Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 FAS FAQ

Updated November 20, 2020


On this page:


Course enrollment process for spring term 2021 (New, November 12, 2020)

As announced to the FAS faculty on October 23 and November 2, Yale College students planning to enroll for the spring term will be required to submit a preliminary course schedule by December 21 (extended from the previously announced deadline of December 18). A subsequent two-week “add/drop” period will open on January 25 and close on February 5, at the end of first week of spring-term classes.

This schedule ensures that advisers and instructors will be available to students before the winter recess. It was developed by the University Registrar’s Office, the Yale College Dean’s Office, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Office, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, in consultation with department chairs, directors of undergraduate studies, and the Yale College Teaching, Learning, and Advising Committee. It also incorporates helpful feedback from faculty and students about the fall 2020 preregistration process. Technical and practical constraints of the current online course registration system (OCS), which will be replaced for Fall 2021, limit the kinds of changes that can be made for the spring-term registration; therefore, procedures for the spring term will largely duplicate the fall term.

The following frequently asked questions provied information about each stage of the course enrollment process and the implications and expectations for instructors, as well as for department and program administrators. The information will be updated regularly as needed.

If you have a question regarding course enrollment that is not addressed here, please contact George Levesque, Associate Dean of Yale College, at george.levesque@yale.edu.

What is the academic calendar for spring term 2021?

The academic calendar and a summary of pertinent deadlines for spring 2021 can be found here.

What is the timeline for the spring term 2021 course registration cycle?

  • Monday, Nov 30, 5:00 p.m.: Deadline for instructors to post expanded course descriptions on Canvas.
  • Monday, Nov 30, to Friday, Dec 18. Students meet with college advisers or departmental advisers for consultations about academic plans for the spring term.
  • Tuesday, Dec 1, to Wednesday, Dec 9: Students apply to limited-enrollment courses. (Note: first-year seminars have an earlier deadline of Wednesday, Dec 2, and will be managed by the Yale College Dean’s Office.)
  • [Friday, Dec 4. Last day of class for the fall term.]
  • [Thursday, Dec 10. Last day of Reading Period.]
  • Thursday, Dec 10, to Monday, Dec 14, 12:00 p.m.: Applications for limited-enrollment courses are reviewed by department administrators or individual instructors, and results announced.
  • Monday, Dec 14, 12:00 p.m.: The Online Course Selection (OCS) system opens for students to begin building a preliminary schedule worksheet.
  • [Friday, Dec 18. Last day of fall term final exams.]
  • Monday, Dec 21, 5:00 p.m.: Deadline for students to submit a preliminary course schedule in OCS. Students are prompted to forward a copy of their preliminary schedule to their college or departmental adviser.  
  • Monday, Dec 21, 5:00 p.m. to Monday, Jan 25, 12:00 p.m.: OCS is closed. Students cannot make changes to their OCS preliminary schedule worksheet during this period.
  • Monday, Jan 25, 12:00 p.m.: OCS reopens for the Add/Drop period. Advising resumes.
  • Monday, Feb 1. First day of classes for the spring term.
  • Friday, Feb 5, 5:00 p.m.: Add/Drop period ends. Deadline for students to submit their final OCS schedule worksheet.

What is an “expanded course description,” and why is it important to submit one by November 30?

Students will need more information than is typically included in the brief Yale Course Search descriptions if they are to make informed decisions about applying to limited-enrollment courses and which courses to include on their preliminary schedule worksheets. To assist instructors with providing useful information for students, the Poorvu Center created an expanded course description template, located on the “Syllabus” page of each course’s Canvas site. If you have a full syllabus ready, you are encouraged to upload it as usual, but it is still very helpful to students when instructors complete this template, which presents information in a uniform format.

What information should I include in an “expanded course description”?

The preloaded template prompts instructors to provide information that students most often seek, such as the primary texts, main assignments, and the approximate due date and weight of each major assignment. If you are teaching a limited-enrollment course, it is also important to use the relevant section of the template to include information about any application process. You may also upload a brief, (2- to 3-minute) video introduction to the course, if desired, and a full syllabus, if available.

Are there any special considerations I should follow in planning my course(s) for this spring?

It will be important for students to know your teaching mode and whether synchronous class meetings are required. Undergraduate courses should be designed with an assumption of remote instruction so that all enrolled students may participate, both those who are in residence and those who are not. In certain exceptional cases, courses that cannot be conducted without an in-person component (certain lab- or studio-based courses) may be developed to include those components, in compliance with public health guidelines. As in the fall, limited additional in-person engagements, such as tutorial or discussion sessions, might also be possible in other types of courses. The Teaching Policy Adjustments introduced in the FAS for the fall 2020 term will remain in place, as applicable.

In addition to the unusual teaching modes required for the spring term because of the pandemic, the spring term academic calendar is also unusual. The lack of any breaks in the fall term was challenging for both faculty and students. Arranging the term this way was unavoidable, given that the state’s reopening plans did not permit an earlier start, and the need to curtail term-time travel. Spring 2021 allows more flexibility, however, so the university added one-day breaks throughout the term to compensate for the lack of an extended spring break, which will not be possible because of the need to restrict travel. To ensure that the short breaks are as restorative as possible, classes will not meet, and administrative meetings should not be scheduled on those days. We expect all instructors to honor this practice: no class meetings may be held on the five break days. In addition, we ask that you avoid scheduling major assignments and assessments on break days or on the days immediately following break days. Students on the Yale College Council and the Graduate Student Assembly have expressed concern that an exam or a major assignment scheduled immediately after a break day would nullify its benefits. Although this request may require that you adjust your syllabi, such accommodations will be greatly appreciated by your students and contribute to overall campus-wide well-being.

The pairs of break days plus post-break days for Spring 2021 are as follows:

  • February 22 and 23 (fourth Monday break day/Tuesday post-break day)
  • March 9 and 10 (sixth Tuesday break day/Wednesday post-break day)
  • March 24 and 25 (eighth Wednesday break day/Thursday post-break day)
  • April 8 and 9 (tenth Thursday break day/Friday post-break day)
  • April 23 (twelfth Friday break day)

How do students apply to limited-enrollment courses?

How the application process works for limited-enrollment courses is largely up to individual departments and to individual instructors. Some large departments run a centralized process, using a tool such as Preference Selection or a customized application, but most departments allow students to apply to courses by submitting some type of application or statement of interest directly to the instructor. If you are unsure if your department or program runs a centralized process, contact your DUS.

If I am running my own application process for a limited enrollment course, what are common ways to do that?

If you are teaching an advanced or highly specialized course with predictable and manageable enrollments (e.g., under a dozen students for a standard seminar), the process can be very simple. You might simply ask interested students to confirm their eligibility by sending an email to you with their class year and major, and perhaps previous relevant courses. For high-demand courses or new courses with uncertain demand, the three most commonly used options to collect applications are: (1) ask students to express interest by email; (2) use a Qualtrics survey similar to this template or a Google form and link to it from your Canvas course site; and (3) use a Canvas “quiz” to create a survey for students to complete. Additional information about these options can be found on this page, developed by the Poorvu Center.

Please keep in mind that students will by applying to limited-enrollment courses during Reading Period, a busy time for both faculty and students. We therefore encourage you to make the application process as simple as possible. For many instructors, requesting basic information from an interested student—such as class year, major, and previous relevant courses taken—provides enough information to prioritize admission decisions. If a statement of interest is important, we suggest a word limit of 100 words, and to help students prepare in advance, we ask that you describe your application process in your Expanded Course Description as soon as possible. Whatever process you use, however, it is very important to adhere to the same timeline Yale College announced to students: an application deadline of December 9, with students informed of their status no later than December 14.

What is a preliminary course schedule, and how reliable is the enrollment information that it generates?

The preliminary course schedule that a student submits by December 21 is intended to include the courses that the student is most interested in taking. It also must include any limited-enrollment course that a student wants to take. Students who do not include a limited-enrollment course on their preliminary course schedule may enroll in said course only if space becomes available during add/drop period. (This applies not only to all seminars and lab courses, but also to capped lecture courses.) So, although the preliminary course schedule is not binding, students are motivated to assemble it carefully.

It is important to note, however, that the current design of the OCS system permits students to include as many as 7.5 credits on their preliminary schedules, even though the average number of course credits on a student’s final schedule is 4.5. Although not all students enter the maximum number of credits allowed, the enrollment numbers generated by the preliminary schedules are inevitably inflated. This inflation will be unevenly distributed across courses, but most instructors will see at least some attrition during the add/drop period. Conversely, instructors should not see large spikes in unexpected demand at the beginning of a term—often a larger problem than slow attrition.

If you teach a limited-enrollment course, we ask you to consider admitting more students than your target enrollment to account for this inflation and attrition. And if you must turn away any students, we strongly encourage you to keep a waitlist and invite an appropriate number of waitlisted students to attend class sessions during the first week of classes. After students submit their preliminary course schedule on or before December 21, the “People” tab on your Canvas course site will show which students included your course on their preliminary course schedule, and you may offer spots to students on the waitlist at any time through the first week of classes. 

When should students consult their advisers about their plans for the spring term?

Students are instructed and expected to consult their adviser during the three-week period from November 30 to December 18. The purpose of this advising meeting is to reflect on the current term, look ahead to the following term, and discuss the student’s academic plans for the spring term. A late advising period will take place during add/drop period, between January 25 and February 5 for students who were unable to meet with their adviser for some reason at the end of the fall term.

For students who have not declared a major, their adviser is a “college adviser” who is affiliated with the student’s residential college. For students who have declared a major, their adviser is either the DUS or another faculty member in the department or program.

If I am an adviser to undergraduate students, what is my role in reviewing the schedules of my advisees?

After students submit their preliminary schedule in OCS, they will be prompted to send a copy of it to you through the Dynamic Forms system. If you are a college adviser or a departmental adviser to a student, you should receive an email—one per advisee—on or before December 21 with a link to the Dynamic Forms system that will give you access to your advisee’s preliminary schedule. Within Dynamic Forms, you will be asked to confirm that your advisee consulted you about their plans or, if you are a departmental adviser, if your advisee otherwise followed your department’s expectations and procedures for seeking advice. Note that the emphasis is on having an advising conversation, not “approving” the schedule per se. Students who for some reason do not meet with you by December 18 or send you a copy of their preliminary schedule by December 21 will be contacted and reminded to meet with you during add/drop period, between January 25 and February 5.

Some students may wish to contact you again during add/drop period for guidance, especially if something has changed, and some majors might require the students in that major to contact the DUS office before submitting their final schedules. Such policies may be set at the discretion of the DUS. Any adviser who wishes to view the student’s final schedule may do so after the student submits it (at the end of the first week of classes).

What happens during add/drop period, and how is that different from the previous “shopping period”?

During add/drop period, January 25 to February 5, students finalize their course schedules—in most cases, dropping from the original 6 or 7 courses on their preliminary schedule to the 4 or 5 courses on their final schedule—and most students will want to visit their elective classes in the first week before committing to them. In that sense, add/drop has some similarities to the old “shopping period.” The main differences are: for any limited-enrollment course, the initial admission decisions have already been made, so adjustments during add/drop period mostly concerns managing a waitlist; and, because this period will be characterized by more dropping than adding, there should not be unexpected spikes in enrollment.

Instructors of fully enrolled, limited-enrollment courses are encouraged to permit at least some waitlisted students to attend class meetings during the first week of classes to allow for inevitable migration. Instructors of courses that are under capacity or have no cap are encouraged to welcome any interested and qualified students to their class meetings, even if those students had not included the course on their preliminary course schedules.

Students who have a course on their OCS schedule worksheet during add/drop period will have access to the relevant course site in Canvas for announcements and access to the Zoom link. If you have a waitlist process, consider putting instructions there about how it works.

If I am teaching a limited-enrollment course, why do students who were not admitted appear in the “People” section of my Canvas site, and why do some admitted students not appear?

The various application processes run by departments or by individual instructors merely inform students that they have permission to enroll; however, those decisions are not captured in the OCS course registration system. Whenever students include a limited-enrollment course on their OCS schedule worksheet, they receive a warning prompt (“Permission of instructor required”), but the OCS system does not know if a student has actual permission, and it cannot prevent a student from including such a course.

It is, therefore, important for the instructor to maintain a list of students who have official permission from you or your department to enroll. Students appearing in the “People” section of your Canvas course site who do not have permission are likely hoping to be selected from the waitlist. Conversely, students who were admitted to your course but do not appear in the “People” section of your Canvas course site have likely decided to drop your course.

Will students be able to make changes to their schedule after add/drop period?

Yes. As has always been the case, students may request permission through their residential college dean’s office to add a course after they have submitted their final schedules. However, doing so requires the permission of the instructor and the authorization of the college dean. Timely requests for late adds are routinely approved when, for example, a student waitlisted for a limited-enrollment course is informed after the final schedule due date that a spot has become available, or if an adviser identifies a problem with a student’s final schedule. And, as has always been the case, students may drop a course up until the last day of classes.

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Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 teaching and learning

Residential/remote instruction

Why is the FAS pursuing a residential/remote model of instruction?

We considered a number of possible models for fall teaching: each model, including the residential/remote approach, has drawbacks. However, the residential/remote model offers the following advantages:

  • The residential/remote model is flexible. The residential/remote model presumes that the public health situation will permit some students to return to campus. However, it allows us to transition relatively swiftly to a fully remote scenario if the public health situation requires.
  • Remote teaching allows us to adapt at the local level. We may need to quarantine locally or isolate members of our community; remote teaching allows those in quarantine or isolation to continue teaching and learning. We may need to contact-trace to identify potential exposures; remote teaching reduces opportunities for contact and will simplify this process. Remote teaching will allow faculty or teaching fellows to remain at home with their children if schools are closed, if they care for vulnerable people, or because they are vulnerable to infection themselves.
  • Including a residential component will enable a de-densified group of students to return to campus. This will make learning more accessible to those who rely on the university’s housing and resources for their learning environment. Students who can return to campus will have communities in which to learn together, as much as is possible under social distancing. But it will also allow students to learn from home without impeding their progress towards their degrees. This will allow us to accommodate students who are unable or prefer not to return to campus for a range of reasons.
  • The residential/remote model limits face-to-face student interaction with faculty and staff. This helps to reduce the risks of spreading COVID-19 to vulnerable members of our community.

What is the Yale Community Compact?

All returning students are required to sign the Community Compact. It is available here.

Course planning

Where can I find resources and support for planning my courses?

The following are some of the resources available to support remote teaching:

May I teach from home?

We encourage faculty who are over age 65, and faculty or teaching fellows who have underlying health conditions, to teach from home. Faculty and teaching fellows who choose to teach from home for other reasons may also do so.

May I teach from outside of Connecticut? Outside of the United States? (Updated, November 20, 2020)

In order to ensure compliance with relevant employment and tax laws, faculty who will be carrying out their teaching duties from a location outside of Connecticut (whether domestic or abroad) must register with the university. Please inform your Operations Manager if you intend to work from a location outside of Connecticut. Please consult the Provost’s October 15 message for information for faculty on working from out of state, and please consult the Vice President for Operations’ October 15 message for information for staff.

Requests for remote participation will be routinely approved so long as (i) the faculty member has confirmed that they will be available for full and complete participation in all departmental and university activities (teaching, seminars, meetings, etc.) without adjustments to accommodate their temporary time zone; and (ii) the faculty member’s chair and divisional dean have approved a formal plan outlining specific ways in which departmental service expectations will be met remotely. This is in keeping with the spirit of Section XX.A of the Faculty Handbook.

What accommodations will be made to allow for greater flexibility in fall 2020 teaching assignments?

As outlined in AY 2020-2021 FAS COVID- 19 Teaching Policy Adjustments, FAS policies on teaching expectation have been modified to allow for greater faculty flexibility during fall 2020.

  • Co-taught courses: Co-taught courses may count towards the teaching expectations of both instructors provided that the relevant department(s) can cover their full teaching needs without supplemental faculty. (This includes permitting pairs of faculty members to jointly cover two courses.)
  • Double offerings: Seminar-sized courses with sufficient enrollment to support two sections may be taught twice in the same semester by a faculty member and may count as two full courses of teaching.
  • Course scheduling: The course matrix has been expanded to allow for increased flexibility for faculty and students. Details on these changes were outlined in a memo to FAS Faculty on July 15, 2020.

Will the university provide technological equipment for remote teaching? (New, November 9, 2020)

A message regarding technology for fall 2020 was sent to eligible FAS faculty on July 15, 2020.

A information on technology for spring 2021 was included in messages sent to faculty on October 21 and October 28.

How do I request an Undergraduate Technology Assistant for my course? (Updated, November 12, 2020)

information on the allocation of Undergraduate Technology Assistants (UTAs), please consult the message sent to FAS faculty on October 21, 2020. Informaiton on the process for requesting a UTA will be available shortly.

Should I record my class meetings?

For synchronous sessions, the FAS default policy is that lecture courses will be recorded and that student participation in seminars and sections will not be recorded. Faculty who elect to deviate from these standard practices must make explicit their recording policy in their expanded course description and in the course syllabus.

Will class sizes or section sizes be capped?

Departments may elect to cap certain seminars at 12 to 15 students instead of the usual 18, provided that the department can still cover its necessary curriculum without supplemental faculty.

Departments may choose to break large sections into smaller sections as pedagogically appropriate, provided that the assigned weekly teaching hours for TFs do not exceed 10 (for TF10 assignments) or 20 (for TF20s). Supplementary support for these sections may be provided by Undergraduate Learning Assistants (ULAs).

Will student be able to access textbooks?

Students may experience delays in obtaining their textbooks and other course materials.  For the first two weeks of your class, please plan your assignments and grading with this constraint in mind, posting readings and course materials online as much as possible.

The Yale Library has provisions in place for reserve scanning and the purchase of electronic versions of textbooks. Information on reserve scanning is available here. Some textbook publishers and other academic resource vendors are making resources freely available to users affected by COVID-19. A list of vendors offering free resources is available here.

What is the policy on course auditing?

Only people in the following categories may audit courses in Yale College:

  • Current Yale University employees or their spouses, current faculty members, emeritus faculty members, students enrolled full-time in Yale College, or in one of the graduate or professional schools of the university, postdoctoral fellows, or postdoctoral associates;
  • Current members of the Yale faculty, emeritus faculty members, or students enrolled full-time in Yale College or in one of the graduate or professional schools of the University;
  • Yale University alumni or their spouses (with payment of associated fee)

No paperwork from the instructor is required for undergraduate or graduate students, or for current faculty members to whom you give permission to audit your course or courses. For all other categories, however, an auditing form, signed by the auditor, you (the instructor), and the director of the Yale College auditing programs is required. The form is available on the websites for the Yale Affiliate Auditing Program and the Yale Alumni Auditing Program, where you can also find more information about auditing. For any questions, please contact Joel Silverman, Director of Academic and Educational Affairs, at j.silverman@yale.edu.

What do I do if my course has no or low enrolment?

If, following the pre-registration/virtual shopping period, a course has no enrollment, the instructor may propose to their chair(s) a plan for alternative forms of student engagement (i.e. structured mentoring, essay supervision, etc.) in order for the semester to count towards fulfillment their teaching expectation. This proposal will be approved by the relevant divisional dean.

Can students take asynchronous courses with overlapping meeting times? (Updated, November 12, 2020)

Yes. As a special accommodation for the fall and spring terms of 2020-2021, students are permitted to enroll in two courses that overlap in their stated class times, either partially or entirely, if they are taught asynchronously.  Students will be required to request and receive written permission from their residential college dean and from both instructors of the overlapping courses. The student’s request must:

  • Attest that any synchronous components of the courses do not overlap by more than 15 minutes;
  • Explain how enrollment in the two courses is possible, despite the conflict in published meeting times (examples: one of the courses has an asynchronous option; the instructor of one of the courses is providing recorded lectures; etc.); and
  • Confirm that the final exams for the two courses are not offered at the same time.

It is your discretion whether to approve the overlap or not, and beyond providing your e-mail approval to the student, no additional work is expected of you to fulfill the request.

In-person components

Can I request a classroom space? (Updated, November 12, 2020)

The request form and deadline for Spring 2021 classroom spaces will be available shortly.

As outlined in the University Registrar’s message sent on July 24, faculty may request space for classes in one of four categories:

  1. You wish to teach the course wholly or partly in person because it cannot otherwise be taught. This category is highly restricted to courses that require laboratory space or in-person use of collections.
  2. You wish to lecture synchronously from a classroom to students not in the classroom.
  3. You wish to have a classroom in which select groups of students can gather to listen to your lectures in real time (with you in the room, or with you as a projected image on a screen).
  4. You wish to hold small group in-person discussions/seminars with groups of students during the scheduled class meeting time.

The Course of Study Committee will consider all undergraduate course classroom requests. Faculty teaching graduate courses must also submit a request form for classroom space and the same categories for placement will apply, however graduate course classroom requests will not be reviewed by the Course of Study Committee. Space will be assigned on a first-come-first served basis.

If my class has in-person components, what date may they begin? (Updated, November 12, 2020)

Subject to public health conditions, courses that include in-person meetings will need to meet remotely for at minimum the first week of classes in order to allow returning students time to quarantine and complete their viral testing regimen.

Exams and Assessments

Can Student Accessibility Services proctor midterm exams?

Given that most courses will be online this term, Student Accessibility Services (SAS) is not available to arrange in-person proctoring for midterm exams.  Faculty should oversee accommodations for their students with disabilities.  If you have questions or need guidance, SAS is available.

What are the recommendations for exams and assessments for Fall 2020? (Updated, November 9, 2020)

We suggest that instructors consider modified assessments or develop alternatives to standard in-class exams and assessments. If alternatives are not possible, online exam proctoring should be conducted using Yale personnel. For guidelines, please refer to the message sent on September 14, 2020.

Proctor requests for final examinations for Fall 2020 must be submitted by November 13, 2020 using the online request form.

Information for students

Where can I find information for undergraduate students?

Information for undergraduates is available from the Yale College Dean’s Office.

Where can I find information for graduate students and teaching fellows?

Information for current graduate students and prospective graduate students is available from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

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Campus access and resources

Can I access my office?

Guidance for FAS faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences wishing to return to their offices is available here. Please consult the Pathways to Research Reactivation page for details on resuming on-campus research.

Where can I find information on library access?

Please consult the Library Reopening FAQs and Online Remote Access Services pages .

Where can I find information on laboratory access?

The process for returning to laboratories is outlined on the Pathways to Research Reactivation page.

Where can I find information on postdoctoral and postgraduate trainee appointments?

Information on postdoctoral and postgraduate trainee appointment procedures was circulated by the Vice Provost for Research on July 29, 2020. It is available here.

Where can I find information on staff safety and return to campus?

Please consult the COVID-19 Workplace Guidance.

What childcare resources are available?

The university has announced enhanced childcare resources. Please consult Yale’s COVID-19 Childcare Resources webpage for more information.  

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Travel, Visitors, and Gatherings

Where can I find information on travel policies?

Please consult the university FAQ.

Can I bring visitors to campus?

In the fall semester, visits to campus by people who are not Yale students, faculty, or staff will be strictly limited. Unfortunately, this means that visiting speakers, on-campus conferences, and similar events should, whenever possible, be conducted virtually or postponed to 2021. For more information, consult the university FAQs.

What conferences and gatherings will be permitted?

Please consult the university FAQs.

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Health and Safety

What resources are available to support faculty well-being? (New, November 9, 2020)

Information on resources to support faculty well-being are avaialble here.

Where can I find information on the results of COVID-19 tests at Yale?

Please consult the Yale COVID-19 Statistics page.

Where can I find information about testing, quarantine, and self-isolation?

Please consult the COVID-19 Yale actions and response Health and Safety Guidelines page.

Where can I find information about health and safety procedures?

Please consult the COVID-19 Yale actions and response Health and Safety Guidelines page.

Must I wear a mask or face covering on campus?

Yes. For additional information, please consult the university FAQs.

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