UT Austin to offer 2,100 classes online, limit class size to 40%

The University of Texas at Austin campus on March 23, 2016. Photo credit: Tamir Kalifa for The Texas Tribune

By Raga Justin, Texas Tribune

As many as 2,100 fall classes at the University of Texas at Austin will be taught exclusively online next semester, amounting to about 20% of all fall courses offered.

In a letter to the UT-Austin community announcing reopening updates, Interim Dean Jay Hartzell said these courses will be determined by faculty members who agree the quality of the course will remain up to scratch even remotely.

UT is navigating the return to campus next fall after the COVID-19 outbreak prompted a transition to remote learning midway through the spring. The school previously announced it would move 400 of its largest classes online. These will include remote lectures and the possibility of “in-person learning experiences” led by teaching assistants on campus. Any on-campus classes will run from August to Thanksgiving and then continue remotely in an effort to limit student travel.

Students who do not return to campus this fall can choose to take all their classes online. This remote-only option will have the same tuition rates as on-campus learning. To maintain social distancing, classrooms will limit capacity to 40%. Fall classes will be spread out and will take place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to reduce the number of students on-campus at any given time.

 

Hartzell also offered a long-awaited update on resuming fall sports. Student-athletes will be able to resume summer training and workouts on-campus beginning June 15, following a directive from the Big 12 Conference. Hartzell said student-athletes would undergo mandatory physicals, daily screening and COVID-19 safety education before participating in workouts.

Residence halls will reopen, though further guidance is still pending. And UT is still developing its face-covering policy for students, Hartzell said.

These guidelines mirror those of the Texas A&M University System’s reopening plan released last week. Officials said many A&M classes will be conducted according to the “hybrid” model, which alternates in-person and online instruction. A&M officials said residence halls would reopen, with students expected to maintain social distancing as much as possible and with designated spaces in residence halls for students to use as they quarantine themselves.

Universities are expected to take a major financial hit from closing campus in the spring. UT previously announced a hiring freeze, furloughs and possible layoffs to come as it grapples with the economic fallout of the pandemic.