Fall 2020 Frequently Asked Questions for Students

* Please note that we will update this page as more information become available. Please visit USC’s COVID-19 Resource Center for the university’s latest updates.

Q1. How is the school planning to administer its classes in fall 2020?

At the moment, the school is planning to administer its campus-based programs in a HighFlex/HyFlex format, which will allow students to attend class in person and virtually. The school’s online programs will continue to operate online. Attendance for the school’s campus-based programs will depend on local, state and federal public health guidelines. You can learn more about our HighFlex/HyFlex format by viewing videos here.

Q2. What is the difference between a HighFlex/HyFlex class vs. a traditional online and in-person class?

Unlike traditional online courses where classes are taught entirely online, or in-person classes where students are physically present in the classroom, HighFlex/HyFlex classes allow students to participate in-person and online simultaneously. Students can choose to attend class in person by reserving an in-person seat, or they can opt to attend class remotely since the instructor will broadcast class instruction via Zoom. The school’s classrooms on campus and at its City Center location are outfitted with cameras, screens, and a Zoom connection so that students attending class in person or remotely have access to the same class instruction and class exercises.

The HighFlex/HyFlex also enables group discussion and group exercises both in person and online. All campus-based MSW students will have access to course materials and recordings of their classes in Blackboard, in addition to community features such as links to student group caucus social media pages and school events where they can engage with their instructors and colleagues virtually.

The advantage of the HighFlex/HyFlex teaching method is that it provides students with ultimate flexibility depending on their personal preferences, health considerations, and the broader environmental factors at play. If the public health circumstances require 100% online classes, HighFlex/HyFlex classes can easily and quickly transition to 100% online classes while maximizing students’ continuous learning without interruption. View our video on HighFlex/HyFlex classes by clicking here.


Q3. What specific programs will be taught in HighFlex/HyFlex? How did you determine which programs to offer via this instructional method?

Currently, the only programs to be offered in HighFlex/HyFlex are the campus-based MSW program and PhD program. Click here for a look at one of the courses that will be taught in HighFlex/HyFlex for our campus-based MSW students.

Q4. Can students enrolled in the online MSW, online MSN, and online DSW also receive HighFlex/HyFlex instruction?

Currently, the only programs to offer HighFlex/HyFlex instruction are the campus-based MSW program and PhD program. The school may consider developing a HighFlex/HyFlex alternative for its other degree programs in the future. However, HighFlex/HyFlex instruction applies only to the campus-based MSW and the PhD program at this time.

Q5. What is the difference between hybrid and HighFlex/HyFlex?

HighFlex/HyFlex presents the components of hybrid learning in a flexible course structure that gives students the option of attending sessions in the classroom, participating online, or doing both. Students can change their mode of attendance weekly, according to need or preference.

Q6. Does the HighFlex/HyFlex model count as in-person education for international students?

Please refer to the FAQs for incoming and continuing international students on the university's international students page. This page is regularly updated and will provide the latest information regarding visas and immigration status for international students. 

Q7. What technology is incorporated in HighFlex/HyFlex classes?

Classes taught in HighFlex/HyFlex are taught in person and simultaneously online through the Zoom platform. Campus-based MSW students will access their course materials through Blackboard. In order to attend their class online, students will need to have access to a computer, an internet connection, and their USC NetID credentials so that they can log into Blackboard and their Zoom classroom. Please visit the university’s resource page regarding support funds for students.

Q8. Where will students meet for in-person classes?

HighFlex/HyFlex instruction for the campus-based MSW and PhD programs will be taught on campus at the Social Work Center and Montgomery Ross Fisher Building. Classes will also be taught at USC City Center in downtown Los Angeles. The number of students allowed to participate in in-person instruction will depend on the latest public health guidelines and the number of students who wish to reserve an in-person spot. The course instructor will determine the method for tracking students’ in-person reservation requests, and the instructor will provide more information about the course’s in-person reservation process at the start of the semester. If the county issues another stay-at-home order, HighFlex/HyFlex classes will transition to online instruction with campus-based students participating in class through Zoom. We are operating in a very fluid environment, and in-person class instruction may vary on a weekly basis due to the public health conditions. Instructors will do their best to notify students with advance notice via e-mail and blackboard if the week’s class will be taught online due to a lack of in-person student reservations and/or the greater public health environment.


Q9. Will there be a designated area on campus and at City Center for students to take classes or study if they do not have time to go home in between classes?

Yes, there will be designated areas on campus and at City Center where students can study and attend class virtually if needed. Areas will be marked with physical distancing signage in line with local public health guidelines.

Q10. Are face masks required for in-person attendance?

Yes, all students, faculty and staff will be required to wear face coverings if they visit campus or attend class in-person at City Center or on campus. Please follow the university’s guidelines for returning to campus by visiting: https://coronavirus.usc.edu/project-restart/return-checklist/.

Q11. How many times will classrooms and communal areas be sanitized?

The university has implemented a robust cleaning and sanitation process in all public buildings and recreation spaces. Classrooms, especially high-touch surfaces, are thoroughly cleaned three times a day. Restrooms and high-touch areas will also receive special attention. Additionally, cleaning supplies will be available for individuals to make touch-ups to their workspaces. Please refer to the university’s COVID-19 Resource Center for more information.

Q12. What is the process for reserving an in-person spot for class?

The process for approving in-person class reservations, monitoring available spots, and rotating students’ in-person participation will be the responsibility of the course instructor. The course instructor will outline the preferred process for tracking in-person student participation at the start of the fall semester. If the number of students who want to attend class in person exceeds the classroom’s capacity and public health guidelines, the instructor will rotate students’ in-person attendance every week. Please note that students are not required to attend in person and can therefore choose to attend all classes online through Zoom every week.

It’s important to note that before coming to campus, students must take the mandatory ‘Health, Hygiene and Safety Training for Students’ module in TrojanLearn (requires flash-compatible browser). This will help students better understand the health and hygiene requirements for returning to campus, and why it’s important for students to be aware of how the virus spreads.

Students will not be able to complete Trojan Check, which is the daily wellness assessment, without completing the training module first. Within one hour of completing the training module, students will have access to Trojan Check. Prior to coming to campus each day, students will be required to take their wellness assessment via Trojan Check where they will affirm that they have not recently been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19, and that they are not currently experiencing any symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Once they have completed Trojan Check, they will be allowed to make a reservation to come to campus. At the end of the process, students will receive an access pass with a QR code to enter the campus or their specific building. You can learn more about returning to campus by visiting the university’s return checklist.

Q13. How much notice will students receive if a class needs to be taught online that day?

The university will continue to follow public health guidance. As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the situation is evolving rapidly, and changes to instructional methods could take place with very short notice. If students do not sign up for in-person participation one week, class may be taught online via Zoom that week.

The school encourages faculty members to give students at least 48 hours of notice if a HighFlex/HyFlex class will be taught online for the week. The process for monitoring students’ in-person class reservations will be at the discretion of the course instructor.

Course instructors will outline their preferred process for managing students’ in-person reservations (which can include their preferred time window for receiving in-person reservation requests and confirmations). Course instructors will provide more information about their preferred process and method for monitoring and tracking students’ in-person participation at the start of the fall semester.


Q14. Will USC shuttles from campus to City Center and Union Station be available?

No. At the moment, the university will not be providing shuttle service. Please stay informed by visiting USC Transportation's website.

Q15. How will field placements be administered for campus-based MSW students?

Students will be completing their field internships in one or more the of following MSW Field Options:

  1. Student on site at agency/clinic providing social work services in person (which may include home visits)

  2. Student on site at agency/clinic providing social work services via agency approved video conferencing platform

  3. Student at home providing social work services via the agency approved video conferencing program, by telephone and other digital technologies in a confidential setting

The field department is working individually with students and agencies to determine the best fit based on the student and agency circumstances. 

All students enrolled in the field practicum will be required to review the COVID Field Policy and complete required training. An Understanding and Acknowledgement of Risk form will be signed by both students and agency field instructors for those who are going to field sites in person. 

The Field Education department is prepared to guide students and field agencies on how to adapt to changing conditions and ensure continuity of learning. 

If students have any concerns about their field placement or field education experience please contact sswfield@usc.edu

Please see the Fall 2020 Field Calendar for additional details.

Q18. Will the university allow in-person events?

To ensure the health and safety of our entire university community, USC has prohibited all university-sponsored on- and off-campus events until we receive further public health guidance. 

We are currently working on a number of exciting extracurricular, professional and cultural programs, initiatives and events to keep students engaged and thriving — intellectually, socially and emotionally – throughout the fall semester. We’ll share new plans shortly, but in the meantime, please continue to visit the Virtual Student Life website for a collection of current engagement opportunities. On this site, you will find:

Please visit the COVID-19 Resource Center for the latest events-related information.


Q23. Will USC reduce tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year, now that most instruction will be online?

We know that many students have questions about the tuition increase previously announced for the 2020-2021 academic year, now that most instruction will take place online. This increase, which matches the previous year’s lowest percentage increase in 50 years, remains necessary to fund the high-quality education, broad range of outstanding academic programs and important research activities that serve as the hallmarks of USC.

We strongly believe that the value of a USC education and degree, whether in person or remote, continues to greatly exceed the price of tuition. Despite the very significant financial measures we announced on April 3 and June 8, the costs of running a world-class university like USC continue to rise each year. In the 2020-2021 academic year, we expect to incur significant new expenditures to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, as well as an increase in our investment in technology and new academic, extracurricular, professional, and cultural programs, initiatives and events to keep students engaged and thriving — intellectually, socially and emotionally.

At the same time, we understand that many in our Trojan Family are facing difficult financial circumstances right now, and we remain committed to addressing the financial needs of our students and their families. We recently announced a Living-at-Home grant for qualifying undergrads receiving financial aid of $4,000 per semester this academic year for those who choose to study at home. Please reach out to our Financial Aid Office if you have questions about financial aid.

We will continue to deliver a high-quality education, robust learning environment and an engaging Trojan experience for every student. These are challenging times as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but we firmly believe that there has never been greater value in a USC education. 

Stay informed by visiting the university's COVID-19 resources website by clicking here

MSN & DSW - Specific Questions

Q23. How will the school conduct its Onsite Clinical Intensives for its MSN students this year?

We are offering the On-Campus Clinical Intensives (OCIs) via Zoom until the COVID-19 pandemic allows us to safely bring students and faculty to campus and conduct the OCIs in person. We have already scheduled the fall 2020 OCI via Zoom, and we will reevaluate prior to the spring semester.

The content of the online OCIs is consistent with what we provided on campus. Equipment to perform physical assessment skills and procedures will be mailed to students’ homes prior to the date of the OCI. Standardized patient experiences are done via telehealth. Faculty will provide instruction to small groups via Zoom and observe students as they perform the required clinical tasks.


Q24. How are you managing clinical placements for MSN students?

Clinical experiences will take place both in person and via telehealth, depending on how the assigned clinical site is providing care to patients. Faculty have worked with the clinical placement team to assure that our students receive the best clinical sites for each clinical course.

Prior to attending clinical, students must complete USC’s ‘Health, Hygiene and Safety Training’ module in TrojanLearn.  After completing the training, students must download the university’s Trojan Check Web App and complete a daily wellness assessment before attending clinical each day (by 8 a.m.) and/or arriving on any USC campus . Once you have completed Trojan Check, you will be allowed to make a reservation to come to campus. At the end of the process, you will receive an access pass with a QR code to enter the campus or your specific building.

Q25. How will the school conduct its Residencies for the DSW program this year?

Fall 2020 residencies will occur virtually via Zoom.

  1. Students enrolled in Cohort 8 will participate in residency from Monday through Wednesday, November 9-11.

  2. Students enrolled in Cohort 11 will participate in residency from Monday through Wednesday, November 16-18.

Oral defenses dates will be scheduled between Weeks 12-15. Actual dates will be confirmed within 1 week of the add/drop deadline.