COVID-19 + Fall 2020 Planning

Biomedical Research Building

Plans for Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Graduate Education Fall 2020 Semester

Date of Update: August 7, 2020

This fall semester, the University has committed to a dual-delivery mode of instruction following being exclusively online for the second half of the spring and entire summer 2020 semesters. The intent of this web page is to keep everyone up to date on what decisions have been made and what our plans are and provide answers to common questions. Although all the details are not worked out at this time, there are several committees across campus that are actively looking at our class schedule, classroom availability and course delivery methods to help plan for a safe and engaging Fall 2020 semester. 

On behalf of the School of Medicine Graduate Education, please note that the following core principles are guiding our decisions moving forward:

  • The health and safety of all our students, faculty and staff is our top priority
  • It is important to maximize the student experience for all students

These, in addition to local and national guidelines, which are closely being followed by key leadership, will help us plan as we move forward with a safe and effective Fall 2020 semester.

On July 19, Provost Vinson shared course registration information for students enrolling in the School of Graduate Studies outlining steps to determine in-person, hybrid, or online modes of instruction for fall semester classes. All academic programs at the School of Medicine, except our MD and Physician Assistant programs, fall under the School of Graduate Studies. 

This will be dependent on the course instructor. Some instructors are re-evaluating their assessments and replacing traditional exams with others modes of assessment. Some are using online proctoring or exam monitoring. Others are choosing to make their exams open book. Please check with your instructor during your first week of classes!

Things like seminars, including our pre-professional health series and professional development workshops, will be held virtually. This will allow everyone to participate and engage as it would be if in person. Further, they will now be recorded, so if you have to miss one due to a conflict, you can still benefit from the content. Some may have the opportunity to attend in person for those who are on campus.

We are still working on the details of this. We will have more information in the near future.

Most colleges and universities have very similar plans as we do for this semester. Most medical schools will understand that this is the only option for this year and will not think differently of the courses. Our faculty are working hard to ensure that any online courses, or parts of a course that are online, are as equally valuable as they were in person as possible. 

We do not formally have connections across the country. However, most hospitals and larger volunteer organizations (such as your local foodbank) have a volunteer portal where you can see opportunities and sign up to be a volunteer. Some of the internships offered through our EnRICH program have been remote, thus not necessitating you be physically in Cleveland. However, this is not common.

We encourage you to continue to volunteer if you can do so in a safe manner. Many volunteer organizations have changed the way they work and have very fulfilling opportunities to participate in while minimizing exposure to others. For example, the Hunger Network of Northeast Ohio has open positions such as helping load food into trunks at a large food drive, where our physician assistant students recently volunteered.

Still continue to check in with physicians. Some may let you still shadow them if you comply with their guidelines, such as wearing a surgical mask. Some may be doing tele-health visits, and shadowing during those visits might be a very interesting experience for you.

Individual programs will continue to connect incoming and returning students as we have done in the past. Many may have some virtual (and maybe some not virtual) events for their students to interact socially. In addition, our Biomedical Graduate Student Organization (BGSO) continues to plan events as well, many of them virtually.

Our goal for the fall is to create an experience that works for everyone and is of the highest quality available. Although this is very challenging, we are trying our best. There are a large portion of students who would prefer an in person experience. There is also a large portion of students who would either prefer, or for travel, health or other personal reasons, need an online experience. Therefore, we will make a 100% online experience available to those students who need it. However, for those who prefer in person experience, there will be options for in person interactions available. Regardless of how much of your program you do online, you will have access to the same high quality courses with exceptional faculty worthy of the CWRU name. You will have access to the same professional development, library resources and other services. In addition, to increase flexibility, you will have the opportunity to switch to more online or less online mid semester if you so choose or if the pandemic landscape changes. As a result, the tuition will be the same.

Case Western Reserve is committed to implementing dual-delivery instruction for the Fall 2020 semester. This is important to be inclusive of students who are unable to attend due to health reasons, travel bans or other reasons. Details continue to be finalized, but, in general, this means that all classes will have the opportunity to have 100% remote students. Faculty are reviewing courses and evaluating best approaches for each class offered. More details on individual courses will be shared over the summer by respective programs. Some will be in person (with virtual access available to remote students), some will be fully online, and some will offer a blend of in-person, online, and other activities.

The School of Medicine is currently requiring all individuals entering buildings to wear a mask and has installed additional hand sanitizing stations. In addition, increased cleaning has been implemented in all School of Medicine buildings. For more details, visit School of Medicine COVID-19 communications for faculty, staff, graduate students and post-docs. In addition, for more University-wide health communications, please visit CWRU COVID-19 Health Updates

Additional on-campus safety precautions for faculty, staff, and students include:

  • Faculty and staff reporting to campus must complete an online daily health attestation form. 
  • Non-medical cloth masks must be worn at all times when on campus. Please refer to the email sent by Research Administration on May 6th for exceptions. 
  • Physical distancing 6 feet to ensure guidelines are met; reduction of population density.
  • Max Occupancy signs have been posted by common areas. 
  • Cleaning materials are provided in all public areas to allow research and administrative staff to clean surfaces commonly used for break rooms, conference rooms, and offices being used for meals. 
  • Utilize Zoom technology or phone conferencing in lieu of in-person meetings. 
  • Use stairs whenever possible; two people in an elevator at one time.
  • Classroom safety protocols are being finalized and will be communicated throughout the summer.

Yes! But please check with your program for more details as your program may have some changes or limitations. As of right now, our clinical programs are working with their clinical/public health rotation sites for clinical rotations. Some rotations are happening via telehealth, some are happening fully in the clinic/community with aid of masks, social distancing and/or other precautions. The School of Medicine is working to ensure all students who need PPE have access to them.

On June 11, President Snyder and Provost Vinson shared the modified calendar for the Fall 2020 semester. 

The revised calendar aims to lower student travel to and from campus, and also lower the number of people on campus before the height of flu season begins, and applies to graduate programs who largely follow the undergraduate academic calendar. Professional degree programs will receive updates from their respective programs as their academic calendar plans are finalized. Below is the approved Fall 2020 calendar, with changes to the usual academic calendar in bold:

  • Monday, Aug. 24: Classes Begin
  • Monday, Sept. 7 (Labor Day): Classes Held
  • Monday-Tuesday, Oct. 19-20 (Usually Fall Break): Classes Held
  • Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 23-24: No Classes (in lieu of Fall Break)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25: No Classes (in lieu of Labor Day)
  • Thursday-Friday, Nov. 26-27: University Holidays (Thanksgiving)
  • Monday-Friday, Nov. 30-Dec. 4: Final Week of Classes Held Remotely
  • Monday, Dec. 7, Friday, Dec. 11: Reading Days
  • Tuesday, Dec. 8-Wednesday, Dec. 16: Final Exams (Excepting Dec. 11) Held Remotely

The Office of the Provost website provides guidance and resources as students, faculty, and staff prepare to begin the Fall 2020 semester.

It is important for our students to have the best guidance and safety protocols around visiting or moving to Cleveland amid COVID-19. Please visit the Cleveland Visitor Center website for helpful travel information and resources as Cleveland reopens. Be sure to contact your program if you have any additional questions.

COVID-19 Q&A for International Students

Leadership at Case Western Reserve provides information and resource via email to the university community. Please visit the email archive available online (listed in reverse chronological order). 

International Student Services (ISS) also provides more specific guidance to international students as Fall 2020 planning continues. 

ISS offers virtual advising hours only and appointments by Zoom or phone in light of the university’s plans to protect the health and well-being of the campus community against COVID-19.

Virtual advising is available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM ET. An ISS advisor will be available to answer your questions (during the scheduled times) using the chat box here.

Appointment requests should be emailed to and include a brief description of what you would like to discuss. A staff member will respond by email to schedule the appointment and you will have the option to meet via Zoom or phone. Please note: we generally require 24 hours notice and do not schedule same-day appointments. This is so we can be best prepared to help you.

For more program-specific information, please contact your Graduate Program, or email