NELSONVILLE — While classes at Hocking College will be offered a little different from usual this autumn due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, officials are adamant that the content of those classes will remain the same.
“The academic rigor and content of our courses will not change,” Dr. Myriah Davis, Hocking College’s vice president for academic affairs and workforce development, said.
When the semester officially began on Aug. 17, not all students will be moved into their dorm rooms. With staggered move-in dates to decrease the number of people moving into the dormitories at one time beginning Aug. 10, not all students will be on campus until Aug. 22.
However, just because a student isn’t on campus doesn’t mean they’re excused from class. The first week of classes will be delivered remotely for all students, and they’ll be responsible for logging in during the regular class time.
Students who’ve already moved into dorm rooms on campus will attend class virtually as well.
The first in-person classes meet on Aug. 24. Even then, not all students will be in the classroom.
Some classes will be entirely in-person, some entirely virtually, and some will be a hybridized version of the two, with some students physically in the classroom and others participating simultaneously online. All students and employees will be required to wear facemasks and stay six feet away from others, but that won’t be possible in every class.
“We have more than 50 different programs and more than 50 different ways of doing things,” Davis said, pointing out that the guidelines in field biology — a class mainly held outdoors — will be different than for massage therapy or physical therapy labs — classes where students have to touch other people to learn the skills the program aims to teach. Specific safety guidelines will be outlined in each course’s syllabus. Students enrolled in classes where social distancing isn’t possible have been notified by email and mail.
Keeping students safe outside the classroom
Other changes to the campus have been made to ensure students’ safety outside the classroom.
“While we’re focused on giving our students the quality hands-on education they expect from Hocking College and making sure they’re safe while doing it, we’re also dedicated to making things as safe as we can outside the classroom,” Dr. Betty Young, president of Hocking College, said.
To meet the new safety standards, dining services will be take away only, and areas around campus where groups of students can congregate are closed or have limited access.
For students living in residence halls, dorm rooms have been reconfigured to allow a greater distance between roommates. The college will provide residents with cleaning and disinfecting supplies, and rooms will be regularly inspected to make sure safety protocols are being followed. No visitors will be allowed in residence halls and students are only allowed to be in their assigned dorm room.
Regardless of whether students live on campus or off, they’ll go through a COVID-19 screening process every day before going to class. The screening includes a daily temperature check and a series of questions about symptoms and recent travel. The process is the same one Hocking College employees have used since returning to campus in early May.
Reducing travel to and from campus
Convincing students who live on campus to not travel home on weekends is another way the college is trying to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
“We’re asking our on-campus residents to not go home during the semester,” Young said. “Every time they leave campus and travel, they significantly increase the risk of returning to campus with the virus or taking it to their loved ones at home.”
The college is increasing activities on campus, including beefing up the number of Leisure Learning and Hocking Makers Network classes and making most of those courses free to students.
Two other changes to the academic calendar are designed to keep students on campus: the elimination of Fall Break — initially Nov. 23-25 — and moving the end of the term from Dec. 9 to Dec. 4.
The Thanksgiving Break, Nov. 26 and 27, remains in place, and students won’t return to campus after that break.
The final week of instruction will mirror the first week, with all classes held remote, a plan similar to many other colleges and universities around the state.
“When students leave for Thanksgiving, we don’t want to risk them going home, potentially becoming infected and returning to campus,” Young explained. “It’s another way to keep our students and campus community safe.”
At both the end and beginning of the term, the college’s new Bring Your Own Device program will be critical for students’ educational success.
The program requires students to have a device that meets specific standards, and bring it to class every day, reducing the risk of spreading the virus as students will not share computers. It also guarantees that students have a way to do remote learning if the need arises.
Acceptable devices could be a laptop computer or a tablet with a keyboard. The device must have a USB port, video camera, keyboard and the ability to run writing software. Microsoft Office 365 is available for free to all students.
Low-cost options are available through the Hawks Spirit Store website.
Students will return to campus with the opening of the Spring Term in January. Plans for that term are still being developed.
To download the college’s current reopening plan for the Autumn semester, visit https://bit.ly/HCreopen.