As coronavirus cases rise across California, colleges and universities are grappling with how best to bring students back — if at all.
The University of California, Davis, is continuing a plan for both in-person and remote classes with county and state approval, with a final fall plan expected by the end of the month. In the meantime, the college has announced some preliminary decisions in a letter from administrators Friday.
While the college is slightly hoping to increase in-person teaching and research from its current status, the majority of classes will be taught remotely when classes begin Sept. 30, the letter said. On Friday, the college announced all classes with 50 or more students will be taught entirely remotely.
For classes with fewer than 50 students, some in-person instruction may be possible — a preliminary decision be made by course instructors in coordination with department chairs and deans, with the final decision resting with committee and provost approval.
But classes that can happen in person will be subject to strict public health guidelines. When feasible, in-person classes will be taught outdoors in tents, with audio/video equipment, physical distancing of 6 feet and participants wearings masks, the letter said.
“Of course, this outside classroom approach is neither practical nor feasible for some courses, so it will not be the only option for in-person course delivery. We hope to have other options available for offering laboratory-based, studio-based and equipment-based instruction to meet both safety and educational needs,” administrators said.
The letter also asked faculty to be mindful of varied circumstances students will be facing — like different time zones, financial constraints or a lack of sufficient internet access, among other barriers — and to make adjustments in syllabuses and instruction method accordingly.
“We hope that in your roles as teachers and mentors, you remain especially mindful of UC Davis’ Principles of Community and our responsibility to give all of our students every opportunity to succeed, excel and thrive,” the letter said.
The University of California system left each decision to each campus, but all are currently planning to hold the majority of classes online. At least two of the campuses — UC Berkeley and UC Merced — are already reevaluating early plans to account for new coronavirus outbreaks.
The 23-campus California State University system, meanwhile, announced in May it would offer most classes online, with few exceptions for courses the college would be unable to deliver virtually. That includes Sacramento State, which announced Thursday its academic plan will “significantly reduce the number of faculty, staff, and students on campus during Fall 2020.”
And as the pandemic worsens in California, administrators are warning students that in-person classes may be reduced even further: UC Davis officials said last month they are “prepared to return to the current state of reduced on-site operations at any time.”
This also comes as UC Davis admits a record number of undergraduates for the fall, up 13.6 percent from last year. The school expects 9,500 students to enroll, raising the today student body to 39,600 students.
“We look forward to a successful fall, confident in our collective ability to provide top-quality educational experiences even under these challenging circumstances. For our students, their families, and our broader world, we know how important it is to succeed in these efforts.”