Planning for Fall 2020 instruction in Yale College and the Graduate School (June 18, 2020)

[SUMMARY: This memo provides guidance on how faculty can begin planning for fall instruction. It advises faculty to plan for residential/remote instruction; outlines the rationale, resources, and policies related to this model; and explains plans for online course registration, including a request that faculty post a detailed description of their fall course(s) no later than August 7. This message is intended for faculty only; it is sent with the expectation that it will not be forwarded.]

Dear FAS and GSAS Faculty,

We write today to provide guidance on how you may begin planning for fall instruction in Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The message that follows contains six sections: Planning for Residential/Remote Instruction; Rationale for Residential/Remote Instruction; Resources for Remote Instruction; Adjustments to Teaching Policies; Registration and Pre-Term Advising; and Concluding Thoughts.

Planning for Residential/Remote Instruction

Given the uncertainties of the fall semester, we are asking FAS/GSAS faculty to plan their undergraduate and graduate courses with a residential/remote model in mind. This model assumes that, while graduate students and Yale College students may return to New Haven and live in-residence in de-densified conditions, classes will primarily be offered using remote modalities.

Undergraduate courses should be built with an assumption of remote delivery so that all enrolled students may participate, both those who are in-residence and those who are not. In certain exceptional cases, classes that cannot be conducted without an in-person component (certain lab- or studio-based courses) may be developed to include some such components, with social distancing, if the public health situation permits. Limited additional in-person engagements, such as tutorial or discussion sessions, might also be possible as enhancements in other types of courses; details will be provided as the public health situation becomes clearer.

In the case of graduate courses some additional decisions about content and delivery will take place at the department level, in keeping with public health constraints.

All faculty and teaching fellows who choose to teach from home will be permitted to do so. Over the next weeks, we will provide additional details about on-campus locations from which remote teaching might also be conducted, including faculty offices, laboratories, studios and classrooms.

Rationale for Residential/Remote 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.

Resources for Remote Instruction

The FAS Academic Planning Committees and Task Forces have developed an extensive set of recommendations and resources for Yale Faculty that we will make available shortly through a new web portal. These faculty-developed resources complement the resources already available through the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. They include:

  • course building tools,
  • sample syllabi,
  • recommendations for leading different types of classes remotely, and
  • other resources.

We look forward to sharing these materials with you in the coming weeks.

Adjustments to Teaching Policies

In order to accommodate these changes to our teaching activities, we expect to temporarily adapt a number of existing policies to allow departments and faculty greater flexibility in terms of course planning and to alleviate some of the burden of developing remote courses. Details are still under discussion, and we will confirm these adjustments in the coming weeks. Among the adaptations we expect to make are:

  • adjustments to the course schedule to allow for courses to take place in shorter sessions, and to be spread out across a wider range of days and times,
  • incentivizing team teaching,
  • allowing faculty to teach multiple sections of the same class,
  • encouraging departments to entertain cross-unit credits for their majors, and
  • strategies for more evenly distributing students and teaching across the curriculum.

Registration and Pre-Term Advising

Over the past two years, a new approach to course selection involving pre-registration followed by an add/drop period was developed by the Yale College Committee on Advising, Placement, and Enrollment (CAPE); in March, this approach was approved by the Yale College Faculty to begin for the fall term of 2021. The pandemic requires us to implement many of these changes this fall.

On current plans, Yale College and graduate students will participate in an online early course registration “shopping” period from August 10-21. On Friday, August 21, students will submit their course selections. Classes will begin on Monday, August 31, followed by a limited “shop, add, drop” period that will run through the first week of classes for undergraduates and Friday, September 11 for graduate students. This schedule gives us ten days between the end of pre-registration and the beginning of classes to ensure that all courses can be provided with necessary support to enable effective fall teaching.

We will provide additional details about this process in the coming weeks, but one implication for instructors is already clear: in order to permit the schedule above, all instructors will need to post an expanded course description and, if possible, a syllabus, by August 7.

To aid in this task, the FAS task force on first-year advising is developing a template for instructors to use to create their expanded course descriptions. The template will request the following information:

  • Mode of instruction (synchronous vs. asynchronous etc.)
  • Provisional summary of workload and grading
  • Provisional list of primary readings
  • Enrollment caps and selection criteria
  • A full syllabus and an introductory video can also be linked to this extended course description

We look forward to sharing this resource with you in the coming weeks.

This tightly-structured schedule also means that, for disciplines with sequential courses, placement assessments will need to be completed and their results made available by the end of the first week of August. We will be providing additional guidance and support to units which traditionally offer placement exams to enable this accelerated schedule.

Concluding thoughts

We realize all of these reconfigurations will entail extra effort during the summer months, at a time where many have already been working relentlessly under challenging conditions. We wish we did not have to proceed in this way; it is an unfortunate consequence of the difficult situation in which we find ourselves. We hope that going forward, these new procedures will reduce delays and uncertainty at the beginning of the term, encourage students to explore a range of courses across the curriculum, and ease stress for students and for faculty. 

The upcoming semester will be experimental and challenging in ways that we cannot anticipate. Some aspects of our plans will be successful, some may not. But we move forward because we value the community of learning that each faculty member and student helps to build at Yale. Thank you for the effort, dedication, and creativity that you continue to bring during these unsettling times as we work together to help that community flourish.


Tamar, Lynn, and Marvin

Tamar Szabó Gendler
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Lynn Cooley
Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Marvin Chun
Dean of Yale College