Fall 2020 Academic Plan

[Last updated September 8] 

Key Points

  • Campus has reopened and is offering opportunities for in-person engagement with professors and classmates

  • The College will continue to assess evolving federal, state, and local guidance so as to prioritize the health and safety of the F&M community

View fall semester important dates.


5-Module Academic Schedule

F&M switched to a 5-module academic schedule. Our normal two semesters have been divided into:

  • Four 7-week units of instruction 
    • Module 1 and module 2 in the fall
    • Module 3 and module 4 in the spring
  • One optional January term, or J-term. 
  • We have included an extended winter break to avoid the height of flu season
    • This is designed to manage the uncertainty of the fall and the whole year, promoting health and safety, while also enabling flexibility in a time of evolving health considerations 


What to Expect of Classes

F&M is using a blended learning model of instruction.

Alison Kibler


See below for answers to the following questions:

If you have a question that is not answered below, please submit it here.

Why did F&M change the academic schedule for the 2020-21 academic year?

We know from experience, and from student and faculty surveys, that students found four simultaneous online courses overwhelming.

Switching to a module system reduces by half the number of courses a student is taking at any given time, and because professors teach only one course in most modules, this provides the maximum opportunity for the one-on-one mentorship you have come to expect from your F&M education. We believe that, in a physical distancing world, the module system also will provide the best opportunities for you to form close bonds with fellow students. In addition, this change makes it easier to support the tech needs of blended classrooms and to accommodate careful cleaning and other safety measures. ​

When will classes begin and end?

For information on when classes begin and end, please review fall semester important dates.

What will my schedule look like?

As in any other academic year, you will take eight courses, but these are now spread over 4 or 5 modules. For example,

  • Module 1: two classes
  • Module 2: two classes
  • J-term: zero classes
  • Module 3: two classes
  • Module 4: two classes


  • Module 1: two classes
  • Module 2: one class
  • J-term: one class
  • Module 3: two classes 
  • Module 4: two classes

During the registration period in July, you had access to planned course offerings in J-term and the Spring Modules so you could plan better.

Your courses generally meet four days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) for an hour and a half each session, with time blocks spread throughout the day and into the evening, and with longer sessions for some labs, studios, and seminars.

Wednesdays are a catch-up day for everyone with no regular classes held. Language drills, Common Hour, and special programming may be clustered on Wednesdays.

Music ensembles and theater and dance production courses are generally available over several modules for a half credit, and, subject to prevailing circumstances, regularly have rehearsals in the evening.

Is hybrid (blended learning) the same as an online course?

No. Blended learning is a mixture of online and in-person or face-to-face interactions that can expand or shrink as permitted by state and federal guidelines. It also enables flexibility for individual faculty and students who may have specific health considerations.

Why did F&M move to hybrid (blended learning) for the 2020-21 academic year?

If possible, we want to have students on campus and faculty teaching them in person, but we also know that some faculty and students will not be able to be physically present for a variety of reasons (e.g. health, travel restrictions).

Blended learning creates a system in which all students and faculty can access their courses whether they are able to be on campus or not. Moreover, this model offers us maximum flexibility in the event of a COVID-19 resurgence that forces us to switch to fully online, and it accommodates temporary steps if a faculty member or student comes in contact with the virus.

What is blended learning at F&M? What is the difference between asynchronous and synchronous instruction?

Blended Learning refers to a pedagogical approach that skillfully deploys and integrates instruction in two main modes:

  • Asynchronous self-paced instruction: This mode contains all activities, exercises and assignments that do not require a student to interact in real time with the instructor or another student. Accordingly, self-paced instruction can be delivered flexibly and asynchronously to students.

  • Synchronous faculty-interactive instruction: This mode contains all activities, exercises, and assignments that require a student to interact in real time with the instructor or other students. Note that interactive instruction is not necessarily in-person, since it may occur online in a variety of ways.

How did faculty members train and prepare to deliver their courses in a blended learning environment?

This summer, faculty were actively engaged in professional development training to support this shift. Through F&M’s new Course Development Institute, your professors learned the established best practices for a blended learning environment. Most built out new versions of their courses that take full advantage of this innovative approach. As a community of teacher-scholars, your faculty are dedicated to cutting-edge teaching and research that benefit all students.

Who made these decisions? Were students consulted?

The Educational Policy Committee (composed of elected faculty and student representatives) produced these policy recommendations after weeks of discussion, an intensive review of possible models, research on plans from our comparison colleges, and widespread consultation with faculty, administration, and the Diplomatic Congress.

The student survey about our transition to online instruction in the spring was one of the primary drivers for these proposed changes. In addition, we researched national trends and surveys, including a report based on the feedback of 22,000 students. Among the consulted groups, there was overwhelming support for moving to the module/blended learning system.

Alexis Castor