PEPPER PIKE — Ursuline College recently announced that classes will resume in person this fall with extra precautions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vice President for Academic Affairs Kathy LaFontana said that face-to-face instruction is vital to the college’s curriculum, so fall classes will include a mix of in person instruction and virtual content.
In an interview on June 11, Dr. LaFontana said that Ursuline will use what is called a “high flex model” that was developed due to the novel coronavirus and safety restrictions that were placed on schools. This model includes in person learning and online content. She also said that when using this model, professors can easily switch between in person and online classes, such as if there is another spike in COVID-19 cases this fall.
“We wanted to prioritize the face-to-face learning because that is very much who we are as a college,” she said.
Dr. LaFontana said that it is essential for students to have a strong relationship with their professors, noting that in person classes will keep an open dialogue between students and their professors. If in-person classes are not possible, then she said that live Zoom class sessions are the next best method rather than professors posting content for students to study whenever it is convenient for them.
“During the classes last spring, faculty members taught different ways,” Dr. LaFontana said. “The ones who did it on Zoom, that seemed to be much more receptive to students than where the student just logs on whenever and they just leave messages for each other.”
With a synchronous approach to teaching this fall, she said that students will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss relevant life experiences in their classes. Ursuline’s average student to professor ratio is 8-to-1.
For many classes that will not be able to socially distance, each half of the class will take turns attending remotely. Dr. LaFontana said that the professor will teach half of the students in person in a socially distanced classroom while simultaneously broadcasting online so the other half of students in the class can watch the broadcast. The students will alternate every class session for who is learning virtually and who is learning in person.
“That’s a good method because of regular contact with the professor,” she said.
The college also canceled its fall break, which is usually the second week of October, and the semester will end a week earlier than usual. Dr. Fontana said that students usually come back after Thanksgiving to finish the fall semester. This year, the last two weeks of classes will be taught virtually so students will not return to campus. The school did not want students to potentially bring the virus to the campus after they were home for Thanksgiving.
Ursuline is well known for its nursing program, but clinicals were suspended this spring due to COVID-19, Dr. LaFontana said. They restarted on June 1 and are scheduled to take place in the fall. The clinicals will also continue after Thanksgiving, so some students may remain on campus for that.
Dr. LaFontana said that the college is working on pilot programs this summer to determine what schedule works best for various classes. For example, she said that students will likely not be able to complete 45 hours of time in a lab because they cannot socially distance, so one third of the class might come in for the same lab over three weeks. She said that the school is trying to keep the same schedule that students signed up for earlier this spring.
“It requires a lot of patience and flexibility,” she said.
In addition, Ursuline’s administrators are waiting on further information about reopening from Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health. Dr. Amy Acton resigned last week as the director of ODH and former director Lance Himes is now serving as the interim director.