Dear College of Science majors,
I am writing to give you an update on our planning to safely reopen the campus in the fall. The university faculty, staff, and administration are working diligently to finalize many details to make the campus an environment as safe as possible for your education. Social distancing will reduce the number of people in our classrooms, laboratories, and other facilities, but our faculty and staff are committed to providing you an excellent educational experience through their hard work and creativity.
As you know, we will have many classes taught remotely or online because of safety considerations and because of the reductions of room capacities to observe the social distancing recommendations. However, we are also working to provide as many in-person classes as possible. At this time, we are mapping existing courses to new rooms and in some cases new times. These changes are to accommodate social distancing. The typical classroom will be able to accommodate approximately 25% to 40% of normal capacity to allow for social distancing, and the capacity of our science labs will be reduced by 50% on average. We have secured additional spaces typically used for meetings and events and will be scheduling these for instructional use. The university will continue to hold classes six days a week just as we have in the past, but will teach more classes later into each day and on Saturday.
Especially for incoming freshmen, there will be many courses that are offered face-to-face so you will have an opportunity to closely interact with professors, advisors, and peers. These classes might be a bit different from the ones you are used to. Expect them to be small classes for sure, but also be ready for some of them to take an unconventional format such as a flipped classroom with a hybrid component. No matter what format it takes, our faculty will go with a design that has your learning as our top priority.
One of the greatest challenges the College of Science faces is how to offer science lab instructions to our students during this pandemic. Science courses involving lab experiments are critical experiential learning opportunities for science majors, and they are hard to replace entirely through an online experience, no matter how careful the design might be. At the same time, there are many components that go into a single science experiment. From the design to data analysis, there are multiple steps in the process that can be done outside a physical lab. This fall, expect many science lab sections to be offered face-to-face, and we will have creative lab schedules that allow you to gain hands-on experience in the lab and time working on virtual experiments. There will also be lab sections offered entirely remotely. In these cases the experiential learning will be facilitated through an alternative mode of delivery such as portable lab kits, virtual labs, or a combination.
During the fall semester, all the student support services, including tutoring centers, computer labs, library, advising offices, the Career Center, the Pohl Recreation Center, and Student Veteran Services, will be open to serve students. Student clubs are also available in person. Faculty and labs will be accessible for students seeking research experience.
Hand sanitizer stations will be strategically placed throughout our campus. There will be other measures designed to keep us all safe. The university will develop and post personal safety guidelines so that the entire campus can work together to minimize our collective health risks. We expect all faculty, staff, and students to abide by these guidelines and help build a culture of awareness, care, and respect in our community.
I appreciate your patience as we work through the many details of the fall schedule, which will be available within the next few weeks. You will not be required to re-register for their courses, but will have the opportunity after the schedule is finalized to make changes should you wish. I will give more updates and work with you through this process in the next two months. I look forward to seeing you, either in-person on virtually, in the fall.
Dean, College of Science
University of North Texas