• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

Pivoting Back: You Make the Call!

If we can return halfway through the fall semester, should we?

May 12, 2020
 
 

I’d love to get feedback on this one. Wise and worldly readers, I seek your wisdom!

In planning for the fall semester, one possible scenario has us off-campus in September and maybe October, and then having the option to return to campus after that.

In anticipation of that scenario, a proposal making the rounds is to post “remote live” classes (synchronous online) for the fall with classrooms tied to them. The courses would be held at set times remotely until we get the all clear, at which point they’d move to campus for the rest of the semester. (Asynchronous online classes would remain as they are.)

In other words, the proposal is the mirror image of the spring. Instead of starting on campus and then moving off, we’d start off-campus and move on.

The virus may or may not play out that way, but assuming it does, I can see merits and demerits to the idea.

On the merit side, for those who believe in the magic of the physical classroom, some in-person time is better than no in-person time. That’s particularly true for lab or studio classes, but it even holds in some discussion classes.

Returning to campus would also increase the chances that students would make use of the library, the tutoring center, student clubs and the various services on campus. Those services matter, and they cost money, but students only get value out of them when they use them.

On the demerit side, students who were previously able to take classes from home suddenly have to be able to make it to campus on time. Transportation can be an issue, especially in a suburban area like ours where public transportation options are modest.

More basically, change is a factor in itself. Whether one format is better than another for an entire course is a different question from whether switching formats midstream is a good idea. Even some partisans of the classroom might bristle at the disruption of another midsemester switch. Students develop patterns, and disrupting those patterns comes with a cost.

Readers, I turn to you.

If the virus plays out in a way that keeps us off campus in September but allows us back for November, should we switch?

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