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Spring Quarter: Planning During Uncertain Times

Last updated: April 13, 2021

Dear Tritons,

We understand that you need to make decisions regarding housing soon and have questions about how instruction will be delivered. It is UC San Diego's intention to provide both in-person and remote instruction and a residential experience for our students. Rest assured that our plans will be guided by our top priority: maintaining the health and well-being of every member of our Triton community.

We have created this Frequently Asked Questions page to help provide key information to our Triton community. It will be regularly updated as more information becomes available.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is UC San Diego deciding which activities will be in-person in Spring 2021?

Our planning for the coming academic year is based on three principles:

  • Health and well-being are our primary concern.
  • We want to provide in-person instruction to the extent possible, consistent with public health and safety guidance from the CDC, State of California, and San Diego County.
  • Recognizing that some students may not be able to come to campus, and that not all courses can be offered in-person this winter, we will be providing remote instruction options.

If I live, work, or study on campus, am I at any risk of catching COVID-19?

Unfortunately, yes. The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 has the ability to spread wherever people congregate. Because of this, it is impossible to eliminate all risks of transmission among the campus population. We will be working hard to protect our campus community, and we will be following the instructions from state and local public health officials. For on-campus residents, we will have a program in place for isolation housing, and our top-notch Student Health Services is available for all students. However, if a major outbreak were to occur, our resources could become overwhelmed.

How will I remain connected to my college?

The seven undergraduate colleges bring together academics, advising, student affairs, and residential life in smaller communities. Our colleges will work to foster a sense of community for students who are both in person on campus and those who attend remotely.

Colleges’ general education courses may be a mix of in-person and remote options. Academic advising may also utilize remote sessions and the Virtual Advising Center. The colleges offer a wide range of student organizations and leadership opportunities. Assuming we return in-person, these opportunities will be available — subject to some modifications — and again, a mix of in-person and remote activities.

I am a student with a registered disability. Will I have support?

Yes. The Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) works to determine accommodations for students needing them. OSD will provide resources to accommodate students with disabilities engaged in remote learning.

Who can help me if I have questions about which classes I should take?

Academic advising is available both in colleges and departments; the college advisors specialize in general education advising and general questions, while the departmental advisors focus on major requirements. You can contact an advisor through the virtual advising center or contact your college or department for an appointment. Colleges continue to offer unscheduled walk-in appointments as well; these have been conducted via Zoom.

Will it be safe to participate in study groups or attend events?

One of our central values as Tritons is taking care of each other. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, that means students should follow best public health practices, such as wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, frequently washing their hands, and staying home if they are sick with COVID-19 symptoms. UC San Diego will be following CDC, State and San Diego County public health guidelines as we design, coordinate and facilitate all of our on-campus activities. This means that we hope to arrange for in-person events and activities to be limited to groups of fewer than 50 individuals, employ physical distancing, and require that participants wear face coverings. Community-building and out-of-classroom experiences will continue to evolve in accordance with public health guidelines.

We will continue to make campus resources and activities available remotely. You’ll find the new Virtual Student Union will remain a hub of student activities and engagement. ArtPower, the Price Center and many campus departments are currently curating virtual and remote events; in the coming year these will continue to provide options for all students. In addition, as noted above, we are working on creating smaller events and facilities that allow students to come together in limited-size groups with physical distancing in place.

What can I expect in terms of Recreation? Athletics? Health and Well-being?

We are working to have campus facilities open and are modifying our facilities, practices and classes to meet physical distancing and sanitation requirements. Return to Rec will allow you recreation access. 

We will continue to offer remote and virtual recreational programming through the Playground

UC San Diego Athletics officially entered year one of D1 reclassification. 

Student Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), College Mental Health and Health Promotion will continue to have all of its services available both on-site and via telemedicine.

I am having difficulty with remote learning. What resources are available to me?

UC San Diego has many resources available to support students who are studying remotely. OASIS and Student Success Coaching will continue to make available remote study and coaching sessions via Zoom and by phone. The Teaching + Learning Commons will continue to have tutoring and writing support available remotely. Additional remote learning resources and strategies are available at the Keep Learning site.

The Laptop Lending program will continue to make available loaner laptops, loaner hot spots and loaner iPads.

Our Resource Centers, Case Managers and Deans of Students are also available to work directly with students to assess their specific situations and find solutions.

Will the campus libraries be open for students’ use?

Most of the Library’s services and information resources are available online including access to digital books/ journals, instruction, and research assistance. Working in compliance with local public health authorities and university guidelines, the Library will strive to provide building access. This access is likely to include controlled entry, limited seating and the use of face coverings to limit crowding and facilitate physical distancing. Frequent sanitation and disinfection of tables, computer stations and other materials will be undertaken (including all high-touch spaces) by dedicated team members during operating hours.

How are residency requirements affected by remote learning?

UCOP has extended amendments to in-state residency requirements, ensuring that students who have traveled in order to mitigate COVID-19 are able to maintain residency status. Similarly, remote instruction will not affect status when a student resides out-of-state. Read more (PDF).

Spring Quarter 2021 Instruction

Where can I learn about grading options, waitlists, or degree progress?

The Registrar's office has compiled a resource page on TritonLink, to help you navigate scheduling for the winter quarter.

Course modality glossary

To help clarify the different course delivery options for winter instruction, please see details and examples below. As a reminder, students are not required to provide a doctor’s note as documentation of their illness.

In-Person Only
This is the traditional form of instruction with students and instructors joining the course in the classroom or lab (on site). Physical attendance is required and course materials do not need to be provided asynchronously online. This option may be appropriate for courses such as labs that require the use of specialized equipment only available on campus.

Similar to the In-Person Only option, In-Person courses will be delivered on campus with students and instructors physically present in the classroom. However, all course materials must also be provided asynchronously for students to access anytime online. For example, lectures are provided in real time in the classroom, recorded, and posted on Canvas along with all assignments and other course materials. This is appropriate for courses that benefit, but do not depend on physical presence, where the connection between student and instructor are particularly important (e.g. foundation courses), or for instructors that prefer to engage with their students in-person.

All in-person classes will take place in over-sized classrooms to enable physical distancing. In addition, the campus will perform regular wide-spread testing for virus infection and, if infection is detected, contact tracing and isolation.  Wastewater and surfaces will be tested and classrooms and other facilities will be appropriately sanitized.

All of these efforts will be integrated to promote early analysis of viral activity and a quick response. The Return to Learn program has been designed to identify clusters of individuals shedding the virus or those at greater risk in specific locations, whether in a residence hall or a particular academic building. This will permit faster treatment, earlier mitigation of identified issues, and continued refinement and improvement of the system.

By testing large numbers of UC San Diego students, faculty, and staff on a recurring basis, we hope to be able to quickly identify COVID-19 infections on campus and perhaps reduce the risk of a significant outbreak.

This option combines elements of the In-Person option and remote instruction. Some course components are delivered on campus while other course components are offered remotely. All course materials, including components offered in-person, must be provided asynchronously for students to access anytime. For example, a course may deliver lectures online by posting recordings on Canvas and convene weekly discussion groups in the classroom. Students who are unable to join the discussion groups in person would complete an equivalent assignment, such as submitting a paper with their comments about the discussion topic. This modality may be appropriate for classes that require interaction and problem solving with an instructor, or hands-on group work, but are too large to fully accommodate in-person due to physical distancing requirements.

This is the only option without an element of in-person instruction. Instruction and all course materials are provided remotely and asynchronously, just as courses are currently being delivered in our remote learning environment. This option provides the most flexibility for students and instructors to continue the course with minimal disruption during the university’s transition back to campus. This may be an appropriate option for instructors who are unable to return to campus, for classes that are too large to be safely accommodated, and classes with large populations who may be unable to join us in person. For winter, some large classes are being reconfigured including splitting the class into sections of 50-students or less, or offering flipped classes – where lecture is remote and labs or discussion sections in-person offered as either smaller 50-student or smaller sections (see examples below). Some courses will have both remote and in-person options, but no in-person class will have more than 50 students

Will I get to choose remote instruction if it works best for my schedule?

With a few exceptions, you will have the option of choosing remote instruction for winter. These exceptions are based on the type of instruction taking place in the class, and whether those are translatable to remote delivery. If the class has remote-only sections, you are free to sign up for those, if they are your preferred delivery method. Understand though, that if you are signed up for a remote-only section, you will not be able to participate in in-person delivery without changing your registration. This is done to ensure no class will meet with more than 50 students. Work with your advisor to explore your options and contact the department if no remote-only options are specified.

Will I have in-person or remote labs?

This depends on the course (see below). Many courses will have both in-person and remote lab and discussion sections. Understand that though the experience in the remote and in-person sections will be equivalent, they may not be the same. One might give you an opportunity to learn how to use a piece of equipment in person, and the other how to use a simulated instrument, or the theory of how to use such an instrument.

How will I know if my class will be offered in-person, hybrid, or remotely?

You will be able to see the difference in the online Course Registration system as follows:

In-Person: Classes will have a ‘Total Seat’ count of no more than 50 and on-campus building/room information will be listed.

Example 1:


Example 2:


Classeswill have a meeting time listed with the ‘Building’ RCLAS and a meeting time listed with an on-campus building/room. Classes will also have a ‘Total Seat’ count of no more than 50.

Example 1:


Example 2:


Fully Remote:
 Classes will have a ‘Building’ name of RCLAS. Classes will either be taught synchronously (class will meet at a specific time) or asynchronously (class will not meet at a specific time).

Example 1:


Example 2:


International Students

What enrollment options are available for international students who cannot physically arrive this Winter or Spring?

We recognize that there may be students who will not be able to physically arrive on campus due to travel restrictions, visa delays, or other issues related to COVID-19. UC San Diego is committed to providing the best remote educational experience possible. With very few exceptions, all classes will have asynchronous delivery options and many courses will be offered remotely.

I am a newly admitted international student. If I cannot arrive by the first day of class, how can I start at UC San Diego?

UC San Diego will offer virtual enrollment for both first-year international undergraduate and graduate students so they can start their journeys as part of the Triton family, join their cohort in the fall, and begin progress toward their degree. For more information, refer to Information for  International Students.

Housing, Dining and Hospitality

Will students be able to cancel their university housing and dining contract if public health considerations cause campus to go to remote-only instruction and students need to leave campus?

If public health considerations cause campus to implement remote-only instruction, we will continue to provide a UC San Diego-quality education in a remote setting, and we will not charge students for the unused portion of their contracts for university-owned housing and for university dining.

If I need to cancel my off-campus housing contract, what do I do?

Students will need to work directly with their off-campus property management office.

What precautions are being taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the dining facilities?

We are working closely with and will follow all directives from our local public health authorities. There will be controlled entry into the dining facilities to limit crowding and facilitate physical distancing. Frequent sanitation and disinfection will be undertaken in dining and market locations (including all high-touch spaces) by dedicated team members during operating hours.

Will dining halls still be order ahead and pickup only?

At this time, we are planning for eat-in dining options with physical distancing strictly adhered to as long as the CDC, State and San Diego Public Health Department approve this option. We are working closely with and will follow all directives from our local public health authorities. There will be controlled entry into the dining facilities to limit crowding and facilitate social distancing. Frequent sanitation and disinfection will be undertaken in dining and market locations (including all high touch spaces) by dedicated team members during operating hours.

If a student living on-campus tests positive with COVID-19, what will happen?

For on-campus students, we have created isolation housing space, with academic, nutritional, medical, and mental health support.

Graduate Students

How will I work with my Graduate Teaching Assistant?

Regardless of how your course is taught, either remotely or in person, your teaching assistant will continue to be involved in helping to shape your learning. Your teaching assistant is an advanced graduate student who will be guided by the professor when teaching course material, and will work with the professor on a regular basis to oversee your learning. As always, you will be able to interact with your TA on a regular basis to get your questions answered, and to get help with any course material.

For remotely taught courses, your interactions with your TA will also be remote (via Zoom, email, and other remote technologies). If your course is taught in person, then your interactions with your TA will be in de-densified classroom spaces consistent with the university’s physical-distancing guidelines, and you will be given very clear instructions about how to interact in person. The university’s primary goal with any in-person interactions will be to ensure both your and the TA’s comfort and safety. As always, if you ever have any concerns, your TA and professor stand ready to receive your questions and will happily engage with you.

These are challenging times. We know you have concerns about your well-being, education and future. As we continue to navigate the circumstances together, know we are committed to you as members of our Triton community and will continue to do all we can to deliver a quality educational experience.

We will update these Frequently Asked Questions every day at 4 p.m. to keep you informed. You can also direct your questions at or