Campus & community, Campus news

UC Berkeley to begin fall semester with remote instruction

By Public Affairs

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost A. Paul Alivisatos, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Catherine P. Koshland, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division Lisa García Bedolla, and Chair, Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate Oliver M. O’Reilly sent the following message to UC Berkeley faculty and staff on Tuesday:

As you are all aware, the trend lines regarding COVID-19 positive cases in Alameda county, the region, and the state, show that infections continue to increase.

The increase in cases in the local community is of particular concern. Given this development, as well as it being unlikely that there will be a dramatic reversal in the public health situation before the fall semester instruction begins on Aug. 26, we have made the difficult decision to begin the fall semester with fully remote instruction. However, we continue our preparations to implement hybrid and/or flexible modes of instruction as soon as public health conditions allow.

Although we have repeatedly noted that all fall plans are subject to public health conditions, we understand that this news will be disappointing. Many of you have worked diligently to develop plans to provide in-person instructional activities for almost one thousand classes across the campus. Many faculty and students continue to look forward to resumption of some element of in-person instruction. We will continue to work hard on our plans, and to learn from the setbacks as well as the advances.

Learning to switch between remote and in-person

COVID-19 is showing us that we have to be not only agile, moving quickly between degrees of openness and sometimes pulling back, but also prepared to move forward as soon as conditions allow.

This means we will keep a fully remote option open for all students but also be prepared to implement our plans for select in-person instruction activities for those students who can take advantage of them, as conditions allow, even if it is part way through a term.

We understand that this is more complex and difficult for students, staff, and instructors, and we commit to providing guidance and support.

If previously approved in-person instruction returns later in the semester, students will not be required to attend classes in-person—they can continue to attend classes remotely through the semester.

To the degree that operational logistics and public health conditions permit, we will prioritize offering in-person instructional activities for Tier 1 and some Tier 2 courses, depending on instructor, classroom, space, and facility availability. Tier 1 is defined as instructional activities that, by their pedagogical nature (e.g., labs, studios, fieldwork), are significantly preferable to offer in-person or partially in-person. Tier 2 is defined as instructional activities that, if offered in-person, would substantially contribute to cohort-building for entering students, to academic engagement for students who are underrepresented on campus, and/or part of a capstone experience (e.g., freshman/sophomore seminars, first-year cohort-building courses for graduate students, capstone courses for seniors, etc.).

The Office of the Registrar will continue to assign general assignment classrooms as needed for courses provisionally approved as Tier 1 and Tier 2 in the event that we can return to some hybrid or flexible instruction later in the semester. At this point, it is less likely that we will be able to offer Tier 3 in-person instructional activities, those in which the instructor strongly prefers to offer instruction in person—even later in the semester—so we are holding off on Tier 3 room assignments for the time being.

Current fall planning

For now, as we plan for the start of the fall semester, faculty should implement their contingency plans for fully-remote instruction. Waiting for conditions to improve would not provide us with sufficient time to prepare for the start of instruction. If it is not possible to offer a particular course remotely and the course needs to be canceled for the fall semester, please work with your department scheduler to update the schedule of classes at your earliest opportunity. It is important that students have the most up-to-date information. For questions, please contact the Office of the Registrar

Whether or not public health conditions allow us to return to some in-person instruction as planned, we anticipate an improved remote learning experience for our students. We have made significant progress in our technology since the spring. And, the Research, Teaching, and Learning (RTL) team has provided many resources to assist instructors with teaching remotely in the Keep Teaching website. Please also take a look at the following FAQs:

Looking forward

We acknowledge the challenging times for our community with regard to childcare, dependent care, personal health, and other responsibilities through the fall. Our instruction planning and operations recovery management teams are working to develop plans to support instructors, GSIs, and staff who require classrooms or office space to prepare for and/or deliver instruction. We will send more detailed information about these plans in the near future.

We will continue with plans to go fully remote after Thanksgiving, even if we are able to pivot to some in-person instruction during the semester.

As the public health situation continues to evolve, we will keep you updated as additional information regarding fall plans develop. We will provide regular updates leading up to and throughout the fall semester.

For your information, a message about fall plans that students will receive later today is appended below.

We are immensely grateful for your incredible dedication to our campus community in the face of this pandemic and for your remaining flexible to our ever-changing environment.