Teaching and Learning

Teaching and Learning

Updated July 7, 2020

2020 Reopening Plan: Teaching and Learning

Go to FAQs about Teaching and Learning

All undergraduate students who have reserved on-campus housing, for whom there is space available, are invited to live on campus under strict public health behavioral restrictions. However, a majority of the fall 2020 curriculum will be fully remote, with only essential labs, studios, performance, and hands-on courses offered in-person and focused on the upper-level curriculum to provide seniors with timely progress toward degree completion.

raised handSome students who live on campus may have a fully remote curriculum, a factor they should consider in their decision whether to come to campus.

The university’s priority is to provide students with a high-quality educational experience that enables them to continue their academic progress with minimal delays or disruptions. We are committed to providing a robust curriculum as well as advising and other academic supports to facilitate students’ academic success.

We will also provide faculty with the instructional technology resources and guidance they need to teach in a fully online format. Faculty interactions with students are a key element in students’ engagement with the course material and their sense of connection to their classmates, professors, and the campus community.

• Academic Calendar

The Academic Calendar will begin August 24 and conclude November 20, with classes held on Labor Day, the second Monday in October, and Veterans Day. Students will be strongly encouraged to remain on or near campus until the Thanksgiving recess, after which they will not return. Final exams will be conducted remotely. Faculty teaching face-to-face courses will be asked to work with students who are unable to make it to campus by August 24 (e.g., because of an apartment lease starting September 1, a summer job, etc.)

• Course Format

Face-to-Face
These are courses that have been designated by colleges/departments as face-to-face and essential for delivery in the fall. These include labs, studios, and performance and hands-on courses that are required for degree pathways, licensure, or accreditation. To ensure social distancing, some face-to-face courses may have students attending on alternate days and learning remotely on other days, as determined by the instructor.

Remote
These are courses with no face-to-face instruction. Technology (e.g., Zoom, Moodle) will help engage students and deliver the curriculum, with a combination of synchronous engagement (i.e., designated class meeting times) and asynchronous engagement (i.e., student learning occurring on the students’ timeline). Faculty will make accommodations for students for whom synchronous engagement is difficult (e.g., international or in other times zones).

• Graduate Students

All graduate-level courses will be offered remotely except for the approved, essential face-to-face courses. Some graduate programs may offer their entire curriculum remotely for fall 2020. All oral exams, including comprehensive exams and dissertation and thesis defenses, will be conducted remotely. Questions about registration and enrollment should be directed to the Graduate School’s student service center and international graduate students should contact the International Programs Office with questions related to visas, travel, and employment.

• Labs, Studios, Performance, and Hands-on Essential Face-to-Face Courses

The essential labs, studios, performance, and hands-on courses have been identified by deans, department heads, chairs, and faculty, and focus on upper-level courses so as not to impede students’ progress toward degree completion. Not all labs, studios, performance, and hands-on courses will be offered in-person this fall. Students will be able to see in their SPIRE course schedule whether their courses will be offered remotely or face-to-face. 

• Classrooms and Schedules

south college umassClassroom capacities will be limited to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Additional sections of courses may be added to reduce class sizes. Course schedules will be adjusted to increase time between classes to 30 minutes to reduce interactive foot traffic on campus and provide time for increased cleaning of lab and classroom spaces when needed. Students will be encouraged to be patient and flexible regarding classroom assignments and course schedules.

• Options for Students Who Choose Not to Come to Campus

Students who have an underlying medical condition or feel unsafe coming to campus and have face-to-face course(s) in their fall schedule should meet remotely with their advisor so their schedule can be adjusted to only include fully remote courses. Students who are seeking a residential experience but are uncomfortable coming to the Amherst campus have the option of applying for housing on the Mount Ida Campus in Newton, Mass. All health and safety protocols on the main campus will be in effect in Newton, but the total residential population will be limited by available housing to less than 500 students. All courses beyond essential face-to-face courses for on-site programs (e.g., Veterinary Technology) will be offered remotely. For more information, view the Mount Ida Campus housing application.

• Advising and Student Support Services

All academic advising will be performed remotely, either by phone or use of another platform (e.g., Zoom). All faculty office hours for students in their courses, advising, or other consultative purposes will be performed remotely. The Learning Resource Center will provide remote services (e.g., supplemental instruction, tutoring). See “Research and Libraries” section for information related to library and study space access.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching and Learning

If I work off campus at a remote location, what guidance do I follow?

Employees working remote will follow the measures announced in the communication from Chancellor Subbaswamy released on March 13, 2020. This applies in Amherst, the Mount Ida Campus in Newton and at the UMass Center in Springfield.

If someone is not an on-site employee, can they come to campus to gather materials from their workplace?

Yes. Employees can certainly come to campus to retrieve items from their offices or other work locations. This is an individual choice. They should use social distancing practices while on campus.

What strategies will be used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19?

Seven core actions are being implemented: required education for all; daily self-screening for all; enhanced cleaning; increased testing and tracing capabilities; arranging for high-risk individuals to study and work remotely; increased mental health support; and use of face coverings and physical distancing.

What is the Daily Screening?

Faculty, staff and students must conduct symptom self-monitoring every day before coming to campus or leaving their residence hall room. Students (on or off campus) will be required to use the COVID-19 symptom checklist through University Health Services’ secure patient portal (Medicat Connect). Faculty and staff can use the My UMass app.

How will face-to-face instruction be conducted?

The occupancy of classrooms will be modified to maintain social distancing, including assigned seating where appropriate. Before the start of each class, students and faculty must wipe down their chairs and any other commonly touched surfaces. Students are required to wear face coverings. There is no eating or drinking in class. An educational video is being produced that will detail the public health measures in place for classrooms and laboratories.

How will you reduce density in classrooms?

Classrooms and study spaces will have diagrams depicting the reduced seating capacity for each space, including designated areas for instructors and required space between students to ensure appropriate social distancing. Room locations for some courses may be reassigned to meet public health standards. Signs will be posted to explain appropriate ways to enter and exit, as well as reminders about preventive health practices.

Will classes start earlier this year?

Yes, fall semester classes will begin Aug. 24 and conclude Nov. 20, with classes held on Labor Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day. Students will be strongly encouraged to remain on or near campus until the Thanksgiving recess, after which they will not return. Final exams will be conducted remotely through Dec. 4. Faculty will make accommodations for students who have an apartment lease starting Sept. 1 or who are otherwise unable to arrive by Aug. 24; for example,  remote participation or make-up work.

What will be the mix of remote and in-person classes?

A majority of the fall 2020 curriculum will be fully remote, with essential courses offered in-person. Some students who return to campus may have a fully remote curriculum, a factor they should consider in their decision to return. The university’s priority is to provide students with a high-quality educational experience that enables them to continue their academic progress with minimal delays or disruptions.

What is face-to-face instruction?

Courses that have been designated by colleges and departments as face-to-face-only and essential for delivery in the fall will be offered face-to-face. These include labs, studios and performance courses that are required for degree pathways, licensure or accreditation. To ensure social distancing, some face-to-face courses may have students attending on alternate days and learning remotely on other days, as determined by the instructor.

What is remote instruction?

These are courses with no face-to-face instruction.Technology such as Zoom and Moodle will help engage students and deliver the curriculum, with a combination of synchronous engagement (designated class meeting times) and asynchronous engagement (student learning occurring on their timeline). Faculty will make accommodations for students for whom synchronous engagement is difficult (for example, international students or those in other times zones).

How will graduate-level courses be taught?

All graduate-level courses (600-700-level) will be offered remotely unless identified essential by colleges or departments. Some graduate programs may offer their entire curriculum remotely. Dissertation and thesis defenses will be conducted remotely. Questions about registration and enrollment should be directed to the Graduate School’s student service center, and international graduate students should contact the International Programs Office with questions related to visas, travel and employment.

What will be different about classrooms and class schedules?

Classroom capacities will be limited to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Additional sections of courses may be needed to reduce class sizes. Course schedules may be adjusted to increase time between classes, and start and end times may be staggered to reduce interactive foot traffic on campus. Students will be encouraged to be patient and flexible regarding classroom assignments and course schedules.

What if I choose not to return to campus?

Students who have an underlying medical condition or feel unsafe returning to campus and have face-to-face or face-to-face plus blended courses in their fall schedule should meet remotely with their advisor so their fall schedule can be adjusted to only include fully remote courses. Students who are seeking a residential experience but are uncomfortable returning to the Amherst campus have the option of applying for housing on the Mount Ida Campus in Newton, Mass., while taking courses remotely.

Will I have access to the UMass Libraries?

Yes, the Libraries are developing a phased plan for restoring in-person services and onsite access to collections. Prior to reopening library facilities, on-site staff will provide access to materials through its Library Express service, and scanning some materials.

How will academic advising and faculty office hours be provided?

All academic advising will be performed remotely, either by phone or through use of another platform such as Zoom, unless both the student and advisor agree to meet in a socially distanced way. All faculty office hours for students in their courses, advising or other consultative purposes will be performed remotely. Advisors will also provide guidance and processes via their college websites. Students can find their college academic advising contact listed in their SPIRE Student Center.

How will academic support be provided to students?

All of the Learning Resource Center’s academic support options will be offered online. Students will have the option of tutoring by appointment online as well as drop-in tutoring online for quick, in-the- moment questions. Students can also attend virtual supplemental instruction (SI) sessions online. Virtual SI sessions will also be available via cloud recordings so students can watch them on their own schedule if they can't attend the virtual sessions. Student success study skills and time management workshops will be offered throughout the semester via Zoom and other online platforms. 

Will study abroad be available this fall?

Study abroad may be an option for the fall. There are a number of variables including government travel warnings and severely reduced flight options. Students who want to keep the study abroad option open for the fall should maintain close contact with their education abroad advisor at the International Programs Office and follow instructions in a timely fashion.

Will remote learning be an option for international students?

Yes, international students can study remotely. There are no U.S. immigration regulations that preclude this option.

Will you still be having winter/spring semester abroad in 2021?

Most likely. Students should maintain close contact with their education abroad advisor at the International Programs Office and follow instructions in a timely fashion.

How can a student defer a semester?

(Updated July 7, 2020) New students with extenuating circumstances (a health crisis, financial hardship) can apply for a deferral for one semester. In most cases, new students who choose to postpone entering UMass will need to reapply for entry in a future semester. 

Continuing students can take a leave of absence by completing the End of Term Withdrawal section in Spire. Advising conversations about spring course selection for continuing students will begin in late October. Academic advisors and Financial Aid staff can assist students as they decide about changing plans for degree completion.

How do I know if my course will be face-to-face or remote?

You can find if your course will be taught face-to-face on campus this fall or be fully remote by looking at your Student Center in SPIRE. In the Student Center section, each course of the Fall 2020 schedule will either have a building and room location identified for essential face-to-face courses, or will have a “Fully Remote Class” designation for courses that will be taught remotely. 

In your SPIRE shopping cart or when looking to add courses, you will also be able to see the instructional modality of all courses in the “Room” field , with a building and room location identified for face-to-face courses or “Fully Remote Class” indicated for remote teaching. 

The day and time of each course will also be indicated in the Student Center. 

Will pass/fail options be the same as last semester?

The spring 2020 temporary shift to Elective Pass/Fail for all courses was in response to the abrupt move to remote learning in March. Knowing now that most courses will be taught remotely this fall, we have reverted to the original UMass policy on Pass/Fail. Students may choose to elect one course as Pass/Fail for fall semester, and in general should not choose this option for requirements.

 

Why did all class times change?

As of July 2, all original course times are reinstated in SPIRE. Previously, adjustments were made as we considered how to best allow for classrooms to be cleaned. After further safety evaluation, and having heard concerns about lengthy days for students and faculty, the original schedule was reinstated.

 

 

Are decisions about in person vs. remote classes final as of now?

Yes, decisions have been finalized within academic departments about face-to-face vs. fully remote classes.

 

Will graduate assistantships be offered during the fall semester?

Many graduate assistantships have already been offered and accepted for the fall semester. Students in search of graduate assistantships can check the employment opportunities page on the Graduate School website.

Can I still go abroad for Fall 2020? I have not started a UMass Abroad application.

There are options for studying abroad in the Fall, but these programs may be suspended at any time due to COVID-19 concerns. Your EA advisor will talk to you about potential issues if your program is cancelled after UMass courses have begun.

The Fall 2020 abroad options are found here.

You must have a passport and it must be valid for at least six months after your program’s end date. If you do not have a passport or if it will expire before this timeframe, you will not be able to go abroad in the Fall.

You will need to make an appointment to open an application. After you have reviewed your program options, please follow the instructions here to make an appointment with an EA Advisor. Do not schedule an appointment until you have identified one or two programs that may fulfill your academic requirements. Your EA Advisor will review deadlines with you at your meeting.

You are required to enroll in UMass courses for the Fall and ensure you have housing in the event that your program is suspended.

Can I go abroad on a program that isn’t on the Fall 2020 UMass Abroad list above?

No. We will not approve any other programs for the Fall 2020 semester.

Can I take abroad courses online for Fall 2020?

Yes! You’ll find options for online courses here. API and CAPA have an optional in-country component (enrollment and travel permitting).

The deadline for online abroad is Aug. 1, 2020. Program deadlines may be earlier.

Will Spring 2021 Study Abroad programs be suspended?

It is too early to tell. We will let students know as far ahead of time as possible so they can adjust their Spring 2021 plans as needed. All students will be required to enroll in UMass courses for the Spring and are responsible for ensuring they have housing in the event their program is suspended.

Are there Study Abroad info sessions during the summer?

Yes! You can find the events page here. Check back often for updates and new topics.

How do I make an appointment to talk about education abroad?

If you’d like to Zoom with an Education Abroad Advisor, follow the instructions found here.

Still have questions? Please send an email to abroad@ipo.umass.edu.