Starting College from Home? The Future of Fall 2020 In-Person Classes
As of March 2020, in-person classes for the spring semester were transferred over to online in the wake of the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Several schools, like Boston University (BU), and the University of Connecticut (UConn), have already started to plan for the possibility of closures until the beginning of 2021. Although a decision has yet to be finalized, students and university officials are gearing up for what lies ahead.
First appearing in Wuhan, China in December 2019, Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an illness caused by a virus that can be spread from person to person. As a vaccine has yet to be discovered, the best method to prevent the spread is to practice social distancing. This practice has put in-person classes on hold and, until further notice, colleges could continue to be closed until the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year. Universities, like BU, have already decided to cancel all summer activities held on the campus. Boston University President, Mr. Robert A. Brown, shared on BU Today, “Our whole effort is focused on restoring the residential campus for teaching and research. And to do that while maintaining the safety and health of our students, faculty, and staff was our highest priority.” The cancellation of these summer activities will allow the university to
protect the students and staff until officials deem it safe to return to campuses. As a decision has yet to be made, the University of Connecticut has begun to plan for any case scenario. Mr. Thomas C. Katsouleas, UConn President, shared in a letter regarding academic planning for the fall that plans for resuming instruction have made headway. These scenarios range from continuing online courses to returning to in-person instruction; in the case of returning students to campuses, safety changes and accommodations are also being determined. All faculty members have been advised to plan their fall semester courses as if they will be delivered online. A definite decision for UConn’s future will come on June 30, 2020 by UConn’s Board of Trustees. Until then, "Only the novel coronavirus will determine what happens. We can hope for a full return in fall 2020… we are going to prepare as best we can for every possible contingency," remarks an Oregon State University spokesperson to CNN.
The decision on the plan for the fall semester will not only affect university officials and staff but the returning students and incoming freshmen. Cameron Cordaway, EHHS Alum and UConn Freshmen, explains, “It's hard to motivate yourself to get up out of bed every morning just to log into a computer and stare at it for hours. We are all completing assignments and assessments to simply get a grade, not to actually learn.” Without being in the appropriate environment, students would be less likely to properly learn the material. Additionally, receiving help from professors virtually can become complicated. Aditya Patel, outgoing EHHS Senior, shares, “The university I am going to [The Ohio State University] is one of the biggest in the country […] I feel anxious that I won't get the help that I need because professors can easily be occupied helping other kids during office hours.” University faculty members will be using their experience during the spring 2020 semester to curate an appropriate and successful fall 2020 semester. With the experience gained, students and professors are hopeful that virtual education and support provided will be improved.
The specifics regarding university reopenings are unknown but the staff and university officials are trying to prepare for any circumstance for the students’ learning. Some colleges will make decisions in the next month, while others will continue to wait. Overall, the safety of students and staff will be the primary concern; no matter the circumstance deemed safe by officials, the students will continue to receive their education.
1. CDC. “What You Should Know about COVID-19 to Protect Yourself and Others.” Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Factsheet, 2019, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf.
2. Ries, Brian, and Meg Wagner. “Universities Begin Considering the Possibility of Canceling in-Person Classes until 2021.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 Apr. 2020, www.cnn.com/2020/04/14/us/university-may-cancel-classes-fall-2021-trnd/index.html.
3. Hasberry, Famaya, et al. “President Brown Outlines BU's Path Forward through Pandemic.” Boston University, 9 Apr. 2020, www.bu.edu/articles/2020/president-brown-outlines-bu-path-through-coronavirus-pandemic/.
4. Katsouleas, Thomas C. “To the UConn Community.” Academic-Planning Fall 2020, 2020, president.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2794/2020/04/Academic-Planning-Fall-2020.pdf.