COVID-19 Student Frequently Asked Questions

At SUNY Empire State College, our students and community are our top priority. We are proactively working on ways to make transitions easier as we work together to contain the spread of COVID-19 virus.

Below are answers to common student questions as well as helpful tips for successful distance learning. Please review all questions as some program specific questions are also included. Your health and safety remain our primary concern as we proceed with an abundance of caution during this time.

Last update: Thursday, March 19, 1 p.m.

College COVID-19 Updates

Where do I find the most up to date information for SUNY Empire COVID-19 updates?

Why am I not receiving the college communications about COVID-19 updates?

What should I do if I think I have been exposed to COVID-19?

College Campuses and Learning Hubs

How do I know if my location is closed?

Can I still visit a location for help?

Your Courses and Distance Learning

How does COVID-19 impact my courses?

What should I do to prepare for distance learning?

As my course moves to distance learning, am I still expected to meet course deadlines?

Will I be graded differently in distance learning? Is an incomplete a possibility?

Will my assignments change if my course is offered in a different format? 

I am part of the Harry Van Arsdale School of Labor Studies. Do these changes impact my program too?

Academic Help

Are there Learning Coaches (tutors) who I can work with at a distance?

Will my accommodations carry over to distance learning?

Technology Needs

My instructor said we are using Skype for Business. What is this? How do I access it?

What if I do not have access to the Internet?

What if I do not have access to a computer?

Can I use my phone or tablet for distance learning?

Financial Assistance

Is there any financial help for purchasing distance learning technology?

My financial situation has changed. What should I do?

Special Circumstances

I am a first responder or healthcare worker and have been mandated to longer than average shifts/schedules. What should I do related to my coursework?

What happens if I am a military student called to active duty and need to withdraw?

What happens if I am hospitalized and I cannot access my courses?

  

Where do I find the most up to date information for SUNY Empire COVID-19 updates?

The college is regularly updating What You Need to Know About COVID-19 at SUNY Empire State College. You may also view the March 18 Student Town Hall where the President discussed How SUNY Empire State College is Responding to COVID-19. In addition, the President’s office is also sending emails regarding emerging changes.

Why am I not receiving the college communications about COVID-19 updates?

The college uses the personal information you provide when sending communications. If you are not receiving communications, please review How to Update Your Personal Information.

How do I know if my location is closed?

Starting Monday, March 23, 2020 all of our locations across New York state will be open by appointment only for limited use.

  • Students who absolutely have to use one of our campuses for computers or meet face to face with an instructor may be granted permission on a case-by-case basis.
  • Anyone at our locations must abide by the state's social distancing protocol of six feet between people.

Study groups and face-to-face independent studies have been moved to distance learning formats. Students should expect to see notifications from their instructor(s) regarding these courses. If you are unsure about the status of any of your face-to-face studies, please contact your instructor for clarification.

Can I still visit a location for help?

Starting Monday, March 23, 2020 all of our locations across New York state will be open by appointment only for limited use.

  • Students who absolutely have to use one of our campuses for computers or meet face to face with an instructor may be granted permission on a case-by-case basis.
  • Anyone at our locations must abide by the state's social distancing protocol of six feet between people.

How does COVID-19 impact my courses?

In an abundance of caution, the college has moved to a distance learning format for courses. Distance learning may use Moodle, the college online learning tool, or it may mean meeting by phone, Skype or email. Your instructor will notify you with the distance learning plan for your specific course. (See: Tips for Successful Distance Learning)

What should I do to prepare for distance learning?

New to distance learning? No problem! The Empire State College faculty and staff are committed to providing productive and effective learning experiences during this time of transition. Review these Tips for Successful Distance Learning to support your success. 

As my course moves to distance learning, am I still expected to meet course deadlines?

When faculty move courses to distance learning options, they will communicate any course deadline changes to you. It is an expectation that you will meet course deadlines established by the instructor. However, in any course, you should always communicate with your instructor about any difficulty you are having in meeting course deadlines.

Will I be graded differently in distance learning? Is an incomplete a possibility?

The college’s grading policy is the same for all modes of learning. Details, including information about incomplete grades, may be found in the SUNY Empire Grading and Evaluation Policy. Faculty do understand, however, that this is a time of transition for everyone. If you have questions about grading, please do not hesitate to contact your instructor. If you are unable to get in touch with your instructor, email studentsuccess@esc.edu and a member of our Student Success and Development team will assist you.

Will my assignments change if my course is offered in a different format?

All efforts will be made to maintain the original Learning Contract. However, if the type of assignment does need to be altered, your instructor will be in contact with you regarding any changes.

Will my accommodations carry over to distance learning?

Yes, accommodations apply to both the in-person and distance learning environment. If you think you may need additional or different accommodations, please e-mail Disability.Services@esc.edu .

Are there Learning Coaches (tutors) who I can work with at a distance?

Yes, Learning Coaches (tutors) can work by phone or online with any student. In addition, the college’s online service, SmarThinking, is also available. For help with finding a tutor, email academic.support@esc.edu.  

My instructor said we are using Skype for Business. What is this? How do I access it?

Skype for Business is an online meeting tool. You may download it as part of your Office365 account, but it is not necessary to download it as you can also use the Skype for Business web app. Review the ITS Service Desk Skype for Business article for information on accessing this online meeting tool.

Is there any financial help for purchasing distance learning technology?
 
The college has introduced the COVID-19 Emergency Educational Grant to support students who may need assistance accessing the tools and technology needed for online learning. Any SUNY Empire student may apply here for funding up to $500.  

What if I do not have access to the Internet?

Many Internet providers have recently announced they are offering two months free internet service to college students. Many college computer labs are open and may be used if needed. Hours at some locations are reduced due to limited staffing. You may wish to call in advance to confirm available hours.

What if I do not have access to a computer?

Unless specifically noted on the college’s website, many locations are open and computer labs may be used. The college has also announced a COVID-19 Emergency Educational Grant to support students who may need assistance accessing the tools and technology needed for online learning. Any SUNY Empire student may apply here for funding up to $500. If computer access continues to be a concern, please contact the Student Information Center at 800-847-3000, ext. 2285 to find out more about other potential resources. As always, communicate with your instructor as well to explore any possible academic alternatives.

Can I use my phone or tablet for distance learning?

Much of your work may be accomplished using a smartphone or tablet, but some courses may have activities or resources that require a desktop or laptop computer. In addition, depending on the amount of information you need to read or write, you may find it is easier to use desktop or laptop if available. Please note, it is always best to test your device well before a scheduled meeting time or assignment due date to be sure it is compatible. If you are having difficulty connecting, contact the IT Service Desk for more assistance. If you continue to be unable to resolve the issue, please contact your instructor.

I am a first responder or healthcare worker and have been mandated to longer than average shifts/schedules. What should I do related to my coursework?

Contact your instructor to make them aware of your current obligations. Faculty are aware of the demands on first responders and healthcare workers and are committed to working with you to find the best resolution to your current situation. If you are unable to contact your instructor, please contact the appropriate student service team for your program.

What happens if I am a military student called to active duty and need to withdraw?

The college recognizes the need for military students to alter study plans based on activation. Please review  Military Students Called to Active Duty for information on important next steps.  

I am part of the Harry Van Arsdale School of Labor Studies. Do these changes impact my program too?

Yes, Harry Van Arsdale School of Labor Studies courses have moved to distance learning and all students are expected to participate. If your instructor has not yet contacted you with a distance learning plan for your course, please contact your instructor directly.

Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies writing tutors and research tutors will also be available at a distance for students. For additional Harry Van Arsdale Labor Studies academic support help or questions, email sophia.mavrogiannis@esc.edu. If you are hospitalized and unable to complete your courses, please contact Lynne Dodson at lynne.dodson@esc.edu or 646-230-1352.

What should I do if I think I have been exposed to COVID-19?

Please review the information on What You Need to Know About COVID-19 at SUNY Empire State College

What happens if I am hospitalized and I cannot access my courses? 

If you are unable to email your instructors directly, call 1-800-847-3000 ext. 2285 and let them know your situation. The Student Information Center will put you in touch with your local Student Success amd Development Team member who will notify your mentor, act as your liaison and advocate between you and your instructors. The Student Success and Development team may also be contacted at StudentSuccess@esc.edu.

My financial situation has changed. What should I do? 

New York State has temporarily halted the collection of student debt owed to the state. To align with this change, SUNY Empire will defer payments on any plan until May 1, and has lengthened the time to pay for students making payment arrangements. 
 
We know this is a difficult time for many. If you are facing financial difficulties as a result of this situation, please reach out to studentaccounts@esc.edu and let us work with you. The earlier we can begin working on a solution, the better.