June 18, 2020  |  News & Events, Timely Announcements

Dear colleagues,

This is a follow-up email on the Chancellor’s message yesterday regarding our fall planning with more detail on our planning for instruction. While the scenario plan for the fall incorporates face-to-face teaching, it will still be mainly online, given the social distancing constraints and limited classroom space. Here are some key points about the fall plans.

  1. Social distancing will place enormous constraints on the way that we use classrooms. Depending on the configuration, the capacity of classrooms will drop 3-10 fold. As a result, almost none of the current classroom assignments in the fall schedule would work for the fall.
  2. CDC and other guidance limits us to no more than 50 in a classroom independent of its size.
  3. These factors will push the instruction to be mostly online in the fall. All large classes >100 and most mid-sized (50-100) will be online (the exceptions being courses that wish to be face-to-face and adopt the hybrid approach below). Courses with less than 50 can potentially be face-to-face (see draft process outlined below).
  4. In a practical sense, instead of identifying courses to move online, we will start by assuming that everything will be online and then identify courses that units want to have face-to-face. These courses will be forwarded to a prioritization work group who will work with the registrar’s office to try to find a suitable classroom. We want to get this work done asap.
  5. We will encourage using hybrid teaching methods, especially a “flipped” classroom concept where classes are split in half and each half meets just once a week with the instructor for active or other face-to-face learning. The rest of the content is delivered online.  Why are we advocating this approach? We have many classrooms that fit 15 students under social distancing constraints, but very few (a couple dozen at UWM) that can fit 20-30 (our most common class size). By splitting the classes, we more than triple the number of classrooms suitable for face-to-face instruction in our most common-sized courses.
  6. For courses taught in unit-held spaces like labs and studios, the units will have to develop plans for those classes, deciding to offer them online or creating a strategy that allows social distancing in those rooms. This will be very challenging to accomplish in a reasonable way for high-enrollment 100-level lab or studio courses, but more practical for smaller upper-division lab or studio courses. University Safety and Assurances can help on those plans. Note that instructors teaching face-to-face courses with hands-on components should strive to complete those activities by Thanksgiving break, in case we need to go online for the remainder of the semester.
  7. Information on designating courses to be face-to-face will be coming out soon. I’ll be asking the deans which courses units would like to have face-to-face, whether the course is in a general assignment or unit-held space, and whether the instructor is willing to adopt the flipped classroom hybrid approach described above (this will make it more likely that a classroom could be found for the course). Other courses would be delivered online and for those, the request would ask if they need to retain their scheduled time or would operate like our traditional online courses with no time assignment.
  8. We are developing the fee structure for the fall, but the plan as I know it will have the same cost to students for online or face-to-face courses.
  9. UWM cares about all of our faculty and staff, and their safety, and intends to make decisions with respect to staffing in the most supportive way possible, while also trying to accommodate needs of students to learn effectively. Program leads will have the opportunity to take into account the needs of faculty and staff, as well as students, in making instructional assignments.
  10. I have charged a Space Planning group, led by Scott Gronert, to implement the SPWG space recommendations. Diane Reddy will lead a subgroup focusing on space prioritization, following the criteria outlined in the report.

More detail on planning strategies is available at

In addition, we have launched a  Fall 2020 Reopening website with updates, FAQs organized by topic and a feature to submit questions.

Take care,


Johannes Britz
Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs


Message sent from Provost Britz to Faculty and Academic Staff on June 18, 2020