Spring 2021 FAQ

Academic Program

1. What is Bowdoin doing to ensure that students will have a challenging and rewarding digital educational experience again this spring?
Drawing from BCQs and data from a Bowdoin Online Learning and Teaching (BOLT) team survey, the Dean for Academic Affairs has offered detailed teaching expectations for faculty. In addition, the BOLT team, with representatives from the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching, the library, academic technology and consulting, and information technology, continues to offer training, workshops, departmental, and one-on-one support. As was the case in the fall, departments can always turn to their library research liaisons, and their academic technology and consulting (AT&C) liaisons for assistance. Descriptions of the specific areas of expertise of the AT&C liaisons is here.

2. What is the grading policy for Spring 2021?
As was the case for Fall 2020, the College will be using its standard grading policy for Spring 2021. For the spring and fall semesters of 2020, a number of temporary policies have been in place. The following have been extended for the spring 2021 semester:

  • Credit/D/Fail: Normally, Credit/D/Fail is an option that students may choose by the sixth week of the semester, for one course in a full load of four, and for up to four courses total. In the fall, Emergency Credit/D/Fail allowed students to choose up to two courses in this grade mode, with a longer-than-usual window of time for choosing it. This same policy will be in place for Spring 2021. Dates can be found on the registrar’s calendar.
    • Students may choose one course Credit/D/F with a full load of four credits, and this will not count against their career total of four; this option will be open 2/8/2021 to 5/3/2021.
    • As is standard policy, students may not choose the Credit/D/Fail mode for first-year writing seminars, distribution and division requirements, and in most cases, major and minor requirements, though there are temporary adjustments in place for some major/minor requirements.
    • From week seven to eleven (3/31/2021 to 5/3/2021), all students carrying four credits or more who have already chosen to take one course Credit/D/Fail will be able to choose to take a second course Credit/D/Fail, and it will not count against the student's career total of four Credit/D/Fail courses. Students will initiate this request via a form that must be approved by the instructor of the course, the student’s advisor, and the student’s dean.
    • Some departments have decided to allow some courses to be taken credit/d/fail and count toward the major or minor; a list of these courses is available on the registrar’s office website.
  • Limits on a Fifth Full Course: Students will be allowed to add a fifth full credit, but only during Add/Drop II in the fall semester and only with advisor permission. This has been extended to reinforce the findings that taking four online courses is already a heavy load.
  • AP/IB score submission: Normally students must have all AP/IB scores submitted to the College by the end of their sophomore year. Last spring CEP temporarily lifted this deadline to accommodate students. This policy has been extended through the spring 2021 semester.
  • Community College credit for transfer: Last spring CEP also temporarily authorized the use of community college credit, as long as the normal transfer credit process was followed. This has been extended so that students can take courses at community colleges for transfer credit through next summer. Courses that take place after next summer may not be from community colleges.


1. When do classes begin for Spring 2021?
All spring semester courses will begin online on Monday, February 8. Starting on Wednesday, February 17, courses designated as in-person courses will shift to meeting in person so long as the campus is at status level yellow. The in-person components of classes may also begin meeting on this date. The College Library will not open for in-person use until February 22, but students will have access to a take-out service before then. Whether you are teaching in person or online, please remember: the critical mechanism for ensuring safety is a combination of masks, social distancing, hygiene, and testing.
See the Academic Calendar and the Registration Calendar.

2. What is the course schedule for the spring?
The spring 2021 timeblock schedule is available here.

3. How will “live” classes and other kinds of learning experiences be scheduled in ways that are fair for faculty and students in all time zones?
As was the case for the fall, faculty will design their classes with both synchronous and asynchronous elements to accommodate students in different time zones.

4. Will faculty be expected to teach a regular course load for the spring semester?
Yes, faculty will teach a regular course load in Spring 2021.

5. In what formats will classes be offered for the spring?
Most courses will be offered online. Others will be either fully in-person or have in-person components.

6. What is the learning management system for the spring semester?
As was the case in the fall, all courses will be offered through Blackboard so students have a consistent and coherent experience across their courses. Within Blackboard, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other specialty software, where appropriate, will be used.

7. Will all in-person classes also be available to students studying remotely?
No.  Bowdoin is not offering “hy-flex” courses in which each class meeting in a classroom has some students attending in person and some students attending remotely. Students signed up for in-person classes, or classes with in-person components, must attend those classes in the designated mode. Accommodations will be made for those students who, as a result of isolation or quarantine, will not be able to attend their in-person classes (see below).

8. What can faculty expect in terms of classroom and lab spaces? 
Classrooms have markings for furniture spacing, individuals standing, and circulation flows. Faculty are cautioned not to move furniture unless they are prepared to return it to the original configuration and to space it properly. Be sure that boards are erased and course materials picked up. For those faculty using the classroom computer: when departing, Windows users should “restart” the machine and Mac users should “log out.” Please do not unplug or relocate cables as this affects other faculty users and can compromise the integrity of the system.

The priority for maintaining healthy classrooms is a complete change of air between classes. Housekeeping will be doing a wipe down of surfaces, but not a deep cleaning of surfaces between class meetings. (The risk of transmission through surface contact is mitigated by regular and thorough hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer.) Lab instructors, not housekeepers, will clean labs between lab sessions.

If any faculty member notices that signage is needed in any spaces in which they are working or teaching, they are to contact Megan Morouse at mmorouse@bowdoin.edu

9. Can faculty expect that information technology staff are available for troubleshooting issues in the classroom (and that they, too, will abide by health and safety protocols)?
Yes and yes. Help desk staff will also always be available and can be reached at 207-725-3030. 

10. What should I do if a student(s) must be absent from my in-person class?
With little notice you can record the in-person class session and send it to the student(s) or set up a laptop to Zoom the student(s) into the class. With more notice, you can have a camera and recorder set up in the classroom. Use the AV Request Form or contact them at avservices@bowdoin.edu or 207-725-3612.

11. What should I do in the event of an area/campus power outage?
Access to electric power is more important than ever given that the majority of Bowdoin’s educational program is currently online. Be sure to regularly charge your various devices and consider purchasing a portable charging device. If you participate in the campus testing program, you will have access to the schedule of monitored campus charging locations and current capacity on CampusGroups. As always, there will be timely messaging regarding power outages on campus and faculty are to use their judgment in deciding whether it is safe to travel to campus. If you have power at home, it would be wise to stay home and teach from there. If you do not have power, you might try using your iPhone in order to hold a scheduled class. Bear in mind that students’ ability to complete and submit their work on time will be compromised by power outages. Students’ access to campus charging locations will be variable and the power may be out for an extended period of time. In addition, students may not have the equipment (e.g. noise-cancelling headphones) for effective participation in a synchronous class session while charging their devices. In short, please be flexible with assignments and deadlines in the event of a power outage.

12. How will we ensure that all coursework and other learning experiences are fully accessible?
The implementation of accessibility standards, including captioning, will be in place for all spring courses. When uploading your videos to Ensemble you can elect to have them captioned. Teams can also provide captioning for recorded videos. If you record your synchronous class on Zoom, it is automatically captioned on cloud and then entered into your Ensemble video library. You can then request that editors (students and staff hired by Bowdoin) edit them for readability and accuracy. Note, too, that both Ensemble and Teams can provide post-recording captioning in several languages. Note that the CTLG Report and the BOLT workshops emphasize the importance of adopting elements of Universal Design into coursework.

13. Will Bowdoin's Apple iPad program continue?
Yes. With this common mobile computing platform students will continue to connect to their classes, build community with each other, run the same apps and software at the same performance level, and also receive the same support, regardless of their location or learning situation. Faculty will continue to be able to more easily annotate and collaborate via digital ink. More details about Bowdoin's iPad program are available here. Faculty are encouraged to attend the iPad open labs and Apple iPad sessions offered by BOLT.

14. How will independent studies that are required for a major or honors project work for seniors on campus and off campus? 
Roughly thirty seniors who could not pursue their preapproved projects remotely because they required access to physical spaces and resources on campus, and who could do so under Bowdoin's health and safety protocols, successfully petitioned to live on campus in the fall. These students will continue to work on their projects while on campus this spring. Those seniors who are not living on campus this spring will complete their preapproved remote independent studies/honors projects from off campus.

15. How should I expect to meet with my students and advisees?
Most meetings with students should take place online. Faculty are urged to post regular office hours and to schedule their office hours through Blackboard’s Calendar feature or via Microsoft Bookings, which links to their Outlook calendar. Meetings in person can take place if all COVID-19 precautions are followed.

16. Will the library be open for faculty and student use?
The College Library will not open for in-person use until February 22, but faculty and students will have access to a take-out service before then. The College Library will only open when the campus is in status level yellow. Hawthorne-Longfellow Library (H-L) and the branch libraries are open only to faculty, staff, and students who are participating in the COVID-19 testing protocol. A OneCard is required for building entry. Hours for all libraries are posted here

17. Will the library provide course materials for students?
Yes. Ebook versions of all course adoption books will be purchased if available. Questions about ebook availability should be directed to Kate Wing, the library’s course materials and collections specialist. If an ebook is unavailable, the library will purchase a print copy to be added to the general collection. The library can scan, and make available through the E-reserves service, a limited number of book chapters. E-reserves—articles and book chapters—will proceed as usual. Information on e-reserves may be found here.

Please note that due to copyright restrictions, the library is unable to scan books in their entirety. Faculty should consult with Carmen Greenlee, humanities and media librarian, about copyright-related questions.

The library will also place physical books on reserve this spring so that students may request that electronic copies of chapters be made available to them through the Bowdoin Digital Delivery service.

DVDs owned by the library can be digitized and made available to students through Blackboard. Information on requesting digitization may be found on the Reserves page.

18. What about textbook adoption?
If you have adopted books for your courses, please ensure they are correct by finding your course in Classfinder and clicking "Order Books." If you have not yet adopted books, please do so as soon as possible using this form so that students can receive their materials by the first day of classes. If you have questions about course adoptions, please email Kate Wing. Some materials, such as art supplies and molecule sets, are sold online by the Bowdoin Store. For questions about course supplies sold by the Bowdoin Store, contact Andrea Sehestedt.

19. What is a Learning Assistant and how do I go about hiring one?
A Learning Assistant (LA) is a student who works directly with students in a course (whether as a tutor or discussion facilitator) in order to facilitate their learning. An LA cannot also be enrolled in the course for which they are working. Ideally, they have taken the course before and received a grade of “B” or higher. With input from faculty members, LAs are hired by and receive pedagogical training through the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching. If you are interested in a Learning Assistant, contact Katie Byrnes (kbyrnes@bowdoin.edu), Director of the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching.


1. How many students are allowed on campus for the spring?
Seniors, juniors, and sophomores, and also first-year students who have home situations that make online learning nearly impossible, are able to be on campus this spring. All of these students will be enrolled in the testing protocol. Seniors will also have the option to live off campus, participate in the testing protocol, and have on-campus privileges at the College. All students who either live on or have access to campus will be required to sign the spring semester community agreement.

2. Will there be a spring break?
A short spring break will begin after the last class on Friday, March 19, with classes resuming on Wednesday, March 24. Students will not be permitted to travel off campus or, in the case of those seniors in residence but off campus, leave their area of residence during this short break.

3. What is the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching doing to support students who depend on their on-campus programming? 
The Baldwin Center continues to offer its full range of services to support all students, including one-on-one consultations, webinars, workshops, Q-tutors, STEM study groups, writing assistance, and peer mentors, as well as additional resources specific to the added challenges of online learning. The BCLT’s Online Learning webpage provides access to this extensive collection of available resources.

4. Will there be a student research program on campus this summer?
Plans are underway for a smaller summer research program on campus. Considerations include the need to maintain campus density in keeping with COVID-19 health and safety protocols, to accommodate renovations in Druckenmiller Hall, and to schedule around a later conclusion to the spring semester. Details will be announced soon.

Faculty Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure

How will the fact that the fall and spring semesters will be taught digitally affect faculty appointments, promotions, and tenure?
In spring 2020, given the disruption of COVID-19, pre-tenure faculty on the faculty tenure track (up to and including tenure-track faculty who joined the college in the 2020-2021 academic year) were granted an additional year on their tenure clock, and spring 2020 student rosters were excluded for sampling for student retrospective letters in tenure and promotion cases. At this time, there are no plans to exclude fall 2020 or spring 2021 rosters for sampling for student retrospective letters in tenure and promotion cases.


Will course questionnaires (BCQs) be required this spring?
Yes. BCQs will be required. We recommend that faculty place on their syllabi information and encouragement to students to complete their BCQs (between the dates of May 10, 2021 and May 20, 2021).

Faculty are also encouraged to use early semester course questionnaires. The BOLT team will offer a workshop on designing and using a questionnaire on Microsoft Forms and team members are available for consultations.


1. The work involved in teaching online and disruptions in travel are going to affect faculty abilities to do their research. How will the College accommodate for this disruption?
The coronavirus pandemic has had, and will continue to have, profound effects on individual and College plans. We will have to work together to determine how to continue to support members of our community moving forward. The one-year extension of the tenure-clock described above is the central means by which we recognize the impact on junior faculty especially.

2. Will I be able to travel to conferences, symposia, invited talks, etc., this summer?
Travel to conferences, symposia, invited talks, etc. will be permitted this summer. Please visit the travel-related information on the human resources site for details on travel protocols for faculty and staff.

3. Can faculty invite people to campus?
No. We strongly encourage you to hold all meetings, presentations, class visits, and collaborations virtually. Any funds from the Lectures & Concerts committee, the dean’s office, or any endowed funding source will be extended to next year upon request. Contact Ann Ostwald with any questions.

4. What is Bowdoin’s policy on digital content and intellectual property (IP) rights?
According to Bowdoin’s existing IP policy, faculty members retain the rights to their intellectual contributions, and this continues to be true on digital platforms. Moreover, none of the platforms which support online teaching and learning may claim IP rights over content created by faculty or by students. 

5. How should I approach matters related to digital content and privacy?
A number of issues should be kept in mind about rights and responsibilities in the digital setting. First, please remember to communicate with each of your students directly about their work and records—not their parents. And, as you think about grading, please be sure that each student’s information is accessible only to them—not their classmates. Second, you need to ask your students for permission to be recorded if you plan on having recorded sessions available for other students in the class to view. Third, please inform your students that your and their consent to be recorded does not confer a blanket right of use or reuse; it doesn’t mean that recordings or portions thereof can be shared or posted elsewhere or used in another semester. Note: If the recordings are on Ensemble then they are not downloadable by default. It is possible to add security to any video on Ensemble to force Bowdoin authentication on them as well. If videos are on Microsoft Stream, then only people with Bowdoin credentials have access to them. (Please reach out to BOLT askbolt@bowdoin.edu for additional guidance on providing such security.) Nonetheless, it is important to educate your students about these privacy rights. Fourth, students must not presume that they can invite others (not in the class) to view and listen to class sessions. Tell students that they should try to adhere to the norms of physical class meetings. They would not normally bring friends and families into the classroom to listen to lectures or view screenings without prior permission from the professor. In the same way, digital materials from their courses should not be shared and should ideally be viewed in private spaces or, if in public, using headphones. It is recommended that faculty place this information on their syllabi.