Spring Semester 2021 Schedule (Changes, Etc.)

This Office of the Registrar webpage addresses specific topics and areas of change in preparation for Spring Semester 2021. These include the revised and updated Spring 2021 course schedule, the revised and updated Spring 2021 academic calendar, registration, classroom assignments, and classroom utilization, etc.

A history of Rice's academic changes due to COVID-19 can be viewed on the History of Academic Changes Due to Rice's COVID-19 Response page.

Table of Contents

Overview of Messaging

Academic Restart Committee (ARC), Provost, and President Messages

The Academic Restart Committee (ARC) and Provost DesRoches have provided guidelines for the academic activities at Rice. The emails that have thus far been sent to the community addressing these guidelines are linked below. (Some messages from last summer and fall are included below as newer messaging builds upon these messages.)

Office of the Registrar Messages to Department Schedulers Regarding Spring 2021

The Office of the Registrar (OTR) has sent the following emails to departmental schedulers about the Spring 2021 schedule:

Academic Calendar

The following decisions have been made regarding the Spring 2021 academic calendar:

  • The Course Schedule will be published no later than Thursday, November 12, 2020.
  • The Course Request Period will run Thursday, November 12, through Friday, December 4, 2020.
  • Instruction will begin on Monday, January 25, 2021.
  • The following "breaks" have been cancelled:
    • Spring Recess
    • Spring Break
  • The following days are designated as "Sprinkle Days," on which there are no scheduled classes:
    • Wednesday, February 17, 2021
    • Monday, March 1, 2021
    • Tuesday, March 16, 2021
    • Friday, March 26, 2021
    • Thursday, April 8, 2021
  • The Last Day of Classes and the End of Instruction is Friday, April 30, 2021
  • Study Days are Saturday, May 1, 2021, through Tuesday, May 4, 2021
  • Final Examinations will be held Wednesday May 5, 2021, through Wednesday May 12, 2021
  • Convocation will be held Friday, May 14, 2021, and Commencement will be held Saturday, May 15, 2021

FAQs about the Academic Calendar

Why is the semester starting several weeks later than normal?

The semester is starting several weeks later than normal out of the following concerns:

  • There is uncertainty about the future of COVID-19 cases as winter approaches; starting later provides an opportunity to get past any potential spikes and allows additional time to make changes to instructional materials.
  • Students, faculty, and staff have been under significant stress over the past summer and fall; this allows for some rest and breathing room for the Rice community.
What is a "Sprinkle Day"?

In lieu of the week-long spring break, Rice is implementing five individual weekdays without instruction for the wellbeing of the Rice Community. The phrase "Sprinkle Day" comes from the fact they are "sprinkled" throughout the semester and not all at one time.

Course Schedule

As a result of the changes to the academic calendar, and in particular, the starting of classes later than normal and compressing the spring semester, important contact time in classes would have been reduced. Combining this with the need to address new classroom space issues caused by physical distancing, it became clear that a number of changes needed to be made. The following measures are being put in place:

  • The standard time blocks have been reconfigured in order to provide a sufficiently large space and time to operate under the Rice physical distancing guidelines. The daily schedule will include 20 minutes in between meeting times in order to accommodate potentially longer walking distances between classes, allow for less congestion in halls and entrances/exits, and the sanitization of the immediate learning or teaching space by the students/instructor.
  • Class durations for most courses will be increased by 5 minutes per class in order to meet contact time requirements for Spring. This is already reflected in the new standard time blocks.
  • Courses with enrollment of 41 or greater as of Monday, December 14, 2020, will default to being offered online only; however, a number of instructors have expressed a desire to accommodate these larger classes and still preserve a significant in-person experience. For these courses, the instructor should make a request to their chair to offer the course in a dual delivery format utilizing a plan that caps individual in-person class meetings at 40 persons. If the chair agrees with the plan, and additionally has approval of the dean, the request should be forwarded to the Provost, who will then advise the Registrar. Such requests should be made as soon as possible.
  • Many dual delivery guidelines were put in place for Fall 2020, and they will continue to be the general operating principles; however, individual faculty will decide exactly how to deal with their specific course for dual delivery. Some of the suggestions may be useful for those teaching courses with smaller enrollments; however, teaching multiple sections of courses with 40 or fewer students which requires additional classroom resources will not be permitted.
  • Other than large classes that are moved only online, all courses normally assigned a room will be assigned a room so students can gather even if the instructor is present remotely in order to better facilitate student interactions.

What the Office of the Registrar (OTR) has Done

To assist in the new, updated Spring 2021 guideline implementation, the OTR has:

  • Created new standard time blocks for Spring 2021. These are available here.
  • Attempted to project the enrollment of Spring 2021 registration, to the course section level, for each and every course section. (To create this “projected enrollment” value, the OTR used various sources, and most specifically historical data from previous semesters, to begin analyzing possible room assignments earlier than normal.)

What Departments and Schools Need to Do

  • Review scheduling emails and deadlines (listed above and in emails to department schedulers) and submit appropriate changes by the deadlines.
  • Work with instructors to identify courses with enrollment of 41 or more students that may have opportunities to use alternative meetings so that in-person instruction can occur. As noted above, if a department chair agrees with the plan, and it has the approval of the dean, the request should be forwarded to the Provost, who will then advise the Registrar. Such requests should be made as soon as possible.

Courses Moving to Fully Online

Courses with enrollments of 41 or more on December 14, 2021, are, by guidance from the ARC, to be offered online.

If the actual or projected enrollment of a course is 41 or more, and the instructor desires to keep a significant in-person experience, the instructor should make a request to their chair to offer the course in dual format utilizing a plan that caps individual in-person class meetings at 40 persons. If the chair agrees with the plan, and it has the approval of the dean, the request should then be forwarded to the Provost, who will then advise the Registrar. Such requests should be made as soon as possible..

Otherwise, for all courses with enrollments of 41 or more as of December 14, 2021, OTR will change the instructional method for the course to "Online" and send notification to Rice Online that this has occurred.

Courses with enrollment of 40 or fewer students are expected to be delivered in-person with a dual delivery component. If for some reason a course with 40 or fewer students desires and is approved to move fully online, the department/instructor should attempt to make the change in CLSS like normal scheduling changes. If this is not possible due to registration or because students have "requested" the course during the Course Request Period then email Justin Schilke, Sr. Associate Registrar, and include:

  • Course subject code
  • Course number
  • Section number
  • CRN
  • Whether or not a classroom is still needed for students to meet in or if the class will be fully online

Courses Exempt from Dual Delivery (Face-to-Face Only)

A small number of courses have received approval to be offered only face-to-face/in person. To have this designation, such a request will need to be routed through the department chair and school dean. This information will then need to be sent to the Provost who will inform the Registrar of approval. Information on this was contained in Exceptions for Dual Delivery in the Spring (11/11/2020) sent to deans. (In some of the courses below, remote students may enroll but are required to be synchronously available for the course. Please contact the course instructor if you are a remote student wishing to take one of these courses.) Those courses will appear below once they are approved:

Please note that while these courses were approved to be offered face-to-face/in person only, departments may choose to move them to dual delivery.

Course Syllabi

In January 2012, Rice's Faculty Senate approved a student-initiated motion regarding syllabus standards and the required distributing of course syllabus information. Syllabi are normally required to be uploaded by the first day of classes. Uploading a syllabus will enable students to successfully "shop" for courses during the ADD/DROP period, and this is especially important for Spring 2021 because students will not have the same course "shopping" experience as they have had in the past. All students, even those not registered for the course, are able to view a syllabus that has been posted/archived within ESTHER.

Additional information regarding course syllabi can be found on the Course Syllabus page.

FAQs about the Course Schedule

If a course had 45 students enrolled on December 14, 2021, but it only has 35 students enrolled as of January 15, will it meet in person or be online?

Enrollment as of December 14, 2021, will be used by OTR to determine whether a course will move to be offered online. OTR will not be re-reviewing enrollments after this date. If changes need to be made, they should either be submitted in CLSS (if possible) or emailed to Justin Schilke, Sr. Associate Registrar.

How do I cancel a section?

A department scheduler may cancel a course in CourseLeaf CLSS by performing the following steps:

  1. Drop the maximum enrollment to the original section to zero.
  2. Contact the students to drop the course.
  3. If the students haven't dropped within a few days, contact us at registrar@rice.edu, and we'll administratively remove them.
  4. Cancel the original section of the course once all students have dropped by going in to CLSS and setting "Status = Cancelled" and submitting through workflow.
Must a course have more than 40 students to have an alternate attendance arrangement (e.g., half the students attend on Tuesday in person and the other half attend on Thursday in person)?

While courses with enrollment greater than 40 would normally be required to make alternate attendance plans to meet in person, courses with enrollments below 41 may do so as well. It is imperative that these decisions are relayed to OTR, however, because that will drive and assist classroom assignments.

I am teaching a course that has fewer than 41 students, but I would like it to be online only. What do I need to do?

Courses with enrollment of 40 or fewer students are expected to be delivered in-person with a dual delivery component. If for some reason a course with enrollment of 40 or fewer students desires and is approved to move fully online, the department/instructor should attempt to make the change in CLSS like normal scheduling changes. If this is not possible due to registration or because students have "requested" the course during the Course Request Period then email Justin Schilke, Sr. Associate Registrar, and include:

  • Course subject code
  • Course number
  • Section number
  • CRN
  • Whether or not a classroom is still needed for students to meet in or if the class will be fully online

Classroom Assignments

The OTR is in the process of assigning classrooms for Spring 2021 using projected enrollments for previous semesters until actual enrollment data for Spring 2021 is available. This process is significantly more challenging due to the reduced classroom capacities caused by physical distancing requirements. Because of this, it is extremely important that departments and schools review the course schedule information to i.) determine for each course whether an OTR-Scheduled or Department-Scheduled Room is needed and ii.) confirm whether the projected enrollment value is accurate. Failure to provide complete and accurate information may result in the OTR being unable to find a suitable classroom for the course.

FAQs about Classroom Assignments

When will room assignments be released?

The process of assigning classrooms is a long and tedious process. The OTR uses an electronic system "optimizer" tool but then manually reviews and adjusts based on other known variables. Our goal is to release classroom assignments in mid-January, approximately 1 to 2 weeks before the first day of classes.

What if the classroom I am assigned will not work for me or my class?

The supply of classrooms is severely limited due to physical distancing requirements and available technology. If your assigned classroom poses a significant problem, please email registrar@rice.edu and explain the issue and what you think can be done to rectify it. We will make every attempt to satisfy your need, but please keep in mind that it is possible that the assigned room may be the only option available.

If a course is being held online only, will an instructor teaching online be assigned a room?

Generally, no, a room will not be assigned. Should a room be needed for the instructor to give the presentation, use classroom technology, utilize a whiteboard, please email registrar@rice.edu, and we will find an appropriate room for what is needed from the available spaces.

Are the rooms going to be cleaned between classes? Who will be going to clean them?

While classrooms will be cleaned more frequently than normal by custodial staff, it is not possible for them to clean each room between classes. Rice will provide disinfectant wipes in each classroom to wipe down surfaces before the start of class and has extended the passing time between classes to 20 minutes in order to allow for this.

Additional information regarding cleaning and disinfectant procedures can be viewed in the message sent to the campus community by VP for Administration and Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee Kevin Kirby.

How do I know how many students can fit into a room?

The OTR and FE&P have determined the COVID-19 occupancy limits of the OTR-scheduled rooms, so you will not need to worry about these.

For any departmentally-scheduled rooms, you may contact Pat Dwyer, Executive Director for Space Management (pdwyer@rice.edu), for assistance in determining occupancy limits in those spaces.

In order to apply social distancing in classrooms, it will not be possible to use most of the chairs in each room. Will the unusable chairs be removed? In rooms with movable furniture, how will we know where chairs are supposed to be located in order to remain in compliance with social distancing measures?

To aid in maintaining social distancing restrictions, as well as to avoid having to pay to store several thousands of chairs, chairs will remain in classrooms wherever possible. Chairs that are not to be used will be marked as such. In rooms with movable chairs, the floor will be marked in order for everyone to know where the acceptable chairs need to be located.

Technology in Classrooms

The OTR is working with the Office of Information Technology (OIT) to properly equip classrooms with the technology needed for dual delivery. OIT is maintaining a Wiki page documenting the progress of the equipping of classrooms, and those can be viewed here.

Questions about classroom technology should be directed to teaching@rice.edu.

Please keep in mind that FERPA applies in this dual delivery setting. Please be sure to review information regarding FERPA and the FERPA FAQs prior to teaching in this dual delivery mode.