Fall classes return to in-person

UNI plans to shift back to in-person classes starting fall 2021.

With the end of the spring semester fast approaching, along with registration for the fall 2021 semester, many returning and incoming UNI students may question how classes will look in the upcoming school year.

UNI President Mark Nook released a statement on Thursday, March 11 indicating that the fall semester would include a “return to the high-quality, in-person education we are known for.”

“While we will maintain some of our classroom safety measures, the shift back to in-person classes and operations this fall will include increased capacity in our classrooms, dining centers, and common spaces; the reopening of our retail dining operations; and a return of on-campus events,” Nook wrote.

According to Patrick Pease, Associate Provost of Academic Affairs, one of the classroom safety measures that will be maintained is reduced capacity. During the fall 2021 semester, in-person classes will be capped at a 50% capacity.

“Essentially, we are skipping every other chair,” Pease wrote in an email to the Northern Iowan. “We had to make this decision back in late December, so we chose to take a conservative approach, and chose not to return immediately to side-by-side seating; the 50% capacity allows us to return to our pre-COVID-19 levels of in-person classes, but still provides a measure of safety and peace of mind for our community.”

For the spring 2021 semester, classrooms were reduced to 35% capacity, a slight reduction from the 40% used as a guide for in-person classes in fall 2020.

Pease indicated that decisions about which fall 2021 classes will be offered in-person, hybrid or online will be largely made by individual departments. Faculty and department heads will decide based “primarily on program design and student needs.”

“For example, we have several fully or partially online programs which require online delivery of content,” he wrote. “We also try to have a select offering of common classes, both in the Liberal Arts Core and in majors, available for students who need to supplement face-to-face instruction with online to manage other time commitments.”

The university’s 50% capacity guidelines will continue to restrict in-person offerings for larger courses; Pease wrote that any course with enrollment of over 150 students will not be able to be held fully face-to-face.

“Fortunately, UNI offers very few classes that large anyway, so the impact will be minimal,” he wrote.

The balance of online and in-person classes may be returning to a more pre-pandemic level, but some changes, such as the hybrid class format, may persist even beyond the pandemic.

“Before COVID-19, that was a rarely used format,” Pease wrote. “We significantly increased the number of hybrid classes during the past year to help manage the reduction in classroom capacities, but some faculty and students have found that it can work well for certain types of classes. Like online delivery, the choice to use a hybrid meeting pattern will be up to departments and faculty based on their course content and teaching style.”

Registration for fall 2021 classes begins March 29 for seniors (those with 90 credits or more). Juniors (60-89 credits) will register March 31- April 2, while sophomores (30-59 credits) will have their turn from April 5-8. Freshmen (0-29 credits) will register April 9-13.

The full university schedule of courses for summer and fall should be available sometime the week of March 15, and students will be able to see their registration date and time in MyUNIverse at that time.