Learning

In times of change and challenge, we are redoubling our commitment to help our students continue to succeed at NIU and to realize their dreams. We are working hard this summer on our plan to provide a safe and engaging learning environment that continues to deliver the same high-quality academic experience you expect from NIU.

Academic Calendar

The academic calendar for the fall is unchanged, with classes to begin Monday, August 24. Classes are canceled on Election Day, November 3.

Course-delivery Methods

The course-delivery modifications that we’ve made for the fall of 2020 are guided by our top priority: the health and safety of our NIU community. Our plan also allows for a smooth transition to completely online teaching and learning should the need arise during the semester.

To provide a safe and engaging learning environment that respects physical distancing, we are offering a mix of fully online, face-to-face and hybrid courses. 

  • Online courses – Fully online courses are being designed with careful planning to be flexible and to foster a sense of community so that students are not learning on their own. Students and their professors will have an active presence in the virtual classroom. In all cases, instructors will be available to guide students and answer questions. Online courses can be synchronous, asynchronous or a combination of the two.
    • Synchronous online courses occur in real-time and include activities such as live lectures or live conferencing. Students are expected to sign in during the scheduled time.
    • Asynchronous online courses occur through online channels without real-time interaction and include activities such as recorded lectures and self-guided lessons.
  • Face-to-face courses – These in-person courses are similar to what NIU students have experienced in the past. Most of the courses selected to be face-to-face – in particular laboratory, performance-based or clinical classes – require personal interactions. Class sizes are small enough, or the academic spaces large enough, to maintain proper physical distancing. If you enroll in these types of face-to-face courses, you will be expected to attend in-person unless you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or other health concerns.
  • Hybrid courses – In hybrid courses, student learning experiences will include both online and face-to-face interactions. For example, a science or engineering course might have online lessons with regular hands-on laboratory experiences.

Additionally, we will offer some staggered-attendance courses. In a small percentage of face-to-face courses, classrooms cannot accommodate a full contingent of students at one time because of physical-distancing requirements. In those cases, students will either attend class or watch live-streamed events on a staggered and rotating schedule. For example, half of the students in a course might be in a physical classroom on Tuesdays, with the other half watching livestream; and vice versa on Thursdays. Faculty will determine the schedules for those classes.

Academic Support Services

We will make academic support services available to students through a variety of delivery methods. In many cases, services will be virtual, but physical offices will be open on campus. There will be some optional face-to-face interactions offered with careful consideration of health and safety guidelines. Many services will have extended hours beyond the normal 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. business hours. Our academic support services include:

Learning Resources

A wealth of tips and resources for online learning resources can be found on NIU’s Keep Learning website.

Library Services

University Libraries will continue to support students and faculty.

  • Founders Memorial Library will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with weekend hours yet to be determined.
  • Protective face masks will be required in the library building.
  • Patrons will be able to request books for pickup from the Circulation Desk or from special secure lockers in the lower-level entrance.
  • Solo study tables will be located throughout the first floor and lower level, and access to the building will be limited to NIU community members.
  • Reference Services and research consultation will be available online through the library’s webpage.
  • Laptops and Wi-Fi hotspot devices will be available for checkout from the first-floor Circulation Desk or for pickup from the special secure lockers in the lower-level entrance.
  • Faraday Library will not be open during the fall semester.
  • The Music Library will be open with abbreviated hours.

Technology Access

We’ll be providing support to keep our students connected.

  • The Holmes Student Center and Founders Memorial Library will be among the designated Wi-Fi-accessible spaces on campus. Most buildings on campus have Wi-Fi capabilities as well.
  • Laptop computers and Wi-Fi hotspot devices, which provide laptop internet connections, will be available for checkout from Founders Memorial Library on a limited basis.
  • Students will be able to use their devices, such as laptops or checked-out laptops, on the lower-level and first floors of Founders Memorial Library. Face masks are required within the library and physical distancing will be respected.
  • For students living on campus, all residence halls have Wi-Fi connectivity, and a limited number of workstations are available in common spaces in each complex.
  • Computer workstations, printers and parking lot Wi-Fi connections will be available to students at several off-campus sites, including NIU Naperville (815-753-8975), NIU Rockford (815-753-8740) and NIU Hoffman Estates (815-753-8850). For use of computers and printers, students should call ahead to confirm operating hours.
  • Some students might qualify for emergency technology-needs assistance from the Student Emergency Fund.

Student Accommodations

Students who use the services of the Disability Resource Center (DRC) will continue to be able to do so virtually through a platform of their preference. The DRC will follow all protocols and guidelines outlined by the university when campus reopens. When the DRC opens for face-to-face appointments and accommodated exams, protective face masks will be required. Students can contact Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Education (AAEOE) to request a workplace accommodation and/or report an accessibility barrier.

Courtesy, Kindness and Patience

We understand that the future is unpredictable. With that in mind, we are focused on creating a caring and safe place to learn, in an environment that prioritizes individual well-being and builds hope for tomorrow. We encourage our students to do their part, too. Please be patient, stay on top of university communications and stay in touch with your advisors and instructors.

More Information

More detailed information will be provided closer to the start of the school year. Students also should see the list of Frequently Asked Questions about the fall 2020 semester.

Fall 2020 Plan (PDF)

Message from President Freeman

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