As we complete final exam week, I know many of you have questions about the calendar for our spring semester. I am writing today as a follow-up to President Feinstein’s message with additional details. After much consideration within Academic Affairs, including discussion by an ad-hoc task force, the standing Coronavirus Task Force, and the President’s Cabinet, we have decided to approach the spring semester as the inverse of what occurred this fall. This means two things:

  • First, we are not making any changes to the published calendar for Spring 2021. The university campus will open after the winter break and classes will officially begin on January 11. Spring break will occur March 13-21, and final exam week will occur May 3-7.
  • Second, we are counting on faculty whose spring course modalities include an in-person component (traditional or mixed face-to-face) to use their judgment regarding instructional methods that will best help their students meet learning objectives for each course during the first few weeks of the semester (roughly January 11-23). If you feel it is appropriate to begin with a fully online pedagogy and transition to more in-person instruction later in the term, then you should proceed in that matter. If you believe in-person learning is best from the start, then you should do that.

As has been true throughout the pandemic, everyone will need to be prepared to pivot to fully online instruction if the situation warrants and state guidance changes. Faculty also need to have fully online alternatives enabling students in quarantine or isolation to make up for any essential content or graded activities that occur during in-person meetings. Masks and social distancing will continue to be required unless you have received a pedagogical exception for the spring term. These are preparations you are already familiar with from the current fall semester.

Faculty are encouraged to utilize resources on campus that will support curriculum development and delivery, as well as professional development. The Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning (CETL) provides professional learning opportunities and resources on pedagogy, equity-minded practice, curriculum development, instructional models, student learning assessment, and specific tools such as the Online Teaching Toolkit. CETL and IDD Staff are also available for individualized consultations by appointment.

We know this decision will not please everyone, so we would like to explain why it was found preferable to other options, such as starting the semester later and/or eliminating spring break. The most significant consideration was that any option that changes the length of the term is simply unworkable from both an external compliance and student financial aid perspective. Similarly, replacing spring break with occasional days off throughout the term is not substantially safer for our campus given the relatively high percentage of students who commute. The decision to start as scheduled while giving faculty broad latitude in how their own courses are taught accommodates the differing perspectives of our students and faculty while also being consistent with the best information currently available from CDPHE, CDHE, and the governor’s office.

As in the fall, this decision means it is essential for you to decide and communicate to your students how each of your courses will be meeting when the spring semester starts. We encourage you to post this information in your Canvas shells as soon as possible and send emails to your students confirming where and how the first day of class will be held no later than January 8. For those of you who have scheduled traditional face-to-face classes, please be mindful that you are required to meet with your students in-person for at least 75% of the class sessions (or approximately 12 weeks); for a course meeting three times/week, 11 to 12 sessions may be fully online; and for a course meeting two times/week, seven to eight sessions may be fully online. Please also inform your college deans about your teaching plans so that they can help to communicate and support your decisions with students. Your deans are also available to answer any additional questions you may have.

As always, I appreciate your efforts to engage our students in a way that is safe and maintains the health of our community.

Go Bears!

Mark R. Anderson
Provost and Senior Vice President Academic Affairs