University of California campuses plan to offer most classes online this fall

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UCLA said that it expects around 20% of classes will be offered in person, with the rest conducted online. - Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times/TNS

SAN JOSE, Calif. — All but two of University of California’s nine undergraduate campuses have now formally announced plans to offer many classes — if not all — online this fall, as the four-year university system moves forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, three UC campuses — Berkeley, Riverside and Santa Cruz — became the latest to disclose detailed plans for the fall, joining Davis, Irvine, Merced and Los Angeles. In general, the campuses will deliver the vast majority of classes virtually, except for classes such as science labs and small discussion seminars that are difficult to provide remotely.

At the same, those seven universities have also said they will allow some students to return to campus this fall and stay in dorms, with variations from campus to campus in how they envision doing that.

UC San Diego has yet to formally announce its plans for the fall, but Chancellor Pradeep Khosla wrote in an op-ed Wednesday in the San Diego Union-Tribune that the university will “offer a mix of remote and in-person instruction.”

UC Santa Barbara is the only undergraduate UC campus that has yet to say anything publicly about how classes will operate in the fall. A spokesperson for that university did not return a request Wednesday seeking details about the university’s plans for fall instruction.

The announcements come as the coronavirus continues to spread across California and the United States. Hospitalizations are increasing in some parts of California, including in Orange and Ventura counties, as well as in the San Joaquin Valley, according to the Los Angeles Times. California is also among nine states that on Tuesday registered either new single-day highs in cases of the virus or a record for seven-day new case averages, the Washington Post reported.

Classes across the UC system first transitioned to being delivered virtually in March, as the coronavirus began to spread rapidly across the state.

The plans being put forward by UC campuses for the fall are in line with the expectations set by system president Janet Napolitano, who said last month that “most of, if not all of, our campuses will operate in some kind of hybrid mode.”

The state’s other four-year public university system, the 23-campus California State University, initially appeared to take a stricter approach than UC in limiting in-person classes for the fall. Tim White, that system’s chancellor, made national headlines last month when he said that most classes across the system will be offered online this fall, with limited exceptions for classes that can’t be delivered virtually.

Napolitano did not take the same top-down approach, instead leaving decisions for the fall to each individual campus across the UC system. But as those campuses have released their plans, they appear to be fairly similar to what can be expected across the CSU system, with the majority of classes being taught remotely and a few courses being delivered face-to-face.

Here are details of the plans for eight of UC’s campuses:

Berkeley

In-person classes at Berkeley will be offered on a limited basis to students “who wish to come to campus,” the university said Wednesday. “Large courses” will be delivered remotely, the university said, but smaller discussion groups that are part of those classes may be available in person. The university is still in the process of determining specifically which classes will have in-person options for the fall and plans to make that information available by July.

In any case, the university will not require any student to take in-person classes or be present on campus. Even courses that offer in-person instruction will also be available “via a remotely delivered method,” according to the university.

A limited number of students will be able to stay in campus housing. Out of more than 30,000 undergraduate students, the university plans to house up to 6,500 students in residence halls. Those students will need to be tested for COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, before moving into their dorms and will be asked to isolate for between seven and 10 days after arriving. Students who will be given priority for staying in campus housing include low-income students, students who have already signed housing contracts, students with disabilities and athletes.

UC Davis campus

Most courses will be offered virtually at Davis this fall, but some will also be available in person “depending on health guidelines and instructor preference,” according to the university. The university plans to offer in-person instruction for the “small number of courses that cannot be delivered remotely,” including classes that emphasize hands-on learning.

Classes that are offered in-person will be held in classrooms that are bigger than usual.

If county and state health guidelines allow, the university will also allow students to return to campus housing this fall, but residence halls “will have reduced density,” the university said.

Irvine

Irvine was the first UC campus to disclose plans for the fall, announcing earlier this month that almost all undergraduate classes would be delivered remotely, with exceptions made for labs, clinical courses and some engineering classes.

However, the university does plan to allow students to return to campus. University officials wrote in a letter to students and their families that the university is “committed to providing as many students as possible with a meaningful campus residential experience” and would allow students to stay in dorms with single and double rooms.

Los Angeles

UCLA said this week that it expects between 15% and 20% of classes will be offered either in person or with a mix of in-person and virtual delivery. Those classes will include labs, clinical courses, some performing arts classes and other courses that can’t be delivered remotely. The rest of the university’s classes will be conducted online.

The university said it will also offer on-campus housing but at a “lower population density” and will prioritize housing “based on a variety of factors,” including the financial needs of students and the distance between their primary residence and the campus.

Merced

Merced is aiming to offer between 20% and 30% of classes in person this fall as part of a blended approach of remote, in-person and hybrid course offerings, the university said last week.

Priority for on-campus housing will go to incoming freshmen, foster and former foster students, students with disabilities and students who are homeless or otherwise housing insecure. Housing that is still available after those students have been accommodated will be offered to other students on a waiting list.

Riverside

All classes at UC Riverside will be available virtually during the fall quarter. Instructors who want to offer in-person classes can submit requests to do so, but any classes approved for in-person instruction will also need to accommodate students who can’t attend in person.

The university said it expects that a “relatively small number of classes” will be approved for in-person instruction and that it will prioritize graduate classes and undergraduate lab and studio courses.

On-campus housing will be available to students, “but the density will be lower than normal and is still being determined,” according to the university.

San Diego

In an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Khosla said the campus will offer a limited number of in-person classes, including “smaller seminar classes, studios and laboratories that require hands-on work.”

Santa Cruz

Most courses will be offered remotely this fall, UC Santa Cruz announced Wednesday, but in-person instruction will be provided for a “small number of classes that cannot be delivered remotely.” That includes some lab classes, studio courses and field study courses.

The on-campus housing offered by the university will be significantly reduced, with priority given to “various continuing student populations and new transfer students, who may have a need to be physically present for courses or labs taught on campus,” the university said.

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©2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)