Fall 2021

planning for fall 2021 instruction

This page provides detailed information about the planning process for Fall Quarter 2021 instruction.

We acknowledge that there is a large amount of uncertainty in what conditions will be in the fall, and we offer the guidelines and definitions outlined below to enable planning, while recognizing that plans may need to change due to variable public health regulations.

Our planning principles underscore flexibility, community well-being, COVID mitigation, and ensuring educational access as we learn to work together in a new environment.


  • Increased optimism in vaccinations and reduced spread have allowed us to plan for more in-person instruction in fall.

  • Classes with enrollments below 150 can now be proposed for in-person scheduling (previously the threshold was 100).

  • Remote enrollment opportunities, especially for first- and second-year students, will still be part of our planning.

  • We encourage you to get vaccinated when you are eligible. Based on recent CDC guidance, it is anticipated that vaccinated individuals will be afforded more opportunities for returning to aspects of pre-pandemic life.

Click here for the most recent campus communication from EVC Lori Kletzer.


  1. Operate in a manner that prioritizes the health and wellbeing of our University community and our Santa Cruz neighbors.

  2. All plans are subject to change depending on public health guidance and regulations. Statewide and county guidance may place additional limits on our operations.

  3. Communicate to students, faculty, and staff in a manner that ensures unified, clear, and comprehensible messaging in a way that gives ample time for course and schedule design and planning, as well as to implement and support any new educational technologies required for instruction.

  4. Although the campus has provided planning guidance, primary decisions about when courses are scheduled, how they are offered, and how they are staffed will need to be made within departments and divisions based on their degree requirements and the requirements of other departments that depend on their courses for degree progression.

  5. Department Chairs and College Provosts should work with instructors to determine the modalities of their courses within the framework of the campus guidance. To the extent possible, chairs and provosts should accommodate an instructor who needs to teach remotely or online when these modalities are feasible for the achievement of course learning objectives. Divisional Offices can be an important resource in these discussions.

  6. Not all students will begin or continue their education in person, and students who may be fully remote should be able to continue making academic progress. Departments and colleges should offer sufficient remote or online course capacity so that students can make progress toward their major or major selection and qualification while remaining remote, particularly for first- and second-year students.

  7. Departments are encouraged to ensure that “packages” of remote/online courses reflecting standard major qualification pathways are available for first and second year students in their majors, and to communicate these to their prospective majors.

  8. The campus will not be able to accommodate in-person meetings for the lecture portion of the class for any courses enrolling more than 150 students. Courses can have in-person or remote discussion sections, or a mixture of options, conditional on the availability of in-person classrooms.

  9. Given the potential scarcity of General-Assignment classrooms, departments should prioritize hosting graduate seminars and perhaps also small undergraduate courses (including some secondary discussion sections) in non-Registrar-assigned space. Other divisional spaces not ordinarily used for instructional purposes may also be converted to some instructional use, at the discretion of the Division.

  10. Course meetings (primary or secondary sections) should generally be planned for all students to be either in-person or remote/online, rather than using “mixed delivery”, with some students in-person and some remote at the same time in the same course meeting. Course sponsors can plan separate offerings of a course so that there are both in-person and remote/online options (and CARES 2 funding may be available to support the additional offerings of these courses). For small graduate courses, the “mixed delivery” method may be easier to implement, and program instructors will retain the flexibility to consider this mode of instruction.

  11. Because modality of class will need to be planned before students begin enrollment, but assignment of TAs will not generally occur until later, when TA assignments are made to classes, to the extent possible, those assignments should take into account individual TA preferences for being in-person or remote. Similarly, among multiple TAs assigned to a particular class, to the extent possible, the instructor should take into account individual TA preferences for being in-person or remote when assigning TAs to specific secondary sections.

  12. A course may be designed with both asynchronous online material and in-person classroom interaction, to engage each student in multiple modalities. For example, by moving lectures to an online format, in-person sessions could focus on active learning. By having half of the class attend these in-person activities one day per week and half on another day of the week, a larger enrollment could be supported. Departments and instructors will have flexibility in these choices.

  13. Keep in mind the importance of in-person experiences for first-year students in support of the transition to college, as well as for second-year students who have not yet had any in-person UC Santa Cruz courses. These could be in-person discussion or secondary lab sections for large courses, or a large course could be offered as two separate sections, one in-person and another remote.

  14. While there may be rare cases in which particular students need to take an in-person course remotely, instructors need to take special care to ensure that students in remote and in-person environments have as equitable and accessible experience as possible. Instructors should be fully informed about the time and care needed to effectively design courses that will be taught synchronously with one group of students in the room and one group attending remotely. When this format is used, additional resources may need to be provided to ensure that students attending remotely are given equal access to participate in real-time in class meetings; for courses with TAs that are using this format, a TA should be assigned to engage with students attending remotely.

  15. As a guiding principle, all classes that can be held in-person should be initially scheduled as in-person. This will allow the campus to adequately plan for classroom availability; it is far easier to convert an in-person class to remote instruction (as later conditions determine) than to assign days, times, and a classroom once all spaces are booked. This will also ensure that students can maintain their enrollments: if an in-person class converts to remote instruction, all enrolled students can still attend. But if a class converts from remote to in-person instruction, students who are not in Santa Cruz may be forced to change classes. Students should be notified of any shifts in instruction mode that occur after they have enrolled.

  16. For international students, currently the visa rules remain the same as they’ve been since March 2020. Students who are already here can continue to stay in the country and be enrolled in all remote courses, or a combination. New students entering the U.S. must enroll in at least one in-person course. We don’t know that this will continue and we expect that it may or could change at some point between now and the fall. If the rules revert back to pre-pandemic, then all international students that are in the U.S. must be taking the majority of their courses in-person; for undergraduate students a minimum of 10 credits and for graduate students a minimum of 5 credits. If there is a face-to-face or otherwise in-person requirement for a course, like a discussion group, that would satisfy that it is in-person, even if the main lecture is delivered online. International students are encouraged to consult with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) to evaluate their options and follow up with their department, college, or program.

Fall 2021 course offering formats

Fall 2021 instruction will include a mix of remote, online, and in-person instruction. The table below describes the various instructional modalities available.

Use the scroll bar on the right to view the document within this page or click on the pop-out icon by the scroll bar to open the table in a new window, where you can download it and/or save it.

fall 2021 course offering formats.pdf


Online: A course offering format that is expressed in synchronous or asynchronous instruction (more on that below), without meetings in a physical space, and only includes courses that have been approved by the Academic Senate Committee on Courses of Instruction (CCI).

Remote: Remote instruction, which emerged on a large scale in March 2020 as “emergency remote instruction,” refers to the type of instruction that is primarily being offered during the current pandemic and that is likely to be used during significant campus disruptions in the future. This includes courses that would normally be taught in person but are being offered remotely due to COVID-19. The majority of these courses have not gone through the Academic Senate’s formal process for course approval to be taught in an online format and are being taught in a remote format during the pandemic only. Courses being taught during this period of remote instruction are commonly synchronous (Zoom-based offerings) with set course meeting times, but these courses may also incorporate asynchronous materials such as pre-recorded lectures.

In Person: Courses in which lectures or seminars are offered in-person with a single modality of instruction by the primary instructor. For those lecture courses that have discussion sections/secondary labs, these may or may not be held in person pending the availability of classrooms. As in the past, instructors may elect to teach in a classroom with webcast functionality, and to make recordings of their lectures available to students.

Synchronous: Instruction that is characterized by its use of videoconferencing software to facilitate face-to-face, real-time interaction with students. Similar to courses taught in person, synchronous online courses are also characterized by their use of set meeting times that are advertised to students when they enroll.

Asynchronous: Instruction that is characterized by its reliance on lectures, engagement activities, assessments, or other course materials that are pre-recorded and carefully pre-planned for students who will have minimal (or no) face-to-face, real-time interactions. Unlike fully synchronous or in-person courses, asynchronous courses do not have set meeting times that are advertised to students when they enroll; instead, students typically access the materials at a time of their choosing within the timeframe specified by the instructor (e.g., all of week three materials might be available on the first day of week three). That said, all UCSC asynchronous courses give students at least some opportunities every week for synchronous engagement, i.e., real-time interaction with the instructional team and with other students in the class, including office hours or problem set working groups. Final exams in asynchronous courses require a fixed three-hour time block that will need to be offered during one of the “non-standard” times in the final exam schedule. Because students may have conflicts with exams in their other asynchronous classes, faculty teaching asynchronous courses should also offer alternate exam times.

Hybrid: A term used generally to describe models of teaching and learning that include multiple modalities in one course. These might be asynchronous and in-person, synchronous and in-person, asynchronous and synchronous, etc. Hybrid is a broad term and can quickly lead to confusion, hence it is advisable to use more specific terms to refer to modalities of instruction.

Flipped: Flipped classrooms involve a teaching technique that combines the strengths of asynchronous and synchronous formats with a synchronous in-person or remote (Zoom-based) element that is characterized by the use of active learning techniques that often prioritize student engagement through group work. Each student is expected to engage with both the in-person and the remote elements.

Blended Synchronous: Courses that include real-time engagement from both in-person and remote students. These courses are taught from classrooms on UCSC campuses with remote students joining via Zoom. All students, remote and in-person, are given opportunities to engage in real-time.

HyFlex: A course design model that can include student participation that is in-person, synchronous (Zoom-based), and asynchronous (recordings of synchronous class meetings). Students in this model are often given flexibility to choose their mode of attendance, which may differ from one class meeting to the next. This model suffers from providing modalities that can lead to inequities in student learning, and a variant on the HyFlex model that attempts to address these concerns is Blended Synchronous (defined above), which excludes an option for an asynchronous modality. This model requires substantial time, effort, attention, agility, and technical skill of instructors.

Sections: This term is used across campus, often to refer to two different things. For this reason, we recommend adding additional context where appropriate:

  1. Offerings: In general, the term “section” can refer to each scheduled primary version of a course. For example, if the ANTH 3 lecture is scheduled to be offered twice in the quarter, to different sets of students, each of these class offerings might be referred to as a section. When referring to primary courses, using the words “offering” or “class” might reduce ambiguity.

  2. Secondary Sections: the word “section” is also sometimes used to refer to the secondary components of a course: discussion sections and/or secondary labs. These are the smaller sections that are scheduled secondary to a primary course offering, generally taught by TAs. Student enrollment may be mandatory or optional, depending on the course. Using the words “secondary sections” or “discussion sections” where possible will reduce confusion.


What is the starting point for planning now, with allowances for changing circumstances?

The current primary planning scenario for Fall Quarter is that the rollout of vaccine availability through the local community will allow all those who want vaccinations to obtain them by late summer. At this point, classroom capacity is planned at 100% for classes below 150, though some classes in the 50-150 range may be held in larger classrooms when available. Most courses over 150 students will be held remotely or online, unless taught in a “hybrid” format where some students come to class on different days. Classes below 50 students should be held in person, except for offerings planned to accommodate students who cannot return to campus.

Under the assumption that vaccinations are widespread, but that the virus is still circulating, some distancing may still be necessary, but the six-foot distance restriction is no longer planned. Because of the limited housing capacity, as well as medical conditions that may hamper the ability of some individuals to receive vaccinations, fully remote options should be provided to as many students as possible, particularly for those in the first and second years. This planning scenario largely matches the current statewide regulations for the yellow tier.

Flexibility is critical; our assumptions and starting points could be impacted by a host of factors including the speed of the vaccination rollout across our communities. If there are challenges that delay the rollout, we will need to make adjustments to the mix of instructional modalities, classrooms, and housing capacity.

Should we be planning on a portion of our students to be remote?

The default mode of instruction for all courses with enrollment below 50 students will be in-person, with room capacities at 100%, though remote or online modality is possible by request of departments and colleges, and as needed to address requests for disability-related reasonable accommodation.

Course sponsoring agencies should nonetheless provide options for some students—particularly first and second year students—to remain fully remote and make progress toward their degrees in fall quarter, with the exception of classes that can truly only be done in-person because of a physical component or the need for specialized equipment. Courses that can be attended while fully remote should be marked clearly with “remote instruction” or “online” location, so that they may be identified in the schedule of classes. When a class is offered in-person, CARES 2 (also known as CRRSAA) funds may be available to pay for an additional online or remote offering.

While we anticipate that remote offerings will primarily be large lecture courses, some small courses will still need to be offered remotely, including some sections of College One and Writing Program offerings, some senior seminars, and so on.

Should I be prepared to accommodate students who need to remain remote in my in-person class for Fall?

Some students with documented ADA accommodations may not be able to attend Fall classes in person. If the student needs a class to graduate, and the class is being held only in person, the instructor should work with the DRC and/or with CITL/Online Education to determine whether it is feasible to accommodate individual students attending remotely. This might involve live webcasting, recording lectures, or other accommodations. In cases where a number of students who remain remote need a course to graduate, departments should consider “doubling” the course with one in person and one remote offering. In rare cases where a student needs a course to graduate, the course cannot be taught remotely effectively, and the department is unable to provide an alternative, a student may have a major requirement waived by the program and by agreement of CEP/GC in order to graduate on time.

What are the recommended modes of instruction?

Instructors are encouraged to engage with all students in the same modalities. With the possible exception of very small classes, the national experience has been that student learning outcomes are typically diminished when an instructor attempts to engage students in multiple modalities at the same time.

The recommended options for modes of instruction are (in unranked order):

  1. entirely in-person

  2. entirely remote/online

  3. lecture remote/online and discussion sections can be a mix of in-person and remote

  4. lecture remote/online with students coming once a week to in-person class time for active learning exercises (flipped class format)

Options 1 and 4 require students to be present on campus, and it is recommended that course sponsoring agencies pair those offerings with a second offering that is entirely remote/online.

What Senate approvals will be needed for fall, such as any delegations of authority regarding remote instruction and temporary modifications to program requirements?

The Committee on Educational Policy (CEP), Committee on Courses of Instruction (CCI), and Graduate Council (GC) are delegating authority for approval of remote offering of courses to course sponsoring agencies for fall 2021. Fully online courses continue to require review and approval by CCI. Noting that students may have difficulties meeting some program requirements during the pandemic, CEP, CCI, and GC are also prepared to receive and review in a timely way any requests from department chairs and program directors for temporary modifications of program requirements resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

To what extent will teaching in person be mandatory?

To the extent possible, chairs and provosts should accommodate instructors who need to teach remotely. The only possible exceptions would be classes where the pedagogical needs of the class require in-person instruction, such as required use of specialized equipment. The course sponsoring agency is primarily responsible for the determination of the pedagogical requirements and how to support student achievement of course learning objectives.

If I don’t know the capacity of a room, how do I calculate 50% of instructional capacity?

For registrar controlled spaces, instructional occupancy is already well established and classes held in those rooms will in nearly all cases be capped at 50% occupancy. For other spaces being used or repurposed for instructional purposes, if classes have been held in these rooms in the past, the capacity should be calculated as 50% of the maximum size of courses held there in the past. For rooms not previously used for instructional purposes, the best approach is to have someone visit the space, set it up as it would be for a course in ordinary times, and then halve the number of seats. Overall, calculations should be based on 50% of seats (or lab classroom capacity), rather than square footage.

Please do not consult the fire marshal for room capacity rates, as they use a different calculation than instructional capacity.

How can I learn strategies for classroom safety for in-person instruction?

Campus will provide training on classroom safety for those who choose to teach in-person.

What if I’m concerned about airflow and ventilation?

For now, departments and course offering units should proceed as though there is adequate ventilation in their spaces. As we move through the next six months, campus health and safety officers will be able to give more precise guidance about specific spaces. The Physical Plant HVAC team is already reviewing spaces intended to be used for instruction. Informing the Registrar’s Office of any other spaces you plan to use for instruction will ensure that they are on the list the HVAC team is using to determine which spaces need to be reviewed for adequate ventilation and air flow. In the event that a space is deemed unsuitable for instruction due to airflow limitations, departments may opt to offer the course remotely, may contact Divisional staff about possible alternative spaces, or may reach out to the Registrar to find out if there is any space available either in general assignment classrooms or possibly in other parts of the campus being repurposed for instructional purposes.

How will we accommodate students who develop within-quarter health conditions that require remote learning?

This has always been a feature of in-person teaching, and most instructors have experience accommodating students who may need to be absent for a week or more. Some faculty will likely continue using recorded lectures, or recording their in-person lectures. Faculty also now have considerable experience developing remote engagement exercises for the current teaching scenario.

How will laboratory and studio classes be impacted?

Laboratory and studio classes are subject to similar guidelines as all classes. Some specialized laboratory and studio classes may be ones that are not possible to offer remotely, and so may be offered as in-person only.

How will field study classes be impacted?

Classes held entirely outdoors on campus can proceed with distancing, potentially at full capacity. For all other situations, Health and Safety should be consulted for guidance.

What will Physical Education classes look like?

Physical education classes that can be held outdoors can be done so with appropriate distancing. Sponsors of indoor classes should consult with Health and Safety on whether it is safe to have that particular class indoors, and if so at what capacity.

What requirements will students need to follow when studying abroad or as an intercampus visitor?

Decisions on study abroad and hosting incoming exchange students in fall will be made in March or April. Variables include UC international travel restrictions and guidance from CDC and Department of State for international travel safety, testing, vaccination and quarantine requirements for international travelers in both directions, ability of host institutions abroad to accept visiting students, access to medical facilities and care for our students abroad, etc. If outbound study abroad programs are cancelled for fall, then we will not accept any inbound visiting exchange students, following the same approach applied during this past year. If programs do run, then requirements for our students going abroad will be dictated in large part by the requirements of the hosting institutions. Requirements for incoming visiting exchange students will be the same as those for any students arriving to campus via international travel.

Will international students be able to return to campus in the fall?

The opening of consulates and scheduling of visa appointments is also a dynamic situation at this time. While we remain cautiously optimistic, it is possible that some international students may not be able to attend in-person classes in the fall because of their inability to obtain a visa and/or enter the United States. International students are encouraged to consult with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) to evaluate their options and follow up with their department, college, or program.

Where should I direct questions about Fall Quarter instruction?

Please direct any questions or concerns about your unit's planning for fall to your Department Chair or supervisor. If you need support for course design, contact citl@ucsc.edu or join the UCSC Online Slack workspace. Please see this page for more ways to get instructional support. If your questions primarily concern matters of health and safety, classroom maintenance, ventilation, etc., please wait for the campus to issue further information about classroom health and safety in the coming weeks. If your questions concern in-person classroom technology, please address them to help@ucsc.edu.