UD faculty and staff discuss preparing for classes and the fall semester, photo of computer courtesy of Max Pixel.
In an email to the student body July 29, the University of Dayton announced that 80 percent of undergraduate courses will be offered either fully face-to-face or in a blended format.
Safety was the university’s main concern when deciding the format of classes in the 2020 Fall Semester according to faculty members.
“When we say everyone’s health and safety, it’s the students, its faculty, staff, community – everyone,” said Dr. Shannon Driskell in the Department of Math.
“I feel like UD has really focused on that as being the number one priority.”
The university had a goal of teaching as many classes face-to-face as possible, said Chair of the Department of Psychology Dr. Lee Dixon, but it had to be balanced with safety concerns of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Dixon and other faculty members believe that the outcome of this semester relies heavily on the student body.
“Students have a lot of power this fall, and I am not sure if they are aware how much power that they hold,” said Dr. Dixon.
“But a problem that I can foresee is if students don’t take into consideration that we are a community, and that each of our individual actions now more than ever will impact the community. Not just UD, but the community of the city.”
Community is a strong value to UD, and multiple faculty members believe that the upcoming semester will be a test of what community means because everyone will have to work together.
“I think this is a way that we throw around the word ‘community’ a lot,” said Dr. Chad Painter in the Department of Communication. “I think that this is the one where the rubber actually hits the road. I often think that we are up to the challenge.”
According to Dixon, the faculty were able to submit preferences of their preferred class format. The department chairs had confidential conversations with individual faculty members to discuss faculty member’s concerns, such as underlying health risks.
Because some classes are more adaptable to be taught online than others, Dixon had to take into consideration the requirements of the courses being taught.
The faculty members received the final decision of class format the same day as the student body, July 29. Over the summer and at the end of last semester multiple faculty members were told to prepare for the upcoming semester as if their classes were going to be taught in a blended format or completely online.
Painter says that the fall semester will be diametrically different from last spring’s semester because of preparation.
Faculty members believe that changing the format has provided opportunities to improve how classes are taught.
The university provided faculty members with tools to aid in their preparation such as E-Learning Fellows, a class for professors to help design online courses.
Faculty members say that the focus will be on teaching, giving feedback and creating connections with students. Dixon feels that students are going to get attention in a way they normally have not.
Upcoming challenges with the different class formats have been noted by the faculty, especially in the fields that regularly use labs.
Kettering Labs Director Eric Grimm said that for the upcoming semester students should expect social distanced labs with fewer students and assignments that will be completed through Isidore.
Faculty advise students to go into the semester being able to adapt and take value from the different circumstances.
“It’s obvious to us that we are dealing with something that we prefer to be otherwise,” said Dr. Pruce of the Department of Political Science.
“So, we cannot go into online learning like it’s a drag or that it’s not our first choice, because we know that, so let’s get past that.”
Professors have also advised students to communicate with them. They want students to be upfront and honest with them, so they can make this learning experience suited for their needs. Most importantly, faculty advise students to take their health and safety seriously.
“Your health should be your number one priority. If you have symptoms, stay home; otherwise you are possibly spreading the virus among your peers or anyone on campus,” said Dr. Driskell.