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Glossary of terms

Find key terms you’ll see throughout this website and in other communications from Indiana University.

Academics and campus life

asynchronous learning

Online education that is pre-recorded, without real-time interaction.

Community Responsibility Acknowledgement

The Community Responsibility Acknowledgement is an agreement that all IU employees must complete before physically returning to work on campus, as part of the effort to keep the IU community safe.

fall 2020 semester

The fall 2020 semester begins Aug. 24, 2020, and is a 16-week semester that will end on Dec. 20, 2020. Until Nov. 20, 2020, classes may be in-person or online. After Nov. 20 until the end of the semester, classes will be online only. Courses may be 16 weeks, 13 weeks (finishing by Nov. 20) or 8 weeks.

go bag

A bag of essential items IU recommends that students living on campus should pack and bring with them in case they need to isolate or quarantine.

spring 2021 semester

Spring 2021 semester begins Jan. 19, 2021, and ends May 9, 2021. The first three weeks of the semester will be online only, with the remainder of the semester being a mix of in-person and online instruction.

Student Commitment Form

The Student Commitment Form is an agreement that must be completed by all students who are attending class on campus to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities, guidelines, and best practices for maintaining a welcoming environment.

synchronous learning

Online or distance education in real time, with interaction between instructor and students.

winter session

The winter session in 2020–21 is an intersession between the fall and spring semesters that will allow students to take additional courses.


close contact

Spending 15 minutes indoors within a six-foot radius of another person, with or without wearing a mask. All IU students, faculty and staff are encouraged to avoid close contact with others to reduce the spread of COVID-19.


A coronavirus cluster is considered to have occurred when there is a concentration of infections in the same area at the same time.

Clusters are identified through contact tracing efforts, making it critical to cooperate with contact tracers.

IU will follow federal, state and local public health guidelines in reporting suspected clusters of infection.

In addition to sharing information regarding clusters prominently on its website, IU may issue public safety advisories through IU Notify, which are sent via text, phone and/or email.

Ensure you’re opted in to receive IU Notify messages via the Emergency Notification Settings in

contact tracing

A system that helps health professionals isolate cases of COVID-19 and identifies close contacts of individuals who have tested positive for a disease in order to stop the chain of transmission. Students, faculty and staff on all IU campuses who test positive for COVID-19 will experience contact tracing as a part of IU’s efforts to ensure students and employees have a safe return to campus this fall.


A face covering with multiple layers of fabric worn over the nose and mouth that fits snugly while allowing for breathing without restriction and meets CDC guidelines.

This does not need to be a mask provided by IU.

Masks are required for all IU students, faculty, staff, and temporary employees in all IU buildings on all campuses this fall. More information about mask requirements is available on this website.

Masks are also required outside when physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

physical distancing

Maintaining at least 6 feet between people and workstations. It may also imply barriers in classrooms or workspaces where people must face each other or are unable to be 6 feet apart.

superspreader event

At a superspreader event, the number of cases transmitted will be disproportionately high compared to general transmission. The risk of a superspreading event may balloon in the presence of superspreading people, who pass on their infection more widely, either by being in contact with more people or emitting more of the virus. While the vast majority of people at an event may not infect any others, one person at a super spreader event could conceivably infect more than one dozen individuals.

To prevent the risk of creating super spreader events, large gatherings should be avoided. (Local ordinances vary on how many individuals comprise a large gathering.) Gatherings of any size should be held outdoors, with chairs arranged so that people can stay 6 feet apart from one another while eating or drinking. Individuals should wear masks if entering homes or buildings with other people inside.

Testing and medical matters

antigen test

A less-invasive COVID-19 test that takes a swab from the nostrils and can deliver results within 30 minutes. IU Bloomington students who had classes before Aug. 24, and those who live in residence halls and Greek housing students, received rapid antigen testing.


Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses, some of which cause disease in people and animals, named for crownlike spikes on their surfaces.


COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2.

higher risk

Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.


Isolation (or “self-isolation”) is separating ill people from healthy people, restricting the movement of ill people to help stop the spread of disease. Not to be used interchangeably with quarantine. Both isolation and quarantine are public health practices used to stop or limit the spread of disease, but they are distinctly different measures.

mitigation testing

Ongoing testing of IU students, faculty and staff that will begin in the fall semester; this is part of IU’s comprehensive testing regime.


Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of well people who may have been exposed to a communicable disease to see if they become ill. These people may have been exposed to a disease and do not know it, or they may have the disease but do not show symptoms.


A risk-mitigation measure that individuals will conduct on their own by taking their temperature and monitoring other symptoms of possible illness or COVID-19 infection.

This is required for all employees and students upon signing the Community Responsibility Agreement or Student Commitment Form.