Instruction FAQ

Spring 2021 Instruction Frequently Asked Questions for Students

UC Berkeley has provided the following information so students can decide what is right for them based on their circumstances, preferences, goals, and personal judgments of risk. We encourage you to also reach out to your college or major academic advisor. We will review this page regularly to ensure it contains the most up-to-date information. We are committed to providing you with the highest quality educational experience and will do everything possible to support your progress toward a UC Berkeley degree. 

The following answers reflect the most current plans for Spring 2021 instruction. The Fall 2020 FAQ is archived here.  

Questions and answers were compiled by members of the Academic Senate’s Committee on Courses of Instruction and the Office of the Registrar. Additional questions and answers will be added. If your question is not listed here, please submit it using this form

Information on additional topics is available on the Student Affairs FAQ and the Graduate Student FAQ.

Last updated 10/22/2020


In-person Classes

What classes will be prioritized for in-person instruction in Spring 2021 if public health conditions permit?
Will research and independent study units be approved for in-person or flexible instruction?
Will students be required to take in-person classes or be present on campus?
Will every in-person class be required to offer a remote option?  

Remote Learning and Online Learning

What types of classes will be offered remotely?
What is the difference between online (web-based) classes and remote classes?
Can I enroll as a full-time student even if I am not comfortable coming to campus?
Is it possible for new and continuing international students to enroll from abroad?
If a class is remote and not limited by physical space, why is there an enrollment limit and a waitlist?
How will the plans for Spring 2021 instruction affect DeCal courses?
Will Semester in the Cloud classes be offered in Spring 2021?

Class Search and Enrollment

What is “mode of instruction”?
How can I use the schedule to find classes that may be offered in person, should public health conditions allow? 
How can I determine the mode of instruction for a particular class before enrolling?
Why is it important that I review the mode of instruction for both lecture and discussion/lab for my courses?
Where can I find the class notes that provide more detail?
Why are there no room assignments on most classes?
What does it mean for a course room to be "requested general assignment?"
Are Instructors expected to follow “Berkeley Time”?

Synchronous/Asynchronous Instruction

What is the definition of synchronous and asynchronous?
If instruction is asynchronous, are we allowed to take time-conflict classes?
What is the difference between "asynchronous classes" and "time conflict enrollment allowed"?
How will courses support students in different time zones?
What happens if a class was originally designated as one mode of instruction but then changed to another? Will the department/instructor notify the student after a student enrolls/waitlists for the class?

bCourses/Course Capture and Recordings/Final Exams

If I am waitlisted for an online class will I have bCourses access to it at the start of the semester or will I have to wait until I'm officially enrolled in the class?  
When will students have access to a course’s bCourse site?
Will lectures be recorded?
Where can I find recordings of lectures?
Can I share recorded lectures, and other course materials, with people outside of the class?
Will my final exam be proctored?
How will final exam scheduling work with courses that are offered through asynchronous instruction?

General Questions: Non-Instruction

Will books for courses be available through the library online?
Will there be changes to the Academic Calendar?  
How can students build relationships with instructors for letters of recommendation, etc.?
Will my fees and tuition change if I take classes remotely?
Can a student take time off in spring semester without penalty?
If a continuing student chooses to cancel (before instruction) Spring 2021, do they need to apply for readmission for Fall 2021 and/or pay the fee?
What is the plan for clubs and student organizations?
What if I don't have the hardware or internet connection I need to engage in online classes?
Are basic needs services and support provided through this extended remote setting?
If students need to take a lighter load due to COVID-related circumstances, will it take them longer to graduate?
I plan on enrolling for an in-person class in Spring 2021. Do I have to get a flu shot to be on campus?
I plan on enrolling for an in-person class in Spring 2021. Do I have to get a COVID-19 test to be on campus?


In-person Classes

What classes will be prioritized for in-person instruction in Spring 2021 if public health conditions permit?
  • In the event that public health conditions allow for some in-person instruction, campus leaders are in the process of identifying a limited number of classes that would be prioritized for in-person instruction. Classes that are being considered would fall into one of the following categories, in descending order of priority: 
    • Instructional activities such as clinics and clinical field placements for which a remote instruction alternative is simply not feasible. These courses will be canceled if an in-person option is not approved by the Berkeley Public Health Officer.  
    • Instructional activities that, by their pedagogical nature (e.g., labs, studios, performance, fieldwork), are significantly preferable to offer in-person or partially in-person if possible. 
    • Instructional activities that, if offered in-person, would substantially contribute to cohort-building for entering students (e.g., freshman/sophomore seminars, first-year cohort-building courses for graduate students), to academic engagement for students who are underrepresented on campus, or are capstone courses for seniors.
    • In-person classes will be restricted to no more than 25 students, as dictated by factors including public health guidance and our own building density guidelines. 
Will research and independent study units be approved for in-person or flexible instruction?
  • Departments have been given blanket approval to offer the following course numbers as in-person, flexible, or remote assuming they are scheduled in departmental space and are for research: 99, 194H, 199, 295, 298, and 299 (or equivalent).
  • International graduate students should reach out to their graduate student advisors for more information about enrolling in one of these options.
Will students be required to take in-person classes or be present on campus?
  • Students will NOT be required to take in-person classes or be present on campus for the spring semester. Almost all academic offerings, including those with in-person instructional activities, will also be delivered remotely. 
  • Courses that will be offered in-person if public health conditions allow will have remote alternatives so that students can continue to make academic progress.
  • International students with questions about their visa conditions may view the latest guidance from Berkeley International Office on their COVID-19 Updates website.
  • Students who require disability-related accommodations for classes, whether online or in person, should contact the Disabled Students’ Program. DSP resources relating to COVID-19 can be found here.
Will every in-person class be required to offer a remote option?  
  • Courses that are coded as “in person” will meet completely or primarily in person, and physical attendance on campus is expected. However, a remote alternative will exist to ensure that no student is prevented from making academic progress. Departments will decide what other courses are acceptable alternatives. For example, the remote alternative may be a different class that is being taught remotely and meets the same major requirement.
  • If a student is unable to participate in person, or the course needed is cancelled, the student should contact their undergraduate advisor in their major. A remote alternative will exist to ensure that no student is prevented from making academic progress. Departments will decide what are acceptable alternatives.

Remote Learning and Online Learning

What types of classes will be offered remotely?
  • All class meetings with more than 26 persons (enrollment of 25 plus one instructor) will be offered remotely. 
  • Different components of the same class may be offered differently. For instance, a large-enrollment class with small discussion sections or labs may have a remote lecture with in-person discussion sections or labs.
What is the difference between online (web-based) classes and remote classes?
  • An online (web-based) course has been designed from the ground up to be delivered online. Such courses undergo an approval process to be delivered online. 
  • Classes delivered by remote instruction were originally designed and approved to be delivered in person. Their online delivery in the 2020-21 academic year is an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Can I enroll as a full-time student even if I am not comfortable coming to campus?
  • Yes. The majority of classes will be offered remotely.
Is it possible for new and continuing international students to enroll from abroad?
  • Yes. The majority of classes will be offered remotely. Some classes will also be offered asynchronously. No student is required by the university to take an in-person class or be present on campus. 
  • International students should view the latest guidance from Berkeley International Office on their COVID-19 Updates website or contact BIO for additional information. 
If a class is remote and not limited by physical space, why is there an enrollment limit and a waitlist?
  • Physical space was only one factor that limited the size of a course. Generally instructors try to be flexible, but there may be good reasons why increasing the enrollment of a course would adversely affect its delivery. For example, increases in course size may require hiring additional qualified GSIs, which can be constrained by budget, the number of qualified applicants, or the amount of time remaining before classes begin. Or there may be in-class activities that do not scale well to large courses. 
How will the plans for Spring 2021 instruction affect DeCal courses?
  • Any DeCal that is offered in Spring 2021 must be offered under the “Remote” mode of instruction.

Will Semester in the Cloud classes be offered in Spring 2021?

  • Yes. Semester in the Cloud classes can be found here.
  • Participating sections can be found by searching for Semester in the Cloud under the Course Types filter on the Academic Guide Class Schedule. In the CalCentral Class Search, search via the class attribute “online courses” and class attribute value “Semester in the Cloud.”
  • To learn more about Semester in the Cloud classes, see the Fall 2020 FAQ.

Class Search and Enrollment

What is “mode of instruction”?
  • “Mode of Instruction” is the manner in which a class component — lecture, discussion, lab, etc. —  is delivered in a given semester.
  • See the Mode of Instruction webpage for more information. 
  • In October, you can search for classes that have either been approved or are being proposed for in-person or flexible instruction by searching for the “pending approval” attribute.
  • You can search by these categories using the “modes of instruction” search filter in the class search once prioritized classes have been approved and updated in November.
How can I use the schedule to find classes that may be offered in person, should public health conditions allow? 
  • Students can see classes that departments have nominated for in-person instruction via the Academic Guide’s class schedule by searching for “in-person, pending approval” and “flexible, pending approval” in the Mode of Instruction left-hand menu.
  • Refer to the Job Aid to learn about using the Cal Central Schedule of Classes and Schedule Planner (available via CalCentral). 
  • Use Attributes in the Cal Central Schedule of Classes to search for in-person classes. “Pending approval” will indicate that there is a request to teach the class in-person (when allowed per public health guidance) rather than remote, but that campus has not yet decided whether to grant the request.
How can I determine the mode of instruction for a particular class before enrolling?
  • Find classes using the “mode of instruction” filter in the Academic Guide’s Class Schedule or the Cal Central Schedule of Classes.
  • Mode of instruction is noted on the class details page of each section.
  • Mode of instruction may vary within a course. The lecture and the discussion section or lab may have different modes of instruction. 
  • Updates to the class schedule are made daily before and during Phase I and Phase II.
Why is it important that I review the mode of instruction for both lecture and discussion/lab for my courses?
  • A course may offer many options (via mode of instruction) for participation. You must review the mode of instruction for each section in which you enroll, not just the day and time, to ensure you can fully participate and complete the course. 
Where can I find the class notes that provide more detail?
Why are there no room assignments on most classes?
  • Room assignments will remain blank until campus has fully evaluated space and room demand. 
What does it mean for a course room to be “requested general assignment?”
  • If a course section’s room reads “requested general assignment”, that means that the course has requested a room for in-person instruction, but that has not yet been approved. Room assignments are on hold until the list of in-person provisionally approved classes has been determined. Once those decisions are made, “requested general assignment” will be replaced with an assigned in-person location (if approved) or will be assigned the location of “remote.”
Are Instructors expected to follow “Berkeley Time”?
  • Instructors are expected to continue to follow “Berkeley time”: by the “Berkeley Time” convention, instruction in class meetings normally begins ten minutes after the official start time. For example, a class whose time is listed in the schedule as 10:00-10:59 begins at 10:10 and ends at 11:00. A 9:30-10:59 class runs from 9:40-11:00. While instructors and students in a remote setting do not need to travel between or “reset” classrooms, that time is still reserved for students and instructors to prepare their virtual spaces for the next course, to build in short breaks from Zoom, and to take care of any physical needs. 

Synchronous/Asynchronous Instruction

What is the definition of synchronous and asynchronous?
  • Synchronous: A synchronous class component is one in which students are expected to participate in the class component during the days and time that are specified on the schedule of classes. Participation may be in-person or remote, depending on the mode of instruction. The synchronous session may or may not be recorded to allow for later viewing or reviewing; consult the syllabus. A meeting pattern is specified on the schedule of classes, for example, AEROSPC 1A Lec 001 is scheduled for Mondays from 2:00-2:59PM. If the class component is synchronous, take the time zone difference into account before enrolling.
  • Asynchronous: An asynchronous class is one in which the instructor pre-records a presentation and makes it available to students to watch later at a time of their choosing. Asynchronous engagement may also include collaborative annotations, discussion threads, etc.  Asynchronous sessions are always remote. Some classes with the “asynchronous” notation may be asynchronous only; others may have a synchronous option — consult the class notes or class syllabus for details. In either case, students are held to assignment completion deadlines and are responsible for consulting with the instructor to determine the final exam schedule, ensuring no time conflicts with other examinations. FINAL EXAMS MAY BE SYNCHRONOUS, EVEN FOR COURSES WITH ASYNCHRONOUS INSTRUCTION. A meeting pattern will display in the class schedule to ensure faculty and students can easily identify which exam group a section is assigned, as well as determine if there are exam conflicts.
  • To find asynchronous sections, filter for them on the Academic Guide’s Class Schedule and the CalCentral Schedule of Classes. In CalCentral, the asynchronous attribute appears under the “online courses” class attribute dropdown menu. Sections that are asynchronous only or have an asynchronous option will offer the most flexibility for participation. 
If instruction is asynchronous, are we allowed to take time-conflict classes?
  • If the classes are marked ‘time conflict allowed’, you are allowed to take those classes with conflicting times. However, students are held to assignment completion deadlines and are responsible for consulting with the instructor to determine the final exam schedule and ensuring that there are no time conflicts with other examinations or quizzes. A meeting pattern will display in the class schedule to ensure faculty and students can easily identify which exam group a section is assigned, as well as determine if there are exam conflicts.
What is the difference between "asynchronous classes" and "time conflict enrollment allowed"? 
  • Time conflict enrollment allowed means that a student may enroll in the course even if the time conflicts with another enrolled course. If time conflict enrollment is allowed, it will be tagged as such in the class schedule. However, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that there is not a final exam time conflict. If there is, the student must choose between the two classes. No final exams will be rescheduled due to time conflicts. 
  • Some classes with the “asynchronous” notation may be asynchronous only; others may have a synchronous option — consult the class notes or class syllabus for details. 
  • An asynchronous class may allow for time conflicts or it may not. A time conflict enrollment allowed course may be asynchronous or it may not. 
How will courses support students in different time zones?
  • Many classes will offer asynchronous lectures.
  • Additional discussion sections may be added or times may be modified to support students in different time zones.
  • These adjustments will be made on a class by class basis and students should check the details of each component carefully.
  • Filter for asynchronous sections on the Academic Guide’s Class Schedule and the CalCentral Schedule of Classes. In CalCentral, the asynchronous attribute appears under the “online courses” class attribute dropdown menu.
What happens if a class was originally designated as one mode of instruction but then changed to another? Will the department/instructor notify the student after a student enrolls/waitlists for the class?
  • While departments are encouraged to notify enrolled students of a change in the mode of instruction, meeting pattern, or other important features,  it is the student’s responsibility to use CalCentral to review enrollments carefully prior to the start of instruction. 

bCourses/Course Capture and Recordings/Final Exams

If I am waitlisted for an online class will I have bCourses access to it at the start of the semester or will I have to wait until I'm officially enrolled in the class?  
  • If you are on the waitlist for a class, you have access to its bCourses page once the instructor has activated the site. We expect most instructors to post links to recordings and to pre-recorded videos in bCourses. 

When will students have access to a course’s bCourse site?

  • Students who are enrolled in or waitlisted for a class can access a course's bCourses site as soon as it has been published by the instructor. Please keep in mind that bCourses updates more slowly than CalCentral. You should generally expect it will take about 24 hours for enrollment changes made in CalCentral to be reflected in bCourses.
  • Some instructors publish their course sites in advance of the first day; others wait until the start of instruction. Some instructors opt not to use bCourses, or choose a different tool to share course material. If you do not have access to the bCourses site for a course you are enrolled in, check the syllabus to see if there will be a bCourses site for your course. If there is a bCourses site, if you have waited at least 24 hours since you updated your CalCentral enrollment, and you are still unable to access the bCourses site, email bcourseshelp@berkeley.edu for assistance.
Will lectures be recorded?
  • A lecture is recorded at the discretion of the instructor. Decisions about recording will therefore vary from class to class, and may not be the same for all components of any one course. Please review the course’s syllabus for details. 
Where can I find recordings of lectures?
  • Faculty are encouraged to use our centrally supported video platform  called Kaltura.  The videos will live inside your bCourses site for each course in the “Media Gallery” section.  Your instructor may also choose to share videos in alternate places.  Please ask your instructor where they will be housing their lecture recordings if it is unclear in the course or on the syllabus. 

Can I share recorded lectures, and other course materials, with people outside of the class?

  • Course materials, including recorded lectures, are intended only for in-class educational purposes and should not be shared with people outside of the class. DSP is a general exception to this, and you may share your course materials with the DSP office.
  • The Student Code of Conduct 102.23 Course Materials and the campus’ Classroom Note Taking and Recording Policy are relevant, the latter of which states, “...class notes and recordings are based on the intellectual effort of the instructor, who has an interest in protecting this effort and ensuring the accuracy of any public representation of his or her work. Prior approval of the instructor is required for the recording of course notes and the sharing of course notes and other class materials beyond the students enrolled in the course.” 
Will my final exam be proctored?
  • A limited number of courses have been approved to join the remote proctoring pilot for Fall 2020 and proctoring plans for Spring 2021 have not yet been finalized. Please check the course syllabus for final exam details and if you have further questions, please ask your instructor.  If examinations in the class are being remotely proctored then you might wish to read the Remote Proctoring FAQ for additional details on what to expect.
How will final exam scheduling work with courses that are offered through asynchronous instruction?
  • Each class is assigned a final exam group.
  • All final exams will be administered remotely. 
  • Not every class will have a final exam. Some instructors may replace final examinations with other modes of final assessment, subject to the department chair’s approval. Any such change in the mode of final assessment should be announced in the syllabus. 
  • If a student wishes to take two or more courses with the same final exam time, they must consult the syllabus to confirm that only one of the courses will require a final exam administered during the final exam time. If there is a conflict, students must make a choice between the two courses. Faculty will not reschedule the final exam to accommodate this sort of exam time conflict. 

General Questions: Non-Instruction

Will books for courses be available through the library online?
  • The Library aims to provide access to digital copies of required articles, books, and media for courses to save students time and money. Textbooks are often not available to libraries to license for multiple users, and instructors are encouraged to consider other resources that might work as well. 
  • At the start of the semester, the resources available for your course will be linked to the course syllabus or bCourses by the instructor.
  • For course materials not offered through the library, visit the Cal Student Store.
Will there be changes to the Academic Calendar?  
  • There have been no changes made to the start date, end date, or number of days in the semester. 
How can students build relationships with instructors for letters of recommendation, etc.?
  • Faculty will continue to hold virtual office hours, which are fantastic opportunities to meet in small groups or one-on-one.
  • Most letters of recommendation are based on relationships spanning more than a single semester. Students should approach the semester as an opportunity to start that process or to continue building upon a pre-existing association.
  • Collaborating with faculty on a discovery or research project, typically in the junior or senior years, is the best way to build meaningful professional relationships with faculty. Students in their first year should focus on broadly understanding the types of work going on in their discipline and elsewhere on campus to identify potential faculty research advisors.
Will my fees and tuition change if I take classes remotely?
  • No. As UC Berkeley has communicated elsewhere, tuition, and mandatory fees have been set regardless of the method of instruction. Even if students are not on campus, they are generally able to access all required instructional materials, complete their coursework, and make timely progress towards their degree. Students are continuing to earn full credit for their coursework, and university-wide charges like tuition, the student services fee, and nonresident supplemental tuition continue to help cover the faculty’s delivery of instruction, other educational costs, and the cost of essential student services such as registration, financial aid, and remote academic advising.
  • Some campus-based fees were established to support certain efforts like the Wellness Fee, which is paying for many essential health services. Others were established to maintain the safety of buildings or other facilities when necessary for the health and safety of students—e.g., to address seismic deficiencies. As UC campuses such as ours have curtailed limited aspects of their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the costs that campus-based fees are intended to cover continue. Debt service for student facilities and the need to maintain campus infrastructure, for example, continue. The fact that campus-based fees would in part be paid by all students who do not individually benefit from the fees was discussed in referenda documents considered by the students who voted to authorize that these fees be charged to future students.
Can a student take time off in spring semester without penalty?
  • There has been no change to the cancellation and withdrawal process.
  • It is critical that continuing students work closely with their college advisor to consider all of the possible implications of their withdrawal decision and to learn about the readmission process.
  • Financial aid recipients are encouraged to speak with a Cal Student Central advisor to understand the possible consequences a break may have for their financial aid.  
If a continuing student chooses to cancel (before instruction) Spring 2021, do they need to apply for readmission for Fall 2021 and/or pay the fee?
What is the plan for clubs and student organizations?
  • Classroom and one-time event reservations are not being accepted at this time. Student organizations are not permitted to gather in person on or off campus, Student organizations should contact the LEAD Center for additional resources on how to build community virtually.
What if I don't have the hardware or internet connection I need to engage in online classes?
  •  Apply for freely loaned hardware from the Student Technology Equity Program (STEP) to get a laptop, hotspot with a paid unlimited data service plan, or peripherals such as webcams, microphones, etc.
Are basic needs services and support provided through this extended remote setting? 
  • Yes, UC Berkeley students with questions or in need of support with their basic needs, such as food, housing, healthcare and other needs, are encouraged to visit our new basic needs website. Our UC Berkeley Basic Needs Center can support students in or outside the Berkeley/Bay Area. 
If students need to take a lighter load due to COVID-related circumstances, will it take them longer to graduate?
  • The answer depends on how many units per semester you have taken in the past and how many units per semester you take in the future. In general, undergraduates need to take an average of 15 units per semester to graduate on time. AP credit, summer courses, and additional courses taken in past or future semesters may allow students who take fewer than 15 units in a specific semester to graduate on time.
I plan on enrolling for an in-person class in Spring 2021. Do I have to get a flu shot to be on campus?  
  • Yes, all students who will be on-campus do need to meet the influenza requirement, which is one dose of the flu vaccine for the current flu season, meaning it must be administered September 2020 or later.  For more information, see our flu shot webpage.
I plan on enrolling for an in-person class in Spring 2021. Do I have to get a COVID-19 test to be on campus?    
  • Current campus requirements and recommendations on COVID-19 testing can be found here.