Starting in March, universities began a month-long confrontation with the coronavirus pandemic. Schools closed their campuses, changed online classes, and adjusted their admissions policies.
Now, many schools face tough decisions about the upcoming fall semester, namely, should students return to campus?
Many schools have delayed issuing such verdicts in hopes of making the most informed decision possible, but schools are slowly beginning to reveal their plans for the coming year.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has followed more than 1,000 universities since April and found that approximately 65% of schools are preparing for in-person classes this fall.
One school that prepares for classes in person is Tulane University. The school plans to have students live on campus in the fall and plans for classes to be held in person. But the school will also try to reduce the density of the classroom and shorten the semester at the end of classes before Thanksgiving break. “This accelerated semester is intended to reduce travel to promote health and safety,” the school said in a statement.
Such a calendar adjustment is common among schools hoping to bring students back to campus in the fall, such as the University of Texas, Austin.
“Students will not be returning after Thanksgiving and will instead participate in remote reading days and final exams. With Covid-19 still expected to be active this fall, we hope to avoid the possibility of students become infected during Thanksgiving break and then spread the virus to classmates on their return after Thanksgiving, “the school president and the acting president said in a statement.
In contrast, Harvard University is preparing for most of the classes to be held online. In an email, university administrators told the faculty that “it seems likely that, under any circumstances, most of our instruction will be online.”
“Our goal is to get our students, teachers, postdoctoral fellows, and staff to campus as quickly as possible, but because most projections suggest that Covid-19 will continue to be a serious threat for the next few months, we cannot be sure that it is safe to resume all regular activities on campus by then. Consequently, we will have to prepare for a scenario where much or all of the learning will take place remotely, “the university said in a statement from April.
About 14% of the schools The Chronicle follows have proposed what is known as a “hybrid model” for the fall. Hybrid models include a wide range of plans, but generally involve some in-person learning and online learning.
For example, the University of Southern California has announced that some classes will be offered online, some classes will be taught in person, and some classes will combine in-person and virtual instruction.
Northwestern University is also classified by The Chronicle as a school that adopts a hybrid model. The school currently says that “a significant portion of fall instruction will take place remotely,” but indicates that in-person learning will vary across disciplines, schools, and departments.
According to The Chronicle, 8% of schools are still considering a variety of scenarios, 8% are planning for classes to take place online, and almost 5% are still waiting to decide.
The University of Pennsylvania is one of those schools that still considers a variety of settings. According to a survey by the school newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, more than 53% of University of Pennsylvania students prefer a hybrid model of instruction with classes taught both online and in person, and approximately 32% of students prefer to return. to campus entirely in-person instruction.
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