Campus News

Fall 2020 academic instruction to follow Smart Restart plan

Image By: Leah Voskuil

In June, Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced UW Madison students, faculty and staff will be welcomed back to campus this fall after careful consideration with public health experts.

To abide by public health guidelines upon the return to campus, UW-Madison has implemented “Smart Restart” — a frequently-updated plan which details university initiatives and protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when the academic semester begins in September.

Classes will commence on September 2 and after Thanksgiving recess, all courses and exams will be held virtually. 

“This was a particularly difficult decision, as we recognize the strong desire to return to something close to normal. We believe this is the prudent choice given the likelihood that students leaving and returning to Madison over the Thanksgiving recess would increase the risk for infections on our campus,” Blank said.

The university will be offering the vast majority of courses via virtual format, which allows students to enroll in a standard number of credits even if they are unable to return to Madison. 

The intermingling of virtual and in-person academic formatting is referred to as “hybrid course delivery.” Classes with fewer than 50 students may take place in person. These courses will be taught in spacious rooms to promote social distancing. To assure virtual learning satisfies students’ educational needs, UW has been prioritizing the development of online course delivery.

The Fall 2020 Course Schedule is now fully updated to include changes that arose from the hybrid course modifications. Any additional changes will be brought to the attention of enrolled students through their UW email. 

UW will continue to promote health measures and safety protocols during in-person academic instruction. Cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer will be available in each classroom. Face coverings will be mandatory and students will be physically distanced in accordance with public health guidelines.

To ease the transition for first-year students and grant them the opportunity to experience group instruction on a smaller scale, UW has increased the number of available First-Year Interest Groups (FIGS) and  “Wisconsin Experience” courses. These courses allow students to collaboratively explore topics of interest and reflect on pressing issues in our world.

Additional workspaces such as labs and offices will abide by physical distancing and sanitization procedures as well. Frequency of physical attendance by employees in office spaces is subject to the size and occupancy of the room. Virtual communication will be a constantly viable option, but the university is aiming to find necessary workspace accommodations for staff members.

UW is in the process of developing strategies for library usage. ‘Library by Appointment’ has officially launched, allowing for students, faculty and staff to access specific services. At this time, only UW-Madison graduate students, faculty and staff are allowed to use libraries as research spaces. Memorial Library currently admits a maximum of 50 occupants per day. More information on operating hours and available services can be found here.

Plans to regulate the Wisconsin Union and other hubs for student life are currently in the works as well. In June, the Terrace was able to reopen with required reservations for outdoor seating to maintain proper social distance.

The highly anticipated return to campus will be monitored closely. Blank recently announced a three-part COVID testing plan for UW’s campus, which will allow the university to monitor COVID numbers within Wisconsin Athletics, dorms and the general campus community. 

While navigating such uncharted territories, students, faculty and staff must be mindful of all members of the Badger community and abide by health and safety protocol in order for the transition to be as effective and straightforward as possible.

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