AUSTIN, Texas — Fall on the Forty Acres is typically filled with lots of students shuffling to class. But this semester will be very different.
To start, there will be fewer students on campus, as the University of Texas at Austin said the fall semester – and likely the spring semester – will be primarily online.
UT said 76% of the spots in classes will be held online, 19% in hybrid online and in-person classes and just about 5% fully in-person. UT said 60% of faculty will be teaching fully online.
Even so, the university said it is still expecting typical enrollment numbers. However, unlike the spring 2020 semester, courses this semester will not be pass/fail.
"We feel like grading is an important part of how we evaluate the progress of our students. And so, we felt it was important to continue forward with the normal grading system," said Art Markman, the head of the academic working group for the fall planning process.
Markman said buildings and classrooms will look much different this year in more ways than just how many students are learning inside them.
"If you look around the buildings, we have a lot of signage about how to walk through the building. We have stairwells that are marked as either up or down stairwells to make sure that that we're not getting people crossing too closely together. We've reduced the occupancy of lots of spaces like bathrooms," Markman said.
Inside classrooms, some desks have green stickers that say "use" to denote which seats are open. In other classrooms, desks and seats are spread apart.
UT said in-person classes are typically lab classes, ones that are hands-on or need specialized equipment.
"We've reduced the occupancy of the labs quite a bit. So, it's really one student per 125 square feet in the lab space. And then, as much as possible, we're going to have students engage with the equipment one person at a time," Markman said. "And so, other people will stand around and see what's happening at a particular station while one student engages with it."
For online classes, some teachers may still be in the classrooms teaching the course. Those classrooms are called "Remotely Switched Classrooms," or RSCs. UT said several dozen teachers will use these to broadcast classes, and, in another room, UT students will be paid to run the broadcast for both pre-recorded and live lectures.
RSCs will mostly be used for the large lecture hall classes, typically taken freshman or sophomore year.
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