With less than a week until the official start to the Spring Semester, there is some essential information regarding the status of campus reopening and how classes will be handled.
Prior to the end of last semester, the college released a statement saying that most of the face-to-face activity will move to remote work after Nov. 25. This was done to limit the spread of COVID-19 as cases increased around the holiday season. Classes that were previously offered in-person were switched to online to accommodate the change. Additionally, student resources such as admissions and financial aid were transferred to work virtually. While no official statement has been released regarding whether the campus will be open for all students the safety protocols are still in place to keep anyone who visits campus as safe as possible.
Similarly, to the previous semester, a wellness check must be completed before coming to campus. Face masks or coverings are required inside every indoor public area on campus and a six-foot distance must be always maintained. Private offices are excluded from this rule however, if multiple people are occupying a private area, face masks must be worn. Emergency preparedness manager, Alisa Pacer has overseen some of the COVID-19 safety operations at the campus.
“Offering 80% of classes online […] to continue students learning is a huge protective action that people can take to limit exposure,” Pacer said. “We’ve reduced class sizes and the number of students in classes to make things safer for the face-to-face classes especially. Classroom protocols include cleaning and disinfecting workspaces that are shared or used, and cleaning and disinfecting in between classes. We’ve added plexiglass shields to many of the workstations where a six-foot distance can’t be maintained, and even though we’re wearing masks if we can’t spread out, we have those physical barriers to protect employees and students.”
This semester will operate a lot like the fall with limited in-person events at the college and more focus on online learning. There are minimal face-to-face courses that are being offered for the upcoming semester as most of them are either online-hybrids or fully online. With the college remaining in stage three of its opening process, President Dr. Andrew Bowne predicts that the spring will operate in the same way that the fall did.
“We monitor the progress of what’s going on outside of the college and inside of the college on a daily basis,” Bowne said. “For me to say right now, do I think we’re going to be at stage four by the end of the semester, it would probably be premature or irresponsible for me to say ‘yep, we are going to be at stage four by the end of the semester’ […] I hope we are there, but am I confident that we will be there: no, I’m not. “
The college wants students to know that resources are available and should be taken advantage of. While some only operate in an online setting, all of them are open for students to use this semester.
For students that are just beginning and have never taken an online class before, the online learning section on the college’s website is a great place to get information on how to navigate through Canvas, Zoom, and more. Other resources such as enrollment, financial aid and admissions are some of the resources that are still open on campus. However, to keep in-person contact as small as possible, appointments are recommended, which can be made through their web pages.
Last semester the college introduced the Academic Resource Center (ARC); a place for any student to get assistance with classes, receive free tutoring or just to have a place to study. Located on the first floor of the Billington Library, the ARC has combined all the resource centers into one shared area. From language to math and science, the ARC staff is geared toward student success and are willing to help with students’ academic success. Some in-person services are limited, but students can still access the center via Zoom appointments.
Additional services like the Billington Library, the bookstore and counseling have all changed their hours to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. The library already offered online services but has moved many of its resources virtually. With video tutorials on how to access these resources, the library web page is a good place to look at for help this semester.
The bookstore began its Spring Pick-Up Orders on Jan. 11, allowing for students to order books, supplies and Cavalier merch online and pick it up from the campus. This online service can be accessed through their web page.
“A lot depends on the assistance you’re looking for as a student,” Bowne said. “If its academic support [you’re looking for] we have the academic resource center in the library its open and available. You can also access those resource online. The other are your professors; they want students to be successful, they’re a fantastic resource for students.”
The college recognizes that this time is challenging for all and has emphasized the use of the Counseling services and the Student Basic Needs Center. Students can contact a counselor through multiple ways. Appointments can be scheduled for in-person as well as Zoom conferences; for less complicated questions counselors can be contacted through email or instant messaging. There is also a virtual walk-in option that allows students to connect with a counselor via Zoom. For more information regarding setting up an appointment visit the Academic Advising and Counseling web page.
The Student Basic Needs Center (SBNC) is a resource that has the goal of assisting students who may be experiencing financial hardships. The center offers help with food or housing insecurity as well as providing other resources and contacts that students can use. During the pandemic, the SBNC began offering equipment loans such as laptops and WIFI hotspots to ensure that any student can access the online materials required for courses.
“The Student Basic Needs Center is a tremendous resource,” Bowne said. “There is the Student Assistance Fund and the Cav Cupboard […] there are equipment loans if students need laptops or hotspots, we’ve got those resources available. There is people to talk to about housing and transportation as well as social services [like childcare]. They can help get students connected to resources that frankly, we all need help with from time to time.”
While the college has still canceled all in-person events on and off campus, many clubs are still meeting virtually and hosting online events. The Center for Student Involvement hosted many virtual events last semester and is planning to do the same for the spring. The Get Involved web page has a list of all the clubs and organizations that students can peruse and sign up for.
As the Spring Semester quickly approaches, resources and services are available to be used by any student wither virtually or in-person. While there is a lot of uncertainty regarding what the next couple of months may look like, there are ways to get help if needed.
For more information regarding Student Resources head over to their web page.
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By Alieu Jagne