Frequently Asked Questions

Updated Wednesday, July 31, 2020

This page will be periodically updated with answers to Frequently Asked Questions on various topics related to the current COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) pandemic. You can also visit Cal Poly’s Coronavirus Website for the latest university information.

Information for College of Engineering faculty and staff, including resources for the transition to virtual instruction, can be found on the Faculty & Staff webpage.

Student FAQs

Q) With spring (and possibly fall) classes being held online, how will labs be handled?

A) Given the variety of labs we offer within Engineering, different labs will be offered in different ways. For example, some instructors may video the lab procedure and share data. You will hear from your departments and faculty with detail prior to the start of the quarter.

Q) Also, are online class sections going to be enlarged if classes get full?

A) Some lecture sections may be combined to facilitate a team teaching approach. The goal is to find an approach to going online that works best for individual faculty and classes.

Q) How is the waitlist going to work out when it comes to online classes?

A) Waitlists and other academic polices will be the same as normal operations.

Q) Will online classes be done synchronous or asynchronously?

A) Each professor will let you know how each class will run prior to the start of the spring quarter. If classes are offered in a synchronous mode, the class schedule will not change.

Q) What about synchronous classes for students in other time zones?

A) Faculty will be asked to make sure all students are accommodated regardless of where they are located.

Q) Are there any tutorials on how to use Zoom?

A) The Center for Teaching and Learning Technology (CTLT) has a number of resources available.

Q) I was planning to take the Writing Proficiency Exam (WPE) this quarter to satisfy the GWR, what should I do?

A) Information will be coming out soon from the Writing and Learning Center with regard to the GWR and WPE for the Spring quarter.

Q) How can I get access to computing resources while the campus is virtual?

A) All resources available through the Cal Poly Portal will still be available for use. Other campus resources that require being on campus can be accessed using the VPN. Ask your professor if you will need these resources. The Cal Poly ITS website also has information about technology that can be used to teach and learn remotely.

Please visit the Student Technology page on the COVID-19 website for more information on available student resources.

Q) What should I do if I am experiencing financial hardship and am unable to afford the technology I need to be academically successful?

A) Cal Poly is committed to creating an environment for all students to reach their full potential and thrive. If you are experiencing financial hardship, you can apply for Cal Poly Cares, which provides emergency grants to students experiencing unexpected expenses that impact their ability to be successful. This includes students who are not federal Title IV eligible, such as international and undocumented students. For more information, please visit the Cal Poly Cares webpage.

Q) What computer model should I purchase as an incoming student, and what specs should it feature?

A) The recommended hardware, specifications, and software vary depending on your major:

  • Aerospace Engineering majors – Please visit the Aero Recommended Laptop Specs webpage.
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering majors – Please visit the CEENVE Computing Resources webpage.
  • Computer Science and Software Engineering majors Freshmen and students enrolled in foundation courses may use a Chromebook or comparable machine. Students taking upper-division coursework and those enrolled in classes with a VR or gaming component, please consult with your instructors for specific hardware and software recommendations.
  • Electrical Engineering majors – Please see the School Computer Recommendations section of the EE Resources webpage.
  • Mechanical Engineering majors – Please visit the ME Computers and Software webpage.
  • All other majors – Please contact your academic department or program office directly for recommendations.

Q) I am supposed to leave San Luis Obispo for spring/summer break but am worried about being unable to return. What travel guidance can you give?

A) For information about personal travel, please see the Coronavirus Travel and Study Abroad webpage.

Q) Will other campus resources be available during this time?

A) The availability of campus resources will depend on the nature of the resource. Please visit the Cal Poly Coronavirus website for more information about specific resources

Q) What resources are available for clubs/IRAs?

A) Since students will not be allowed to return to campus, we encourage clubs/IRAs to use Zoom and other resources to meet or collaborate. We are looking into providing Canvas shells for club/IRA use. We will provide updates soon.

Q) I have a parking pass. Since I will no longer be coming to campus, will I get a refund?

A) Yes. Please see Coronavirus Housing, Dining and Parking webpage for details.

Q) Can I access College of Engineering or department resources?

A) No.  All CENG and department common spaces (Bonderson, Hanger, club spaces, department lounges, computer labs, etc.) are currently closed.  Keycard access is being disabled, and all students are urged to stay off the campus as much as possible.

Q) Who can I contact if my financial situation is changing or I need additional support?

A) Please contact Dr. Joy Pederson, Dean of Students.

Also, you can apply for Cal Poly Cares, which provides emergency grants to students experiencing unexpected expenses that impact their ability to be successful. This includes students who are not federal Title IV eligible, such as international and undocumented students. For more information, please visit the Cal Poly Cares webpage.

Q) I am targeted to graduate in June and to start a job immediately after. How will going virtual impact graduation?

A) Graduating students will be our highest priority. We will do everything we can to make sure the classes you need are offered. As for commencement, the university has postponed the spring 2020 ceremonies. More information may be found on the Cal Poly Commencement website.

Q) What are the plans  for summer session?

A) Summer session classes will be entirely virtual. For details, please visit the Cal Poly Summer 2020 website.

Q) Will Cal Poly classes be completely virtual in fall?

A) Chancellor White has announced that due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, CSU campuses must be prepared to deliver courses this fall primarily through virtual modality. This does not mean Cal Poly cannot plan to offer in-person courses for fall, but the university must be prepared to resume virtual learning should shelter-at-home orders be required in the future by the governor or public health officials. For fall quarter updates, please visit the Cal Poly Virtual Learning website.

Q) Will my tuition and fees be reduced for the spring quarter due to the move to online instruction?

A) We will be offering a full slate of courses online for the spring, and our faculty are working extra hard to transition all their content online.  We will be meeting course objectives, students will be prepared for the next course in any sequence of courses, and will continue to progress towards graduation.  As courses will be offered and all student learning objectives met, no reduction in tuition will be offered for the spring quarter.

Q) Will housing be available for students in the fall?

A) We anticipate that University Housing will offer housing to new and continuing student residents during fall quarter. More information will be published on the University Housing website as it becomes available.

Faculty/Staff FAQs

Q) What are the best resources for transitioning to virtual instruction?

A) The Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology (CTLT) has an updated list of resources available on the Instructional Continuity webpage.

In addition to email and live consultation support through Zoom, the CTLT will be offering workshops on Canvas and virtual instruction beginning Friday, March 20. Please visit the CENG Faculty & Staff webpage to learn more.

Q) As we move to teaching virtually, what are some important considerations? 

A) The CTLT has developed a great list of things to consider, see Instructional Continuity Resources:Quick Start webpage.  Most importantly, make sure you communicate with your students what your plan is for the spring quarter.

Q) Since classes are virtual, what should I consider when developing a class schedule? 

A) There are a few important considerations from the student perspective:

  1. Recognize that your students will be attending your class from across the country (and maybe world).  If you have an 8 a.m. section, that may mean your student in Hawaii would have to log in at 5 a.m.  In this case, the best practice would be to record your lecture and post the video in your PolyLearn or Canvas site. 

  2. Please don’t reschedule your class time if you meet synchronously via Zoom or some other video conference app.  We need to stick with the campus schedule so classes don’t conflict with each other. 

Q) Does the College of Engineering offer any resources or trainings for supporting online coursework?

A) Yes, we are developing workshops on various topics and software applications. In addition, CENG faculty members are available to provide assistance with online course development. All these resources will be provided on the CENG Faculty & Staff webpage.

Q) Are there any examples of asynchronous courses that I can review?

A) Yes, if you send an email to Gary Perks or Bridget Benson they will provide access to their online PolyLearn courses.

Q) What device and hardware technology is available to teach classes in a virtual environment? 

A) Your department chair and/or technician should be asking you what you need to move classes to an online environment.  Please work with your department chair to make sure you have the resources you need.

Q) I need a (webcam/doc cam/laptop/etc) to transition to virtual instruction. Will I get reimbursed if I order one?

A) As of 3/19, a campus-wide order for hardware to support virtual instruction has been placed, based on the needs of your department. Please check with your department for an update on availability. CENG will make sure that instructors have the equipment they need;  please do not purchase additional equipment prior to obtaining approval from your Chair.

Q) Will students have access to lab software that they cannot download to their personal devices (MasterCAM/Abacus/Ansys/etc)?

A) Yes, most likely.  There are a number of resources for remote access to software running on CENG servers.  Make sure your department IT staff knows your SW instructional needs.

Q) Will I be able to access a lab to record a demonstration, etc?

A) At this point, yes. Please make every effort to minimize the time you spend on campus, including time in a classroom or laboratory.

Q) I missed the CENG workshops on virtual instruction. Were they recorded?

Workshops of recorded workshops will be made available on the CENG Faculty & Staff webpage.

Q) I’m new to Zoom and other virtual teaching tools, are there training resources available? 

A: Yes. The CTLT has developed a whole set of resources and will be hosting workshops for faculty. Please visit the CTLT Instructional Continuity webpage to learn more. In addition, you may access pre-recorded Zoom workshops on the CENG Faculty & Staff webpage as well as a guide with Tips for Improving Your Zoom Experience.

Q) In addition to Zoom, what other software application can I use for real-time streaming?

A) In addition to Zoom, Microsoft Stream is now available to all faculty. Visit Getting Started with Microsoft Stream to learn more.

Q) What library resources are available for course and research support?

A) Our Kennedy Library staff is working remotely. Timely information about library resources is available at the Kennedy Library COVID-19 Updates and Resources webpage. Additionally, various publishers are opening up temporary access for Spring term to resources that the university doesn’t normally subscribe to. The Library’s Database webpage will be updated frequently with a list of these resources.

Q) How do I request e-versions of course reserve titles?

A) You may continue to submit requests for e-versions of course reserve titles through the usual online course reserves submission form.

Q) Who can I contact for more information about accessing specific library resources for my engineering course or research?

A) You may contact Engineering Librarian Sarah Lester (she/her/hers) for more information about library resources for your courses and research.

Q) Will I be able to continue research in an on-campus laboratory?

A) In light of the new ORED research guidelines and the shelter in place directive, all CENG on-campus research is currently suspended.  All faculty, students and staff should be working from home.  Research can continue only if it can be done remotely.  You may go into your lab only to keep critical equipment in running shape, or to do the minimal work necessary on essential tasks such as preventing cell lines from dying.  Appeals can be made directly to Dean Fleischer, but exceptions will be very few.  We deeply understand the hardship that this places on us, and particularly on our MS students, but at this point we need to act in the best interests of public health. If you have contract deadlines, you can work with ORED to renegotiate these with your sponsors, all of whom are also affected by COVD-19 responses.

Q) …but I need to perform research for a grant on a specific timeline.  And my graduate students need to perform research to graduate this Spring.

A) Understood.  Given the current situation, it is unavoidable that there will be serious consequences of suspending research. Please work with your Department Chair and/or Bob Crockett to raise any concerns.  Please also work to creatively provide alternatives for your graduate students. Most federal agencies have indicated that delays will be accommodated under current policies (many agencies allow for one-year extensions for extenuating circumstances), ORED will assist faculty with navigating extensions for non-federal research sponsors.

Q) …but my cells will die/my equipment will degrade/my consumables will expire.

A) Understood.  Essential research functions such as animal care, equipment maintenance and safety of research participants or staff must be maintained at this time. This should be accomplished while also observing preferred practices of social distancing.

Q) Can I travel on Cal Poly business?

A) No travel is being approved at this time.  This will be revisited when our current situation changes.

Q) Who should telecommute, and what are the procedures?

A) All faculty and staff must telecommute. All staff will consult with their supervisors to complete a telework agreement which specifies the work to be done remotely. If your normal work can’t be done remotely, you may have other tasks assigned. As essential personnel, IT staff and lab technicians will come to campus periodically to check as needed on equipment. This will be determined in consultation with your department chair and documented in your telework agreement.

Do you have a question that is not answered on this page? You may submit your question(s) by completing the FAQ question form.