Published: May 13, 2020

CU Boulder’s Academic Year 2020-21 Planning Team on Wednesday released draft recommendations and received feedback for the fall semester that place health and safety at the forefront of an innovative, in-person, COVID-ready campus experience.

Highlights of the Road Map to Fall 2020 recommendations include starting the fall semester as planned on Aug. 24, a highly flexible academic model that provides options for faculty to deliver courses in a variety of modalities, no proposed tuition increase for the 20-21 academic year, providing a cohort-based first-year academic experience (FYAE) for all first-year students, and waiving fees for Residential Academic Programs.

The planning team presented the draft recommendations during a pair of virtual feedback sessions, with hundreds of students, faculty and staff tuning in. Continued input on the full list of recommendations can be submitted via the campus Road Map to Fall 2020 input form. The Planning Team will use feedback on the recommendations to validate the strengths of the proposed approaches, identify concerns and prioritize revisions prior to their submission to campus leadership. Ultimately, campus intends to announce its plans and implementation next steps for fall by June 1. 

“The Planning Team has been thrilled by the attendance at these sessions and the thoughtful engagement by our campus community over the past three weeks,” said Executive Vice Provost for Academic Resource Management Ann Schmiesing, who led the Planning Team along with Senior Associate Vice Chancellor of Strategic Communications Jon Leslie and Associate Vice Chancellor of Integrity, Safety and Compliance Dan Jones. “All of this input has proven invaluable as we continue to draft and revise our plans for fall.”  

The recommendations laid out Wednesday took into account more than 1,500 points of input over recent weeks from students, faculty, staff, deans, executive leadership, parents, alumni and community members. At their core were the guiding principles set forth by the chancellor, to apply leadership, empathy and care; to be innovative in meeting our mission; to be resilient together in delivering positive impact. 

The Road Map to Fall 2020 focuses on three key areas of effort: 

  • Creating a COVID-ready campus experience that minimizes health and safety risks to faculty, staff, students and community members
  • Allowing faculty to deliver academic instruction that enables our mission and ensures student success
  • Aligning resources in support of the first two areas 

The recommendations are designed as a general framework and an “architecture” where faculty, staff, and administration will work over the next several weeks to build the infrastructure necessary to safely deliver high-quality academic instruction and continue our research and scholarship.

“We know that there will be many additional questions to be answered as units begin to develop their plans,” Leslie said. “And specific implementation tactics and additional details regarding events, research and creative work, travel, visitors, personnel needs, student involvement and other aspects will continue to be fleshed out once the framework for fall is finalized.”

A COVID-ready campus experience

Vital to success of the first area of focus are strong campus COVID-19 protocols; training, awareness and individual accountability; and the ability to adapt operations based on changing local conditions. The Planning team outlined four approaches to addressing this focus area:

  • Expand on-campus testing, notification, isolation
  • Set social distancing expectations for everyone
  • Launch public health awareness and accountability measures
  • Develop COVID-19 status categories for campus operations

The planning team outlined several specific features within each approach, such as providing masks and safety training for all students, faculty and staff and updating conduct code and related policies as it relates to compliance with public health requirements. The status categories for campus operations included Remote (our current status), Limited (limited physical presence on campus), Expanded (Fall 2020 hybrid operations) and Full (return to normal operations).

Academic instruction

Approaches to enabling our academic mission and student success outlined by the Planning Team include:

  • Begin fall semester as scheduled; develop in-person/hybrid-flex/remote course options
  • Enable physical (social) distancing in classrooms and on campus
  • Provide faculty and students with enhanced virtual learning support
  • Within existing commitment levels, empower teaching assistants and learning assistants to support faculty with instruction across multiple teaching modalities
  • Provide a First-Year Academic Experience and CU 101 courses for all first-year students
  • Support graduate student academic success
  • Proposed: 16-week term with an option for two 8-week sessions for some courses

Several specific features supporting these approaches are outlined in the full presentation, and include offering courses in both an in-person and remote (synchronous) or online (asynchronous) format, as well as providing a cohort-based academic experience for all first-year students and honoring academic year 20-21 graduate student teaching percentage levels, in light of any needed adjustments to specific graduate teaching assignments.

Resource alignment

The Planning Team recommendations outlined approaches for prioritizing resources in support of a COVID-ready on-campus teaching and learning experience include:

  • Pool resources to fund COVID-19 related expenses 
  • Focus resources to support technology, instructional design and safety needs
  • Proposed: 0% tuition increase for incoming and returning students; waive Residential Academic Program (RAP) fees in AY 20-21

This focus area acknowledges the need to create an integrated approach for prioritization and purchasing related to COVID-19 needs like sanitation, protective gear, technology and staffing costs. It also places high priority on supporting students and their families at a difficult time, recognizing that the proposed 0% tuition increase must be approved by the Board of Regents. 

The specific features that support the approaches for all three tactical areas, including the benefits of each feature and how each helps prevent COVID-19, can be viewed in the presentation slides from Wednesday’s Zoom sessions.