Learning on Campus

The Learning Experience

When students return to campus, their courses may be offered in a number of different modalities: face to face, hybrid, or entirely online. We have done a thorough review of our classroom spaces, and because we will need to maintain health and safety standards, we have made adjustments—both to class sizes and to the layout of classrooms. We will use every space on campus to offer our curriculum, but we will also get creative about how to give all students some face to face and some online access. This overview of the course delivery modalities at Saint Mary’s notes some of their key features and factors. 

FAQs for Academic Spaces

Classroom Instruction

Many of the classes will be face to face as usual. Some will be a mix of online and face-to-face — with online being a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning. The synchronous online parts will be conducted through a live meeting program such as Collaborate that allows professors and students to see and hear each other and, most importantly, to interact in real time all together or in breakout rooms for group work. The asynchronous parts will include materials that are posted online for you to work through at your own pace. This type of hybrid learning should not be new to those of you who have participated in hybrid courses on campus in the past. A few classes will be fully online, but you will still engage with the instructor as a group, in real-time, at least once a week. 

Faculty are committed to quality, discussion-based teaching. They have designed their courses with the blend best suited to safely achieve that goal. Also, to the extent possible, we will run a paperless campus to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For students who may become ill, your professors will work with you to develop an individualized plan to allow you to continue being part of the class in as seamless a way as possible taking into account your physical condition, the nature of the upcoming work in the class and your individual learning style.


Please email registrar@saintmarys.edu with all add/drop requests. We will continue to add students to classes until the classroom max for social distancing is reached. You will be notified if we are unable to fulfill your requests.

Classroom Health Precautions

Learning spaces will be deep cleaned nightly to sanitize and prepare them for the start of the day. All teaching will be conducted with a primary consideration of infection control and distancing at the forefront. Faculty and students are expected to follow the general guidelines for infection control and avoid situations where social distancing and appropriate face covering are not maintained.

Masks are required for in-person teaching and learning, unless it is impossible because of specific requirements of the educational environment. All exceptions to the mask rules will need to be reviewed and approved. Saint Mary’s will continue reviewing the availability of other infection control solutions to meet the varied needs of the teaching environment.

For most classes, you will come to class with your laptop. If you do not have one, please email studentaffairs@saintmary.edu to let us know, and we will arrange for you to get a loaner for the semester.

Office Hours, Academic Advising, and Other Student Interactions

Saint Mary’s has a long tradition of excellence in education and commitment to its students. Academic advising as well as meeting a professor during office hours are important markers of a student’s time on campus. In order to make these routine student interactions accessible and safe, we have established the following guidelines:

  • For the time being, most faculty office hours will be held virtually. Faculty will advise each class on how they will conduct their meetings.
  • If an individual’s private office has sufficient square footage to maintain 30 square feet per inhabitant, it is appropriate to have face-to-face meetings with students in that space. Both participants shall use face coverings for the duration of the meeting.
  • In private offices, faculty members will ensure social distancing and infection control opportunities such as arranging seating to assure appropriate social spacing. When possible, seating will not be directly face to face.
  • A simple way to visualize if there is enough space for appropriate physical distance in an office would be for the person sitting at their desk to extend their arms to the person in the client chair, who also extends their arms toward the person at the desk. When both extend their arms to the other, if there is a foot or more between their fingertips, there is sufficient space in the office for two people.

Academic Services

Saint Mary's students will continue to have access to a tremendous level of academic support, including:

  •  Disability Resource Office counselors will provide both in-person and virtual individual meetings. Proctored testing will be available in a larger space that will ensure adequate physical distancing.
  • The Career Crossings Office will continue to provide a full level of one-on-one services to assist students with choosing majors, exploring and discerning career paths, searching for internships and jobs, and preparing for graduate and professional school applications.
  • The Success Program will continue working with students, providing individual academic coaching and study tables.
  • The Cushwa-Leighton Library will be open with several safety protocols in place, including arranging study spaces to encourage social distancing. The circulation desk will be staffed, and library users will be able to check out books while reference consultations will be virtual. The Library will offer curbside pick-up for library users who wish to retrieve material without coming into the library.

Staying Healthy at the Library

The Pass/Fail Option

We will provide flexibility regarding the deadline to declare a pass/fail grade. Normally, we would only allow a course to be counted as pass/fail if the student declared the desire for such in the first 10 days of the semester. During the Spring 2021 semester students can declare a pass/fail grading up until the last day of classes (May 11, 2021) at 5 p.m. The form to declare pass/fail can be found on the mysaintmarys portal site under student records. 

What is Pass/Fail grading? If you earn a passing grade (i.e., A-D) it will be recorded on your transcript as a pass and not factor into your GPA. If you earn a failing grade, it will be recorded as an F on your transcript and will be included in the calculation of your GPA. Students are allowed only a maximum of two courses pass/fail per semester which cannot be taken for Sophia, major or minor courses; and only a total maximum of six such courses can count toward your degree. Courses taken as pass/fail in Spring 2020 semester do not count towards this maximum. Remember also that a course taken pass/fail does not apply to the 12 graded hours required for the calculation of honors. If you have any questions about this policy please contact the advising office at advising@saintmarys.edu.

Studying in Common Spaces 

The occupancy of lounges and other common areas in all Saint Mary’s College buildings will be limited to the number of occupants that allows for 30 square feet per occupant. All occupants of lounges and other common areas are required to wear face coverings.

Mask Up

We ask that all members of the community take responsibility for their basic health status and to make every effort to conform to safety requirements. With that, faculty members will enforce the use of masks by students and physical distancing in their classrooms.

FAQs for Academic Spaces

+What role do professors play in the classroom regarding student safety?

Faculty are integral to the safety plan for our College. To keep themselves and their students safe, adhering to our classroom safety standards is vital. For example, all professors must take attendance and enforce a seating chart to facilitate contact tracing in the event someone in their classroom tests positive. They must follow cleaning procedures established by the College each day, and ensure all students are masked and physically distant.

+Do all students have to wear a mask and physically distance themselves in class?

Yes. Failure to wear a mask or physically distance is a violation of the student code of conduct. Faculty and staff are required by the College to do so as well.

+What do I do if I see someone not in compliance?

Please report student non-compliance to the Office of Student Affairs/Gloria Jenkins. Students can also file a Student Concern Report, anonymously if desired, to report student or faculty violations.

+Will faculty be notified by the College if a student taking one of their classes is in quarantine or isolation?

Yes. Faculty will be notified that a student needs to move from in-person to online instruction.

+If someone tests positive for COVID-19, will every student and faculty be contacted?

Through contact tracing, we will assess the level of potential exposure for every person in the classroom, and notify those who may be at risk. The same will occur for those who work in residence halls and other buildings on campus. At the time of notification of possible exposure, health instructions will be provided to guide the individual through the next phase, which could range from increased self-monitoring to self-quarantine, depending on the level of risk. Faculty will also be advised in order to assist the student with their academic needs.

+If I am in a lab with students for 3 hours, but because it's assumed we're six feet apart, will I still be contacted?

Yes. We will not be making assumptions about physical distancing. If a student from your class is moved into quarantine or isolation, you will receive a notice from Academic Affairs. In addition, if the student reports that everyone in your class has remained masked and six feet apart, then you will not be contacted by the contact tracing team.

+How are academic supplies delivered to a student who is in isolation or quarantine?

A faculty member who needs something delivered to a student in quarantine for a course (art supplies, e.g.) can contact Ariel Leary, the Director of Residence Life, and drop off these supplies at her office.

+How is the time between classes handled in academic buildings?

Classes taught in a hybrid or modified face-to-face mode will reduce crowding in classroom buildings, as will the addition of outdoor and non-traditional classroom spaces in many buildings on campus. Additionally, the time between classes has been extended to 15 minutes on MWF; and the start times for classes that meet MW vs. MWF are delayed five minutes to decrease crowding.

+Will the classroom be disinfected regularly?

All classrooms will be deep cleaned by building services each night. During the day, cleaning materials have been supplied to each classroom. A checklist of cleaning protocols can be found above the paper towel dispenser in all classrooms.

+Do I need to employ the cleaning procedures in outdoor spaces?

The formal outdoor classroom spaces, outfitted with desks and cleaning supplies, should follow the indoor classroom procedures.

+Are classrooms required to go paperless?

The risk of transmission via intermediate objects is considered very low. Reducing paper helps even more. The environmental impact of going paperless is all positive.

+Can I move the furniture in my classroom?

All furniture in public spaces have been set in place according to the College’s Health and Safety Standards, including tables, chairs and desks inside instruction spaces and lounges, the library, and in dining spaces. A reminder that you should not move any furniture in order to sit closer to another individual. If chairs are moved away from their marked location, you must ensure they are back in their original position before leaving the area.

+Can students eat in the classroom or in the library?

No. Due to the mask policy, a reminder that eating and drinking is not allowed in instructional spaces on campus. This includes lounges and study carrols inside academic buildings. If deemed appropriate due to the duration of the class or its location, individual instructors have the option to permit students to drink using a straw in a manner that does not dislodge masks. The Cushwa-Leighton Library permits beverages in sturdy, spill-proof containers that can be reclosed, as well as small, portable snacks such as granola bars. Masks may only be removed long enough to take a sip of your beverage or bite of your snack. (To-go meals or food deliveries are not permitted in the library.)