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Academic Planning Update for Summer and Fall

March 10, 2021

Dear Faculty, Academic Staff, and Academic Advisors:

As a follow-up to President Stanley’s message earlier today, I want to share some early operational details as we work toward more in-person engagement. As more information and details become available, we will continue to share updates.

Please note that the medical and professional colleges operate under differing schedules, capacities, and needs in regard to student experiences, and students in those colleges should refer to their college-specific points of contact to learn more, as planning progresses.

In-Person and Online Classes for Summer 2021

Typically about 60% of MSU’s summer course offerings are online, but last summer all of our classes were offered online. For summer 2021, we would like to fall somewhere in the middle. As academic units make their requests for summer supplementary instructional funds, we ask that they prioritize the in-person classes that are typically in highest demand in the summer, as well as laboratory, performance, and studio classes that were not offered in as high of numbers over the last three semesters.

In-Person and Online Classes for Fall 2021

We are planning for about 75% of our fall undergraduate classes to have an in-person component. MSU is and always will be a residential university, and in-person instruction should continue to constitute the majority of our class offerings. There will likely be some lingering effects of the pandemic in the fall, so we will need to take advantage of our online instructional capacities to reduce density in classrooms. Additionally, we have learned during the pandemic that students benefit from, and in some cases prefer, online course offerings. Knowing this, we should leverage our new capabilities to offer more of our courses online. Similarly, graduate and graduate-professional instruction should be configured to best support the educational missions of their programs.

The Library Will Fully Open for Graduate and Faculty Work and Student Studies
MSU Libraries has maintained all of its services, either in-person or remotely, and provided open hours for scholarship and studies during this remote timeframe. As we return to campus, this center of our intellectual work will have all of its spaces open.

International Students and Travel

International Studies and Programs will be sending a targeted communication to international students with information specific to their circumstances shortly.

Changes to any travel restrictions in place will be reflected in updates to the International Travel website that offers guidance to prospective travelers and their units and colleges.

100+ Seat Classes in Fall 2021

Given our expectation that some physical distancing requirements will still be in effect at the start of fall semester, we will need to reduce the density within our classrooms, especially in large lecture courses. I have asked the colleges to change teaching modes for all 100+ seat undergraduate courses to either online, hybrid, or hyflex to reduce the number of people in classrooms to below 100 at any one time. This, combined with masking and shifting some classes into larger rooms, will allow us some degree of physical distancing without substantially altering the opportunities for students and faculty to meet in-person for most of their classes.

The associate deans for undergraduate education in each college are leading the effort to create a document that will be shared with all instructors of 100+ seat classes to help them transition large classes to teaching modes that keep in-person meetings at less than 100. The document will offer models for hybrid and hyflex instructional modes that will be useful in thinking about their fall classes. We will need all instructors of undergraduate 100+ seat classes to identify how they will do that before the end of March, so that all instructional mode changes can be put into the system before students start registering in early April.

Prioritizing In-Person Classes for First- and Second-Year Undergraduate Students

Last year, before we pivoted to online instruction for fall semester, we found that the vast majority of classes in which first-year students were registered were entirely online. In fact, about 91% of the seats filled by first-year students were remote. This is not surprising given that most of the classes in which first-year students enroll are larger classes, and we had moved all large courses online in response to the pandemic.

For fall 2021, we want to prioritize in-person learning experiences for first- and second-year students so that they have as many opportunities for in-person learning as their upper-division peers. As instructors and academic units are thinking about the balance of in-person and online learning experiences across their curricula, I ask that they balance online, hybrid, and course offerings so that all students have similar access to in-person and online courses.

Youth Programing During Summer and Fall 2021

With careful consideration of the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, the availability of campus support and resources for mitigating and responding to COVID-19 transmission, and the implications for both campus and surrounding communities, MSU youth programs and departments hosting external groups on campus are advised to not operate either on campus or away from campus through in-person instruction and should continue to operate through remote and virtual interactions. Limited day camps may occur, such as those that are primarily outdoors and are able to adhere to safety protocols.

As we look to the future and consider a timeline for a return to in-person operations, we look forward to revisiting this discussion following a safe return for MSU students, faculty, and staff. After this safe return has been accomplished, we will assess the potential of in-person programs during Spring 2022. For more information, please review this additional guidance for engaging with partners and public events. Specific details on MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development programming, Residential Summer Bridge, Transition, and Learning Community programs, and programs hosted by MSU Intercollegiate Athletics can be found here. Further guidance on community-based activities will be forthcoming.

Return-to-Work Framework for Units

Employees who are working remotely should continue to do so for the spring semester, in accordance with direction from your supervisor. For administrative and academic functions that are deemed necessary to return to campus, a framework has been created to help guide you through this process. Units must review and respond to this framework, which guides what steps need to be taken before bringing employees back to campus.

As a reminder, processes for requesting temporary accommodations, flexible work arrangements, and teaching adjustments have been created. MSU Human Resources will continue to provide additional guidance on a safe return to campus as details become available. Updated information will also be shared on the Together We Will website, under the Faculty & Staff page, and on the Keep MSU Working area of the MSU Guide to Remote Access website.


Our hopes and plans for the fall are to return to full in-person operation on campus: full residence halls, robust offerings of in-person learning experiences, and a return to a much more typical teaching, learning, and working experience for our students, faculty, and staff. These plans will be shared within units and across appropriate audiences as details develop and as the pandemic recedes. Doubtlessly, there will be some lingering effects of the pandemic as we head into fall, but I expect we will be together again, living, learning, advising, teaching, and researching on campus.

Again, I thank each and every one of you for your continued support and flexibility, and your ongoing commitment to student success, and to researching, writing, and performing on campus. There will be more information to come as together we make plans for the coming academic sessions.

My best,

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
MSU Foundation Professor