Plans for resuming fall instruction on IU's campuses

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dear IU students, faculty and staff,

I am very pleased to write to you to inform you of our plans for resuming instruction and education on all Indiana University campuses this fall. We plan to welcome students back to all our campuses, where instruction will be a blend of in-person and online. It will make extensive use of technology while preserving as far as possible the most important elements of the in-person experience.

As we have said repeatedly, the safety and well-being of all IU students, faculty and staff is our highest priority. We have followed a methodical and deliberate approach in developing our plans for the new academic year and are relying on the best health and safety guidance available. We will also continue to adapt our plans to new developments as they arise.

Last week, I shared with faculty and staff the report of the IU Restart Committee, comprising a wide range of medical and health experts and chaired by the Dean of the IU School of Medicine and Executive Vice President Jay Hess. The committee recommends that the fall semester involve a blend of in-person and online instruction, provided extensive public health measures are taken. As one of these principal measures, I also announced our important statewide partnership with IU Health to provide all IU students, faculty and staff with comprehensive COVID-19 symptom checking, virtual visits with a health care professional and testing with continued monitoring when needed.

Over the past few months, the provost of the Bloomington campus and the chancellors of IUPUI and the regional campuses established dozens of campus and universitywide committees that have been exploring all of the issues involved in planning for a safe return of their campus communities for blended instruction and for other modifications to campus operations.

All of this work will underpin our plans for the academic year, the major parts of which I describe below. Further details specific to each campus will be released by the provost and chancellors in the days and weeks ahead, and all of this information will be available at

The 2020-21 Academic Year

Throughout this planning, the health and safety of our community have been and will continue to be our top priority as I noted, and that requires some important changes for the year ahead:

1. Academic calendar: The 2020-21 academic year will run from Aug. 24 to May 9 as originally planned but will now be in three parts: 

  1. The Fall Semester, which will run from Aug. 24 through Dec. 20. Classes may be in-person or online until Thanksgiving week (Nov. 20), when all in-person instruction will end. The rest of the semester will be online only. There will be no Fall break.
  2. Campuses will have the flexibility to use the online-only period (Dec. 21 to Feb. 7 – a new Winter Session) in various ways: to finish fall semester courses, to begin spring semester courses, or to create new intensive courses that use either or both the December and January online periods.
  3. The Spring Semester will begin with online only instruction on Jan. 19 and then resume in-person instruction on Feb. 8. The semester will run to May 9 without a Spring break.
  4. Undergraduate students who take advantage of IU’s banded tuition rates can include courses from the Fall Semester, Winter Session or Spring Semester as part of the new calendar without any additional cost.

Details for each campus’s course schedule will be updated at I am grateful to the University Faculty Council for endorsing these major changes to our academic calendar for 2020-21 in support of our important instructional and safety requirements. 

2. Residential housing: All rooms in all of IU’s residence halls will be single occupancy, but with a rigorous exemption process available for students who may wish to choose their own roommate. 

3. IU health and safety procedures: IU will continue to thoroughly and comprehensively implement essential policies and procedures for all campuses regarding cleaning protocols, room capacities, distancing, personal responsibilities, and research in labs and shared spaces. These are designed to provide a safe working and educational environment when we resume activities on campus. These draw heavily on CDC and state guidelines, as well as our own medical and health expert advice. These guidelines will continue to evolve along with best practices, and the exact advice for the Fall Semester will be finalized closer to its start. But these can be expected to include the use of masks, continued social distancing, quarantining where necessary, reduced class sizes, modified food service and regular personal symptom checking.

4. Campus programs and planning: Each campus will adapt its academic courses and program offerings to best achieve a quality educational experience for students through a blend of in-person and online instruction.

5. Considerations for people with higher risks: We fully recognize, as the CDC states, that some members of the IU community may be at greater risk, and we are putting in place procedures for adjusting duties and expectations where needed and feasible.

Next Steps

Our lives today are much different than they were just 90 days ago, and life on our campuses this fall will also be different than it was a year ago. Every member of our community will need to adapt their personal behaviors to help ensure the health of others, respect the necessity of some inconveniences, forgo some favored activities, and demonstrate flexibility and resilience should conditions change. 

We know that many of our students greatly value the residential experiences that a number of our campuses provide, and that is why we are looking to safely resume on-campus instruction, provide as much of an in-person educational program as is practicable, and adapt where needed to ensure academic progress for our students. Nevertheless, Indiana University is very well prepared for this moment, with long-standing and highly ranked programs that provide high-quality online instruction. Many individual courses previously given entirely in-person will now become blended courses, with some of the instruction given online, for example, as an alternative to large classes that may not be feasible with social distancing requirements. 

We are setting our plans in the most extraordinary of times, and we will, of course, continue to adapt to new developments as they happen, just as Indiana University has done for the many challenges that have confronted the generations before us. I am confident that our careful and deliberate approach will help us continue to achieve the full mission of Indiana University. And we greatly look forward to welcoming you to Indiana University in the fall.

Michael A. McRobbie

Indiana University

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated on May 28 to further clarify the dates of winter session.