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URBANA — When University of Illinois students return later this month, about two-thirds of their class sections will be online and a third will be either in-person or a hybrid of the two.

The UI released its fall class schedule to students Friday.

“We were guessing (in person) would be between a third and 40 percent,” said Kevin Pitts, vice provost for undergraduate education. “If we got much more than that, we would have been in trouble with space.”

Course sections with more than 50 people were required to be held online to comply with Phase 4 guidelines, but sections smaller than that were left up to each department to decide whether to meet in person or online.

“And they really consulted with their faculty,” Pitts said.

The administration encouraged departments to prioritize face-to-face instruction for classes that really needed it, such as labs and performance courses.

While Pitts said it was a challenge to find larger rooms for the in-person classes, they didn’t have to resort to anything too unusual.

They’re using some rooms and auditoriums that aren’t typically used for instruction, but no one’s going to be taking lectures in the State Farm Center.

“We didn’t have such a terrible need that we had to do anything too exotic,” Pitts said.

He said “just a handful” of classes will be held on Saturdays, “almost all for graduate students,” and there’s “probably a little bit more than normal” amount of evening classes.

A lot of labs are meeting later into the evening because they need more sections to keep each one to a smaller size, for example.

“We’re not completely swamped in the evenings,” Pitts said. “Some of those classroom spaces, especially the larger ones, can be used by the student groups in the evenings for some of their meetings.”

He said “almost all” students won’t see scheduling conflicts in their courses, which they registered for in the spring before the new schedule was set.

The UI is requiring students and employees to wear face coverings in classrooms, and Pitts said there will be a process to make sure students have taken any COVID-19 tests they’re supposed to take.

“If they miss a test, we don’t want them coming to class, so we have a process for that,” Pitts said.

Furniture has also been removed to ensure social distancing, and seats have been taped off, he said.

Pitts is optimistic the quality of instruction this fall will be higher than it was in the spring.

“I know some students are frustrated that some of their courses, and in some cases, many of their courses, may be online or have online components,” Pitts said. “We’ve been working hard with faculty and instructors to generate high-quality online content, and it will be different than it was in the spring, when there was an emergency switch to online.”

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Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is bzigterman@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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