Guidance for fall 2021

Updated May 20, 2021

Default mode of instruction

With the recent University of California announcement of a likely vaccine mandate for students, staff, faculty and academic appointees, the widespread availability of vaccines, and steadily improving local conditions, we have made the decision to begin in-person instruction at the start of the fall semester (for most programs, Aug. 25, 2021) rather than observing a seven-day period of remote instruction as previously announced. This decision is in line with most University of California campuses.

All instructors, including senate faculty, lecturers, and Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs), are expected to deliver their classes in-person, on campus as the primary method of delivery. Courses approved by COCI for Online or web based delivery may be offered in their approved format with no additional exception or notification required.

Approvable exceptions to in-person instruction

There are a few exceptions, as follows, to the default in-person modality:

Large courses

Instructors of classes with 200 or more students enrolled are asked to deliver these sections of the course remotely (these are often but not exclusively lecture sections).

Discussions and labs associated with classes that have 200+ enrollments should, when possible, be offered with both remote and in-person sections available. Students unable to return to campus may enroll in remote sections. The specifics of which sections and how many should be delivered remotely may be decided by the academic department. Departments are asked to be particularly mindful of international students in different time zones when determining the schedule for remote sections.

Instructor accommodations

Instructors who require an accommodation related to a medical condition or disability.

  • See the Berkeley Accommodation Process for Academic Appointees with Disabilities for details on the process.
  • The instructor must provide medical documentation as part of this process; this documentation helps identify necessary accommodations but does disclose medical condition or other personal medical history.
  • Accommodations are based upon individual assessment and individual solutions, and may be temporary or ongoing.
  • GSIs may request accommodations through the process above if the concerns are related to their employment as GSIs. They may also request accommodations related to their student status and academic work by contacting the Disabled Students Program.

Pedagogical reasons

Instructors of classes with a pedagogical need to teach remotely, based on public health requirements associated with in-person teaching (examples include courses in which a face covering is a serious impediment to instruction, such as introductory foreign language, or courses in which enrollment is heavily international.)

  • Instructors who wish to petition to teach remotely for a pedagogical need should work with their department chairs or professional school deans. Details of this exception process can be found here.

Caring for family members

Ladder-rank faculty and teaching professors (LSOE) are eligible for Temporary Workload Modification (TWM), which allows a faculty member to remain on full-time status and modify their workload while managing significant care responsibilities for a family member experiencing a serious health condition. Modifications may include remote teaching. Details of this Berkeley-specific policy can be found here: Leaves and Workload Modifications for Ladder-Rank Faculty.

Emeriti-taught and student-facilitated courses

When possible, we encourage department chairs to provide Emeriti teaching freshman/sophomore seminars the opportunity to teach remotely upon their request for Fall 2021. This exception has been communicated with the Emeriti Association. Student-facilitated courses (e.g., deCal courses) can be approved for remote instruction for Fall 2021 with faculty sponsor consent and chair approval.

Unapprovable exceptions to in-person instruction

Instructor location outside Berkeley

Faculty are expected to be in residence, according to the Academic Personnel Manual, unless they are on approved leave. Wishing to reside elsewhere is not a legitimate basis for an exception to in-person teaching. Newly hired faculty can contact OFEW for relocation assistance.

In the rare case that travel or immigration restrictions impede faculty from entering the United States, they should contact Benjamin Hermalin, Vice Provost for the Faculty, at

International students who are also GSIs should make every attempt to come to the U.S. in order to fulfill their roles. Those who may be unable to reenter the United States by August 2021 should consult their department or school, and the Berkeley International Office to evaluate options.

Concerns about classroom ventilation or potential virus transmission

Instructors, staff, and students alike have questions and concerns about returning to campus and what that means for them and their families. Though these concerns are understandable, they are not a basis for approving an exception to Fall 21 in-person instruction at this time. The current plan to return to in-person instruction in Fall 21 assumes that a high percentage of our campus community will be fully vaccinated, and that COVID-19 positive cases resulting from surveillance testing will be low. Under these conditions, we will largely return to pre-pandemic use of campus spaces.

Family care responsibilities

Instructors, staff, and students alike have questions and concerns about whether preK-12 schools will be fully open in the fall. Though these concerns are very real and understandable, the potential need to provide childcare during the day is not a basis for approving an exception to Fall 2021 in-person instruction at this time. Conditions may of course change, but as of now, we expect schools, daycares, senior-care centers, and similar programs to be open and at normal capacity by the start of the fall semester. The Interim COVID-Related Dependent Care Modified Duties (DCMD) program for faculty allows for some duty modification related to providing dependent care, but the list of possible modifications does not include remote teaching.

Deadline(s) to request exceptions

Instructors should submit requests for exceptions to in-person instruction as soon as possible. Phase 1 enrollment began on Monday, April 26, 2021. Instructors who request and are granted exceptions to in-person instruction after April 26, 2021 will be responsible for communicating any change in class delivery to any students enrolled in or waitlisted for the class.

Instructors who request an exception to in-person instruction on or after Friday July 9, 2021 may be subject to an additional process for consideration.

Details of the exception process can be found here: Fall 2021 Exception to In-person Instruction: Process

Temporary shifts to remote instruction

While the Fall 2021 default mode of instruction for the campus is in-person, we anticipate there may be occasions when a shift back to remote teaching may be required, either for specific courses or for the campus as a whole. Reasons could include additional COVID-19 related quarantines, poor air quality due to fires, power outages, etc. Instructors are encouraged to continue to plan for instructional resilience by making use of tools and trainings available from Research, Teaching and Learning.

To prepare for all of the above possibilities, instructors are encouraged to include details in their syllabi of how their class will shift to remote delivery if needed, how the change will be communicated to students, and what students will need to access the remote class sections (e.g., bCourses, Zoom, etc.)

Note on midterms and final exams

Students should have access to midterm and final exams in the same method of delivery that they are enrolled in the class. In-person classes should plan to offer in-person exams; remote classes should plan to offer remote exams. Classes with multiple sections, including in-person and remote enrollments should plan to offer exams in-person to the greatest extent possible with options for those students who are unable to participate in person.

There may be an option for instructors to schedule in-person exams for remote class sections, to be taken by students who live on or near campus and wish to take exams in-person. More details about the possibility of reserving space for in-person exams will be forthcoming from the Office of the Registrar.

Instruction in course capture classrooms for remote access to students

Some students will be unable to return to campus in the Fall semester, and we have heard clearly from these students that their biggest concern is whether they can enroll in remote sections. Research, Teaching, and Learning (RTL) has increased the number of course capture enabled classrooms and offers support for instructors and students getting started, RTL can also provide troubleshooting for course capture. Instructors of classes scheduled in course-capture-enabled classrooms can request that their sessions be automatically recorded. Recorded session videos will appear on the instructor’s Media Gallery tab in bCourses within two hours after the session, and then can be published for student access within bCourses. RTL’s Keep Teaching website has additional information about support and services for recording asynchronous lectures.

Instructors who wish to teach in a course capture classroom in order to provide asynchronous remote access to students who cannot return to campus should contact department schedulers, and consult the Educational Technology Services Classroom Database.

Required secondary sections associated with these lectures will also require a remote section option.

Instructors are encouraged to list the availability of a remote section in their syllabus or communicate this to students as early as possible.


Questions about these guidelines can be directed to the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost.