Penn State expects half of fall classes to have in-person components

July 15, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Despite the challenges associated with the pandemic, Penn State anticipates that about half of its classes across all campuses will have an in-person component this fall structured in a way that allows for social distancing in classes. Adjusting classroom capacities to allow for distancing has significantly reduced the ability to offer in-person classes and other educational experiences, however about 19% of courses are currently scheduled to be delivered entirely in person and an additional 28% of courses will have an in-person component combined with remote instruction. The University is continuing to explore options to expand its capacity for holding additional in-person and mixed mode classes, including using other indoor spaces on campus that will allow for social distancing.

Courses this fall will be delivered remotely, in person or a hybrid of both modes, mixing remote and in person. All courses at University Park with enrollment over 250 will be delivered remotely. At Commonwealth Campuses, the maximum number of students in an in-person setting is lower, and any class of 100 or more students must be offered remotely. Additionally, smaller classes may need to be offered remotely due to health and safety considerations for faculty and students, the restrictions that physical distancing places on class size and room availability, and the status of virus spread in local communities. All courses, exams, and assessments, including final exams, will be remote after Nov. 20.

“We greatly appreciate the efforts being made by our faculty as they adjust their delivery modality and as we continue to make changes to adjust to our new environment,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “We are doing everything we can to bring our students, faculty and staff back to campus in a safe way. This may mean that some students will want to work with their advisers to alter their course schedules to meet their individual needs and the requirement of their programs, and we are here to support our students do so.”

Hybrid, or “COVID mixed (CM),” courses will take on a variety of forms but all include an in-person component. Examples include:

  • Rotating lecture attendance where some portion of the class attends in person and the others attend via a remote synchronous environment;
  • Lectures delivered remotely combined with in-person small group recitations or problem-solving sessions; and 
  • Lectures delivered remotely combined with in-person small group laboratory or performance sessions.

Faculty are continuing to modify their plans for their fall courses and the finalized mode of delivery for most courses will be indicated in LionPath this week. Subsequently, students should work with their adviser to make any possible adjustments to their schedule to accommodate their personal circumstances, with the possibility of enrolling in courses with an in-person component or changing to an entirely remote course load. Depending on their mix of courses and the requirements of their program, it may or may not be possible to adjust their schedule to include more in-person courses.

“Many of our faculty members want to teach in-person and we have added space that is not typically used for instruction in order to increase our capacity as much as possible and maximize in-person instruction,” said Yvonne Gaudelius, associate vice president and senior associate dean for Undergraduate Education. “We are continuing to look at options that will open additional classroom space and more information will be forthcoming within the next few days.”

Many courses that are most conducive to being taught remotely due to the learning methods of the course or discipline are being taught that way in order to preserve space for courses that are more difficult to be taught remotely. The University is prioritizing space for in-person instruction for those courses and then accommodating as many other courses as possible.

In addition, students may temporarily change their campus to enroll in in-person, remote or hybrid courses at a Commonwealth Campus or online in World Campus. Temporary changes of campus can provide flexible alternatives that continue to support students making progress toward their degrees with tuition rates applicable at the temporary campus. 

  • Students who come to University Park or any one of the 20 Commonwealth Campuses this fall will have the option to choose from a variety of flexible instructional modes – from in-person course delivery to hybrid and remote learning options. In addition, there will be in-person engagement and co-curricular experiences – with appropriate social distancing and other precautions in place – including Student Affairs services, tutoring, and clubs and organizations. Tuition will be charged at the campus’s standard in-state/out-of-state rate.
  • Temporary change of campus location: Students can temporarily change to any Commonwealth Campus where they will have access to all of the in-person and remote courses and co-curricular programming offered at their temporary campus that any student may select for any reason for the fall 2020 semester. As such, tuition will be charged at the temporary campus’s standard in-state/out-of-state.
  • Temporary change of campus to Penn State World Campus: World Campus offers a portfolio of asynchronous online courses, which feature engagement with peers and faculty built into the course design. Please note, however, that World Campus does not offer the full range of courses available either at University Park or the Commonwealth Campuses, and there is limited capacity in World Campus. Tuition will be charged at the World Campus rate.

Penn State is focused on supporting students and helping them meet educational outcomes regardless of the method of delivery. It is essential that students consult their academic adviser to determine the best option to accommodate their individual needs; shifts in their mode of education could delay their progress toward graduation or mean changes in financial aid, awards, and other differences.

Students with on-campus housing contracts who then decide to take an entirely remote course load or temporarily transfer to a different campus may cancel their University Housing contracts at any time without a penalty. Because Housing availability is contracted for both fall and spring semesters, Housing officials ask that students consult with the Housing office at their campus if they are already thinking of spring semester and want to retain the spring portion of their contract. More information on Fall on-campus Housing options is available online at: https://housing.psu.edu/features/housing-and-food-service-hfs-contracts.

Last Updated July 16, 2020