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Certain fall 2020 courses capped, canceled, moving to pre-recorded format

<h6>Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

Students will be able to take certain classes asynchronously and during previously unavailable time slots this fall, according to the Office of the Registrar’s republished course offerings. Caps on class sizes, as well as the number of classes undergraduates can take, have decreased. 

Decisions over which classes will be in-person remain in flux.


“The ability to teach a course in person will depend on a variety of factors, including faculty preference, course enrollments, and the availability of classrooms that meet health and safety requirements,” Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss wrote in a statement to The Daily Princetonian.

Hotchkiss added that students should not expect to know whether their courses are virtual or not before the first undergraduate add/drop begins on Aug. 3. There will be an additional add/drop period during the first two weeks of the semester, Aug. 31—Sept. 11.

For a course to be conducted in person, “All students will need to be in residence on campus or in one of the invited back classes and living locally and participating in our testing protocol (so this is not possible to know at this point),” Dean of First College Anne Caswell-Klein wrote in an email to students. 

The faculty member and all students will also have to commit to public health guidelines, and an appropriate classroom would have to be available, Caswell-Klein added.

“Some courses will include specifics in ‘Other Information’ to indicate that the faculty member hopes to teach in person (public health conditions permitting). However, this will depend on a number of things that will need to be confirmed before the course is assigned a classroom,” Caswell-Klein wrote.

Faculty “are planning to offer most courses virtually” according to Hotchkiss.


The republished course offerings website lists 52 undergraduate-level courses and five graduate-level courses as “Pre-recorded.” According to Hotchkiss, faculty “had the option to keep their online lectures at the scheduled time, to be delivered synchronously, or provide pre-recorded lectures, to be viewed asynchronously.”

Students in pre-recorded courses will work through the lecture component of the course independently and meet with their instructor for “the other course components,” he added. 

In her message to students on Wednesday, Caswell-Klein added that some lectures will be offered both synchronously and pre-recorded.

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Beyond this alteration, Deputy Registrar Justin Bronfeld outlined a number of other changes in an email to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors Monday morning. 

According to Bronfeld, the University is implementing modified course load maximums for undergraduates this semester. A.B. and B.S.E. students will be permitted to enroll in five and six courses respectively, compared to six and seven respectively in past years.

In his message, Bronfeld also pointed out that “some courses have been closed and/or cancelled, some have changed meeting days and/or times, and some have added enrollment restrictions; these changes may impact your course schedule.” 

“If you find that you are now enrolled in two classes with an overlapping meeting time, you will need to decide which course to drop with the approval of your academic adviser,” Bronfeld added.

This includes a number of classes now slated to begin between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. — an interval previously avoided to accommodate extra-curricular events and activities such as athletic practices and performing arts rehearsals. 

When course offerings for the fall semester were released in the spring, the Registrar listed five classes taking place between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. — four dance classes and one beginner’s French section. The updated course list includes 24 courses beginning during this time frame — including 16 new courses, eight of which are writing seminars.

The maximum number of students permitted to enroll in certain courses also saw a notable decrease. For the past two semesters, every Freshman Seminar (FRS) permitted 15 students to enroll. This year, more than half of the FRS classes cut class sizes by at least 20 percent. FRS 159: Science, Technology, and Public Policy sets its cap at eight, about half the number of students originally allowed.

Thirty-nine unique undergraduate courses — including classes from 26 departments and certificate programs — are currently listed as overenrolled due to lowered maximum enrollment. 

Eight history department courses shifted from either 12-, 15-, or 18-person caps to 10 or fewer. A politics seminar shifted from 15 to 10, and three large lecture courses in the department either halved maximum enrollment or capped sizes after previously allowing ‘infinity’ students.

Certain language sections are now considered “overenrolled” after the course cap was moved from 12 to 10.

While noting that enrollment is managed by individual departments, Hotchkiss wrote that “it is not uncommon for a course to be overenrolled.”

The lowered enrollment numbers are part of a broader University effort to “enhance the online learning experience and better facilitate interaction,“ according to Hotchkiss.

Still other classes were eliminated entirely.

Eighty-four distinct courses have all sections listed as canceled on the Registrar website. According to Hotchkiss, the original course schedule for the fall was developed in February, “well before our current circumstances unfolded.”

“Some courses simply do not lend themselves to the remote/virtual instruction of fall semester; it is primarily those courses that have been cancelled,” Hotchkiss wrote.

The re-launched Course Offerings also show over 30 additional classes that were not visible in the spring — not including Freshman Seminars and Writing Seminars. Two of the new courses will consist of pre-recorded lectures: ART272: Rage against the Machine — Art and Politics in America and MOL459: Viruses — Strategy and Tactics. 

Several of the new courses also center on topics specific to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent movement for racial justice, including SPA 252: Narrating Pandemics Now; JRN 260: The Media in America — What to Read and Believe in the Age of Covid; and SOC 102: Police Violence, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Associate Design Editor Kenny Peng ’22 contributed reporting.