Spring 2021 Student Academic FAQ

For the Spring 2021 semester, please find answers to some common questions under the following subject headings:

Last Updated: May 18, 2021

Instructional Mode

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

    Students should refer to the course modality in Cardinal Students to see how their classes will be delivered.  For classes listed as in person, the instructor is planning to have students in the classroom.  It might not be possible to participate remotely in those classes for the entire semester.
  • Will students have the option to complete the entire spring or summer term remotely?

    Yes, students will have the ability to choose to complete the entire semester remotely.  If you decide to be remote, please submit this form (for summer 2021) and the Dean of Students Office will follow up with you directly.  Please note that it might not be possible to take classes designated as in person while studying remotely for the entire semester.

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

    We are following the DC regulations and CDC recommendations for group sizes and social distancing.  Classes larger than 50 and those classes that exceed the room capacity will either be moved online or will have students on a scheduled rotation.
  • How will students know the format of particular classes?

    Class modalities are listed in Cardinal Students.  Room assignments may be changed over the first few weeks of the spring semester, so please check Cardinal Students before in person classes start.
  • If another wave of COVID-19 were to arise or if the rates in DC continue to get worse, would instruction be moved online? Would students be asked to return home?

    We are going to be monitoring the impact of COVID-19 as we move into and through the spring semester.  We will continue to follow DC regulations and CDC guidance in making decisions and will communicate if there are any changes to the spring plans.  As needed, we will move classes online for 2 week periods of time as we did in the fall.
  • How will hands-on lab classes work?

    Because laboratories are high-touch spaces with the possibility of closer contact, the risk of disease transmission is higher than with other classrooms.  Laboratories in some cases may be taught wholly online. 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 understand that students may not be able to use their camera for a variety of reasons.  If you have challenges with using your camera, you should plan to have a private discussion with your instructor.
  • 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.

Academic Calendar and Class Schedules

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

    Classes are starting later than originally planned, on January 25, with the drop/add period ending on February 4. In addition, all classes will be taught remotely for the first two weeks of the semester due to the plan that students self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in the District of Columbia. Easter break has been shortened on the Academic Calendar to Good Friday only.
  • Will the date of Orientation also be adjusted?

    For students joining us this January, there will be a virtual orientation starting on January 24th.  You should have received an email about it from the Orientation Team.
  • 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?

    There is no plan to change the daily schedule.

Academic Services

  • What if I need a spot on campus for an online class?

    We have heard that when in-person classes begin, some off-campus students are in need of a space to take classes on campus when they have back-to-back in-person and online classes without enough time to commute to their off campus residence.  

    We have determined that the following options will be available for students to use for this purpose:
    • Library:  You can reserve a study spot at the library using this link
    • Computer Labs:  You can use a spot at one of Computer Labs
    • Murphy’s:  You can use a space in Murphy’s Grill (lower level) for classes M-F 8am-8pm, and space in Murphy’s Lounge (upper level) for study space (with no expectation of quiet)
    • Classrooms:  You will be able to sign up to use some classroom space in the coming weeks as we determine which rooms are available for this purpose. Students should not use a classroom without formally signing up for it, as the registrar is working closely with facilities to ensure all occupied rooms are cleaned between uses. 
    Also, you can check with your academic dean’s office to see if there is a spot in your building that you can use.

    Whichever space you plan to use, please bring headphones or earbuds.
  • Will the library be open on a regular schedule?

    Mullen Library will begin the spring semester with the same reduced schedule and limited onsite services as the fall semester. As student hiring and safety conditions allow, the aim will be to increase hours and services. Please see the Libraries COVID-19 Information Guide for the most up-to-date information.
  • Will occupancy of the library be capped at a certain number?

    Reservations are required to enter Mullen Library. In order to support those unable to come into Mullen, we are planning to continue: pickup of materials, shipping materials to remote patrons, digitization of print materials on demand, and online instruction and 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 5 PM 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 Spring 2021 which can be viewed at DSS Update.

Safety Concerns

  • How has the safe capacity of classrooms been determined?

    The University Classrooms Committee developed a plan that was approved by the District of Columbia. They used diagrams, to scale, of each classroom to determine maximum density that would allow students to be 6 feet apart from each other.  The committee also evaluated the furniture in rooms where the furniture is not built in to determine if different furniture was better given the current conditions.  Further modifications included the use of other barriers 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?

    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 face coverings.  Clear face coverings are available for students and instructors throughout the semester as needed.
  • 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 has expanded cleaning capacity by contracting out overnight routine cleaning functions with the aspiration of cleaning all classrooms between classes.  The contracted services has enabled 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.