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FAQ - Academics

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Online Classes

Summer and Fall Classes


Online Classes

Is the university closed?

The university has not been closed, and services are available on campus with limitations as we approach the fall semester. Until then, to the extent possible, many services will continue to be provided remotely. Classes moved online on March 18 and remained online for the spring 2020 semester and will now continue through the summer semester.

To provide safe and accessible educational opportunities, we will offer a residential campus experience with a blend of in-person and online classes to maximize students’ access to interactive learning experiences.

Classes will begin as scheduled on Aug. 24 and finish remotely after Thanksgiving break. This approach for the conclusion of the semester will help reduce exposure and potential transmission of COVID-19.

AU is planning a phased return of faculty and staff to campus for the fall semester. To protect the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students, the way we work will differ significantly from the pre-COVID-19 period.

Departments will work with HR to classify faculty and staff into three groups based on university needs and job functions. Faculty and staff will be notified of their status by the end of July.

1) full presence required on campus
2) partial presence on campus with telework
3) full telework

To keep density low, faculty and staff returning to campus may have adjusted schedules and many will continue to telework much or all of the time in the initial phases. Meetings will continue to be conducted using videoconferencing tools

How will I access my classes online?

Faculty instructors will continue to be in contact with students before March 18 with information about how to access course materials and other next steps. Individual faculty will be the primary contact for students for online and in-person instruction. Please watch your email regularly as it will be an important source of information from your instructors and the university.

What are the strategies for transitioning to full or partial online learning?

There are specific tips and strategies for navigating online courses. These strategies focus on time management, developing habits to support increased virtual communication, and approaches to organizing online work. Academic Coaching is also here to support students virtually through one-on-one academic skills development sessions, which includes organizing online work, breaking down online assignments, and study strategies. Students can sign up for an Online Academic Coaching Session using YouCanBookMe. Students can open the link, select the appropriate appointment type, and then fill out the intake form. On the intake form under "Session Method", students can use Zoom video and input the appropriate information.

Additionally, students are encouraged to work with their faculty to develop strategies as they transition to online learning for each of their classes. Faculty can answer questions about their online class structure and give guidance on how to approach online learning in their class.

What should I do if I don’t have the necessary computer equipment or internet access to participate in my classes?

Please contact your individual faculty members and instructors to discuss arrangements. Faculty are working to be flexible and provide support for students.

Where can I access books, reading materials, etc.?

Faculty are being asked to make every effort to be accommodating, flexible, and supportive. We understand this is difficult and that some students have circumstances that will make it challenging. The AU Library can scan textbooks in their collections or on reserve and link them to class syllabi in Blackboard. Individual faculty will be determining the specific materials and how they will be available for each class, so please look for instructions from your faculty.

What if I don’t have or can’t afford internet service for virtual class participation?

Please consider visiting your local library if social distancing is possible as recommended by the CDC when in public spaces. Also contact your area internet provider to see if they are offering any discounts on internet services to help during this crisis.

What accomodations are available for online classes?

For the duration of online classes during the summer semester, approved disability-related accommodations will work as follows:

Testing Accommodations:

  • Main Campus Students: Make sure that your faculty member has a copy of your Academic Support and Access Center (ASAC) accommodations letter, and work with your faculty member regarding your accommodations. If you need additional assistance or have a new accommodation need, please review the information on ASAC’s website, or contact ASAC at asac@american.edu or 202.885.3360.
  • WCL Students: WCL students should continue to work with the Office of Student Affairs for exam accommodation implementation.
  • Faculty: It is critical that faculty continue to provide reasonable accommodations, including testing accommodations, to students in their online classes. Faculty should pay close attention to students’ ASAC memos and be in contact with students about their accommodations. The ASAC is committed to helping faculty work through challenging situations and can be contacted for guidance at asac@american.edu or 202.885.3360.

Accommodation Guidance for Blackboard Assessments:

  • Can I use Blackboard for accommodated assessments? 
    Exams and quizzes on Blackboard are not compatible with the software many of our students use to take exams. If you plan to use this platform you will need to create alternative assessment formats for students with text-to-speech and speech-to-text accommodations. For questions/guidance, please reach out to exams@american.edu.
  • How do I extend time for a student on Blackboard?
  1. Left click on the small circle next to the assessment title you want to modify
  2. Click “Edit the test options”
  3. Scroll down to “Test availability exceptions”
  4. Click “Add user or Group”
  5. Select the student with accommodations and click submit
  6. Select the criteria for that student (attempts, time, availability)
  7. Click “Submit” all the way at the bottom
  8. More Resources:
    View “Adding Extended Time to Quizzes and Tests in Blackboard.”
    For technical questions, visit the AU Blackboard support page.

Notetaking Technology:

  • For notetaking purposes, you can continue to use both Sonocent Audio Note-Taker and Glean. Livescribe pens can also be used to record online lectures in real time.

ASL and CART Accommodations:

  • Services for synchronous lectures are being provided remotely. Students can continue to request ASL interpreters for meetings with professors, staff, and other course-related activities; interpreters will be provided through video relay. Interpreter and CART requests can be sent to the ASAC via the Interpreter CART Request Form.

Captioning Accommodations:

Faculty and students are also encouraged to use readily available assistive technology supports within their computer’s operating system:

For any questions regarding accommodations please contact the ASAC at asac@american.edu or 202.885.3360.

What remote support services are available?

Remote support services for students, such as the Counseling Center, the Writing Center, Academic Coaching, and Tutoring services will be available while classes are held. Academic advisors will be available, and you should reach out to your individual advisor to schedule a remove appointment.

Academic Coaching is here to support students virtually through one-on-one academic skills development sessions designed to support student thriving. These sessions will assist students in creating engagement opportunities to intentionally interact with their courses virtually. Sessions will be held on Zoom and Skype for students to easily access. Students can sign up for an Online Academic Coaching Session using YouCanBookMe. Students will open the link, select the appropriate appointment type, and then fill out our intake form. On the intake form under "Session Method", students will select Skype Video or Zoom Video and input the appropriate information.

Summer and Fall Classes

Why did AU offer a 10 percent discount for summer? Why wasn’t it higher?

As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, we know students and families are facing increased financial hardship. We provided this discount to support our students and to provide additional educational opportunities.

AU provided this discount to offer financial relief to students and their families and more additional options for students to advance their education. For a typical summer schedule of two courses (6 credits), this discount translates into approximately $1,000 in savings. We hope the 10 percent discount can help students complete additional courses for less than the standard costs in fall and spring, which can be useful in a time of economic uncertainty.

Why is AU not providing a discount for spring tuition since courses are being taught online?

Throughout the COVID-19 situation, we have taken unprecedented steps to support our campus community and deliver our robust, high-quality education to students.

Our faculty worked to ensure a smooth transition to online instruction and incorporate innovative solutions that delivered the AU education to students no matter their location. During this time, students continued to have access to our faculty and the wide range of academic and support services that are the foundation of our educational mission. Our academic advisers were available throughout the spring semester to support students in the transition and a special cross-functional team was deployed to help students with any technological or connectivity challenges. With campus operations curtailed in compliance with safety orders, AU students were engaged with new ways of experiencing a wide variety of typical university activities, including webinars with our staff, virtual debates and student government elections, and numerous online events.

While COVID-19 presented a new set of circumstances, online education is not new for American University or our students. There are typically more than 500 online classes each year that are equivalent to our face-to-face instruction and have the same requirements and tuition levels. Students still received full credit for completing their courses.

Will financial aid be available to me for summer courses?

Institutional financial aid is not available in the summer for undergraduate students who are not enrolled in the three-year BA programs. One of the reasons we offered the summer tuition discount was to help undergraduate students who may want to take summer classes but do not receive their regular financial packages in the summer. Additionally, we wanted to help students continue their studies if they chose without the fall and spring costs of housing, meal plans, and travel. Students may still be eligible for federal financial aid to assist with the summer cost.

Institutional financial aid for graduate students is determined by each individual school and is predominately allocated for the fall and spring semesters. However, graduate students are eligible to receive federal financial aid in the summer if they are enrolled at least half-time and the courses taken are applicable toward their degree, assuming they are making satisfactory academic progress and meeting all the standard conditions. Graduate students will also be offered a discount on summer classes in summer 2020 in order to help them continue their studies without having to be on-campus.

Will the pass/fail option apply for summer courses? What is the timeline for withdrawing from summer courses?

Summer courses will use the traditional grading system. Withdrawal for summer courses will following the existing schedule, with additional information available on the Registrar’s website.

If I am part of AU’s existing online programs, will I receive the discount?

Yes, the 10% tuition discount does apply to Summer 2020 courses, taught through our existing online programs.

Are Washington College of Law classes included in the discount?

Yes, the 10% tuition discount does apply to Summer 2020 WCL law courses.

What is the billing process for summer classes?

Students will be able to see their summer charges due immediately upon registration. Summer 2020 bills are due by June 1, 2020. The Summer Payment Plan is available for three months: May 1, June 1, and July 1. Please visit the Student Accounts website for the application. If there are extenuating circumstances, please contact AUCentral@american.edu for additional assistance.

What technical requirements are necessary to engage in online coursework?

While individual requirements for courses may vary, the minimum technical specifications required to participate in an online learning course can be found by visiting the Online Learning webpage. If you have specific concerns about technology needs or access, please contact Sara Biggs at sbiggs@american.edu.