College of Arts & Sciences Fall 2020 FAQ

We can’t wait to see you again in the classroom, virtual or otherwise.

Your professors, together with staff and administrators, have been working hard all summer long to design a robust, flexible academic experience with the highest standards for both the safety of our community and your educational experience. Read on to learn more about how the College of Arts & Sciences is shaping up for your return in the fall.

A recording of the August 4 town hall for A&S students and families is now available, including a version with closed captions. The town hall FAQ section below provides responses to questions that were not answered during the webinar. 

Academic Experience


Will courses that are offered remotely this fall be different from remote classes in the spring?

Yes! We learned a lot from the second half of the spring semester, and appreciate all the feedback we got from students on what worked well and what didn’t. The remote learning experience is going be significantly different than it was in the spring. Over the summer months, your professors, in coordination with staff from The Center for Teaching and Learning, the WU Canvas team, and WU Facilities, have dedicated substantial time and creative energy to redesign their courses for remote and hybrid platforms.

What changes can we expect for all fall classes?

To ensure a robust and equitable educational experience for all students, the faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences voted (by a landslide) this summer to formally adopt a set of instructional policies and standards to foster a holistic and engaging academic experience.

Key elements:

  • Canvas: This fall, all Arts & Sciences courses will use Canvas as a place where students can find course materials, see their grades, and find course-wide communications. This will benefit students in in-person and in remote courses by keeping all of their course information in one place.
  • Engagement: Whether in person or remote, interaction between students and faculty is key to learning. All courses, regardless of format, will have opportunities for students to connect with each other and with their professor.
  • Flexibility: All faculty should be prepared to offer enough flexibility within their course policies and procedures to manage potential disruptions due to COVID-19. Any flexibility available should be explicitly communicated to students so that they understand how potential disruptions will be handled. 
  • Instructor Support: We reaffirm our commitment to faculty being available to students outside of classtime, either in person or virtually.
  • Informed students: Faculty will upload their syllabi to Syllabi Central by September 1, so all students will have a thorough understanding of course expectations and structure before the semester starts.

You can read the full policies on the Instructional Planning Task Force page. 

In addition to meeting these key standards, you can anticipate more sophisticated use of online tools to foster dynamic community and engagement, including enhanced interactive components and synchronous elements. We are also building in more mechanisms for students to provide feedback on courses throughout the semester, including a central webform where students can register concerns.

I understand why large classes can’t be held in person due to classroom capacity limits, but why are some of my small classes remote?

There are a variety of reasons why a small class may be offered remotely in the fall. Some have to do with professors’ own health and safety, or that of their families. Beyond that, though, your professors are putting a lot of careful thought into how they can deliver their courses to provide you the best educational experience. Faculty have widely varying styles in the classroom; some feel that they can provide a more personal experience via Zoom engagement than they can in a physically distanced classroom with everyone masked. Others who are particularly concerned about sound quality or visibility of students' and instructors’ faces may also have opted for remote teaching.

Will academic support (e.g., PLTL, academic mentoring/tutoring) be available even if I’m participating remotely?

Yes. A full range of academic supports will be available to students studying remotely. You can visit the Learning Center website for more information.

What about exams?

As part of redesigning courses for remote and hybrid platforms, your professors have also considered alternative modes of assessment, including the possibility of substituting fewer, large-scale exams with more frequent, quiz-like assessments, and shifting emphasis from final exams to final projects or papers. Many alternatives are discipline-specific, so you will want to check Syllabi Central after September 1 for your particular set of courses.



I’m looking at Course Listings. How do I know what format my courses are offered in?

If you look at the building listed next to your course section in Course Listings, you will see one of three things: Remote, TBA, or the name of a building.

If you see either a building or TBA (like section 01 above), it means this section has an in-person component (we are still working on finalizing classroom assignments for fall courses).

If you see Remote (like section 02 above), it means the section is offered fully remotely.

You can also find the course’s Instruction Type by clicking on Details for each course.

For courses other than independent research, you will see one of the three following Instruction Types:

REMOTE PER COVID-19 courses are those whose content – lectures, assessments, office hours, etc. – will be delivered 100% via remote platforms. Depending on the course, some or all of the content may involve synchronous participation. Note: for courses delivered remotely, synchronous participation is the default option unless you see information in the course listing that indicates otherwise.

HYBRID courses are those that will have in-person components and will also be delivered remotely to serve students regardless of location. For example, lectures may be delivered online while subsections will be conducted in person; as another example, a class may be divided into two groups, with alternate groups participating in person on alternate days. Note: For components of a Hybrid course that are delivered remotely, synchronous participation is the default option unless you see information in the course listing that indicates otherwise.

Please note: Students who plan to matriculate remotely (e.g., from home) are nonetheless very welcome in hybrid courses!

CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION courses are those for which the nature of the course requires in-person participation, and there is no option for remote participation.  Because faculty have made every effort to modify their courses for hybrid modalities, such courses are quite rare.

For more information on Instruction Types and Course Listings, visit the University Registrar’s website.

Can you say more about Hybrid courses?

There will be a lot of variety across Hybrid courses, depending on the size of the class. For example, a smaller class – say, 22 students or fewer – may meet in person every class period, just like in a “typical” semester. Such a course is listed as “Hybrid” because some students will be participating remotely, which is of course very welcome! As another example, a mid-size class – say, 23-50 students – may break into groups, with group 1 in person on Tuesday while group 2 participates remotely, and then group 2 in person on Thursday while group 1 participates remotely. (And again, fully remote participants are also very welcome!) And as yet another example, a larger class – say 50+ students – may deliver lectures remotely and hold its subsections or recitations in person.

How will I know more about my particular classes and sections?

In Course Listings, perhaps you have occasionally seen a brief “Desc” (short for “Description”) line connected with a particular section or subsection. A good example would be something like, “Section 1 is reserved for first-year students,” or “Enrollment preference given to majors.” As a course’s modalities are finalized, departments will be populating this “Desc” field to include two key pieces of information: 1) is the section or subsection remote, in-person, or in-person on rotation; and 2) is the course, section, or subsection asynchronous or synchronous, and if the latter, what elements will be synchronous. (As you can imagine, this is a very big project, so please check in periodically to see your classes’ “Desc” field updates.) If this information is crucial to your decision-making and it is not yet entered in the “Desc” field, please email the professor.

How will I know what components of a Remote or Hybrid course are synchronous?

In many cases, faculty are still making decisions about how much of their courses will be synchronous. We will be updating course listings over the next few weeks to reflect this. If this information is crucial to your decision-making, please email the professor.

My class has no meeting time listed. What does that mean?

Classes that will be conducted completely asynchronously have no meeting time listed.

Is it possible that courses with multiple sections or subsections will offer some sections or subsections 100% remotely, and other sections or subsections with an in-person component?

Yes. If a course with instruction type “Hybrid” has multiple sections or subsections, it is possible that some will be taught 100% remotely and others with an in-person component.

If I am interested in a Hybrid course with multiple sections or subsections, how do I know if a section or subsection is taught 100% remotely or with an in-person component?

For now, check the Building / Room location listed for the desired section or subsection. As the “Desc” fields are populated you can look there as well.

  • If the Building / Room location lists “Remote” for the location: this means that this section or subsection is being offered entirely remotely (no in-person component).
  • If a building and room is assigned: this means that the section or subsection will have an in-person component at the assigned room location.
  • If the Building / Room location says “TBA”: this means that the section will meet in-person but a classroom has not yet been assigned.

How can I learn more about a course?

All instructors will upload their fall course syllabi into Syllabi Central by September 1, 2020 (two weeks prior to the first day of classes). This ensures that you will have access to key information (policies, grading scheme, assignment schedule, etc.) about fall courses before the semester begins and enable you to make informed decisions about finalizing your schedules.

With all of this new information, I may consider making a change in my class schedule. What should I do?

Connect with your four-year advisor!

Courses & Residency


I’m in a very different time zone! Now what?

Some courses will have significant asynchronous components, accessible at whatever time of day you prefer. Additionally, a number of faculty have expressed openness to moving their courses into the evening hours if it would better accommodate student schedules. Later in August, once we have a better idea of who will be participating remotely and who will be participating in person, we will work with these willing faculty to move courses in which there is strong demand for evening hours. Most courses with large numbers of recitations (e.g., American Politics, Intro to Western Art, Calculus) will move some recitations to evening hours. We will notify students when these changes are made, so that you can adjust your schedules accordingly.

All of my courses are either Hybrid or Remote, so I can be a full-time student from home, right?

Right. If your Hybrid course has required “in-person” components, you will have options to “attend” via remote platforms, and you can therefore be physically at home this semester if that is the best choice for your particular circumstances.

Even though I’m living in non-WU housing off campus, can I still come on campus for the in-person components of my Hybrid classes?

Yes! Like other off-campus students (in either WU housing or non-WU housing), you will be very welcome to come to campus for your classes’ in-person components. To do so, however, you must complete a daily self-screening via and receive a “pass” (i.e., a green checkmark). 

If I will be living on campus in WU housing, can I participate in a Hybrid course remotely?

Yes, if you are living in Res Life housing, you can participate fully remotely in a Hybrid course. There will be remote options for all in-person components of Hybrid courses. This means if you are living on campus, you can still choose to take all of your courses entirely online. 

Dates & Deadlines


What dates and deadlines are in effect for Fall 2020?

You will have two significant deadline extensions for Fall 2020. First, in order for you to be able to experience your hybrid courses in both their in-person and remote platforms, the add/drop period is extended through December 4th. Additionally, you will have all the way until December 14 (week 14) to decide whether or not to take a course pass/fail.

Here’s the calendar, shifted to reflect our delayed start:

  • Drop a course without a "W": December 4th 
  • Drop a course with a "W": December 14th
  • Change Grade Option (between letter grade and pass/fail): December 14th 

Are there any policy changes for grade options, particularly pass/fail?

For Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, students may now choose the pass/fail option for two classes per semester. The restrictions outlined in the College’s standard policy regarding what requirements pass/fail classes may count toward remain in place.

That said, as mentioned above, you will have until the beginning of the 14th week of classes to make your grade option decisions.

Please note that the Spring 2020 interim policy amendments (things like a pass/fail course counting toward a major) apply only to courses taken in Spring 2020.

Leave of Absence


If I am considering taking a Leave of Absence (LOA) due to my particular circumstances, what should I do?

New students: Newly admitted students who have not yet matriculated are not eligible for Leave of Absence but may request a gap year deferral from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Visit the Office of Admissions website or email ADMISSIONS@WUSTL.EDU to learn more about deferring enrollment.

Continuing students: Please connect with your four-year advisor, who can help you consider the best course of action for your particular circumstances. If you ultimately decide that an LOA is best for you, you may formally request one via this webform.

If I go on Leave of Absence, can I take non-WU courses for transfer credit?

Continuing students may transfer up to 6 credits of pre-approved coursework per semester of leave. For the 2020-2021 academic year, these units may include coursework taken online or through remote platforms. Please note that transferred coursework does not fulfill distribution requirements and may count toward a major/minor only with departmental pre-approval

Town Hall FAQs


How do you plan to preserve the academic integrity of exams?

As part of redesigning courses for remote and hybrid platforms, professors are looking into alternate assessment modes (frequent quizzes instead of exams). However, for those disciplines where such alternatives are not feasible, professors may shift to open note, or use online proctoring software that has been integrated into Canvas.

For students with mild hearing loss, all of the safety protocols (e.g. masks, plexiglass, outdoor instruction with background noise) are going to deeply impact their experience. What accommodations can be provided to them?

We understand that classroom adjustments necessary for public health might have unintended consequences whether students are participating remotely or in person. Should you have this or other concerns related to accessibility, please connect with Disability Resources.

Will there be classes that have only recorded classes and not live sessions?

There may indeed be some courses delivered completely asynchronously, particularly to accommodate students living in very different time zones. We are working to update our courses’ “Description” fields in course listings to indicate this information.

If a class is asynchronous, could I register for another course at the same time?

Because a course’s final exam time is connected to the time the class is offered, we would not recommend this strategy until the final exam schedule has been finalized and professors have determined their final exam format (e.g., final project, timed exam, etc.). As a reminder, all syllabi will be uploaded to Syllabi Central by September 1.

How will attendance in classes be tracked?

Faculty with attendance policies will establish how they will count remote attendance in their syllabi. In-person attendance will be tracked by the instructor or assistant in instruction per normal practices.

What are the plans for lab courses?

Lab courses and courses with a lab-based component will be handled in different ways, depending on the course goals and the department. For example, a course for whose lab component the primary learning outcome is data collection and analysis may shift to a remote platform, which in turn will create additional physical lab space to make social distancing possible for other, more “wet lab” courses. As another example, some departments will be offering both in-person and fully remote options of the same lab so that students can engage with the course material regardless of where they’re joining the class from. In such cases, the remote versions of the lab will be augmented by opportunities for synchronous discussions with the professor, the lab assistants, and in-person participants. If you have questions about your specific lab, please reach out to your professor.

How will music ensembles and performing arts courses be handled this semester?

Both the Music and the Performing Arts Departments are planning innovative and creative ways for you to continue your studies. To learn more about plans for music courses in the fall, including music ensembles and lessons, please contact Jennifer Gartley (; for drama classes, please contact Andrea Urice (; and for dance classes, please contact David Marchant (

If I choose to go home at Thanksgiving, can I change to fully remote participation in my courses?

Yes. It is strongly advised that all students planning to leave campus and go home for Thanksgiving remain home for the final three weeks of the semester and complete their courses remotely. For more information, please see the Thanksgiving Break Update page.

If the school goes to completely remote learning, can students shelter in place in their on-campus housing?

If this were to occur, the university would offer students the ability to seek an exception to remain in WU housing on a case-by-case basis if international travel restrictions or other significant extenuating circumstances prevent them from returning home.

Will the university be boosting the WiFi on campus to accommodate so many students trying to access Zoom at the same time?

Yes. WashU IT has increased wireless capability across campus – specifically on the South 40 – to ensure a successful fall semester.

What kinds of access to the University Libraries will I have in the fall?

Danforth Campus libraries have developed a detailed plan to enable continuing access to materials and research support in the fall. Though most of the Danforth Campus libraries will remain closed to the public, John M. Olin Library will be accessible to the Washington University community for specific services. The timing of the service offerings described here is still being determined, but they will be available by the start of the semester on September 14.

  • Materials from John M. Olin Library and all other Danforth Campus locations will be available via curbside pickup service to anyone with a valid WashU ID.
  • The library will expand capacity to support access to digital materials.
  • Virtual research consultations and instruction will be provided by subject librarians.
  • The University Libraries offer 24-hour reference support via the 24/7 chat service.
  • Interlibrary loan services will resume, including the ability to request materials from ILLiad and MOBIUS.
  • Patrons will be able to utilize the Bookeye scanner and microfilm by appointment.
  • Access to printing services and some of the University’s “Zoom-Study-Dine” pods will be established in designated portions of John M. Olin Library.
  • The Julian Edison Department of Special Collections will be open on a limited basis to researchers by appointment, and offer virtual instruction.
  • The Data Services team will continue to provide virtual Help Desk sessions, as well as remote access to the Research Studio.

To learn more, please visit the COVID-19 Updates and Resources page on the Library website.

What will happen with study abroad in the spring? Will decisions about study abroad programs be made by Wash U or by the particular abroad institution (such as DIS)?

After careful consideration and consultation with the International Travel Oversight Committee, the Office of Overseas Programs has made the decision to cancel all study abroad for Spring 2021. For more information, please contact your study abroad advisor.