Fall 2020 Student Academic FAQ

As we prepare for the Fall 2020 semester, please find answers to some common questions under the following subject headings:

Last Updated: August 10, 2020

Instructional Mode

  • Which classes will be taught in person this fall, and which classes will be taught in a blended or hybrid format or wholly online?

    Since first-year students will be the only students living on campus, only classes for first-year students will be taught in person or hybrid, with limited exceptions for some graduate students. All other classes will now be taught online. Instructional modalities for all courses will be updated in Cardinal Students by Aug. 12.
  • Will first year students have the option to complete the entire semester remotely?

    Yes, first year students will have the ability to choose to complete the entire semester remotely.  If you decide to be remote, please submit this form and the Dean of Students Office will follow up with you directly.

  • Is there a cutoff for the size of an in person class?

    We will follow the DC regulations and CDC recommendations for group sizes.  For DC, that means we can have groups of 10 in Phase 1, groups of 50 in Phase 2, groups of 250 in Phase 3, and unlimited groups in Phase 4 (once a vaccine has been discovered).  DC is in Phase 2 and we will be able to have groups as large as 50 when we resume classes in August.  However, we also need to engage in social distancing in the classrooms, so a classroom that usually seats 40 will not be able to hold that number of students this fall.  Our classroom committee has developed new maximum capacity numbers for each classroom, so every class will abide by the number of students allowed in that classroom, but no class will be greater than 50 even if the space allows to adhere to DC Phase II guidance.  Classes larger than 50 will either be moved online or will have students on a scheduled rotation.
  • How and when will students be notified of the format of particular classes?

    Class modalities are being modified in Cardinal Students. We anticipate that they will be updated by August 12.  Room assignments may be changed over the next few weeks, so please check Cardinal Students before the semester begins.
  • If D.C. advances through the reopening phases during the semester, will the mode of instruction on campus be adjusted?

    To maintain consistency, the format of the course delivery, as documented on the syllabus, will remain the same throughout the semester.  We know DC may advance through the reopening phases, and we will be excited to welcome larger group activities on campus as that happens.  However, we will not then change the mode of delivery, as we believe we will still need to maintain social distancing in classrooms.
  • Conversely, if a second wave of COVID-19 were to arise, would instruction be moved online? Would students be asked to return home?

    We are all going to be monitoring the impact of COVID-19 as we move into and through the fall semester.  Our hope is that we can all stay together on campus and continue a mix of in person, blended, and online learning.  But, we will follow DC regulations and CDC guidance in making decisions, and if need be, we would continue instruction online so that everyone has the opportunity to complete the semester.
  • How will hands-on lab classes work?

    Because laboratories are high-touch spaces, the risk of disease transmission is higher than with other classrooms.  Laboratories will be taught wholly online when it is possible to do so. When laboratories require some on-campus instruction, they may be taught partially on-campus and partially online. When laboratories require fully on-campus instruction, students will be paired in two-person teams and will rotate between on-campus and online participation. For example, the on-campus student might be responsible for manipulating the lab equipment and explaining the procedure to their lab partner who is participating remotely via videoconferencing. The remote partner might be responsible for recording data and other forms of lab documentation.
  • If an instructor tests positive for COVID-19, would the class move online, or would the instructor Zoom in to the regular classroom on campus?

    The syllabus for each course will spell out a contingency plan that covers possible changes to the mode of instruction should the instructor be unable to teach in person.  If you have any questions about the implementation of the contingency plan, please contact the Associate Dean of your school.
  • If a student needs to self-quarantine or self-isolate, will it be possible to shift to online learning?

    Yes, students who need to quarantine or self-isolate can shift to online learning.  In fact, we would strongly encourage students to stay caught up with class content if physically able to participate remotely while quarantined or self-isolated.  One of the main reasons we are planning to use blended learning modalities is to allow students to take care of their health when needed.  We have updated technology in our classrooms to make this an easier process. Students will already be in contact with the Dean of Students deanofstudents@cua.edu office about their need to self-quarantine or self-isolate.  The Dean of Students office will notify instructors, CACS and faculty advisors, and if necessary, the academic dean.
  • How will academic support services be provided to students who are learning remotely temporarily while they quarantine or for the full semester?

    Students who are learning remotely either temporarily while they quarantine or self-isolate or for the full semester will have online access to the full range of academic resources and supports that are available to students; tutoring services, Writing Center appointments, Math Center appointments, and scheduled Academic Coaching meetings will all be conducted virtually.
  • How will office hours work?

    Office hours will be conducted primarily online. Please consult your course syllabus for instructions on how to meet with your instructor.


  • Will assignments be turned in online, in person, or both/either?

    Your instructor will specify policies with regard to turning in assignments with specific regard to safety, for example, to minimize the passing of papers from student to student. When in doubt, please consult your instructor.
  • How will comps be affected by the new safety measures?

    Comprehensive exams take many different forms across the university.  Written and oral comps will be administered virtually to comply with health and safety guidelines.  In very few special circumstances, they could be administered in person. For additional information on comps in your school, please contact your Department Chair or Associate Dean.


  • Will attendance policies be modified to encourage students to stay home if they feel ill or have been exposed?

    Students who feel ill should follow the policy spelled out in the syllabus about notifying their instructor of an absence. We need to care for each other as a community, so please exercise prudence if experiencing any symptoms of illness, and of course, please follow protocols if you need to self-quarantine because of exposure.

  • If a class is structured so that students attend on alternate days, will students who choose to attend remotely on an “in person” day be in violation of the attendance policy?  Conversely, will students who attend in person on a “remote” day be in violation of the attendance policy?

    Your instructor will spell out the attendance policy on the syllabus. In person attendance is an important aspect of learning and, as we have come to appreciate in a special way, a privilege. We ask students to adhere to their instructors’ attendance policies so as to maximize the in person interaction available in the class while protecting the safety of both the students and the instructor.
  • Will I still be able to receive accommodations if my classes are online or blended/hybrid?

    Yes! All students who present their faculty members with a current letter of accommodation will continue to receive approved accommodations no matter the format of the course (e.g. hybrid, online, blended). DSS will continue to work with faculty to ensure that accommodations are met, including testing accommodations in all class formats. If faculty or students have questions or concerns about accommodations, please contact DSS immediately. Please see DSS's FAQ for further information.
  • If instruction is blended, will students be required to bring laptops to class?

    Your instructor will spell out policies regarding technology use on the syllabus. Please feel free to reach out to your instructor before the class starts if you have any questions.
  • If students are taking classes remotely, will there be sufficient capacity in computer labs to support students who don’t own laptops?

    Computer labs will be open 24/7 at 50% capacity to allow for social distancing.
  • Will students who are learning remotely be required to turn their cameras on?

    We have learned that virtual participation in classes is greatly enhanced when students’ faces are visible. Your instructor (and your fellow students!) are excited to see you! Students should expect to have their cameras on during class, but instructors should also take special circumstances into account, including connectivity issues or other technical difficulties, and make allowances for the need to turn the camera off temporarily.
  • If students elect to take classes closer to home for a semester, will the university be more lenient about transferring credits?

    If students take a Leave of Absence for the semester and wish to take classes at another university or college to transfer back to Catholic University, they should consult the Transfer of Credit policies and email cua-transfercredit@cua.edu for more information.  We will make an exception for spring and summer 2020 classes to accept transfer credit courses graded on a pass/fail basis, and we will monitor the situation to determine if we should extend this consideration for courses taken during the fall 2020 semester.

Academic Calendar and Class Schedules

  • How will the academic calendar be adjusted in response to COVID-19?

    Classes are starting one week earlier, on August 24, and will end one week earlier, on December 5, followed by final exams on Dec. 7 and Dec. 9 to 12.  After Thanksgiving, there will be one week of virtual classes, and all exams will be virtual.  The Academic Calendar will have an Administrative Monday, on Oct. 13.  The Academic Calendar has been adjusted with revised dates for add/drop, midterms, withdrawing from classes, etc. to accommodate the earlier start date.
  • Will the date of Orientation also be adjusted? What about Take Flight?

    Orientation for undergraduate students will begin on Thursday, Aug. 20.  The Take Flight program will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 19. Full details are available here.
  • Will there be instruction after Thanksgiving, or just exams?

    According to the revised Academic Calendar, after Thanksgiving there will be one week of instruction followed by exams. Specifically, the last date of in-person instruction will be November 24.  The last day of classes will be December 5.  Finals will be held December 7 and December 9 to 12. 
  • Will the length of classes be adjusted to shorten exposure time to other students or, conversely, lengthened to reduce the number of different people who use the same space in the course of a day?

    At this point, there is no plan to change the daily schedule. Classes will meet at their normally scheduled times.  We are making classroom decisions where possible to reduce the number of people who use the same space over the course of the day. For instance, the Learning Communities will all be assigned to the same room for their classes so they are in the same space each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:10 to 11.
  • Will classes meet on Saturdays?

    At this point, no additional Saturday sessions are being added to the Academic Calendar.  However, it is possible that an instructor could ask their class to meet on a Saturday if it is helpful (for instance, an extra in person session of a lab class that needs to meet in person rather than virtually could be held on a Saturday in place of a virtual meeting after Thanksgiving).  If instructors plan to do this, they should communicate the dates to their class as soon as possible with advance notice.  They should not penalize students who are not able to attend due to work or athletics.

Academic Services

  • Will the library be open on a regular schedule?

    We are planning for Mullen Library to be open during the fall semester with a reduced schedule and with limited onsite services. 
  • Will occupancy of the library be capped at a certain number?

    Seating will be greatly reduced in Mullen Library. At this time we do not anticipate needing to enforce a fixed occupancy limit, however, in conversation with Facilities, we continue to explore options to ensure safe physical distancing. In order to support those unable to come into Mullen through the fall semester, we are planning to continue: curbside pickup of materials, digitization of print materials on demand, and online instruction & research consultations.
  • Will computer labs be open on a regular schedule?

    The public computing in Leahy Hall will be open on its normal schedule, which is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Staff will be on-site and available to assist users with issues between 9 AM and 5PM Monday through Friday.
  • Will the occupancy of computer labs be capped at a certain number?

    Seating in computer labs will be limited to 50% of normal capacity due to the need for social distancing.
  • How will academic support services be modified to accommodate social distancing?

    All academic support services provided by the Writing Center, Tutoring Services, and the Math Center will be conducted virtually using Google Meet and/or Zoom.  If you have any questions, you can email the Writing Center (cua-writingcenter@cua.edu) or Tutoring Services (cua-tutoring@cua.edu) or call 202-319-5655.
  • Will the Writing Center, the Tutoring Center, and the Math Center be open on a regular schedule?

    The Writing Center, the Tutoring Center, and the Math Center will be operating on a regular schedule, however, the shift to virtual services may afford greater flexibility in scheduling to meet student needs.  Typical hours of operation can be found on the CACS website (success.catholic.edu), but students should work with their tutors if greater flexibility in scheduling is necessary.
  • Will the Center for Academic and Career Success be open on a regular schedule?

    The Center for Academic and Career Success will be operating on a regular schedule; operating hours are from 9am to 5pm, though some advisors and academic coaches may schedule appointments off typical hours upon request. All appointments will be virtual.
  • How will advising be modified to accommodate social distancing?

    All advising, academic coaching, and other CACS appointments will be conducted virtually using Google Meet and/or Zoom.  Any student who is unable to attend a virtual session for any reason should contact the CACS office at success@cua.edu or 202-319-6262.  If needed, in-person meetings will be held in larger but private spaces so that attendees can accommodate social distancing.

Disability Support

Disability Support Services has created FAQs for Fall 2020 which can be viewed at DSS Update.

Study Abroad

  • Will fall 2020 study abroad programs proceed?

    Study abroad programs for fall 2020 have been suspended. Students who were planning to study abroad in fall 2020 should contact their Center for Academic Success or Faculty Advisor to discuss their plans for the semester.  They should contact the Center for Global Strategies for information on studying abroad in the spring 2021 semester.
  • Should students who are interested in studying abroad in spring 2021 still apply to do so?

    Study abroad during the spring 2021 semester will be limited to the Catholic University Rome Center for most students. As administrator of the Rome program, the University has greater control over the academics, health and safety, and overall pandemic response. Focusing our efforts on the Rome Center will provide stability and allow for a unified response to changing circumstances. Students whose academics are not compatible with study abroad in Rome may submit a petition to the Office of Education Abroad to attend another affiliated exchange program. More information is available on the Office of Education Abroad website.

Safety Concerns

  • How is the safe capacity of classrooms being determined?

    The University Classrooms Committee is developing a plan that will be submitted to the District of Columbia for approval. They have been using the diagrams, to scale, of each classroom to determine maximum density that would allow students to be 6 feet apart from each other.  The committee has also been evaluating the furniture in rooms where the furniture is not built in to determine if different furniture would be better given the current conditions.  Further evaluations include the use of other barriers that could be put into classrooms to allow additional separation between instructor and students, with a particular focus on how to address this issue in classes in the performing arts and classes that use studio spaces.
  • Will seating arrangements in class be fixed?

    Assigned seating in classes will greatly simplify contact tracing if necessary. 
  • Will it be possible to set up some classes outside, at least at the start of the semester?

    We will not be assigning any classes to meet outdoors.  However, as in a usual semester, instructors always have the option of bringing their class to meet outside if the students in the class agree. 
  • Will faculty and/or students be supplied with face coverings at the start of the semester?

    Yes, the plan is to supply faculty and students with cloth face coverings. The design of these face coverings is to make them easy to wear.  Student Affairs will be ordering face coverings for students to receive upon their return to campus.
  • Will extra face coverings be supplied to instructors for students who come to class without a face covering?

    Facilities will be providing extra face coverings which will be accessible in each building so that instructors can offer to supply a student with one if needed.
  • Will classrooms be cleaned in between classes?

    Custodial Services is expanding cleaning capacity by contracting out overnight routine cleaning functions with the aspiration of cleaning all classrooms between classes.  The contracted services will enable a reallocation of custodial staff to shift resources during classroom instruction times.
  • How will class materials be handled? For example, will paper handouts be discouraged or banned?

    Policies with regard to class materials will be spelled out by your instructor. For example, an instructor might require you to print your own materials to avoid the need to distribute them in class. Instructors will take steps to avoid passing around paper from student to student.  When in doubt, consult your instructor.