After changes were made to the fall semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the spring semester scheduling will look a little different this year. Spring semester registration begins Oct. 26.
Interim University Registrar Allison Urbanczyk explained that there are a lot similarities to registration from previous semesters.
“For the most part registration for spring ‘21 is very much like registration that we’ve had in the past. It’s still online, it’s still through data VU, you still meet with your advisor to talk about your study plan, it’s very much the same,” she said.
One change was that registration was pushed back to Oct. 26.
“The couple of things that have changed is we did give students a little extra time before registration opened to make sure that they had their plans in order, that they had a good long time to look at the schedule of classes online with their advisor and talk about what would work best for them,” she said.
This was done in part due to all the changes that have occurred this semester as well as the new flu shot requirement. She explained that the decision to push back the scheduling time was not due to the changes to advising.
“Not necessarily, I mean we did see a lot of change this year so I think it’s helpful to give just a little extra time to get things in order. Also we did ask students to get the flu shot and we wanted to make sure there was time for everyone to have an appointment so that they didn’t feel like that was something slowing them down,” Urbanczyk said.
There was also a change in the amount of tuition money that students needed to have paid off before registering.
“In the past there was a $1,000 threshold where if your balance was under a thousand you could go ahead and register and above that it would be delayed until you work things out with Student Accounts. Last semester and this semester they raised that threshold to three thousand so students have an easier time working that out and getting through registration on time,” Urbanczyk said.
The increased passing periods will continue next semester.
“We kept the longer passing periods to reduce congestion in the hallways, to allow for some cleaning and to improve traffic management in the academic buildings. So we just want to make sure people aren’t rushing and crowding into spaces to get to class,” Urbanczyk said.
Additionally the instructional method options added due to COVID will remain available.
“We’ve also seen an increase in instructional method options. So students can choose fully online courses more than they have been able to before. They can choose hybrid courses if they want to participate on campus for the hands on pieces of their coursework and then attend remotely for the remainder, like discussion and pieces that are easy to facilitate online,” Urbanczyk said.
However, many classes remain in person due to student feedback.
“We recognize that our students very much want to be on campus with their peers with their instructors, they miss their faculty. And so based on that student input, we have the majority of our courses in person, but we did reduce the capacity in each classroom so that we can allow for social distancing and we can take the safety precautions that we feel will help our students and faculty to feel safe on campus,” Urbanczyk said.
She added that other precautions, such as wearing masks and directing traffic flow inside campus buildings, aimed to keep students and faculty safe while attending in person classes.
Each student will still receive their individualized registration time.
“So students are broken up into small groups so that registration can take place without overloading our systems all at one time and we’re putting the final touches on those groups now so that when a student logs into data VU they’ll be able to see their personal registration start time,” Urbanczyk said.
The guidance from the Provost’s office for Spring 2021 was similar to that of Fall 2020 regarding the instructional methods of classes.
“So there may be some departments that have a slightly different percentage, but overall the goal has remained the same for each college and for the university to have the vast majority in person and to supplement that with online and hybrid options for students that may be more comfortable in those courses or may not be able to attend in person,” Urbanczyk said.
Which classes are in person or online depends on the course structure and content.
“Some departments require more in person training if you’re doing something in a laboratory or if you’re doing something artistic. There are some things that are hands-on that really do need to be on campus and then there are some departments that have more discussion based course work that can be carried out online a little easier,” Urbanczyk said.
The schedule for the spring semester will also be slightly condensed like the fall, especially as the semester now starts on Jan. 25.
“It will be slightly condensed similar to fall, but we're adjusting spring break. Spring break will now be a couple of days before the Easter holiday and a couple of days after the Easter holiday rather than having it earlier in the semester. And it will be slightly condensed but it will very much be like the normal semester with some other reduced breaks,” Urbanczyk said.
She added that she hopes students will use the extra winter break time to rest and prepare for the upcoming semester and that it will be nice to avoid most of the winter weather and flu season.
This fall, final exams will be compressed into four days instead of five. This may also continue in the spring based on how it goes this semester.
“For Fall 2020, we had final exams compressed into four days and it’s something that our faculty have been considering for a couple of years, whether that would work better for students to have a smaller final exam period so it’s my understanding that we will likely have that four day schedule again but it has not yet been confirmed. I’m waiting for guidance again from faculty,” Urbanczyk said.
Urbanczyk has generally heard positive feedback regarding scheduling for the fall and spring semesters.
“Most of the feedback I hear is that things are going well. The students enjoy the flexibility of the new instructional methods. They are glad that so many of our courses are in person because they miss their peers and their faculty. It’s a busy time and everybody’s adjusting to the fact that around the world things are a little bit different but in regards to the academic calendar and classes I hear that things are going really well,” Urbanczyk said.
Changes may be made depending on how things go this semester and next semester.
“So very much business as usual just with some added flexibility. Of course we’re learning as we go and making sure that everything is working properly but I imagine it will be very much the same. The schedule is available online for anybody interested how particular courses turned out in the spring,” Urbanczyk said.
Urbanczyk expressed her thanks to students for their flexibility.
“I just want to thank the students for doing such an excellent job of adapting and sharing with us what their interests are for how classes are delivered and to say how happy I am to work with our students and faculty to get everything in order for them for the spring,” Urbanczyk said.