Instruction: Wintersession and Spring 2021

Hybrid, Online and In-Person Instruction

RISD classes will be offered online only during Wintersession 2021, with limited exceptions made for on campus and in-person make-up coursework.

In Spring 2021, RISD will again reopen with a radically de-densified campus, with students on campus – subject to a multi-layered regime of health safety protocols – and core studio and shop-based courses offered in person, while other courses are offered via remote means or in a hybrid remote+embodied version.

Learn more about course modality

2021 Academic Calendar


  • Wintersession 2021 will be offered online only regardless of residency location. Students unable to leave campus will be permitted to remain in the RISD residence halls, but classes will be taught online.
  • The only exception to online Wintersession courses are special make-up courses offered in-person to those students who were delayed from arriving on campus for fall coursework due to circumstances beyond their control. These students will be subject to the required 14-day quarantine and testing when they arrive on campus. Move-in for Wintersession will be December 26–28.
  • Access to academic buildings for non-credit bearing activity during Wintersession will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The exact parameters for building access during Wintersession are currently being developed.
  • Graduate Students should discuss plans for Wintersession studio access with their Graduate Program Director (GPD).
  • Students with any on-campus presence during the WS will be subject to baseline/arrival testing, and surveillance testing during the course of winter term.
  • Students with on-campus residences who have traveled after the end of fall semester will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival back to campus.
  • Campus access during Wintersession:
    • Student card access will be discontinued at the end of Fall semester for the duration of the December holiday break (students residing continuously in RISD housing over the December holiday break will have continuous access to campus during the break.) Only eligible students who participate in WS baseline testing and quarantine will have their cards re-activated for WS.
    • Faculty and staff card access will be continuous through January 11, the final opportunity for WS baseline testing. Only faculty and staff who participate in WS baseline testing will have their cards activated beyond January 11.
    • All on-campus WS students will be required to quarantine for 14 days before accessing RISD facilities.
    • Off-campus students and employees must follow Rhode Island State quarantine rules before accessing RISD facilities.
    • Faculty and staff whose work does not require an on-campus presence are strongly encouraged to avoid campus during WS.
  • Testing during Wintersession:
    • Any RISD community member with any on-campus presence during WS will have to participate in baseline testing and enter a surveillance testing pool.
    • Employees may test off-site and submit their test results to RISD.

Spring 2021

  • Spring 2021 will run very similar to Fall 2020:
    • Courses will be offered in one of three modalities
    • Some students will be remote from campus
    • Baseline and surveillance testing will remain in place
    • The first week of the term will be online only as students complete a 14-day quarantine
    • Spring registration opens on November 16, 2020. All course modalities and schedules must be final and public by registration.
  • Campus access during Spring 2021:
    • All students and employees expecting campus access will be required to participate in Spring baseline testing and enter a surveillance testing pool.
    • Residential students will be required to quarantine for 14-days before gaining access to campus facilities
    • Off-campus students and employees will be required to follow State of Rhode Island rules regarding quarantine before gaining access to campus facilities
  • Remote learning during Spring 2021:
    • Students may request remote status if conditions prevent them from traveling to campus
    • Students may apply to be remote by emailing by January 11, 2021
    • Students seeking remote status need to be approved by both the Provost’s Office and their respective academic programs
    • Students approved for remote status will not participate in baseline testing and will not enter the surveillance testing pool. Therefore, these students may not access any campus facilities.

Requests for Leaves of Absence

Students who cannot (or prefer not to) return to campus in the spring—and choose not to accept the option of an entirely online semester—will need to apply for a leave of absence.

Leave of absence process

Division-by-Division Plans

This fall the programs of the Arch + Design division will continue to expand our embrace of digital technologies to fully exploit the many ways in which they complement and enhance the in-person, studio, and material-based learning for which we are known. Students in all of the division’s programs—Apparel, Architecture, Furniture Design, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Interior Architecture, and Landscape Architecture—will experience a combination of in-person, hybrid, and online courses carefully organized to reflect the specific curricular needs and learning objectives of each individual program. In-person courses will provide access to the equipment and making spaces necessary for 3D and 2D investigations especially important to the design disciplines. Online courses will offer students the opportunity to learn in an environment that enhances content delivery, supports multiple learning styles, and cultivates effective communication and presentation skills. The majority of the division’s courses will be delivered in the hybrid mode, combining the benefits of in-person and online experiences.

Our mission remains the same: to provide students with the critical intellectual and creative skills to become effective and inspired designers capable of changing the world. Implicit in this mission is our own responsibility to change and evolve. The departments of the Architecture and Design division believe the benefits of these newly diverse methods of course delivery will prepare students to work in an increasingly complex world where design challenges require hybrid approaches, where innovation often resides in the interaction of the analog and the digital, and where the ability to persuasively articulate ideas opens opportunities to create a new future.

Scheri Fultineer
Dean of Architecture + Design

This fall, Experimental and Foundation Studies courses, including first-year studio programs, the graduate Digital + Media (D+M) department, and Computation, Technology, and Culture (CTC) and Drawing concentrations will integrate our highly valued in-person teaching with the innovative online practices developed in the spring pivot to remote teaching and learning. We will do this while maintaining our longstanding rigorous approach to learning in studio environments, shops, fabrication labs, and personal workspace.

First-year studio courses will have a new format and schedule this fall. Modeled on RISD’s Drawing Marathon course taught every Wintersession, students will take one studio course at a time that meets for 22+ hours/week of in-person and online learning with further, guided investigations continuing outside of class time. This will allow first-year students to have a maximum focus on one studio course at a time: Drawing, Design or Spatial Dynamics. After the first course is complete, students will move on to the next studio, and then the third. By the end of the semester, students will have taken all three required EFS first-year studio courses. At the same time, first-year students will take two liberal arts courses online: Global Modernisms and First-Year Literature Seminar, both meeting for the full semester.

Digital + Media graduate courses will take place in the D+M studios in person, hybrid, and online. First-year students and graduate students unable to travel to Providence for reasons such as international travel restrictions will have the opportunity to participate in the courses fully online while interacting and collaborating with their peers who are on campus. Looking forward to the point in time when all members of our community can be on campus, students in these sections will interact to a large extent with students who are on campus through innovative collaborative assignments.

While the format of the programs and departments in EFS is new, the philosophical basis for courses will build on prior years’ curricula and look to the divisional and departmental missions for inspiration.

Joanne Stryker
Dean of Experimental and Foundation Studies

The ten Fine Arts departments and their programs will return to campus this fall, propelled by concentrated support for studio inquiry and critical discourse. Committed to helping students sustain creative momentum in a safe environment, our staff and faculty will be in constant planning mode this summer to make sure that the educational experiences we have promised will be delivered, and perhaps even energized by new approaches to learning and making. Where appropriate and relatively unaffected by a change in delivery, some Fine Arts courses have moved online—to open up studio, shop, and lab spaces. Other courses will split time between online and in-person modes of teaching and learning, with time in the classroom and studio balanced by online elements to keep spaces less densely occupied. Still others—those with an absolute dependency on in-person instruction and access to specialized facilities and equipment—will be thoughtfully delivered on-site, in-person, and with precise adherence to health and safety protocols. Across the Fine Arts Division’s ten departments, more than 85% of courses will be delivered either fully in-person or in hybrid mode. Access to shops and studios, while regulated for safe use, will resume in September.

In many programs, students will return to expanded spaces to ensure safe social distancing in shops and classrooms. Course meeting times and shop/lab access will be flexibly staggered to ensure the personal attention and focused investigation that students deserve, all with an eye to our top two priorities: health and safety and the integrity of our degree programs. New and innovative structures for critique and hands-on processes will be in place, encouraging the intimate haptic learning and intense critical discourse for which Fine Arts at RISD is known, while prioritizing the health of our community. There will be new rules to follow and old habits to reconsider, as we adapt to protocols that enable access to the education our students need and that our faculty love to share. The effort being invested this summer in securing a dynamic yet safe education for our students involves every member of our community working in close cooperation, and plans are already in place to ensure that, when we return in fall, we will do so safely and with the greatest care and concern for our students, and an eagerness to make new work.

Brooks Hagan
Dean of Fine Arts

Liberal Arts is one of the main arts taught at RISD—for us, art and design is not just about creating objects but about challenging perception and expression as methods of creating meaning in the world. We ask students to question ideas, histories, and contexts so they may develop the awareness, empathy, and communication skills necessary for being leaders in diverse fields. This fall, all our undergraduate Liberal Arts courses at RISD will be taught online. Graduate courses in the Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies and Global Arts and Culture Masters programs will be taught in-person. Despite this change in delivery, the division will continue to offer the Liberal Arts education that is core to RISD’s mission. Returning students will have an elective curriculum of almost 300 innovative courses in the humanities, social, and natural sciences to choose from. Students will be able to explore the human condition through foundational debates in the human sciences as well as new courses that provide opportunities to reflect on the unique and troubling historical moment we are living through. Across the academic year, Liberal Arts faculty will continue to develop new educational experiences for students that will help them bring to life, through association, their studio learning, and their liberal arts learning.

Damian White
Dean of Liberal Arts