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At least 15 undergraduate courses expected to include in-person components

Numbers are "subject to change" in advance of spring semester

<h5>Robertson Hall will house several in-person classes in the spring semester.</h5>
<h6>Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Robertson Hall will house several in-person classes in the spring semester.
Mark Dodici / The Daily Princetonian

The Registrar’s course offerings site is now updated with locations for select undergraduate and graduate courses that are currently scheduled to include an in-person component.

Fifteen undergraduate courses and seven ROTC courses are currently scheduled to include an in-person component, Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss told The Daily Princetonian on Monday. However, Hotchkiss added that these numbers are “subject to change” as faculty members finalize their instructional plans for the spring semester.

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As of Tuesday morning, there are 19 undergraduate and 18 graduate courses with listed locations on the Course Offerings page. The courses vary, from MAE 332: Aircraft Design to CLA 203: What is a Classic?, and many are housed in Robertson Hall, Friend Center, or McCosh Hall. Most are small seminars, though one — MAE 222: Mechanics of Fluids — has 51 enrolled students.

The course AMS 240: Introduction to American Popular Culture, which gives priority in registration to international students “who are required to enroll in an in-person course to maintain their student status on campus,” will also involve an in-person component. The Registrar's site does not currently list a classroom location for this course.

The 19 undergraduate courses represent roughly two percent of the 1,109 undergraduate courses currently listed by the Registrar. Graduate courses were slightly more likely to have in-person components, with just over four percent of the 435 listed graduate courses having physical locations.

The decision to hold certain in-person course components or continue entirely remote instruction is at the discretion of the faculty members for their respective courses. One factor to consider is the fact that not all students that were invited to be on campus this spring will be living on campus or in the surrounding area.

“Faculty were given the option to teach either virtually or in a hybrid format for the spring semester,” Hotchkiss wrote. “Since some but not all students will be on campus, any in-person course will have to be offered in a hybrid format to reach students who might be learning from elsewhere. The University will provide pedagogical and technical support to any faculty interested in the hybrid option.”

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One such class that will have in-person components is ARC 303: Wall Street and Silicon Valley — Place in the American Economy, taught by architecture lecturer Aaron Shkuda.

In thinking about how to redesign the course for a hybrid format, Shkuda explained that he had to consider the varying levels of familiarity students had with skills intrinsic to the course. 

“My class is an Architecture and Urban Studies seminar but given the title ‘Wall Street and Silicon Valley,’ I have a huge number of COS majors, ORFE Majors, far more than I have in the rest of my classes,” Shkuda said. “So I can’t assume that everyone has the same familiarity with doing a close-reading of a work of architectural theory. Or ... looking at data and creating visualizations or maps from that. So I’m already thinking through ... the ways in which I might vary the course elements to take advantage of everyone’s skills and backgrounds.”

In planning the course’s hybrid format, Shkuda considered the layout of the room and how many students — assuming all of them would be on campus — were taking the class.

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“My seminar is about 11 people, and I think right now we’re in a very large lecture room, so I guess there is room enough for us to potentially spread out, social distance in the lecture room, and have a discussion,” Shkuda explained.

The McGraw Center FAQ for faculty states that professors teaching hybrid classes should be engaged in “maintaining [the classroom] as a safe environment” by reminding students of social distancing protocols, specifically that students should remain eight feet apart when seated.

Normally, Shkuda’s class would be taking trips to Trenton, New Brunswick, or Newark to explore different works of architecture. However, this term, travel is out of the question.

Shkuda is also being deliberate about how he designs his course, given its hybrid nature. He explained that everyone will wear masks and he is considering using microphones to ensure that students’ voices are audible through their masks. To accommodate the hybrid format, students attending in-person will keep Zoom open in front of them for the benefit of remote classmates.

Shkuda also said that some activities were better suited to being completed from each students’ living space, hence why the hybrid model is best suited for his class.

“I’ve already been using this moment to vary my teaching,” Shkuda added. “Elements like watching lectures, visiting with guests who might come from off campus and Zoom into the class, or conducting mapping projects or research using digital archives or data visualizations — I don’t think there’s a huge benefit to doing that while all in the same room, especially given that it’s still going to be safer doing that in our own living spaces.”

Before he can realize these various teaching methods, however, Shkuda must first determine which of his students will be on campus this spring.

“I think it’s fairly straightforward just to simply ask them,” Shkuda said. “We could have a Zoom meeting before class to talk about how we’re actually going to have class.”

While a vaccine does hold hope for a return to normal circumstances, Shkuda pointed out that even the most optimistic time frame for vaccine distribution “would still take us probably through the end of the semester.”

The realities of hybrid instruction are not lost upon students. FRS 160: Free Speech in Law, Ethics, and Politics — the freshman seminar which President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 will be teaching — will be held in-person in Robertson Hall. At present, the course is at maximum capacity with 12 students enrolled. 

Students taking the class voiced their reactions and concerns to the class being in person.

“I was excited because we haven’t had any classes in person so far, and it’s going to be my first college class in person,” Shrey Addagatla ’24 said. About the prospect of attending an in-person class, Addagatla described himself as, “very happy [and] a little nervous just because of COVID safety.”

For some, having an in-person class is reminiscent of times before the COVID-19 pandemic and is often seen as synonymous with the conventional college experience.

“I just wanted to have an in-person class in the first place. I just want to feel like I’m back in school,” Antek Hasiura ’24 said.

“I think it’s going to be good to see people face-to-face,” Brian Li ’24 added.

However, the plan for hybrid instruction brings up larger questions and worries on the minds of students: primarily, how in-person and remote students will collaborate and how the variety in course formats will be accommodated.

For the spring semester, Li said, “You have the University in two places.”

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