As colleges and universities continue to figure out a game plan for the fall 2020 semester and beyond, many institutions are choosing a myriad of learning models based on the needs of the students and facility.
These decisions take into account the size of the school and just how effectively they can socially distance individuals, among other factors.
Mount Mary University President Dr. Christine Pharr tells WTMJ that being a smaller institution of around 1,200 students has it’s advantages.
“We don’t have any classes that are bigger than 35 students to begin with. So, we don’t have to deal with those large class sizes. We have socially distanced all of our classrooms. We’ve done a couple of different protocols,” said Dr. Pharr.
One of those protocols is called “split and flip,” where half the class comes to campus one day a week and the other half is online.
“Then on the opposite day we revert, and those students who (were) online before come to campus, and the other ones go online,” Dr.Pharr said.
She also explains that the university has also put ample amounts of technology in their classrooms for learning flexibility.
Not all higher education institutions are made the same, and it’s never been more evident in these COVID-19 times.
Technical schools have the challenges of balancing in-person and online classes, but for Gateway Technical College, 30% of their courses were online even before the pandemic.
Executive Vice President and Provost Zina Haywood says they will continue to enhance their online presence.
“Right now for fall, we are about 66% online and 34% will be face-to-face,” said Haywood. “We are now delivering some courses synchronously using Zoom software. We’re using more blended courses too.”
She says it’s a hard balance, but they are prepared.
“In our classrooms, we’ve reduced the size to no more than 12 so we can practice social distancing. We’ve got plexi-glass shields in the front of the room for the instructor. Safety masks are required on campus.”
Haywood says as they head into the fall semester, there are things she worries about.
“Are we making the right decision and not knowing what’s coming up next? And having people think about what if we do get a second wave and making sure our facility are prepared,” Haywood said.