Ohio University

Fall Planning update

Published: July 31, 2020 Author: Staff reports

Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs shared the following message with faculty on July 31, 2020.

Dear Colleagues,  

As President Nellis announced earlier today, despite the work of many students, faculty, and staff on our fall planning efforts, significant increases in COVID-19 cases in July — in our communities, state, and across the country — have altered our plans for the fall. Based on available data and public health advice, including the level of disease in our communities, testing availability and turnaround time, and the results of available testing, we are adopting a phased approach to return to the Athens campus, and a hybrid approach to the regional campuses. The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (HCOM) will continue in its current hybrid format. This will allow us to significantly decrease the density on all of our campuses, including the density in our residence halls on the Athens campus. Below is more specific information; additional information will be forthcoming in the next two weeks.  

Athens campus 
As discussed in the President’s message, Phase 1 of the return to campus will last from August 24 to September 27 with a very limited number of undergraduate and graduate students on campus. Each college was able to draw upon its fall planning work to determine which students should return in Phase 1. Undergraduate students included in Phase 1 programs will be notified as soon as possible but no later than August 4. Graduate students will be notified no later than August 7. Faculty should assume their classes will begin online unless they are otherwise notified by their department chair, school director, or associate dean. Students who are permitted to return to campus in Phase 1 have been identified by their college as meeting one or more of the following criteria. They 

  • belong to a program that has semester-long in-person requirements due to specific accreditation requirements that must be met during fall semester,
  • require semester-long in-person access to specialized facilities or equipment for their coursework where there are no other possible alternatives,
  • require semester-long in-person access to specialized facilities or equipment for research, scholarship, or creative activity where there are no other possible alternatives, 
  • require on-campus access as part of their graduate assistantship or other approved work, or 
  • have received permission from housing to live on campus due to demonstrated need (e.g., international students, students with housing insecurity). 

Those students who are permitted to return to campus in Phase 1 will complete required in-person experiences (a limited number of labs, clinicals, practica, studio work, research, and so on) onsite in addition to taking online classes in most cases. 

All other Athens campus students will begin the semester with remote learning. Unless they are specifically invited back to campus at this time as part of Phase 1, first-year students and sophomores will not live in on-campus housing. Only a limited number of upper-level undergraduate students will be invited to campus for classes or other approved activities, and they should not be encouraged to return to off-campus housing. Just as we strive to limit the number of students on campus, we will continue to limit the number of faculty and staff on campus, with the expectation that work that can be completed remotely should continue to be completed remotely whenever possible. 

The second phase will begin September 28. We will continue to monitor the course of the pandemic to determine what level of on-campus activity would be appropriate at that time. Fall planning that has incorporated requests for alternative teaching arrangements, identified new classroom capacities based on physical distancing, established building traffic patterns, and determined new class modalities will continue to be relied upon as we plan for Phase 2. There are no changes to the revised academic calendar itself at this time. 

Regional campuses 
On our regional campuses, we will reduce density by offering face-to-face instruction only for clinicals, practica, lab components of classes, and similar experiences. All other classes will be offered through remote instruction. The regional campuses plan to continue in this hybrid mode for the duration of the semester.  

Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (HCOM)
HCOM began using a hybrid approach on the Athens, Dublin and Cleveland campuses in July and will continue with the same approach throughout the fall semester, with limited in-person activities and clinical experiences. 

Student schedules 
By August 3, the Registrar will finalize Athens and regional campus course listings with the modality of each course (in-person, hybrid, or online) as submitted by colleges on July 15. Even though most classes on the Athens campus will start the semester online for Phase 1, the class modality, room and building information (if applicable), and class notes will remain visible in the course listing. This will allow us more flexibility to transition back to face-to-face and hybrid classes as conditions warrant for Phase 2.  

This also will help students see which courses are already planned to be offered online for the full semester if they wish to opt for a completely online schedule now. Students should not change their schedules until course listings are finalized on August 3. We have formed a Core Advising Team (see below) to help students understand their options and any possible impacts if they wish to make changes to their course schedule in order to accommodate an all-online option. Graduate students who request an all-online schedule will be accommodated to the extent possible, with the exception of medical students in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. We are not asking faculty who planned to teach in-person or hybrid classes to accommodate students who want a fully online schedule for the semester; students should choose classes that are already planned to be fully online for the entire semester if they do not want the possibility of returning to face-to-face instruction in Phase 2.

Regional campuses will retain a mix of online classes and limited face-to-face experiences throughout the semester. Course listing information will be updated to reflect this by August 3.

Additional student support 
Representatives from admissions, the Allen Student Advising Center, embedded advisors in the colleges, and Assistant Deans have come together to create a Core Advising Team to help answer student questions during this time of transition, especially when faculty advisors may not be available. Students may contact the Core Advising Team by e-mail at advisingcenter@ohio.edu or by phone at (740) 566-0340. They will be available today and Saturday (July 31 and August 1) from noon to 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Beginning Monday, August 3, they will be available from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern, Monday–Friday.

Housing and dining charges for those who will not live on campus in Phase 1 will be reversed, and prorated charges will be assessed only as students return for Phase 2. To allow time for adjustments to course schedules, housing and dining charges, or student financial aid, we have extended the fall semester payment due date from August 21 to September 21.

In addition, we have modified the OHIO CARES Relief Fund to include eligible students enrolled in fall 2020 until funds expire, and we will commit $5 million in additional one-time institutional funding to assist even more undergraduate students who have demonstrated financial need during these unexpected transitions. More information will be available in the coming weeks, and students eligible to request funding will be notified directly when the application becomes available.

Graduate students 
Regardless of modality, graduate students will retain their assistantships, and remote work is recommended unless on-campus access to specialized facilities or equipment is required in Phase 1. Graduate students who are not part of programs that are being invited back may request on-campus access to support their research, scholarship, or creative activity via the Research Restart Process administered through the Research Division.

International students 
Although most students will begin the semester online, new international students must have at least one in-person course. The Provost’s Office and the Office of Global Affairs will work with new international students to identify appropriate options to meet this requirement. Undergraduate international students who arrive on campus will be allowed to live in residential housing. Please direct questions regarding international students to the office of International Student and Faculty Services (see resources below).

Faculty research, scholarship, and creative activity
University Libraries will be open during Phase 1 with some limitations. Faculty may continue to request approval to return to on-campus research and creative activity as well as to fieldwork during Phase 1. See https://www.ohio.edu/research/research-restart for more information.

Support for remote teaching
Faculty may continue to use their offices to support remote teaching and should observe all appropriate health and safety protocols (social distancing, facial covering as required by the mask policy, not coming to campus if ill, and so on).

As announced July 17, the Office of Instructional Innovation (OII), the Office of Information Technology (OIT), and University Libraries have been offering online and remote teaching workshops, including options with stipends for completion. Instructor demand for the “Remote Teaching Fundamentals” workshops has been very strong, and they will continue to be offered as fall semester approaches. Beginning August 3, a series of self-paced immersive workshops titled “Instructional Strategies for Remote and Online Teaching @OHIO, Part I and Part II” will be available, with a stipend for completion of each part. For more information, visit the following URL starting August 3rd and click Fall Remote Teaching workshops: https://www.ohio.edu/keep-teaching/resources-and-support/workshops.

Individual consultations and support are also available, including for instructors or departments seeking alternative solutions for labs. Contact oii@ohio.edu to arrange a consultation.

We recognize that online learning can have a disproportionate impact on minoritized populations. The workshops described above incorporate inclusive teaching approaches, and I encourage you to also consult the keep including website for additional resources.

The Academic Policy and Process fall planning group, led by outgoing Faculty Senate vice chair Sara Helfrich and incoming vice chair Ben Bates, have been reviewing academic policies for the fall semester, including updating the Faculty Handbook to support facial covering requirements, reviewing an extension for incomplete grades, and developing attendance policies to encourage students to stay at home when ill. I will ask this group to consider whether other policy or process adjustments might be necessary given the changes to our fall planning, and we will share these policies as they are finalized.

I know that some of you may be frustrated by this change in fall plans; I know some of you may be relieved. While it is not what we have been planning, I firmly believe that a phased approach to repopulating campus is the right thing to do for the health and safety of our campuses and communities, and I am confident that we can engage our students in rich, deep, and meaningful experiences regardless of our modality. I am grateful for your hard work to prepare for the fall, and I ask for your patience and flexibility as the pandemic continues to evolve.


Elizabeth Sayrs
Executive Vice President and Provost


International Student and Faculty Services

Resuming critical work in labs, workshops, studios, stages, and other creative spaces

Fall Remote Teaching workshops

Keep Including website