AKRON, Ohio — Class is back in session at the University of Akron this week.
“The distancing that we’re doing is making them feel like they can still have the in-person experience that they want,” said Brandon Sweitzer an adjunct professor in the Communications department.
The drastic changes are visible with flyers taped in every hallway reminding students and staff to maintain a social distance of six feet.
For freshman Jeanne Luster, her first day of college looks quite different than the way it’s often portrayed in movies.
“It was a very interesting experience just trying to navigate everything,” Luster said. “But it’s still college.”
Hybrid curriculum is the new standard at the university and that form of instruction is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
“Half of my students will be in on a Tuesday, the other half on Thursday,” Sweitzer said. “When you don’t attend face-to-face, you are basically being live-streamed into the lecture that I’m giving on the opposite day.”
The structure of higher education across the country has shifted drastically since March. To ensure health and safety, administrators have implemented smaller class sizes and limited campus activities.
“We’ve talked about being more accommodating and understanding,” Sweitzer said.
Before the pandemic, many instructors enforced strict attendance policies. Faculty has since been instructed to be lenient regarding face-to-face attendance to prevent classroom contamination.
“In the older times it used to be the default was to assume that the student is lying,” Sweitzer said. “But when we’re talking about the safety of ten, 15 or 20 other students we have to understand that it’s better to err on the side of caution.”
The University of Akron is home to thousands of both adult and commuter students and Sweitzer said he and other faculty members will be more sensitive to the personal challenges students are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For a lot of the non-traditional students that was a big deal. All of the sudden, I’m used to working face-to-face. That’s how I’ve always done things and now I have to add on all these extra variables,” Sweitzer said. “They might have been furloughed or they might have been laid off or whatever the case may be, so they needed to pick up extra hours at work.”
He told students Tuesday the university is prepared to transition to online-only instruction if necessary.
“You can upload PowerPoints and do all those things and you won’t miss a beat. You’ll be fine. It’s what we had to do last semester so we’ll be just fine with that,” Sweitzer said during instruction. “If that should happen, don’t worry. We’ll definitely have your back on that.”
Luster said she’s grateful for the opportunity to attend class face-to-face, even if it is less frequent than she originally anticipated.
“You can always come in online so you’re still attending your class but you wouldn’t come into the university,” Luster said. “This is just what’s happening, so you have to adapt or else the world doesn’t move on.”