Webinar Addresses Fall 2020 Semester for Students

July 16, 2020

Roughly four weeks away from the first day classes, CU Denver parents and students received a clearer picture of what the fall 2020 semester will look like. During a July 14 webinar, a panel of campus experts addressed questions on fall semester classes, course format, safety protocols, student life, and more. Plans remain dependent on public health guidelines and may change, but panelists assured viewers that despite the unknowns, getting a degree from CU Denver is worth it. 

“CU Denver will be here no matter what happens,” said Kelly Hupfeld, associate dean of the School of Public Affairs and co-lead of the Safe Return Coordinating Team. “We will be providing an excellent education, and we are used to adapting. We are a dynamic institution in the middle of a dynamic city, and we serve a diverse population of students who need many different things.”

Meet the Panel of Experts

The webinar, which drew more than 700 viewers, was co-moderated by Anthony Fontana, executive director for integrated enrollment services, and Daniel Casillas, president of the Student Government Association. They directed questions to a panel of experts while a handful of staff members answered a steady stream of questions via the chat function on Zoom.

The panel of experts:

  • Kelly Hupfeld, Associate Dean, School of Public Affairs, Co-Lead, Safe Return Coordinating Team 
  • Nelia Viveiros, Associate Vice Chancellor, Academic Operations, Interim Vice Chancellor, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Genia Herndon, Associate Vice Chancellor, Student and Community Engagement 
  • Todd Haggerty, Associate Vice Chancellor, Budget 
  • Lindsey Hamilton, Director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning 
  • David Tracer, Associate Dean of Student Success, Chair, Safety Team
  • Tyler Stokes, International Services Specialist

Flexible Course Formats

Plans for a safe return to campus have been underway since late April. Currently, mission critical employees and those approved to resume research and creative activities have been allowed back on campus with extensive safety protocols in place.

So, what will classes look like for students this fall? 

On July 7, students were notified that course formats and schedules for the fall semester had, for the most part, been finalized. Courses will be offered in four formats designed to maximize flexibility.

  1. Online: Courses that are primarily designed to have no on-campus component; flexible schedule to allow students to work at their own pace. 
  2. Remote: Designed to use Zoom for pre-scheduled live meetings; allow face-to-face interaction from the comfort of students’ home. 
  3. Hybrid: Mix of on-campus meetings, prescheduled live meetings, and flexible online learning. 
  4. On-Campus: Taught primarily on campus in prescheduled meeting patterns.

About a quarter of all courses (over 700) are expected to have some on-campus presence (either fully on campus or hybrid), and 2,100 courses will take place either remotely or online. If a class is listed as hybrid and a student doesn’t feel comfortable coming to campus, they will work with their professor to determine how they can best be supported. “We are committed to coming up with solutions for all of our students,” said Lindsey Hamilton, director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. She added, “We are maximizing access to all courses.”

Student Services

Campus life will look much different, with many programs and services being offered virtually.

The Wellness Center is ready to open but waiting on approval from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Colorado Department of Higher Education. As soon as it gets the green light, it will be ready to open with guidelines in place. Staff encourage students to take advantage of the virtual classes offered by the Wellness Center.

If in-person courses and student services are offered in multiple modalities, why are students still paying tuition and fees, some asked during the webinar. Todd Haggerty, associate vice chancellor of budget, reminded viewers that in the spring, the university enacted a policy to keep the tuition rate the same. That will be the case this fall. “Historically, tuition rates, whether it’s been in-person or online, have been the same. That hasn’t changed based on modality,” Haggerty explained. “What we will be looking at is fees. We are really trying to consider what services can students access and use that to gauge if can we assess these fees or not.” 

Plans for student fees and student service fees are being finalized and will be communicated to students in the upcoming days, Haggerty said. 

Safety Remains Top Priority

To ensure campus is a safe place for students, faculty, and staff, CU Denver has put in place dozens of extensive safety protocols. Among the most important, everyone returning to campus must take an online training available through the student portal, complete a daily health screening at a designated health station, wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and keep a six-foot distance from peers at all times. To ensure these protocols are followed, the training mentioned above will include a pledge, and ambassadors will be stationed around campus to promote compliance. 

For students living in Lynx Crossing (formerly Campus Village) Kade Ross, director of housing and dining, addressed questions around feeling socially isolated and safety protocols. “We’ve built a model that will meet all current criteria but also be adaptable,” Ross said. That includes many Zoom-intensive programs and plans for door-to-door visits from RA (residential assistant) students who will lead fun and interactive activities in the comfort of students’ suites.

In terms of safety, students will be required to wear masks outside of their suites, signage will be posted to help maintain safe distancing, and the dining hall will work with students to deliver food to suites. If a student needs to quarantine, a number of single-bedroom rooms with bathrooms have been set aside.

Q&A Addresses Range of Topics

During the Q&A-style webinar, panelists addressed questions submitted by students ahead of time. Below are some of the topics covered. 

International Students Assistance

CU Denver’s International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) will be contacting all international students to assist them in planning for the fall semester. A good rule of thumb is to plan for a mix of hybrid classes, as prior to COVID-19, undergraduate students on a F1 or J1 visa were required to take 12 credits and at least three credits (or one course) in person, according to Tyler Stokes, international services specialist.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Support Services

CU Denver takes pride in its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and will continue doing so as classes take new formats. Nelia Viveiros, interim vice chancellor of diversity and inclusion, emphasized the offices on campus that will continue serving students: the Center for Identity & Inclusion, Student Life, Office of Equity, and Disability Resources and Services, among others. Under the guidance of Chancellor Marks, Viveiros expects more opportunities for diversity leadership courses.

In response to current events, the second Social Justice Teach-In will take place Aug. 28 with a focus on anti-Black violence. Students are encouraged to join the discussion. 

Technology Resources (Computers, Internet Access) 

Students who need access to technology resources are advised to reach out to studentsuccess@ucdenver.edu. The department will work with students to coordinate access to laptops, hotspots, webcams, and whatever else necessary for their education. The Loving Lynx Fund is also available to students experiencing economic hardship. 

Contract Tracing Team

The Safe Return Team is in the process of putting together a contact tracing team comprising six to eight students who will take an online training from the Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center and work with Denver Public Health. Faculty in the Department of Public Health in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will oversee the group, and members will receive income for work study and/or experiential learning. 

Student Life Events

Over the last several months, the Office of Student Life has been active in identifying alternative options for students to participate in events and engage in meetings. Much of this will happen virtually through channels such as Zoom, webinars, and YouTube videos. The Student Government Association is also brainstorming ways to keep students involved, including virtual games. 

The Student Safe Return Implementation team will offer an additional webinar for students on Tuesday, August 4, 5 – 6 p.m. (1.5 weeks before classes begin). More details to come.