UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences planning for large classes to be at least partially virtual

In an email from associate deans in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the university’s largest college is planning to incorporate virtual components into classes expected to enroll 50 or more students.


Jeff Sigmund

Old Capital as seen on April 13, 2020.

Josie Fischels, Arts Editor

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is planning to conduct fall classes with 50 or more expected enrollees in a semi- or full-online format to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

In an email to faculty May 12, CLAS Associate Deans Helena Dettmer and Christine Getz, Co-chairs of the Fall 2020 Academic Delivery committee, informed faculty at the university’s largest college that fall classes would be offered in an in-person, online-only, or blended format.  

Fall courses with an expected enrollment of 50 or more students are planned to be offered in either blended or entirely online modes. A blended course could include an online lecture paired with an in-person discussion section or lab, according to the email. A class with less than 50 expected students may meet in person, but also could be online or combined.

The mode of the course will depend on factors such as the class size, ventilation of the room, faculty health, and capabilities of physical distancing in the classroom and hallways.

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To accommodate virtual participants in a blended learning environment, the email stated that every UI classroom will be equipped with a camera and a microphone. 

The email also recommended that college faculty should take steps to prepare in case COVID-19 severity or spread worsens and prompts an early end to in-person instruction. 

Blended courses should include significant virtual components in order to make the jump to all-online and the email advised faculty members plan the semester in three- to four-week modules in case circumstances would warrant an early end to the semester.

A May 6 CLAS Fall Reopening Planning meeting determined the plans.

The Academic Delivery Committee wrote that it is working closely with UI officials to align its reopening guidelines with the UI, CLAS, and other colleges within the university. The committee is sharing ongoing updates and resources on the CLAS Fall 2020 Reopening Blog. The guidelines within CLAS’s Physical Distancing Plan are in line with the guidelines issued by the Office of the Provost, the email stated. 

The Academic Delivery Committee recommended faculty offering their courses online or in a blended format to consult with Distance and Online Education or the Office of Teaching, Learning, and Technology. The committee also will offer resources for training opportunities from university offices once they become available. 

Additionally, the committee called for CLAS Departmental Executive Officers to take into account safety issues within classrooms, including ventilation concerns, the inability to maintain physical distance, health issues of faculty members, and whether hall sizes would not allow for appropriate physical distancing. 

The email included tips for faculty on how to structure their syllabus and course modules, recommended templates and webinars to utilize for ICON course design, and ways to minimize potential cheating on quizzes, papers, and exams while maximizing student empowerment and success in their learning.