School of Cinematic Arts announces detailed plans for hybrid instruction, remote freshman courses

The School of Cinematic Arts will have all incoming freshman classes online and implement hybrid, in-person or remote instruction for its graduate, transfer and continuing students. The school is the first to announce its plans for the fall semester. (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

The School of Cinematic Arts plans to host all incoming freshman courses online and announced plans for division-specific hybrid courses in a schoolwide email sent by Dean Elizabeth Daley Monday. SCA is the first school to outline its specific internal plans for the fall semester. 

SCA’s announcement that all incoming freshmen will attend online classes differs from University-level announcements that have been made in the past few weeks indicating no freshman-specific course plans. However, in line with Project Restart, USC’s initiative to plan for the fall semester amid coronavirus public health concerns, all incoming graduate, transfer and continuing students will have the option to attend hybrid or in-person classes or opt for remote learning. 

“While we are one school, each of our seven divisions has developed strategies that best suit the needs of their students and specific curriculum,” Daley’s email read. 

Daley outlined the current plan for each of the school’s divisions and highlighted specific classes that will be taught in a hybrid manner, with a mix of in-person and remote activities. Film and Television Production — one of SCA’s most hands-on programs, which typically requires students to collaboratively work in person — will host lecture courses online. 

For the major’s production courses, students will complete pre-production phases remotely, in-person instruction to work with actors, crew and principal photography. Post-production mixing and editing will take place online.

“This approach preserves the collaborative, creative experience of working in media production while remaining safe,” Daley wrote. “In fact, this workflow that moves between online and in-person activities is exactly what is being done today in professional film and television productions. Giving students the opportunity to learn the protocols that they will need to know on graduation.”

This announcement comes two months after a petition circulated among students encouraging the production division to suspend the physical production track if Fall classes were to be online. The petition had more than 800 signatures at the time of publication.

“Physical production requires learning the physical tools and techniques,” wrote Gerardo Garcia, a rising senior majoring in film and television production. “The students of SCA production deserve a quality education that [includes] hands-on education.”

The announced plans for a hybrid production program will incorporate online lectures and production with amended hands-on instruction compliant with public safety measures.

For SCA’s other programs, almost all courses will be conducted virtually. Interactive Media and Games, the John Wells Division of Writing for Screen and Television, the John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts, Cinema and Media Studies and Media Arts and Practice will hold nearly all of their labs and classes online, with the exception of a few smaller courses.

The email also outlines plans for the Animation and Digital Arts program to record classes for asynchronous playback to ensure that international students who may experience travel restrictions or visa delays can attend class.

“Despite COVID-19 and the challenges it has presented, we want to assure you that this semester will be an opportunity to meet those challenges alongside our industry, and that you will be supported by our faculty, staff and fellow students,” the email read. “The plans we are making for you for this coming fall will indeed follow the same protocols that are being used in the professional community.”

For programs that require specific resources and software that must be accessed in person, SCA is in the process of creating a plan for labs to be held with social distance precautions in place, including the use of sign-up sheets, adjusted equipment check-out procedure and frequent sanitation of communal spaces.

SCA also encouraged students to plan and host virtual events and online gatherings so they can connect with one another. The Cinema and Media Studies division will host a CAMS Slack channel for undergraduate students to create online social gatherings, such as forums and reading groups.

The school also announced its commitment to areas of online student engagement outside of classes and looks to create new opportunities, such as virtual entertainment industry chats and special guest sessions, for students in the fall.

The email, however, emphasized that these plans are still subject to change as more information about the fall semester and the coronavirus become available to the school.

“Our approach to a fall return is based on what we know now, but is contingent upon on-going directives by local and state officials, the spread of COVID-19, and guidance from health officials,” the email read. “Based on these dynamic factors, we will be continually reviewing safety protocols and will pivot as necessary to ensure, to the best of our ability, the safety, health and security of our students, faculty and staff.”

The email encouraged students with concerns or questions about the fall semester to reach out to division-specific advisers and administrators.