book and iPad on a desk

Instruction at the University of Hawaiʻi 10-campus system will continue to be primarily online for the spring 2021 semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. UH moved the 2020 fall semester almost entirely online in early August after a surge in COVID-19 cases in the State of Hawaiʻi. The spring 2020 semester went abruptly online in March at the outset of the pandemic. Students have already begun registering for the spring semester, which begins on January 11.

“I know we all yearn to return to pre-pandemic life, but at this point, we must prioritize the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and the communities in which we live and work,” said UH President David Lassner in a systemwide message. “We are committed to help every UH student stay on track, safely, for on-time graduation.”

In fall 2020, approximately 85% of courses taught in the UH System were online, 10% hybrid and 5% entirely in-person, although the percentages vary from campus to campus. The mode of course delivery is determined at the unit level with faculty input. On-campus instruction is used for those courses or course activities that cannot be taught effectively online, such as labs, clinical experiences, studios and shops. Appropriate physical distancing, facial coverings and sanitization protocols, per the UH COVID-19 guidelines, are strictly followed.

The guidelines also require the use of a daily health screen app before coming to campus and face coverings and safe physical distancing while on a campus. The university telework policy that was in effect for employees in the fall 2020 semester will continue in the spring semester, and UH campuses will remain closed to the public.

Lassner said he is optimistic about the fall 2021 semester, saying he hopes for a healthy mix of in-person, hybrid and online instruction.

“Based on what we know today, we hope for a significant return to our campuses for fall, but if there is one thing we have learned through this pandemic, it is that we must continue to be flexible and adapt to changes not under our control.”

President Lassner’s message

This message was shared with the students, faculty and staff of the 10-campus University of Hawaiʻi system on November 20, 2020.

Aloha UH ʻohana,

I want to thank everyone for all that you are doing to help others and yourselves through this incredibly challenging 2020. Especially with recent news of successes in COVID-19 vaccine development, I think we are all looking forward to better times ahead in 2021.

But we are not yet all vaccinated, and while Hawaiʻi has the best numbers in the country as of this writing, the pandemic is still raging across the U.S. And even in Hawaiʻi, we do not have COVID-19 under control.

Given current conditions and what we expect in the months to come, it is clear that we must plan for primarily online instruction across our ten campuses in the spring, as it has been this fall. On-campus instruction will take place for those courses and course activities that cannot be taught effectively online; most often, these in-person meetings will be for labs, clinical experiences, studios and shops. Those classes will take place with appropriate physical distancing, facial coverings and sanitization protocols. We are committed to helping every UH student stay on track, safely, for on-time graduation.

Also, the telework policy that was in effect this semester for employees will continue for the spring semester. And all UH campuses will also remain closed to the public.

I know we all yearn to return to pre-pandemic life. But at this point we must prioritize the health and well being of our students, faculty and staff, along with the communities in which we live and work. The entire UH community has done an amazing job in behaving safely, and as a result, we have not experienced the kinds of outbreaks that have occurred at colleges and universities around the country.

Based on what we know today, we hope for a significant return to our campuses for fall 2021. We will be looking to leverage the learning and hard work of our faculty and staff for a healthy mix of in-person, hybrid and online instruction next fall. If there is one thing we have learned through this pandemic, it is that we must continue to be flexible and adapt to changes that are not under our control.

Thank you once again for your hard work, your patience, your resilience and your compassion for one another.

E mālama pono,
David Lassner
UH President