UI to finalize most classroom placements by July 17, some small courses will still be online

At a virtual campus forum held Wednesday morning, Provost Monseratt Fuentes and Associate Provost Tanya Uden-Holman discussed what classrooms will look like in fall 2020.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

As students prepare to return to the University of Iowa campus in fall 2020, the university is working to reassign classroom spaces and determine how much instruction will take place in-person. 

The first of two campus forums discussing how the UI academic and classroom experience will function in regard to COVID-19 mitigation was held Wednesday morning. Provost Montseratt Fuentes and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Tanya Uden-Holman provided students, faculty, and staff with more details surrounding how the classroom will look in fall 2020.

The UI previously announced in a campus-wide email that classes with under 50 students and in-person academic experiences for first-year students will be prioritized for face-to-face instruction.

“We know how crucial it is for students, especially new students, to form connections with their peers and with their faculty and staff mentors,” Fuentes said. “We must do all we can to facilitate those connections.”

Uden-Holman said classrooms are currently in the process of being reassigned and the majority of decisions about which classes will be online or in-person will be final by July 17. 

Some classes with less than 50 students will be taught with a hybrid modality of in-person and online learning. Uden-Holman said some lower-priority classes under 50 students may need to be taught online due to space limitations.

Additional spaces are being identified on campus for classrooms, Uden-Homan said, including meeting rooms in the IMU and the University Capitol Center.

Faculty and teaching assistants will still be required to have office hours, but can decide if these will be held in-person or online, and orientation for new teaching assistants will take place online.

Uden-Holman said some furniture will likely be removed from classrooms to encourage proper social distancing. 

When social distancing is not possible in a classroom, students and instructors will be required to wear both masks and face shields. Physical plastic barriers will be placed between students and instructors. 

UI administration received feedback from students in a supplement added to ACE course evaluations and the Undergraduate Pandemic Response Survey. 

Seventy-five percent of respondents described the support they received during the transition to virtual learning in the spring semester as “very good or adequate,” Uden-Holman said. 

RELATED: UI to maintain fall 2020 academic calendar

Uden-Holman said few students reported only positive or only negative experiences. 

“The survey results are clear — for students there is no substitute for meaningful interaction and engagement with faculty,” Uden-Holman said.

Uden-Holman said additional space will be available to faculty to record lectures with support from media staff. Several workshops will be presented to faculty to help them plan all-online courses. 

Uden-Holman said the default for online classes will be synchronous delivery. Individual departments can determine if asynchronous delivery can be used in its courses. 

“We’re really stressing to faculty the importance of students having the opportunity for having live interaction with faculty as well as other students,” Uden-Holman said. “I know from having talked to several students, having that live interaction has really made all the difference in feeling that they were really connected with others on campus as they continued their learning experience in the spring.”

Another forum on academics and the classroom experience will take place at 1 p.m. on July 2.