more generally in any EPFL building. Proctors will be instructed to expel from the room any students who remove their mask and refuse to put it back on or to wear it properly (covering both their nose and mouth); these students will receive an NA (for “not acquired”) for the exam.

To facilitate these pre-exam checks, all students must register before their exams in the main hall of the MED building. Staff members will check your documents and, if everything is in order, give you an admission wristband that will allow you to enter the exam rooms. If your COVID certificate is from being vaccinated or recovering from the disease, you will be given a wristband that’s valid for the entire exam session; otherwise, you’ll have to obtain a new wristband each time you get a new COVID certificate or temporary pass.

If you don’t have a wristband or a valid COVID certificate or temporary pass, you won’t be allowed into your exam room and will be given an NA (for “not acquired”) for each exam you miss.

All students must register before their exams in the main hall of the MED building. Staff members will check your documents and, if everything is in order, give you an admission wristband that will allow you to enter the exam rooms.

Wristbands will be handed out:

  • Friday, 14 January: 8am to 12pm and 1pm to 5pm
  • Saturday, 15 January and Sunday, 16 January: 12:30pm to 4:30pm
  • Every weekday until 4 February: 7am to 11am and 12:30pm to 4:30pm
  • Saturday, 22 January and Saturday, 29 January: 7am to 11am

No, it is not possible for someone else to pick up your wristband. You must pick up your wristband personally.

Yes, it is possible to pick up a replacement wristband in the main hall of the MED building.

No there isn’t.

Deferred exams

If you must miss an exam for a valid reason (such as because of quarantine, illness, an accident, or mobilisation for military duty or civil defense), 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. You will not be asked to provide any additional documentation unless you were not able to notify the Student Services Desk and your teacher in time. 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.

Students who are in another country are responsible for getting back to Switzerland in time for the exam session. The pandemic situation and the requirements for entering Switzerland can change quickly, so we encourage you to consult the website of the Federal Office of Public Health. If you traveled to a country that was put on the FOPH list at the last minute, your absence will be handled the same as an absence due to illness.

Yes. Deferred exams will be held during the first three weeks of the spring semester. The exam format may differ from the one used in the winter exam session, but only with your approval. You will therefore have the choice between taking the exam soon after the winter session in a potentially different format and taking the exam a year later – during the winter 2023 session – in the same format.

Deferred exams for the core classes for first-year Bachelor’s students and CMS students will be written exams.

If you are a first-year student and missed one or more exams, which you announced ahead of time, and therefore ended the “Winter Block 1” without a GPA, then you will be automatically registered in the second semester (BA2). You can continue with this semester provided you pass the missed exams during the deferred exam session at the start of the spring semester (exact dates and times to be determined). However, if, after taking the deferred exam(s), your “Winter Block 1” GPA ends up below 3.5, you will not be able to continue with the second semester and will instead be instructed to take the MAN review course in March.

If you are a CMS student, you will be admitted to the second semester of the CMS and must take the replacement exam within the first few weeks. If your subsequent average is too low, you will then be excluded from the CMS.

We have decided to introduce this measure on an exceptional basis so that students can complete their degree programs within a reasonable timeframe.

Failed exams

We have returned to our standard policy for failed exams, meaning that they will be counted. We decided not to keep the transitional measure for the long term, because if failed exams are not counted that can inordinately extend the amount of time needed for students to complete their degree programs, with potentially detrimental consequences. 

2021–2022 academic year

How classes are being run

Teaching activities are being held in person. Students who have a COVID certificate or EPFL temporary pass are authorized to attend classes and exercise sessions in person. Classes and exercise sessions are also available online (and streamed live if possible), so that any student who does not have a COVID certificate or EPFL temporary pass can participate.

People must wear a mask inside buildings, including whenever they move around, as well as when they are near other people outside (such as in a waiting line).

COVID certificates or EPFL temporary passes are required for all classes, exercise sessions, lab work, practicals and project work, and to enter the RLC library.

COVID certificates are required in public spaces like EPFL Pavilions, restaurants and cafeterias. You do not need a COVID certificate or EPFL temporary passes for the food trucks, as long as you wear a mask and maintain social distancing.

Practicals, projects and workshops are being held in person. Students who have a COVID certificate or EPFL temporary pass are authorized to attend practicals, projects and workshops.

Students must have a COVID certificate or EPFL temporary pass to attend on-campus exercise sessions in person. As is true for the classes, each teacher will set up a system that allows students to ask questions and receive help whether they are attending in person or remotely. The teachers will decide on the format. If you have any problems, please discuss them with your class representatives or directly with the teacher in question. You can also report the matter to your section.

These measures also apply to first-year exercise sessions held on Saturdays.

CMS classes and exercise sessions are being held in person.

A COVID certificate or EPFL temporary pass is necessary to attend them in person. For anyone who doesn’t have a COVID certificate or temporary pass, video recordings of classes and digitized documents will be available online.

Classes and exercise sessions can be attended remotely. However, practicals, lab work and project work require students to be on campus.

Course attendance and student support services

We have asked for all classes to be recorded and made available to students. 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.

A mirror device is available that lets you display your handwritten notes on Zoom. If you would like to order a mirror device, please complete this form and we’ll send you one by mail (including if you’re outside Switzerland). CEDE and CAPE have created a video showing how to use the device. If you prefer, you can use another method such as your smartphone? This video shows you how.

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.

You can send requests to print and bind documents to the EPFL Repro-Print Center. Your order will be sent to you via second-class (B) mail, and the standard printing cost will be charged to your myPrint account.

The minimum postage cost is CHF 1.80, but the Vice Presidency for Academic Affairs has decided to subsidize part of this cost, so you’ll only pay CHF 0.80 per mailing. Again, this cost will be charged to your myPrint account. To place your order, simply fill out this form and attach the document you want to have printed.

Yes. The mentoring program for first-year students will continue.

We have set up the Helping Hand working group, made up of staff from the Student Affairs office as well as students from AGEPoly and the coaching service, to provide advice and run various initiatives to help you keep up your studies and look after your well-being. For more information, visit the Student Support webpage or the Helping Hand Instagram account or YouTube channel. You’ll find tips and weekly videos filled with humor and even philosophy.

Students can also schedule an appointment with one of our counselors or a psychotherapist. And if you’re in psychological distress, hotlines are available such as La Main Tendue and Pro Juventute. More information is available on our Individual Support webpage.

Teaching

There are two ways teachers can do this:

1. Stream classes live and provide a recording afterwards

  • using tablets and PCs or at a blackboard
  • 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, possibly in a lecture hall
  • some activities can be carried out live for students attending in person and remotely (50–100% of the regular class time).

Teachers can decide which method to use based on their learning objectives. However, they must inform their sections of the method they choose.

All classes must be recorded and made available to students on our SWITCHtube channel, either before the class if you record your lecture ahead of time or afterwards if you give your lecture live. This will make it easier for students to study, since they can search the lessons using graphsearch.epfl.ch.

For more information on how to record classes use the equipment available in your classroom (microphone, camera, etc.), please refer to the following guide: Hardware Essentials to record and stream from campus. The guide Live stream a classroom with Zoom is also a useful source of information. Here is another guide that provides advice on improving the quality of both classes and recordings.

Staff from the Teaching Support Center (CAPE) and the Center for Digital Education (CEDE) – has developed a web page with guidelines and a variety of helpful materials. You can view the web page at https://go.epfl.ch/flexible-teaching/. The CAPE and CEDE also hold regular thematic workshops. Furthermore, the 1234 team is available for technical questions related to teaching (e.g., on Moodle or Zoom).

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 having an assistant in the room to help with the streaming, recording, Q&A, etc. The sections must be informed of this need.

Many students had trouble connecting to the various systems in spring 2020 and experienced “videoconference fatigue.” We therefore believe it’s important to record parts of the class that contain content. We recommend using the “live” time, when all the students are attending either in person or remotely, to run more interactive activities so that students can ask questions and get feedback on what they’ve learned. 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.

Students have told us that they felt overwhelmed by the many different software programs they have to use for their online classes. To make things easier for them, we ask that teachers use Moodle (or another similar website if you don’t use Moodle) as the only way of communicating with their students, i.e., when providing administrative information, posting links to Zoom meetings and class recordings, giving continuous-assessment exams, having them turn in assignments, or referring them to other software programs.

The DSI has obtained a license for Piazza – an online forum that can be accessed from Moodle – for the spring semester. Piazza proved highly popular among students last semester; they can use it to post questions anonymously, work together on assignments, write mathematical formulas using LaTeX, and send chat messages during exercise sessions. We have developed a QuickStart Guide to help you use Piazza.

A mirror device is available that lets users display their handwritten notes on Zoom. If you would like to order a mirror device, please complete this form and we’ll send you one by mail (including if you’re outside Switzerland). CEDE and CAPE have created a video showing how to use the device. If you prefer, you can use another method such as your smartphone. This video shows you how.

One consequence of the pandemic is that students suffer from a lack of feedback and they sometimes even disengage from their courses. To help address these problems, teachers are invited to consider including some continuous assessment components in their course (rather than assessing it all in the exam session).

Ideally, each class should have no more than three continuous assessments during the semester to avoid creating too much work for students. If you plan to give such assessments, please inform your section of the dates so that they can coordinate with those given by other teachers.

For any classes assessed during the final exam session, you can also include continuous assessments as part of the final class grade, but you must still give a final exam during the exam session.

You don’t necessarily have to come up with new questions for continuous assessments; you can use existing exercises, and correct and grade them accordingly.

Continuous assessments can include questions that are corrected automatically (such as Moodle quizzes) or questions where the identity of the student answering is not necessarily checked (such as graded exercises), but these can account for no more than around 15% of a student’s grade.

Student assistants who are Master’s students can correct assignments for Bachelor’s classes, provided that the assistant is overseen by a PhD student or the class teacher.

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.

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. Please refer to this guide in order to learn more about the equipment (microphone, camera, etc.) in your classroom. The following classrooms are equipped with a camera and a microphone: SG1, CO1, CE6, BCH 2201, CE4, CO2, CE3, CO3, CE1, CE-2, CE-5, CM-1, CM-2, CM-3, CM-4, CM-5, MA A1 11, MED 0 1418, ME B3 31, MXF-1, ELA-1, ELA-2, INF-1, BC-01, CM 1 120, CM 1 121, AAC-231, ELD-020, SG 0 211 and SG 0 213.