Rethinking the Academic Calendar

The leaders of Beloit College, a private liberal arts college in Wisconsin, obviously, is not alone in trying to plan for the next academic year in a period of great uncertainty. As in almost all colleges and universities across the country, managers must prepare for various scenarios. Can in-person learning resume in time for fall, or will students need to begin their fall courses online? If yes person learning resume, you need to be suspended again if COVID-19 cases start to rise?

"We are doing all these important decisions about the future and what to do with reimbursement for room and board, and at the height of all that decision making is much felt like triage, very similar to a defensive posture, "said Eric Boynton, president of Beloit. He wondered, "What is the decisive step we can take right now" to inspire confidence and hope in what the fall will look like?

To this end, Beloit has announced that it is breaking the semester two modules in which students take two courses each.

"The aspiration is to have a residential learning experience next year, but if wreaks havoc COVID, this flexibility allows us only affects half a semester, possibly," Boynton said. "Let's say that creeps in September after the first module is online, but if it continues to dissipate, then we can take students at this point of articulation. It is a break in half; which is an obvious time to take students in the residence "

" It also reduces disruption in the sense of carrying four courses online at the same time is a great pressure for faculty, and we are finding. - - and I think this is not only in Beloit, but throughout the country - is that juggling four courses online is much for students, "he said. "Limiting the online experience of two courses at a time is better for faculty and staff and student learning."

Beloit moved quickly in deploying a module model. Boynton said he had a conversation about the idea with the president of Beloit, Scott Bierman, on March 21. On March 23, the Strategic Planning Committee Academic, consisting of faculty members, voted to recommend moving forward with the proposal. And on March 25, the modules were approved by the academic authority emergency, a group of faculty members and administrators responsible for approving changes in academic programs that "operations of the College, and the ability of the Academic Senate I gather are disrupted significantly due to local or regional and national events, such as, but not limited to a catastrophic weather event or a pandemic. "

Matt Tedesco, a philosophy professor and chairman of the Academic Strategic Planning Committee, said the faculty understand. Justification for change and support

"We tried to reach the faculty pretty thoroughly; We have had two meetings on separate power zoom "he said. "We all recognize that this is not a small wonder. This involves an important work during the summer to reconsider our courses for the year. "

Tedesco said the idea of ​​moving the modules discussed as part of a corporate planning process during the academic year 2014- 15 but it never got beyond the exploration stage. The public health crisis caused by the coronavirus urgent presents an opportunity to put the idea into action.

"We think it offers us the best opportunity to be proactive in a situation where we control so little," Tedesco said.

Lucie Lapovksy, consultant and former president of Mercy College in New York, said he was shocked when he read about rethinking the academic calendar of Beloit. (Beloit He is not a client.)

"I thought they were thinking outside the box in a creative way for an unusual situation that may eventually come to serve well," she said. "One of the questions that everyone is asking is what are the innovations and changes caused by the way it is operating for the virus that is going to decide you are going to stay?"

Beloit has struggled with fluctuations in enrollment in recent years: after enrolling entering class of 299 students each in 2013 and 2014 were exceptionally enrolled large classes of 392 in the fall of 2015 and 382 in 2016. After the first year of enrollment dropped to 323 students in 2017, 266 in 2018 and 259 last fall.

Boynton, the provost, said the original goal was to enroll new students from 250 to 260 this fall.

"We had goals, and now the world is the reverse," he said. "We know - and Beloit is not the only institution in this situation - it is hard to predict what the incoming class will look like. There are so many variables. "

In addition to deploying the transition to modules, Beloit also announced several other changes in response to COVID-19, including costs freezing enrollment and matching rates enrollment status at universities first public in the region

"means the average west Flagship party for prospective students who are residents of six states in the Midwest. - Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin - will ensure that your cost to attend Beloit to meet or exceed the enrollment on the campus of the flagship of their status, "promises Beloit on its website.

'are showing that Beloit is an institution that addresses these problems, "Boynton said.

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