Course planning for autumn 2021

From the Provost — March 5, 2021

Course planning for autumn 2021

Dear colleagues,

To assist with course scheduling for autumn 2021, I am writing today to share our planning assumptions to enable a substantial reactivation of in-person teaching and learning. 

The health and safety of the university community remains our first priority, so we will continue to monitor and model the status of the virus, vaccination and other factors that will influence our approach to autumn. Masking, testing and monitoring will remain fundamental parts of our safety protocols going forward, and the application of all public health protocols will be updated as needed.

We developed our course scheduling assumptions after consulting with academic and health leaders representing a wide range of expertise. We will continue to develop contingency plans for a variety of circumstances, but we recognize the need for clarity now as academic leaders prepare courses for autumn.

These are the guidelines:

  • Each department is to provide at least 75% of course sections in person.
  • We will balance approaches to classroom density and class size, allowing smaller classrooms to return to pre-COVID density while adding constraints on larger classes.
    • Classes of fewer than 50 students can take place in rooms at "full" (not physically distanced) capacity — or in rooms with larger capacities. 
    • Classes of 50-99 students will take place in rooms at 75% of the "full" (not physically distanced) capacity.
    • Classes of 100 or more must be taught via distance learning, or through a blended modality where the in-person sections include fewer than 100 students. [UPDATE: On April 2, the provost amended the guidance to offer flexibility for large gateway courses.]

The registrar's office is currently implementing these decisions in the course scheduling system, and this work will be completed in about a week. The registrar's office will be communicating with departments and colleges regarding changes that must occur to allow this plan to be successful. This will include changing the times of some classes. Please assist this process.

We anticipate that course scheduling windows will open March 25, allowing four weeks for students to consider their autumn 2021 plans.

Finally, let me reiterate that this plan is designed to balance the need for decisions now with the need for flexibility as the spring and summer progress. We will have robust safety protocols in place this autumn that will fit conditions when the semester begins. And while we hope that this plan will not need to change, we will be fully prepared to adjust if needed. 

Academic programs should continue to work through this process with Vice Provost Randy Smith and the Academic Program Advisory Council. If there are broader policy questions, please direct them to Senior Vice Provost Kay Wolf.

Bruce A. McPheron, PhD
Executive Vice President and Provost