Attendance Flexibility

Based on the nature of a student’s disability, absences from class may occur unexpectedly, impacting regular class attendance and participation.  Although class attendance is not a University requirement, we understand that participation may be used as part of the student's course grade.  While instructors are not required to alter the essential elements or the learning outcomes of the course, flexibility in achieving outcomes or alternate opportunities to complete course requirements may be necessary. Attendance flexibility means that the student cannot be penalized for absences within reasonable limits beyond what the syllabus policy allows.

Attendance Flexibility Procedure

  1. If a student experiences a disability-related absence from class, they will email their Disability Service Professional (DSP) and their instructor as soon as possible.
  2. The DSP and instructor will engage in the interactive process to determine a plan for the student to make up any missed assignments, exams, etc.
  3. The DSP will communicate (via email) any updates to the student with a cc to the instructor.
  4. If necessary, the CSD may create a Course Modification Agreement which will be shared with you and your instructor. A Course Modification Agreement is created on a course-by-course basis to provide information for students and instructors related to a specific accommodation such as attendance.

Information for Instructors

Considerations for Attendance Flexibility

Attendance flexibility may not be necessary if the course is online and asynchronous and the material is accessible to the student. Instructors are encouraged to review the guidelines provided below to assess how essential attendance is to their course:

PART I. Attendance expectation questions to consider:

  • During the in-person or online class, is interaction required between the instructor and students?
  • Does student participation in class constitute a significant component of the learning process?
  • Does the fundamental nature of the course rely on student participation as an essential method for learning?
  • To what degree does a student’s failure to attend/participate constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
  • Is information about attendance requirements and participation included in the syllabus?
  • How is a student’s final grade calculated?  Is attendance or class participation factored into the final grade?
  • Are there alternative assignments or activities that would meet the same learning objectives that a student who is absent could complete?

PART II. When considering the degree of flexibility for a course, the Attendance Flexibility Guides below may provide instructors with assistance.

Course Analysis In all sessions In most sessions In some sessions In few sessions N/A
There is significant interaction between the instructor and students during the class session (e.g., significant discussion, hands on experiences etc.). Note: Most question and answer interactions that occur during lecture-style courses do not constitute as significant interaction
There is significant classroom interaction among students during the class session (e.g. peer review, discussion, in-class group work etc.)
Student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process during the class session (e.g. regular student presentations, group work etc.).
The fundamental learning objective relies upon active student participation during the class session (lab work, internship, dance class, etc.).
The student’s absence constitutes a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class.

Part III. Analysis Results for Attendance Flexibility Guide

  • If all of your answers fall into the “in few sessions” or “N/A” categories, you should exercise a great deal of flexibility.
  • If some of your answers fall into the “in few sessions” or “in some sessions” categories, a moderate amount of flexibility is recommended.
  • If most of your answers fall into the “in most sessions” or “in all sessions” category, minimal flexibility is recommended. Consideration should be given to whether students can make up missed experiences through alternative assignments that would meet the same learning objectives.
  • If attendance can be justified as an integral part of how a course is taught and/or how learning is to be demonstrated and measured, please contact the CSD to discuss whether attendance flexibility is an appropriate accommodation.

Evaluating the Role of Class Participation

According to the Senate By-Laws, “grades are not to be reduced merely because of a student’s absences” (https://policy.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/243/2019/05/bylaws.20190429.final_.pdf); however, according to the University’s Academic Regulations, grades can depend on classroom participation (https://catalog.uconn.edu/academic-regulations/grade-information/).

With this in mind please, review the following questions below regarding class participation in your course(s). These questions are designed to help identify the role in-class participation has toward students meeting course requirements and learning objectives.

  • What does the syllabus state regarding attendance, participation, and deadlines? Have exceptions been made in the past? What is the role of these course policies as it relates to the students’ final grades?
  • What stated learning objectives and course requirements involve class participation?
  • Is class participation factored in as part of the final course grade? If yes, how? What is the percentage of the grade? Is this related to a program requirement?
  • Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students, and/or among students?
  • Is the format of instruction primarily lecture or interactive? Does instruction and learning rely on specific elements from the previous session or assignment?
  • Does the course rely on student participation as a method for learning?
  • Is there content only offered in class?
  • Do student contributions constitute a significant component of the learning process? (E.g. discussion, presentations, role play)?
  • What is the impact on the educational experience of other students in the class if a student is absent or misses a deadline?
  • Do you review class assignments (that students are required to complete prior to a specific class date) during lecture or discussion? (For example, are problems or readings assigned during one class and then reviewed in the next class meeting?)

Other Factors to Consider

  • Some courses involve both lecture-style delivery and in-class activities that require student participation. Instructors might consider if the absent student could participate in an alternate activity or assignment that would meet the same learning objectives.
  • If the student reaches or exceeds the number of absences stated in the Course Modification Agreement or if there are any issues or concerns, instructors should contact CSD as soon as possible. A withdrawal from the course or incomplete may be considered if the student is unable to adhere to the Course Modification Agreement.
  • Students are expected to abide by the syllabus policy for any absences unrelated to their disability (flu, work, death in the family, etc.). Instructors should not request documentation from the student for absences related to their disability.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Course Modification Agreement?

When necessary, a course modification agreement is a created on a course-by-course basis to provide a framework for the student, instructor and CSD around attendance flexibility. The U.S. Department of Justice has indicated to institutions of higher education that once approved for attendance flexibility, students cannot negotiate the coordination of this accommodation directly with their faculty. The CSD is required to engage each faculty member who has a student approved for attendance flexibility to determine: (1) the appropriateness of this accommodation in the course; (2) the nature of the course and how it is taught, including assessments/exams; and (3) flexibility in achieving learning outcomes or alternate opportunities to complete course requirements without fundamentally altering the course or compromising the technical standards of a program.

What does attendance flexibility really mean?

Federal law requires colleges and universities to consider reasonable modifications of attendance policies if needed to accommodate a student’s disability that affects attendance. The disabilities covered under this academic adjustment are typically chronic or episodic in nature and may affect class participation as well as the ability to complete assignments, exams, and quizzes.  A disability-related absence is when a student is absent due to the direct impact of a documented disability.  Absences due to a disability may occur unexpectedly.  In these cases, the student’s grade should not be negatively affected solely on the basis of an attendance, participation, or missed exam policy.  This accommodation does not apply to absences for other reasons. The student is not required to present the professor with medical documentation verifying his/her disability related absence.  Attendance flexibility means that the student cannot be penalized for absences within reasonable limits beyond what the course syllabus allows.

Can instructors request documentation of a disability related absence?

No. To protect faculty and staff from potential claims of disability discrimination, it is University policy that only CSD should receive and review disability-related documentation. CSD reviews and considers any necessary medical documentation prior to approving accommodations. Students are NOT required to present their instructors with medical documentation verifying their disability related absence.

What if attendance is an integral part of the course?

If attendance can be justified as an integral part of how a course is taught and/or how learning is to be demonstrated and measured, there is a point at which disability-related absences cannot be reasonably accommodated.  It is not reasonable to expect instructors to:

Re-teach – It is reasonable to go over some of the missed materials with students during office hours or by appointment. However, instructors are not expected to re-teach the course to students who are absent.

Remodel - Instructors are not expected to reconstruct courses entirely for students who are absent. For example, a course that is lecture-style does not need to be reconstructed as an independent study or online course.

Adjust Course Rigor - Instructors should not alter the essential elements or the learning outcomes of the course for students who are absent.

What if instructors do not engage in the process for coordinating attendance flexibility for a student in their course?

Instructors are responsible for working with the student and CSD to ensure the approved accommodation(s) are coordinated. If after several attempts to contact the instructor, the faculty does not respond to the CSD, the Center will contact the department chair and/or Office of Institutional Equity for assistance in coordinating approved accommodations for the student in the course.

Who should instructors and students contact with questions regarding attendance flexibility?

If at any point, the instructor and/or student has questions or concerns about this accommodation, the Course Modification Agreement, etc., the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) should be notified as soon as possible to collaboratively address the concerns and work to resolve them. If the maximum number of allowed absences as stated in the Course Modification Agreement is exceeded during the semester, the student and instructor should contact the CSD to meet and discuss an appropriate course of action (i.e., student will be granted an incomplete; student will be advised to withdraw from the course; the number of absences allowed will be reviewed; policies outlined in syllabus will apply, etc.).