Course Modifications

Overview

Based on the unpredictable, episodic nature of a student's disability and/or chronic health condition, certain accommodations exist that allow the student an equal opportunity in their academic endeavors. These accommodations include attendance flexibility, deadline extensions, and alternate assignments. The Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Justice has notified higher education institutions that once approved for the academic adjustments of attendance flexibility, deadline extensions, and/or alternate assignments, students cannot negotiate the coordination of these accommodations directly with their faculty. When these accommodations are approved, the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) will work with the faculty and student in order to create a Course Modification Agreement. By establishing a Course Modification Agreement, the student, faculty, and the CSD are all aware of the appropriate procedure and process for each of the accommodations to be met in the specific course.

Attendance Flexibility

Absences from class may occur unexpectedly impacting regular class attendance and participation. Although class attendance is not a University requirement, participation may be used as part of a student’s course grade.  While faculty 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 as mutually agreed to by the faculty, student, and CSD according to the Course Modification Agreement.

Deadline Extensions

Deadline extensions are for when students are unable to complete or submit their work due to unexpected symptoms related to their disability. While faculty 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. A student's disability can affect the student's ability to turn in homework, assignments, or projects on the due date outlined in the course syllabus. Students cannot be penalized for submitting work by an alternate due date mutually agreed to by the faculty, student, and CSD according to the Course Modification Agreement.

Alternate Assignments

The nature of a student’s disability may cause considerable difficulty with presenting in front of a group, group projects, or class participation. While faculty 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. Alternate assignments are for when the impact of a student’s disability prevents them from participating in a specific assignment as outlined in the course syllabus. Students cannot be penalized for completing alternate assignments that are mutually agreed to by the faculty, student, and CSD according to the Course Modification Agreement.

 

Responsibilities

Student Responsibilities Regarding Attendance Flexibility

  • Meet with your Disability Service Professional at the CSD to discuss course modifications each semester;
  • Attend class as much as possible;
  • Notify instructors of a disability-related absence as outlined in the Course Modification Agreement;
  • Complete all course requirements;
  • Contact your Disability Service Professional if you are absent from class more than is outlined in the Course Modification Agreement.

Student Responsibilities Regarding Deadline Extensions

  • Meet with your Disability Service Professional at the CSD to discuss course modifications each semester;
  • Complete all course requirements;
  • Notify instructors if a disability-related need for an extension is needed as outlined in the Course Modification Agreement;
  • Contact your Disability Service Professional and instructor if you cannot complete assignments as outlined in the Course Modification Agreement.

Student Responsibilities Regarding Alternate Assignments

  • Meet with your Disability Service Professional at the CSD to discuss course modifications each semester;
  • Complete all course requirements;
  • Complete all alternate assignments outlined in the Course Modification Agreement;
  • Notify your instructor if you intend to utilize an alternate assignment as outlined in the Course Modification Agreement;
  • Contact your Disability Service Professional and instructor if you cannot complete an assignment as outlined in the Course Modification Agreement.

Faculty Responsibilities

  • Engage with the CSD to determine alternatives for completing course requirements which may include flexibility with assignment due dates, make-up quizzes/exams, alternative assignments and participation to be included in the Course Modification Agreement
  • Implement the Course Modification Agreement without grading penalty;
  • Contact the student and their Disability Service Professional if the student is not able to comply with the parameters outlined in the Course Modification Agreement.

CSD Responsibilities

  • Meet with the student to discuss whether a course modification is an appropriate academic adjustment for each course each semester;
  • Initiate and engage in a deliberative and interactive process with students and faculty to assure reasonable and appropriate course modifications;
  • Work with faculty to determine alternatives for completing course requirements which may include flexibility with assignment due dates, make-up quizzes/exams, alternative assignments and participation to be included in the Course Modification Agreement;
  • Document the Course Modification Agreement between the student, faculty and CSD regarding approved adjustments.

Faculty Information

Procedures for Creating a Course Modification Agreement

Course Modification Agreements are to be established on a course-by-course basis. Course Modification Agreements will require updating when a course changes.  
  1. CSD will notify all teaching professionals associated with a course of a student’s approved academic adjustments via an accommodation letter;
  2. CSD will email instructors to engage in the interactive process to determine reasonable and appropriate course modifications without fundamentally altering the course or compromising the technical standards of the program;
  3. CSD will draft a Course Modification Agreement with the information provided by the instructors and provide a copy to the student, instructor, and Disability Service Professional;
  4. Students agree to the terms of the Course Modification Agreement by utilizing the approved academic adjustments;
  5. Instructors should contact the student’s Disability Services Professional (DSP) at the CSD with any concerns regarding the Course Modification Agreement or a specific student and their approved accommodations.

Guidelines for Creating a Course Modification Agreement

Considerations for Attendance Flexibility

Assessing whether class attendance is essential is an important component to consider when developing modifications for a Course Modification Agreement. Attendance flexibility may not be necessary if the course is online and asynchronous and the material is accessible to the student. Instructors may want to review the guidelines provided below to assess how essential attendance is to their course:  
PART I. Attendance expectation questions to consider before you complete the course modification form:
  • Is there classroom interaction between the instructor and students and among students?
  • Do student contributions 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 constitute a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class?
  • What do the course description and syllabus say?
  • What method is used to calculate the final grade? Is class participation factored into the final grade?
  • What are the classroom practices and policies regarding attendance and participation?
  • Are there alternate activities or assignments that would meet the same learning objectives that a student who is absent could complete?

PART II. When analyzing the degree of flexibility for a course, the Attendance Flexibility Guide below outlines assistance for faculty.
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 stud          
The student’s absence constitutes a significant loss to the educational experience of other students in the class.          
 
Part III. Analysis Results for the 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 or not students have the opportunity to 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, there is a point at which disability-related absences cannot be reasonably accommodated.

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?
  • Are assignments used as class content when they are due? (E.g. problem sets reviewed as the first lecture on that content)

Limits to Course Modifications

While instructors are encouraged to be flexible regarding the implementation of course modifications, there are some limitations. It is not reasonable to expect to faculty 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Course Modification Agreement?

Course Modification Agreements are established on a course-by-course basis. The agreement between the student with approved course modifications, the instructor and the CSD provide a framework around attendance flexibility, deadline extensions and/or alternate assignments.The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Justice has indicated to higher education institutions that that once approved for a course modification, students cannot negotiate the coordination of these modifications directly with their faculty. CSD is required to engage each faculty member who has a student approved for an academic adjustment to determine: (1) the appropriateness of these modifications in the course; (2) the nature of the course and how it is taught, including assessments; 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.

Course Modification Agreements will require updating only when a course changes.

What is Flexible Attendance in a Course Modification Agreement? Why do we have flexible attendance?

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. Under federal law, a disability-related absence is when a student is absent due to the symptoms associated with the student’s documented disability. This modification 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.

What is a disability related absence?

A disability related absence is when a student is absent due to the direct impact of a documented disability. The Course Modification Agreement does not apply to absences for other reasons. 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. Knowledge of the material is expected, as of any student, but accommodating the disability to the extent possible in the course is the focus of the academic adjustment.

Why do we have deadline extensions?

Federal law requires colleges and universities to consider reasonable modifications of deadline extensions if needed to accommodate a student’s disability that affects the timely completion of an assignment. The disabilities covered under this academic adjustment are typically chronic or episodic in nature and may affect a student’s ability to complete assignments by the due date listed in the course syllabus. Deadline extensions are for when students are unable to complete or submit their work due to unexpected symptoms related to their disability. Students cannot be penalized for submitting work by an alternate due date mutually agreed to by the faculty and student.

Who receives these course modifications?

Students approved for course modifications have disabilities that are unpredictable and episodic in nature, which affects attendance, participation, assignment deadlines or taking an exam. For example, a student with Epilepsy may experience a seizure or has taken medication to mitigate the symptoms of a seizure that has already occurred resulting in brain fog, fatigue, and nausea. As a result, they may not be able to attend class that day.

Can instructors request documentation of a disability related absence?

In an effort 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 a course modification. Students are NOT required to present their instructors with medical documentation verifying their disability related absence.

How much flexibility with attendance and assignment deadlines do instructors have to provide?

This is best determined by the instructor as it depends on the course requirements and the nature of how the course is taught. CSD will engage in an interactive process with each instructor to determine reasonable and appropriate course modifications without fundamentally altering the course or compromising the technical standards of a program. Guidelines are included to assist instructors to consider flexibility in achieving learning outcomes or alternate opportunities to complete course requirements.
  • Disability related absences are not intended to be used to provide extensions on long-term assignments. For short-term assignments, students experiencing a disability related absence should be permitted to turn in work late without grade penalty.
  • A general rule to consider for determining a reasonable deadline extension would be the amount of time equivalent to that which was missed. For example, if the student misses one class meeting, an assignment should be turned in at the next class meeting.
  • In some courses, it may be appropriate to consider an alternative assignment, reading, or project to make up for missed work due to a 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.

Are there limits to flexibility regarding course modifications?

While instructors are encouraged to be flexible in the implementation of course modifications, there are some limitations. It is not reasonable to expect to faculty 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.

Why is CSD engaging in this process with instructors and students to create Course Modification Agreements?

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Justice has indicated to higher education institutions that that once approved for a course modification, students cannot negotiate the coordination of these modifications directly with their faculty. CSD is required to engage each faculty member who has a student approved for an academic adjustment to determine: (1) the appropriateness of these modifications in the course; (2) the nature of the course and how it is taught, including assessments; 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.

How long do instructors have to engage in the process with DSPs once contacted to determine a Course Modification Agreement?

Five (5) business days.

What if instructors do not engage in the process for creating a Course Modification Agreement for their course?

If a Course Modification Agreement is not drafted, 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 for assistance in creating the Course Modification Agreement for the course.

Who should instructors and students contact with questions regarding course modifications or accommodations?

If at any point, the instructor and/or the student have questions or concerns about this process, the Course Modification Agreement, and/or the provision of accommodations, the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) should be notified as soon as possible in order 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.). The CSD can be contacted at (860) 486-2020 or csd@uconn.edu.

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.