Fall 2020 at WCL -- Meeting Students Where They Are

Will my classes be online or in-person?
As highlighted in the message from Dean Nelson and Incoming Acting Dean Dinerstein, the American University Washington College of Law (WCL) leadership is planning a hybrid learning experience for Fall 2020. The 8.5-acre Tenley Campus will be open and will support opportunities for collaborative onsite experiences, both indoors and in the many welcoming outdoor spaces our campus provides. In particular, we are investigating a range of options to enhance use of our outdoor spaces, and we are endeavoring to offer some on-campus limited-enrollment classes, consistent with CDC, District of Columbia, and American University guidelines.

As excited as we are about re-opening the campus, we also want to make clear that many classes will be online, and in-person participation in all WCL activities will be optional for Fall 2020. Our aim is to meet you where you are so you may gain the full benefits of a WCL education. We will support you, whether you choose to participate remotely or to combine remote participation with in-person, on-campus activities. Students who are not able, or do not wish, to come to class or campus in person will not be required to do so; all on-campus offerings will be duplicated or simulcast online.

Will the WCL campus be open to students? If so, what activities will take place on campus?
Yes, the WCL campus will be open to students this Fall, and we anticipate that some small limited-enrollment classes will take place on campus, and students will also be able to meet with faculty for office hours and utilize campus spaces, both indoor and outdoor, for individual and small-group studying, peer mentoring, library access, and meetings with faculty, career advisors, academic support counselors, and other administrators. Faculty and staff will also continue to provide opportunities for online meetings, for those students who do not choose to come to campus.

The WCL leadership will spend the next several weeks working with the community to identify strategies to make additional, vibrant, and innovative use of our spacious campus. If you are a student, faculty, or staff member – take our Building Usage Survey now! (Log-in required).

How can I reserve space to study or hold a small group meeting so I know a safe space is available for me when I come to campus?
Check back soon; we are working to improve our central scheduling site, so you will be able to reserve spaces in real time, so when you come to campus you know there’s a safe space available for you to use.

What is WCL doing to ensure that our community remains welcoming, inclusive, and supportive of students no matter where they are physically located?
The details are still in the works, but we are committed to ensuring that all opportunities that are available on campus are also fully available in the online environment, so you can choose whether coming to campus is right for you. In particular, even for those classes that are offered on-campus, there will be no grade penalty for remote participation.

Does WCL expect to be hybrid in the spring as well?
We have not begun to plan for spring but are closely following recommendations from the DC government and CDC and will keep the community apprised as we learn more about the predicted course of the Coronavirus pandemic. We have a lot more information now than we did in March, and we’ll have a lot more information in October than we do now. Our goal is to resume on-campus operations in the spring, if we are able to do so while ensuring the safety and well-being of all community members. As always, your health and well-being come first, and we make all decisions with the safety of the entire community in mind.

I'm an international student. What will my Fall 2020 experience be like at WCL?
As noted, WCL is designing the semester to flexibly meet your individual needs so that you may gain the full benefits of WCL, whether you choose to participate remotely or to combine remote participation with in-person, on-campus activities. We will support you where you are, and WCL faculty, administrators, and staff are mindful of the fact that international students are located worldwide and not everyone is in the same time zone as Washington, DC. We therefore will make our best efforts to accommodate the needs of each individual student and to ensure our international students thrive regardless of the challenges of the COVID-19. Please read our FAQs for international students, which cover visas, engaging with WCL from abroad, and more.

When will 1L students be registered for Fall courses if they have already submitted a registration form?
This usually happens in mid-July, but it may be a little later this year given the ongoing pandemic uncertainty.

For the larger courses (not counting Legal Rhetoric) will students be split into subsections to potentially allow for on-campus participation in those courses?
We are exploring options that may involve either sub-sections or smaller “meet ups” to supplement the usual large doctrinal sections. The particular format of these smaller meetings will be up to each individual professor.

Do students need to individually make a determination about whether they will be completely remote or available for in-person before fall classes start?  If so, are they able to change their determination as the semester progresses?
We will ask for each student’s preference at some point later in the summer. It will be easier to accommodate a student who starts in-person but has to shift to remote for whatever reason; it may be more difficult to accommodate students who start out remote but want to shift to in-person, because we can’t exceed classroom capacities (which are considerably smaller than usual given distancing requirements). That being said, we will always make an effort to work with students to meet you where you are.

Will there be a set policy decided prior to the start of classes about which courses will be online only vs. some in-person work, or will it be up to each individual faculty member to make that call?  Within each class, will students have any influence on whether or not a faculty member decides to have an in-person session/portion of the class?
Some classes will be online only. For classes that are hybrid, it will largely be up to the professor to figure out how to structure the in-person portion of the class, but they will need to determine that structure prior to the start of the semester so students know where they need to be when.

Can it be assumed that Spring 2021 will also have an optional in-person curriculum? Some students, including incoming 1Ls, who do not move to DC this summer may not be able to secure a living space in November/December 2020.
We have not yet made any decisions about Spring 2021, but if there is the possibility to be in-person that would of course be our preference.  DC has a very robust housing market, so housing availability is unlikely to be the factor that limits our ability to be in-person next spring.

Teaching and Learning Online This Fall

What is WCL doing to ensure its online courses will provide a high-quality learning experience?
WCL has a long history of remote teaching and, unlike most other law schools, has an Office of Online Learning that works with professors to create engaging online classes. The online experience is different from an in-person class, but we’re working to support the learning objectives professors have identified for each of our courses and to ensure students will be able to thrive in an engaging online setting.

In preparation for the Fall, our professors are participating in training sessions to learn the best ways to transition their classes online. Professors also have the opportunity to meet with instructional designers to review their course plans and consider how to engage students and ensure learning outcomes for each unique course.

What time of day will classes be held? What if I am in a different time zone?
Most classes will have a mix of pre-recorded asynchronous material and live virtual sessions.  The asynchronous material can be completed whenever is convenient for the student.  The live sessions will be held at their regularly scheduled time, which students can find on the Registrar’s website.

How am I going to be assessed if everything is online? Will it all be Honor Code-based? Will courses be graded?
Please check the syllabi for your courses, as each professor will specify the assessment method for his/her/their course. The grading policy is laid out in the WCL Catalog and will not be adjusted for Fall 2020. One of the considerations that informed our plan for Fall was the need to avoid the kind of disruption we experienced in the spring.

What if I don’t have reliable Wi-Fi or computer equipment?
For technical advice on computers and Wi-Fi/internet connections, contact the help desk at helpdesk@wcl.american.edu.

Eligible students seeking additional federal loan funds as a reimbursement for a computer or equipment purchase may contact the AUWCL Financial Aid Office at finaid@wcl.american.edu for more information. 

Will I be able to participate in my clinic or externship during the Fall Term 2020?
All clinical courses will be held, as planned, during the Fall 2020 semester. The clinic faculty are making appropriate adjustments to ensure that students will have meaningful opportunities to engage in client-based work and to develop critical lawyering skills.  If you have been accepted into a clinic for Fall 2020, you should expect to hear from your clinic supervisors in the coming weeks about specific plans for the Fall semester.

At this time we anticipate that students will be able to extern remotely or on site during the Fall semester, provided certain requirements are met. Field placements hiring students to work remotely will have to agree to requirements intended to ensure students have a productive experience, akin to working on site. This includes weekly video conferences, and regular supervision via telephone.

Field placements hiring students to work on site will be required to provide a statement describing their compliance with DC or state regulations regarding distancing and other COVID-related matters. They must also have a plan in place that will permit students to work remotely should the workplace shut down mid-semester. Students may create a hybrid work environment in which they work some hours on site and other hours remotely. Please contact the Externship Office (externship@wcl.american.edu) for additional details.

Will all classes, regardless of format, be recorded? How long will we have access to those recordings?
Yes, classes will all be recorded and made available to students.  The recordings are usually available through the end of the semester.

Health and Safety

What health and safety practices can I expect to see implemented during on-campus activities in the Fall?
All onsite activities at Washington College of Law will be subject to the health and safety policies of the District of Columbia and American University. Among those policies is the requirement that community members practice physical distancing and wear face coverings at all times when on the university campuses. 

For other information about health and safety requirements while on campus, COVID testing, etc., please see American University’s health and safety FAQs that are part of the university’s AU Forward Fall plan. You can also read AU's full Fall 2020 Health and Safety Plan.

Tuition Policies and Fees

Will I receive a discount for any classes held entirely online this Fall?
American University and Washington College of Law are not adjusting tuition for the Fall semester. Our faculty are working diligently to design our Fall courses with the goal of bringing the energy of our classrooms, moot courtrooms, and lunchtime discussions to every member of our community.   Our courses will enable all students to: 1) gain the knowledge required within their degree; 2) have access to their courses from wherever they are; and 3) continue to move toward completing their law degree and achieving their academic goals.

Will there be an adjustment to the student activity fee?
AU has indicated that the student activity fee remains a mandatory fee, but that student leaders may consider creative ways to use the funds to enhance the student experience during this unusual semester.

How will other fees be handled?
The WCL leadership is currently discussing this issue with the University. Check back soon for an answer.

How will printing be handled? We received a $100 credit in prior semesters.
We are hoping to be able to set up a printing center on campus, which would be available to students, faculty, and staff. The charge for this service, if any, has not yet been determined.