May 27, 2020
Ursuline College plans to resume face-to-face instruction in the 2020-2021 academic year, with classes starting Aug. 24.
“We will be using a flexible, blended learning model that combines real-time, in-person instruction with robust online content,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Kathy LaFontana.
The model offers students the richness of interaction on a liberal arts campus, both among students and between students and faculty or staff, at the same time that it incorporates safe social distancing and all precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
Ursuline’s low student-to-faculty ratio and small class sizes offer the right setting for face-to-face classes with safe distancing. In addition, Ursuline’s classrooms are being equipped so that, in larger classes, a portion of students in each class session can meet in person, while the remainder participate remotely, in an alternating pattern. The arrangement will reduce the number of students gathering in any classroom.
In tandem with this, faculty will augment the learning experience with digital materials they develop and post in the campus learning management system. “Students will be able to test their understanding of course material and demonstrate achievement of course learning outcomes by working independently in between in-person classes,” LaFontana said.
Ursuline College President Sister Christine De Vinne, OSU, PhD, noted that this blended model of instruction will also allow the College to adapt quickly if it becomes necessary to temporarily revert to 100% online instruction. By anticipating circumstances that might arise later in the semester, preparations now in place will allow students to continue the rich dialogue and active engagement that are so important in an Ursuline College education.
“Our goal is to ensure interaction and continuity of learning while keeping students, faculty and staff healthy by following CDC and Ohio Department of Health guidelines for practices that limit the spread of disease,” said Sister Christine. “Our protocols will encourage safe interpersonal collaboration among students and their instructors, advisors, coaches, and peers.”
The College has modified its fall schedule, eliminating a planned mid-semester break and committing to classes from August 24 to November 24, with a four-day weekend for Labor Day. After Thanksgiving, the last two weeks of classes will be taught online, concluding Dec. 12. This will prevent students and faculty who travel for the holiday from unintentionally bringing illness back to campus with them.
Ursuline faculty and staff members, who have been working at home since the campus closed in mid-March, will begin returning to campus on Monday, June 8. Most employees will come to campus two days a week and continue to work from home the other days. Staff in each department will rotate days so that only half of the employees in any given department are on campus at once. On-campus staffing will increase gradually over the summer. The campus will be closed on Friday afternoons until Aug. 14.
All employees will receive a COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Handbook, summarizing responsibilities and practices for health and safety. They will virtually attend an information/orientation session the week prior to their return to campus.
“With our reopening, we will constantly monitor the campus to ensure that the five safety protocols outlined by the State of Ohio are being followed,” said Sister Christine. The state’s five protocols are:
- Require face coverings for employees and recommend them for clients/customers at all times.
- Conduct daily health assessments by employers and employees (self-evaluation) to determine if “fit for duty.”
- Maintain good hygiene at all times – hand washing and social distancing.
- Clean and sanitize workplaces throughout workday and at the close of business or between shifts.
- Limit capacity to meet social distance guidelines
Once Gov. Mike DeWine issues guidelines for reopening Ohio’s campuses, “we will make sure that our plans are in alignment,” Sister Christine said. The College is working with the Cleveland Clinic’s “COVID-19: Creating a Safe Workplace” program for a full review of the reopening plan, with the assistance of Kristine Adams, MSN, CNP, associate chief nursing officer of Cleveland Clinic, and Diane DeCamillo, RN, MSN, executive director, chief academic officer of Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. “Their review will help ensure us the safest possible environment for students, faculty, and staff,” Sister Christine said.
In advance of campus reopening, Ursuline has expanded cleaning and sanitizing especially in high-touch areas, installed clear plastic shields at contact zones, moved furniture to accommodate social distancing, established maximum occupancy for rooms, and installed signage reminding employees and visitors of basic protection practices.