Fall 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 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.

Questions and answers were compiled by the Office of the Registrar in collaboration with many campus units.

Information on additional topics is available on the Student Success Toolkit, the Graduate Student FAQ, and the Academic Senate Instructor FAQ.

Last updated 8/31/2021

In-person Classes

Remote Learning and Online Learning

Class Search and Enrollment

Synchronous/Asynchronous Instruction

bCourses/Course Capture and Recordings/Final Exams

General Questions: Non-Instruction

In-person Classes

What classes will be prioritized for in-person instruction in Fall 2021 if public health conditions permit?

  • With certain exceptions, the default instructional mode for Fall 2021 will be in-person. The anticipated exceptions are:
    • Class sections with enrollments of 200 or more and a limited number of discussion sections associated with these sections.
    • UC Berkeley COCI-approved online courses; and
    • A small number of classes and discussion sections in which instructors have requested and received approval to teach remotely.

Will students be required to take in-person classes or be present on campus?

  • Given that classes will be primarily in-person, most students should plan on being present on campus.
  • International students with questions about their visa conditions may view the latest guidance from Berkeley International Office on their COVID-19 Updates website. See the Remote and Online Learning section below for additional information on instruction for international students..
  • 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. These courses are not required to offer a remote option.
  • Please consult with your academic advisor if you need remote options and are unable to find suitable alternatives. A remote alternative may be a different class that meets the same requirement.

Will the cap for in-person instruction be altered, based on guidance for larger indoor events?

  • No, the campus is not planning to alter the cap for in-person instruction. Classes with enrollment limits of 200 or more are expected to be taught remotely.
  • Decisions about the mode of instruction for classes were made several months ago. Students already enrolled in these classes did so based on information provided at the time of enrollment. In addition, the campus anticipates that some students may not be able to enroll in in-person classes (such as international students who may be delayed in obtaining a visa) and the campus wants to provide some opportunities for them to enroll in classes. Furthermore, if public health conditions change, it is still possible that we may need to pivot back to remote instruction for part of the semester.

Remote Learning and Online Learning

What types of classes will be offered remotely?

  • Discussion sections for larger classes (especially those where the primary sections are 200 or more) will be scheduled with most secondary sections in person, and limited secondary sections held remotely to accommodate students unable to return to campus.
  • Remote secondary sections may be limited in seating capacity due to departmental constraints such as GSI staffing.
  • Based on local public health conditions, some classes may need to fall back to reduced in-person capacity after the start of the fall semester. A plan is being developed to allow instructors to transition swiftly.
  • To manage enrollments, some departments may be hiding remote seats from public view or managing enrollment on the backend. If students who are unable to attend in person are unsure about whether discussions or labs will be offered remotely, they should email the instructor or contact an advisor.

What is the difference between online (web-based) classes and remote classes?

  • Online and web-based courses have been designed from the ground up to be delivered online. Such courses must be approved by COCI.
  • Classes delivered by remote instruction were originally designed and approved to be delivered in-person. Their online delivery in 2020 and 2021 is an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is it possible for new and continuing international students to enroll from abroad?

  • We know that some international students may not be able to attend in-person classes in the fall because of their inability to obtain a visa and/or enter the United States. In such cases, new and continuing international students can enroll from abroad. The majority of classes will be offered in-person, though classes of 200 or more will be remote. In addition, online and web-based classes are offered every semester.
  • International students are encouraged to consult with their department and college as well as the Berkeley International Office (BIO) to evaluate their options if they are unable to come to the United States due to travel restrictions. International students should view the latest COVID-19 Updates from BIO and contact BIO for additional information.

What happens if a class was originally designated as one mode of instruction (in-person, online, web-based, or remote) 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.

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.
  • You can search by these categories using the “modes of instruction” search filter in the class search.
  • The Fall 2021 modes of instruction are: in-person, online, web-based instruction, and remote.

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 across course components. The lecture and the discussion section or lab may have different modes of instruction.

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?

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 and reflects Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).
  • 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. 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. 

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.
  • 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.
  • IMPORTANT: 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.

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.
  • IMPORTANT: 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.

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.”

How will midterms and final exams be offered?

  • 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.
  • Additional information about final exams may be found in the class details page on the schedule.

How will final exam scheduling work with courses that are offered through asynchronous instruction?

  • Each class is assigned a final exam group.
  • 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 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. Instruction begins on Wednesday, August 25. 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, UC Berkeley has made the decision to begin in-person instruction at the start of the fall semester rather than observing a seven-day period of remote instruction as previously announced.

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.

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 the Fall 2021 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) Fall 2021, do they need to apply for readmission for Spring 2022 and/or pay the fee?

Are basic needs services and support provided?

  • 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, 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.

Do I have to get a flu shot to be an enrolled student in Fall 2021?

  • 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 2021 or later. For more information, see our flu shot webpage.

I plan on enrolling for an in-person class in Fall 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.
  • As announced in the campuswide message, our plans assume that by the start of the fall semester there will be widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines and few to no new daily cases within our campus community. It is critically important that you get vaccinated when eligible. The vaccines are safe and effective and it is anticipated that vaccinated individuals will be afforded more opportunities for normalcy, as signaled by the CDC guidance released in March.

What if I don’t have the hardware or internet connection I need to engage in online classes?

  • Students with COVID-related financial needs are invited to submit an application to the Student Tech Equity Program (STEP) to request a free laptop or other related technology for the 2021-22 academic year.
  • Additionally, students may obtain free software from Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office, Matlab, and more at software.berkeley.edu.