October 28, 2020

Spring 2021 Academics FAQ

Q: I’ve been on LOA and haven’t been paying attention – what HAVE things been like on campus? 

We are pleased to say that things have been going quite well on campus. This is due to a few things:  

  • First, we were appropriately cautious in designing and implementing procedures (including regular testing) to keep students and employees safe.  

  • Second, we thought deeply about how to maintain community and connection in a socially-distanced and mixed on-campus/off-campus world.  

  • Finally, and most critically, students and employees have done a great job staying safe.  

The combination of these things has meant that student life has been able to open the kitchens and lounges in the dorms. We have rolled out a staged plan for opening up the shop to a greater extent. We have been able to maintain a room reservation system for students to use rooms in the MAC. And, for the spring, we will continue to think about how to create academic and social opportunities for students, while maintaining safety.  

Note that appropriate space and access is being made for courses that require use of hand-tools or prototyping supplies/spaces for on-campus students. For off-campus students, we’ve developed a system for mailing supplies that is working quite well. For all students, the shop continues to have a work order system with a fast turn around. 

Additionally, a huge shout out to dining who have nourished our bodies and spirits with an amazing array of food and increased service and procedures to keep on-campus folks safe. 

Q: What will the courses be like in the spring? 
As we’ve already announced, barring any major changes in the public health situation, we will operate in much the same way in the spring as we did in the fall. And, as in the fall, each course will look a little different, depending on the course learning objectives and modes of instruction best suited to that course. Because we anticipate more students on campus, there may be a larger number of courses operating in hybrid mode – with some students on-campus and some students off-campus. At least one of the first-year courses will likely use the household classroom model from Design Nature, and half a dozen other courses have requested space on campus. Most faculty will continue to teach remotely, and many courses will continue to be fully remote (i.e., using Zoom to bring people together). Teaching modes are indicated on the Registrar’s Spring Course Information page. 

Q: But what about hands-on learning and the Olin pedagogical approach? 
TL;DR: Please indulge us in some philosophical digression from a typical FAQ format. 

The faculty are at Olin because we believe in our approach to teaching and learning, and the shift to a remote environment has been a challenge for many of us that has also led to some interesting opportunities. We have thought and learned a lot about the ways in which we can continue to be creative and inventive with a new set of constraints while staying true to our pedagogical beliefs and approaches. Something we have been reflecting on is that “hands-on” and “in person” are not the same, and during this unusual time, they may sometimes be at odds. This is a hard problem, and we are honestly striving to find the best way to teach each class to all its students while keeping our community safe.   

For example, for on-campus students, this semester’s Design Nature involves grouping by household to allow unmasked construction of physical artifacts in collaboration with classmates, with a remote professor “looking over their shoulder” from a tablet at the table with them.  If the professor were in the room, or if students were not in the same household, everyone would be masked and separated by six to twelve feet.  And for students not in the same household, the unmasked/adjacent opportunity is simply not available.  In many SCOPE teams, students are collaborating on (remote) software development in exactly the same ways that their peers in industry do.   

In both examples, face-to-face (which would really be masks and separation) would be much *less* hands-on and collaborative.  This is not to say that what we are doing is what we would have done a year ago (or what we hope to do next year).  We are all wrestling with whether we should try to create more masked/distanced/artifact-less but physically adjacent learning experiences or whether we should sacrifice in-person in favor of meaningful fabrication and intimate-but-intermediated interaction. 

Q: Will the shops and other fabrication shared spaces be open? 
The shop is currently exploring options to open more widely and has laid out a staged plan, based on public health conditions. For the spring, we hope that Shop Assistants will be able to access the shop to support fabrication efforts. Additionally, students who are already trained will likely be able to use the 3D printer farms.  

Q: Will there still be first-year household rooms available for coursework? 
Yes. We will continue to provide each first-year household with a designated room for coursework, and some first-year courses may take advantage of those spaces as a place to use tools and equipment. While these rooms may continue to be housed in the MAC, they may also be housed in other campus buildings as well, pending availability. 

Q: How will registration work?  
Registration will proceed very much as usual. Please check the Registrar’s website for semester information. We anticipate registration materials to be released in late November and registration to occur in early December. If you have questions about the process, please reach out to the Registrar (registrar@olin.edu) and if you have questions about what to take, please reach out to your advisor. 

Q: Can I still cross-register at Babson, Wellesley, or Brandeis? 
Yes. You can cross-register for courses offered online at our partner institutions at one course per institution. Note that we will continue with the M/W and T/R course scheduling. This aligns well with the Babson and Brandeis schedules. Wellesley will continue to run 7-week courses.  Stay tuned for communications from the Registrar’s office and check the Registrar’s webpages for more information.  

Q: I’m planning to take one of my science requirements (Bio, Chem or MatSci) at Olin this spring. Do the courses offered still fulfill the foundation requirement if they don’t include a laboratory? 
Yes. All students who enroll in Materials Science, Chemistry or Biology at Olin during AY20-21 meet all course requirements with no deficiencies that need to be made up later, even though these courses will not include a laboratory component. 

Q:  Is it possible to skip the spring semester of ADE and complete the capstone next fall? 
The ARB has approved the following scenarios for taking ADE in non-consecutive semesters, which represent exceptions to the normal policy for the ADE requirement.  These approvals were made with input from the ADE faculty leads. 

  1. First semester spring 2020, skip fall 2020, second semester spring 2021. (This scenario was approved at the start of the fall semester.) 

  1. First semester fall 2020, skip spring 2021, second semester fall 2021. (This scenario has just been approved.) 

Note that a scenario in which two semesters are skipped (ex. first semester spring 2020, skip fall 2020, skip spring 2021) has not been approved due to a lack of sufficient project continuity. Students wishing to do this may petition the ARB for an exception. 

Q: How will courses be scheduled to meet the needs of students who are remote and in different time zones? 
Courses will continue to be scheduled using Olin time (US Eastern Time). We are collecting time zone information from students and will consider available time zone information as one of many pieces of information that will inform course scheduling.  Students currently living in distant time zones who feel this time difference drastically impacts their ability to participate in or attend classes, and who would like to live on campus in the spring should indicate this information in the “high need” section of housing applications which will be available in early November. 

Q: I’m a student on LOA this Fall; can I stay on LOA in the Spring? 
TL;DR: Not exactly.  If you do not return to Olin for the spring semester, you will move to Withdrawal (WD) status.  LOA is not available for two consecutive semesters. See the LOA vs. WD doc created by Adva Waranyuwat and if you have more questions after reading through this document, please contact Adva for more information.  

Q: Can I take courses at other institutions while on LOA? 
Yes. You can take up to the lesser of 8 credits or 2 courses, total, during your leave.  An exception to the policy preventing students on LOA from transferring courses taken at other institutions back to Olin was made for Fall 2020 and has been extended to Spring 2021. Note that students can request to transfer in a maximum of 8 credits or 2 courses, whichever is less, and should submit requests in advance via the CSTB.   

Q: I was not on campus at Olin in the Fall and want to be on campus in the Spring. Is this possible? 
Please see the information in the “Living on Campus Spring 2021” document which was sent with the Spring Intent form from the Olin Ahead committee. We are committed to accommodating as many students as we safely can.